Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Changing Human Face...

The other day as I was riding home from work, two women carrying babies got onto the bus. They sat down on each side of a very elderly, craggy-faced gentleman, and I couldn't help noticing the juxtaposition of the two fresh-faced babies -- with their shiny hair, bright eyes and smooth skin -- next to the very wrinkled, grizzled old man. I thought to myself, "At one time in his life, that old man looked just like those babies."

I am fascinated with the human face; I love studying it and drawing it. Like snowflakes or fingerprints, no two faces are the same, although some faces can be similar. Even with identical twins there is always a dissimilarity -- however small -- to make them distinct. The human face undergoes several transitions as it moves from infancy to old age. In just 80 or so revolutions around the sun -- not very many in the scheme of things -- the human face changes from the picture on the left to the picture on the right. And in their own way, both faces are beautiful. The picture on the right is a painting by Rembrandt, and he certainly recognized the beauty in the old man's face.

A good example of someone whose face has been in the public eye all her life is the Queen. It's interesting in this picture to see how her face has changed from the first photograph to the last, and yet she is still basically the same person. She's fortunate that her face has not changed so much as to make her features unrecognizable. How many people can say that? A few years ago I went to a high school reunion, and I did not recognize many of the people there. Thank goodness for name badges. On the other hand, many of the the folks had not changed at all, and it was as if they had stepped into a time machine.

I sometimes look at Phinnaeus and Marigold and imagine what they will look like as adults. They are starting now to take on some of the characteristics of adult faces. Of course, they both have beautiful faces, but time will make its imprint, just as it does on everyone. I hope the inevitable lines in their faces will be laugh lines and not frown lines, and that their eyes will stay bright with the intellectual curiosity they have now.

As I sat looking at the very old gentleman sitting between the two cherubic babies, it occurred to me that, at another place in time, the old man is a little boy, running through a field on a warm summer afternoon.

On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in't together.

... Samuel Taylor Coleridge

32 comments:

Deb said...

Loved reading your post today. You are so insightful, Jo!

Russell said...

Most interesting. I agree - every face is beautiful and for different reasons.

I was looking at the Sunday ads this morning and thought I was looking at the clothing ads for boys. Turns out it was for .... men! Heh! The "men" were all in their 20s I suppose and to me they looked like boys.

Being in my mid 50s the people who once looked old to me look pretty normal.

In fact, I saw a picture of a woman in the paper and it was mentioned she was 50 some years old -- to me she looked like a young woman (and she is, really).

Most interesting and perceptive post. Spot on as the saying goes!

SparkleFarkle said...

I was feeling so old and worn this morning, so I moved away from the mirror to I could breath again. But your blog turned out to be my breath of fresh air. I'm heading back to the mirror. I think I'm going to better like what I see. Thanks, Jo, I can always look to you for the real answers.

Marlene said...

Coleridge is cool!

A.M. said...

This is the perfect post this morning. Yesterday we had a birthday party in the family and my daughter got to see her great grandmother. As people were taking pictures of the two of them giggling, sharing kisses and blueberries, I stopped for a moment and had the same revelation you did in your post this morning. How interesting out of all the people in the room she choose the oldest, and this is not meant in a rude way, but children are like the elderly in more than one way - they both appreciate life to the fullest and they both know how to look carefree.

lakeviewer said...

What a marvelous topic! Loved the portraits of the Queen, and the lovely poem by Coleridge. Quite a treat this Sunday morn. Thanks.

gigihawaii said...

I went to my 45th high school reunion, and people told me that they did not recognize me. Thank God for name tags, huh? The reason why I have changed so much is my weight gain... Other than that, my hair is still black (I don't dye it) and my face is not wrinkled.

Indian Pundit said...

Great post Jo.

Every beginning has an end. Every journey will have an end.
When u start it....u are fresh,full of energy,full of life.....but as u move towards the end....u are tired,energy-less...but with a wealth of knowledge which weren't there when u started.

But this "too much knowledge" and "experience" may become a hindrance to ur activities.....

Take care.

Mia said...

What's odd about that queen picture is how little her hair has changed.

Shaista (Lupus in Flight) said...

Beautiful post Jo, so perfectly balanced. So Buddhist, that impermanence, that interconnectedness. Perhaps, looking at the babies, the old man was remembering his mother? Remembering himself, skin lined in a softer way, smell different, perhaps greatly adored?

KrippledWarrior said...

This was excellent. Thank you.

PhilipH said...

Another hit, Jo. You have a remarkable knack of picking just the right topic each time you post.

On 'faces' I tend to think that the really old and craggy face, especially men, are far more interesting and photogenic than a clean-cut fresh-faced person.

Your choice of HM Queenie was an excellent one. She is 9 years older than I and so I've 'known' her for longer than many. Sort of grown up with her, so to speak. I think she has grown older with the utmost grace and to me she is still lovely to look at.

Amy said...

Jo, Like you I'm always fascinated with the facial changes that occur with age. Since my mother passed away in her early 40's I never had a chance to see how she aged. Now, with "the Elliot," I look at his bright, new, sweet face and I see his mother and his 'gramps' who looked very much like Elliot when they were babies.

Have you ever noticed that the two halves of the same face are different? If I remember correctly, Richard Nixon was an example of that - maybe that's why he looked so "shifty."

Paula Slade said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post Jo!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I love this post! It's simply beautiful in so many ways, especially the part about the very old man existing somewhere in time as a playful child. I like to think that we all carry our own playful child selves with us always, even if nobody else can see them.

I have watched the Queen in all those phases and it's true that she still looks like herself. My high school class had a big reunion a few years ago - I couldn't go but when they all posted pictures, I needed captions for most of them. I wonder if they would recognize me now - perhaps it's better not to know.

Brenda said...

Great post Jo. I study faces also and wonder so many things about them. I wish I had an artistic talent but I don't. Our daughter's face has not changed very much at all over the years, but our son looks like a different person, from infancy to mid 20's. I think Queen Elizabeth was attractive and still is. The first photo of her and the last are complimentary to her, I think.

Laurie said...

I love this post! I've always enjoyed watching how children change as they grow. So different, yet the same.

I am one of those people that a lot of people say they don't recognize if they haven't seen me for a while. I think it's because I've always enjoyed changing my hairstyle/color. So many times, someone I haven't seen in a year or so will say, "I didn't recognize you until you smiled." I guess some things, blessedly, don't change.

This post definitely made me smile.

DJan said...

It's so nice to hear from you, after the fear you might leave me for awhile. And this post, and the comments, I hope make you realize how much you are loved and appreciated!!! Plus the comments you have recently left on my posts just fill me with gratitude...

Whitney Lee said...

My take on this is similar but from the other end, so to speak. I have a newborn and he's just now beginning to look like a baby instead of a wizened old man. I felt the same about my daughter. It makes me think of the circular nature of life.

Jennifer said...

I love looking at faces, too, especially at familial similarities. Isn't it fascinating to see children alongside both their parents and to see how their combination played out in the newer creation?

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Such a beautiful post, Jo...I find that some of the most interesting and exquisitely handsome faces are the old craggy ones...so much wisdom, character, history and love to be read there...I visited a lovely studio today of an all but forgotten American artist who died in 1932...and I marveled at the way he captured faces on canvas...and my favorites? The elderly... Coleridge is one of my favorite poets! Fabulous post...all the way around! Love, Janine XO

Nes said...

Hi Jo! Yes, the human face is a miracle in itself. I myself have had instance where people come up to me and give me a friendly slap on the shoulder, asking "how've you been?" like we've known each other all our lives. Which we have, in actuality. I normally end up staring blankly back at them and receive an almost hurt look in return. It hurts me too, but honestly, I simply can't remember!

And by the way, that poem is beautiful. I sometimes try my hand at writing poems but fail miserably. That poem, however, is a triumph.

Land of shimp said...

Like Mia I was struck by the fact that QEII has had, essentially, the same haircut for almost all of her life. It makes the changes in her face stand out even more.

There was a rather notorious pinup girl/centerfold named Bettie Page, who had a strange sort of life, and was rather infamous for some fetish photos back in the day.

She struggled with mental illness through much of her adult life, and when found by a reporter in later life, refused to be photographed. She wanted to be remembered as she was.

I always thought that was quite fascinating. Having become famous for her face, and figure, she didn't want to be seen as something other than that icon.

Whatever anyone thinks of Page's life, her iconic photographs became so, partially because she exuded confidence, and strength. She was extremely comfortable being naked.

It's just an interesting footnote that, ultimately, she was not comfortable being truly seen because her hard life had changed her so.

PinkPanthress said...

Time, as one ages, has an huge impact of ones face... :)

Every happy moment & also every sad moment edges themselves in your face!

ρομπερτ said...

A joy to read - wishing you always a happy face and a wonderful Tuesday as well.

Wolynski said...

The Queen is not a good example - someone who lived in the lap of luxury all of her life is going to age differently than someone who had to scramble.

After 40, you get the face you deserve. I believe it.

Not every face is beautiful - sometimes you see meanness engraved in it - best to avoid that person.

the walking man said...

This is why I am stunned once a decade or so when I actually look and see a stranger in the mirror. The face has evolved again while I was out living.

Carl said...

Wonderful post. I really enjoyed it. I can just see the scene on the bus.

Jo said...

Hello, everyone...! Thank you for your wonderful comments. I posted a personal response to everyone here, and Blogger at them all. Arrggghhhhh.

Country Girl said...

What an interesting post, Jo. Love the example used as well.

lovelyprism said...

I sometimes look at my son and squint my eyes a bit to see if I can imagine what he will look like as a grown man. I just can't imagine it! I think he will forever be that chubby little boy with the huge puffy lips in my mind. It doesn't matter that he is only one inch shorter than me and wears a larger shoe size, he'll always be my lil' boy.

Backyard Bargain said...

Yep faces change. But never think about beauty of face, the real beauty is our heart's beauty.