Thursday, September 20, 2007

Notes to Myself

Back in college, we were told to be "active readers." We underlined special phrases, check marked certain paragraphs while we read. When we discussed the work, we still remained active readers. We jotted notes in margins "Empowerment" "Fidelity" "societal ideal" " Oppressive marriage" Once I deflowered a book by reading it, it becomes a special possession.

One such book is "When I am an Old Woman" anthology. I bought this book when I was just out of college and loved the poetry, prose and photography. This book is expressions by women regarding the experience of aging, enduring life events such as death of a spouse or parent or just living on a fixed income. It's beautifully written, though it is not the most uplifting book. The publishers had issued additional anthologies by Sandra Martz, which I have ("I Am Becoming the Woman I've Wanted", "If I Had My Life to Live over I Would Pick More Daisies and "If I Had a Hammer: Women's Work in Poetry, Fiction, and Photographs.") I found the first one to be definitely the best one.

I was organizing my bookshelf a few weeks ago and I flipped through this book. I was really surprised reading the sections I had asterisked and checked.

In a way, it was the 30-something me was looking at a note from 20-something me. Poetry is so personal and it grabs one at the right moment. Seeing the notes confirms that I had felt some connection or recognition when I read it.

Looking over the notations on selected works, I sense her uncertainty and her skepticism about relationships, but she's still a romantic. I'm pleased to see her confidence and acceptance of an aging body, and the appreciation of the wisdom of elders.

There's a poem by Michele Wolf called "For my Mother" and it begins "I sharpen more and more to your likeness every year, your mirror.."

There are no marks on the page. More than likely, 20-something me never read it. No..she read the whole book. There's an obvious denial of any resemblance to my mother. Actually, that resistance is still there. However, if she had read it all the way through, she would've seen the graceful shift in the poem where she fights it and wants to turn it around, to avoid repeating the same history. And, she wants to help her mother change both of their fates. That's the major difference between me then and now. Today, I realize my mother has a point of view, especially as I am a mother and I have a definitive point of view.

I like these little notes that fall out of books. It shows me how much I've changed, and how much I haven't.

*The above image is called Young Woman Writing a Letter (detail), Encre Marquet, 1892. Image courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


ZenDenizen said...

Your choice of book amused me because even as young people, Cancers are known for being "old souls."

Anonymous said...

Really? Haven't heard that before.. but yes, I do think it's true.