Love, Beauty, and Soul are Dirty Words

We love children and polar bears being rescued, but something has gone wrong. We are not fully alive if we do not recognize those who died. We bind up and choke our souls when we do not mourn unnecessary death with outrage.


My dog ponders why he gets dried treats while humans get chocolate truffles, not to mention lobster chowder and mushroom pastries. Still he loves us, especially the grandchildren, and is mature enough not to make sneak attacks for nibbles off the counter.

My 7-year-old granddaughter ponders if she has remembered everyone she wants to give gifts, not allowing herself any excuses for her age. Her body twitches in anticipation of giving her gifts, each with a note saying she loves you.

My 9-year-old grandson ponders the structure of the US Congress and the electoral college and asks if there is an exact correlation between the number of representatives a state has and the number of its electoral representatives, or if it is only approximate. He loves his nation and feels we and it are in danger.

I ponder why I have more anxiety cooking for guests than I had facing angry men with guns in foreign nations.

I ponder free will, the nature of the conscience, the nature of consciousness, if forgiveness has any real meaning, if there is a separate entity we conveniently call “soul” or if that is a blend of our psychology, memory, ethics, longings – like custom paint mixtures with a drop of cerulean blue, some spring green, a tad of gingko leaf green, and a dollop of blood red until you get what feels like the essence of what you are looking for.

I ponder why I love more as I age, how to prevent wrinkles, how much exercise is really necessary, the nutrient value of mushroom powders, what happens to your cells when you have no sexual partner, the size of the universe, and will I have a self-awareness that can self-identify as “me” after I die?

My therapist ponders if she should be pragmatic with me or abstract, usually choosing pragmatic since I handle abstractions better than daily life – usually, not always.

Like my grandson, and every adult I know, I ponder if the T-word (I cannot say his name, which is pragmatic for the state of my psyche) is ushering in – with his band of humorless martinets – the end of the world, the end of the world as we know it, or not so many changes after all.

I do not need to ponder if he is sane.

Love, beauty, and soul:

What I ponder most is love. I read that writers are told not to use the words “soul” or “beauty.” But I know beauty when I see it and I know soul when I feel it. If not using those words has any value other than to get us to further differentiate into details and nuances, I don’t know what it is. We should speak of beauty and soul all the time, delve into their mysteries and their healing powers.

Beauty and soul, like love, cover a lot of territory and are true, and are not afraid to get dirty.

The White Helmets rescuing Syrians from under tens of tons of concrete rubble are beautiful and dirty and work out of love.

Polar bears on melting snow and ice are beautiful and heartbreaking and trying to save their cubs.

Parents carrying children a day’s journey to hospitals across barren earth are weary with grieving for their beloved and desperately ill babies.

Love and beauty and soul mingle with the blood, shit, and gurgling of those who die by guns, drones, bombs, and diseases. They loved and they were loved.

Hearts and minds off course:

We love children and polar bears being rescued, but something has gone wrong. We are not fully alive if we do not recognize those who died. We bind up and choke our souls when we do not mourn unnecessary death with outrage.

Lincoln Financial is one sponsor of The PBS News Hour. Their ad begins with “feel good” photos and a reassuring male voice telling us “You can care for many, but you can only love a precious few.” It then shows photos of loving moments limited to two or three family members.

When a widely broadcast ad tells us we can only love a precious few, when a script like that gets through the advertising department and the corporate higher ups, we have crossed into dangerous territory, a land where the T-word and his racism, bigotry, hatred, threats, and walls are elected – if not by the majority, still legally – to lead our country. Children like my grandson know and feel the poison for what it is, poison.

Feeling the love:

As I age, I witness my love expanding, seemingly on its own. Do I love the T-word’s cabinet appointees? No, but I don’t exactly hate them either. “Abhor” is a more accurate word.

I’ve become one of those women who has become gaga with love. This is not an abstraction, it is my reality. I touch it and feel it, even if I cannot explain it.

Do not tell me I can love only a precious few! That is bunk, a lie. It is wrong, it is the opposite of what I do and most people do. We love widely and deeply, and would love even more if we understood it as the natural and healthy way of living – if we had more courage, more encouragement, more faith in ourselves.

Love, beauty, and living aligned with your soul is as pragmatic as it can get. It is the only way we will survive.


In Celebration of Women of a Certain Age

She wears sorrow well, a Chanel jacket of translucent threads and occasional sunbeam, each loss a scarf, bracelet, or glove.

Do not even enter her life unless you are the stuff of finest silk, metal, or perfume.

She will transform you when you are gone.                                               

We are three women, 70 and older, living alone, our houses next to each other. We have been married five times, divorced four times, widowed twice, and lost two partners to dementia. We are called les trois graces. We radiate class.

Beyond my street, I have many more women friends of a certain age. My five closest friends, now living alone, have had six marriages, three long-time partners, four divorces, and been widowed three times. Each woman is more engaging and beautiful than the other.

Only one of us has serious health issues, two have had love affairs with men half our age, one is having a movie made of her life, another does scuba dives and two of us ice skate, one is active with on-line dating while another is an international fashion icon, two of us are working to inspire global movements to create a better world, and one of us is prodigiously creating miniature collages juxtaposing spiritual light and earthly violence. One is in Cuba with her Belgium lover. We have gravitas and style that women under 50 have not yet considered possible for themselves.

We know how to deal with men who are pompous, wear classic suits from two decades ago, cook signature dishes from each of the many lives we’ve led, travel anywhere in the world and order the best food on the menu, flirt without taking our clothes off, manage money, and create homes that are breathtaking. Breathtaking.

Plus, we get to say things like “I saw on Facebook that the second husband of the woman currently with my third husband just had an operation.” It takes decades of life to be able to say something like that. It’s almost worth it just for that.

It’s not about what we have done – led organizations, published innumerable books, been in the foreign service in Asian posts, run art galleries, headed boards, set up global networks, and been mothers, wives, and organizers. No, it’s about who we are now. It’s about what our pasts have become.

We are burnished, elaborated, embossed, glowing, subtle, nuanced, tricky, Baccarat crystal, crepe de chine, and mysterious. We are mysterious even to ourselves.

We became who we are not only through decades of experience, and continuing losses, and low points that were as low as the highs were high, but by what we chose to leave behind and what we chose to bring with us to now – by what we discarded and what we embraced.

We created the beings we are. We selected this memory and discarded that one. We interpreted experiences in ways where we rung whatever juice was in them out of them so we could drink of it and say “Yes, this is good” or “Yes, you taste bitter, but I accept you.”

We learned how to leave things and people when that was called for and to make the path of the future wider, not narrower. We learned that people will leave us, abandon us, betray us and still we make the path of the future wider, not narrower.

We learned to answer the call to joy. We learned to swim through the dark deep waters and observe wild creatures of grief, first in rawness and then, slowly slowly, dressed politely enough to be brought to the surface, presentable at the dining table as our friend.

We learned that when you have a minority fraction of your life left that nothing is so important as to make it sweet and to savor it. We have learned to make things of beauty out of loss. We have made things of beauty out of our selves.


Menagerie of Loneliness, or Making Mermaids out of Manatees

My relationship to loneliness is that of an amateur, not a true expert. We are sniffing out what to expect from each other. She arrives on panther feet during the night and waits, languid but alert, tail slightly flicking, for me to open my eyes.

black-panthers-wallpaper-hd-1440x900“You’re awake. Want to play?”
“No, go away.”
“You’re sure you don’t want to play?”
“No, I do not want to play.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Go away.”
“Why don’t you want to play?”

By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, she has skulked into the corner to wait 24 hours before trying to entice me again. I attribute her persistence to the fact that, like the majority of women of a certain age, I live alone. The panther of loneliness wants cuddling and petting and knows we do too. She knows that, even if we prefer dogs, we are in this way all cat women.

Loneliness is also a state of many older women who do not live alone, which is its own kind of hell. Great women of a certain age outnumber great men of a certain age by 10,000 to 1. My friends and I have done the math. Really, this is the true ratio.

It is single men, including the great ones, however, who are most ravaged by loss of intimacy and loneliness, but that is a little off track . . . though not so much. We will talk about mermaids in a bit.

First, let’s take the stigma off of loneliness. Loneliness is a sign of good mental health. It is a healthy natural response to being a social creature without enough meaningful warm social contact. It shows that you are tracking the reality of your socio-emotional life and registering that you are alive in real time and have needs.

By extension, it shows you are not willing to compromise yourself and the quality of your life just to avoid being alone. The last 1/3rd or 1/4th of your life is a time to contemplate, grow, explore, travel, learn new things, experience the wonder of existence, be awestruck, and bring to the world your experience, love, and wisdom. It is not a time to waste on meaningless diversions and social junk food. You are not a sitcom.

But while loneliness registers reality, it invites fantasy to ease the way. Our imaginations create solutions to life’s big and little problems. On to the mermaids.


Sailors created exquisite sea creatures – half-fish, half-human female – out of blubbery manatees and dugongs. With the sun flickering off their tails under the waves and their hair unraveled in golden skeins, mermaids lured them into impossible dreams. Lonely men on the same old same old unending magnificent ocean found solace in watery visions of intimacy that were possible only in their imaginations.

Imagined mermaids with good hearts wanted to mate with the sailors. Imagined mermaids with evil hearts, i.e. sirens, called them to crash into cliffs and to perish. (See photo of a mermaid of the nasty kind luring innocent sailors into danger. She’s also vain, note the mirror.)


Whether the mermaids wanted to make love with the men or were sirens luring them to their deaths had to do with the imagination of the sailor, not with the dugongs. Dugongs and manatees presumably have no need for fantasy. If they thought anything about the sailors, it was to stay away. Harpoons. (See photo of a dugong, kin of manatees.)

But humans have for millennia created beasties to lift us from burdens, boredom, and trials. We create and, in turn, are mesmerized by phantasmagoria – conjoined beasts or conjoined humans and beasts. We “in-body” our fears, desires, and impulses into imagined beings – good and bad – that reveal to us who we are. We used to think they were real. Now we go to Jungian analysts.

Still, in our minds we make love to mermaids, ride bareback on unicorns and winged horses, rise out of the ashes of devastation as brightly-colored birds. We also cringe and quake before werewolves, vampires, cyclops, and ogres. We ride some dragons and slay others. We invented these creatures in order to cope, to rise again, and to take our fears from amorphous into form – dragons and vampires can be slain.


Several months ago I commissioned a small painting of myself for a tabletop. (See photo.)

As a Sagittarius, I am a centaur, half-human, half-horse – and a hunter, wild and humane. The painting makes me feel capable and strong. It is good to own your animals.

I wish to own my panther. I realized that in the writing of this blog, which kept shifting and morphing over several days.

My dog Phoenix, named for the bird, and I as centaur would walk with the panther through the city, the country, relationships, and time. I would get her a collar with diamonds.

See how slinky and elegant she is? She would purr if panthers could. Instead she growls in a way that sounds like a purr. I ran out of excuses not to play.

full table1


PS: See photo of the centaur Sagittarius against a cosmos of star creatures, on a tabletop. 

Neither crone nor cougar

Humor has two homes – pain and happiness. Great happiness. Happiness that is secure to the point of silliness. But even that happiness has to have in it the spice of pain to give it tang. Otherwise it is Disney with plastic gravitas, angel food cake without strawberries, sensible shoes in brown, and blandness masquerading as naiveté.

IMG_1952The question is: when you are a woman of a certain age, what are you? Society is still figuring this out even as we women of that age are living it.

We are, in fact, changing the paradigm. We are no longer crones, though we have immense wisdom. Scary wisdom. Be afraid.

And, sorry, but those of us who are in shape are not all cougars. You may be attracted to us, to your immense bafflement, but we don’t wear leopard skin Spanx and most of us are not trying to seduce boys. If they get seduced, it’s their own problem, not ours. We’re interested in lovers who are not afraid of us and who know the depths of love because they have depth in themselves. Otherwise stay away.

Being “a certain age” is a no-woman’s land of just being who we are. A tad unfair. Teenagers have prescribed roles, millennials have prescribed roles, young parents have prescribed roles, people of middle-age have their prescribed crises, and then there are women 60 and over.

We have made it through marriages, divorces, betrayals, illnesses, children, disappointments, poverty, prejudice, injuries, and successes. We have made it through being beautiful and being ugly. We have made it through seeing that the world will not be devoid of pain – ours and others – in our lifetimes. We have made it through seeing what our work has or has not done to change the world for the better.

We have forgotten more people and more lovers and more crises than any other group, and we savor beauty and remember EXACTLY what and who we should remember. When my granddaughter at 4 years of age sings out “Let It Go,” she has no idea that we say this to ourselves every single day. Every time we look in the mirror, every time we feel pain, every time we want to cry. We let the tears come, and then the laughter. We KNOW how to “let it go.”

photo 9And one day we stop worrying that we don’t have role models except Gloria S. and Tina T. and Elizabeth (Warren), and a few others … oh, wait, there is a list! Yes, of course, and each is uniquely herself.

And we are suddenly able to be goofy in the face of what is and what was – and not because we mumble to ourselves or don’t know any better. No, it’s because we do know. We have learned how important “goofy” is. It is freedom not to be a crone, not to be a cougar, but to be magnificently ourselves.

Here’s looking at you, kid.