By Cathy Hird

When wandering around the internet, I often run across ads for treatments that will get rid of wrinkles. Because the browsing tools we use know basic details about us and ads are chosen according to that data, those internet tools have decided that I must be worried about wrinkles on my face. I'm in my later 50's after all, so my age must be showing. And the assumption is that I must want to hide that.

But I got thinking about the lines that form on faces. I have two short lines between my eyes. They almost disappear when I smile, but draw together and deepen when I concentrate. And when I frown, they get tight. If I get angry, they get deeper and longer. Looking at just that one spot on my face tells volumes about my mood.

And I can feel the lines form. The tightness there helps me to sense when I have let something get under my skin. So when I need to relax, I rub that spot with two fingers to help let go of the tension, let go of the feeling that clouds my vision.

In pictures of my mother and me side my side, we have exactly the same two lines between our eyes. That feature of my face comes from her. When I was a teenager, people told me, "Don't frown or you'll get lines on your face." But those two wrinkles are part of my inheritance.

When they smile, some people get lines beside their eyes. The lifting of mouth and chin lifts all the muscles of their face, and two or three lines stretch out from their eyes, point in at the brightness of the smile. Some faces transform from hard to open as different lines form with their smile.

The way muscles move, different people get a parenthesis around their mouth or lines across the chin. Some of these fade completely when the expression changes, but as years go by the mark of these lines remains. Those tell-tale lines between my eyes are always there now, always revealing that I can get angry, and I can concentrate when I need to.

For many of us as we age, skin relaxes and other wrinkles form. New lines appear under and around our eyes. No amount of cream will hide them or fill them in. In many elderly faces, those lines draw my attention to the person's eyes. I become aware of how much they have seen. I want to hear from them the stories of what they have watched in their lives. Lines across the chin and forehead look strong and determined. In the face of someone ninety, these lingering lines, even if they have softened, hint at the difficult tasks the person has taken on and overcome.

On a youth, we admire the dimples that appear when they smile. These marks make their face cute and expressive. On an older person, there will be half moon marks higher on their cheek, lines that extend across and down from eye to ear. These don't fade, but speak of a range of emotions, great joys and deep griefs, the wonder and the horror they have seen.

On some faces, lines like scratches mark their cheeks. The skin folds in on itself. Sometimes these wrinkles speak of the poverty and suffering that the person has seen. And on the most lined face, joy will lift the expression, curve the folds to speak of the light inside.

Recently, someone--I forget who--spoke of sitting with a ninety year old and listening to their life story. That person was frail now, but had done incredible work and seen a great deal in their years. They had accumulated experience and wisdom they readily shared. They had a sense of the need in our day to press for justice and a different way to live together. We reminded each other that the elder who cannot work or act like they did when they were forty or fifty is still that person.

So I am even less inclined to get rid of wrinkles. Lines on a face tell of our history and our inheritance. Me, I wouldn't mind doing away the red spots, but even they have a story to tell.
Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.




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