Hone Life has a mission: to inspire meaningful connections. Each Sunday Hone distributes a new word to its writers, to contemplate, then write about. This week’s word is Peel. Here are my reflections on the word of the week.
I once wrote a poem in which I came up with the unforgettable alliteration: “A palimpsest of paths …” It was a battle to convince myself that it had to go! In the end, palimpsest became, “… layering …”
We like layers in nature. While layers signify impermanence, they also represent continuity and bestow character. I walk in nature – for spiritual, emotional and physical health. And as a walker I’ve become aware that less than a hand’s depth down into a dirt path is evidence of those who have walked it afore me.
When my husband and I moved into this house a few years back, which is situated in a sector of the town dating back beyond Roman occupation, we renovated a much-neglected garden. (The wall at the bottom was built during Norman times). During the course of its renovations, we unearthed enough artefacts to fill a small suitcase. Among our finds were these remnants of clay pipes, dating back to Victorian times. While these fragments of past lives are memento mori – reminders that one day we too will pass away, and leave behind traces of our history – they also remind us that life here will continue. This is somehow comforting, perhaps because we live in an age of transience and impermanence.
We seek out in nature the twisted trunk of an aged oak or chestnut, with its pock of scar telling tales of its wars and accidents, to admire and to love for the character it adds. Why then, do we look into a mirror and are dissatisfied at the history that builds up in our faces? Why is this history deemed beautiful in a tree, yet ugly in a face – ugly to the point that we throw away huge amounts of time and money on products, in beauty salons and operating theatres, trying to edit out the ‘palimpsests of paths’ that are our faces?
Some of the beauty ‘treatments’ we undergo (and this is largely a woman’s thing, though more and more men are joining the queues at the salons) bear the same names as events happening naturally in nature. We exfoliate like trees: aren’t some of our most special walks taken in autumn when the woods are ablaze with the colour of dying leaves? And what is more beautiful than the peeling bark of a tree? The leaves of the Paperback Maple vary throughout the year from orange to pinkish-brown, to yellow to deep green, to deep red. Its peeling bark is a variegated copper brown.
I’m not immune to the pressures to ‘stay young’. At 62, I look in a mirror and see eyes that suggest I’ve been weeping non-stop for a week, a deep line between my eyes like I’ve worried over something for years, jowls that are beginning to look suspiciously like I might have blood hound ancestry. I’ve considered surgery. Truth is, I have wept for longer than weeks at a time. I’ve worried for eons at a time. There’s no hound in my bloodstream – but having had blood transfusions, maybe! My face is a palimpsest of my life experiences. I hope at the deeper-than-surface level, it’s reassuring and comforting that despite life’s batterings, I am surviving!
When I turn from the mirror to open the door and smile at a visitor, it’s not my wrinkles I’m presenting for inspection, but my personality. My wrinkles make me readable. I aspire for them to be read as ‘loving’. I hope I’m spending longer working on that than on getting my make-up ‘perfect’.
I therefore appeal that we leave our palimpsests ‘unpeeled’ so that in them, we can read each other’s true beauty.
Read at Honelife the reflections of others on the word Peel.