It is pre-dawn. Friends of a very old woman gather to celebrate her birthday in her underground swimming pool, at the time, dry. They carry a decorated cake, ablaze with candles, that dispels the gloom. Someone begins singing “Happy birthday…”, then starts again, the others joining in. The old woman asks about the condition of the pool. We tell her it is dry and she’ll have to wait for the return of the waters.

The dream raised questions. Who was this very old woman who seemed unaware of her birthday? What about her deplorable living conditions, her passivity, her isolation? Who were her friends? And the dry swimming pool?

Aside from the obvious need to water my own dryness with watercolors, a recent gift from my Inner Painter, there seems to be wider implications for aging women in this dream. No one saw the very old woman, only picked up her wraith-like presence in the shadows, only barely heard her questioning the condition of her pool. She was too weak to check it out for herself.

Many of my peers, like this very old woman, disturb me. They swarm, confused, directionless, like cicadas moaning in oak trees these unseasonably hot summer days. No longer is there accustomed moisture from families, religion, social clubs.

Many shadow women languish, unattended, in homes that no longer fit, their yards long gone to seed. Long divorced from the sacred within, their birthdays are meaningless. Many eventually land in assisted living or nursing homes, only to be stifled by the monotony of the daily routine, by long hours of meaningless television. The resulting tedium, like fungus, kills spirit. The body soon follows.

Long years of home care and hospice work afforded me opportunities to witness these diminishments of spirit/body no medications could fix. A Senior myself, the challenge is to stay deeply alive, to be a water-bearer for others open to be visited. There is a way out.

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