I realized a while back just how drawn I am to reflections…how often I photograph images caught by some mirrored  surface and tossed back into the universe. Images that are transformed in some way, reversed, distorted, turned upside down. This past weekend I  was hanging over the side of a bridge taking the photo on the right, when a woman on her way to work at a nearby  museum stopped  to watch me. “What do you see that I don’t,” she asked. “I pass this way all the time.” I talked about the cool  reflections I was  seeing in the canal and trying to capture with my camera. She looked down into the water. What did she see there? Did she see anything like what had caught my attention?

Interesting how two people can look at the same object and see such different aspects. Is that difference linked to personal experiences and knowledge? Does what we carry in our memory banks serve as a filter, letting us see only what we want or expect to see? I remember years ago reading about a man who had a pioneering operation that gave him back the eyesight he had lost as a child. When he opened his eyes after the procedure all he could see was a vast canvas of colors. He was unable to make sense of what he was looking at because he lacked the context. It took a while for him to make the necessary mental adjustment.

When I look into a mirror I see the external facade of a 55-year-old woman, but at the same time I see the 16-year-old me, the 20-year-old, the 30-year-old… all the way up to current day. So many layers, flowing interchangeably from one moment to the next. Similar yet different. I recognize each one when it bumps and jostles its way to the front of the line in response to different situations.

In general I feel much like I did when I was in my late teens/early twenties. Chronological age is an abstraction to me. At the same time, I get startled when I think how much of  my life has flown by. There are things I can no longer do. My energy level dips around 11 each night and I find myself nodding off as I read. I can no longer count on that last-minute critical surge of energy to get me through. I need to plan my time more efficiently, taking advantage of the times I feel the ‘switch is on.’

I still have dreams, powerful ones that seem undiminished by time. In fact they seem more urgent now, when I feel time pressing in on me. I continue to be curious about pretty much everything under the sun. There is so much I don’t know. When I was younger I found that concept overwhelming. All the books I hadn’t read, the places I hadn’t been. Now I find it exciting that there is so much still to learn.

I look at my reflection and see what others must see. Sometimes their perceptions override my own. Through insecurity and  neediness I look to others at times for definition, validation. Yet I am the only one who knows my entire history, to see the full multifaceted person I am. The physical image before me pales to all that lies beneath the surface. The mirror shows just one small piece of the whole. I need to remember that.

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