The Bodies We Keep

In your 20’s everything is smoke and mirrors. When I was in my 30’s, I couldn’t see the signs. But in your 40’s, it begins to shows, certainly by the 50’s and 60’s. Into your 70’s you’re practically an open book. I know 80-year-olds who might as well be billboards. 

The older we get, our bodies reveal more about what we’ve been doing the last several decades. It is more obvious with the laugh and frown lines on our faces. Less obvious in our legs. Very obvious in our backs. Just watching a person walk across the room is a historical education. 

That woman holds herself like a burden, that man walks as if he’s ducking under a bridge. The bend in our shoulders even right now as you sit here joining me in thought. I have a slight crease between my eyebrows as I write, proof that I’m reaching for the right word. These all groove us, leaving their mark. 

I’ve heard people say scars are a map of where you’ve been, but scars aside, I want to look at how you keep your body. Not your skin regimen, that just delays revealing what we have all been doing Friday nights. Sleep, drink, binge-watch, binge-eat, worry. Laugh, rest, savor, slow, change, grow. It’s all there. Our bodies may keep the secrets of our decades. But sooner or later, our bodies tell the tales. And they get rather chatty, the older we get. 

For some elderly woman I know, it’s a welcome sight, to see them making peace with gravity’s call. And it doesn’t matter how good we get with selfies, truth will out us, our bodies will show the way we walked in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s. And with so many people hiding out behind social posts or only posting the most flattering (#justwokeup, yea right) pics of themselves, this law of reality comes as good news. At least it’s good news to me.

Pretending is the path of depression, mental illness, irrational anger and death. Finding reality and rejoicing in it, saying it (even to the privileged few we call friends), washing ourselves in reality gently and thoroughly, this is the path to wholeness, courage and changing the generational sin tying everyone in pits. Yes, aging can be a welcome bit of good news.

My friends I’ve known now for two or three decades, our bodies are showing what we’ve been doing. Only those mighty in soul work have access to peace with ourselves and this wretched, beautiful world. The Jewish King David, Jesus’ ancestor, wrote it like this, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalms 85:10).

I’ve met men and women who hold righteousness and peace, lovingkindness and truth in their bodies. They hold that tension with grace because it’s not painful anymore, to them.

One golden day on the Maine coast, Patty sat on the rocky coast and set up her paints. I asked to take her picture.

She held both elegance and a scrappiness in the way she moved. Have you noticed that about beautiful, older people? They hold contradictions that most young people haven’t learned. Elderly, lovely folks can include more, they’ve walked the grooves until they seem to do it effortlessly.

Patty painted with us under Todd as a student, but it was Patty who introduced Todd to painting. Now Todd’s work is featured in his own galleries in in Ogunquit, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Generational goodness follows us, just like generational sin. And our bodies tell the stories of both.

Patty reminds me a little of both my grandmothers, both of whom are wrestling with truth still. Together they hold righteousness and peace, but individually, they’re still working it out. 

I miss them both, which is perhaps why I painted Patty. I am trying to honor the ways I’m descended from them both. And each day I work out the goodness Engracia and Mary both try to offer. 


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A marvelous golden day in late Fall, I joined a plein air (outdoor painting) group taught by Todd Bonita. We all met at Cape Neddick, Maine.

This was Patty, Todd’s mother. She was scrappy and elegant at the same time. And she let me take this picture and paint her. I was taken by a woman observing and trying to paint the view. So I included enough of the low tide for her to paint, but tried to make her the focus. I had to move her backpack from the original picture as it was too central in the value study. And I was delighted with the way I got the light shining through her hair clip, that russet glow on her white hair. I painted this one several times before landing on this final piece ready to show you.

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So very lovely!! “Generational goodness follows us..” Powerful truth in your words! Thank you for sharing

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