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Excerpted from Crone Chronicles: A Journal of Conscious Aging.

I finally met Beatrice, after a correspondence of nearly five years. She is a subscriber to a small magazine I publish. I liked her no-nonsense, direct way of expressing herself and was happy to hear she was traveling through last weekend and would stop and say hello. I am 54 and she is 70-something. The car pulled in, the dog barked, I walked out to the car and there she was, rummaging in back for some plants she'd brought me. "You must be..."

"And you must be..."

Beatrice's beautiful face was wonderfully lined with many wrinkles--especially those pointing to her smiling eyes and lips. I felt my wrinkles from the inside of my face, the way veils on women's hats used to feel long ago.

I had my hair in pigtails that day--a young sort of thing to do, but easy--and so meeting Beatrice I needed my wrinkles to say, "This is no kid you are dealing with here; I am a crone!"

Veils were a strange no-touch thing, a sexy scaffolding of gentle webbing over the upper two-thirds of a woman's face. Lips were generally below the edge of the veil and greased bright red, like a target. Sometimes veils contained a spot or a flower to enhance the display.

Wrinkles, from the inside, are pleasant, soft, quiet, and pink like a baby's cheek. Like a gentle webbing. I wore mine proudly, and admired Beatrice's evolving array of lines, wondering if she was enjoying hers, too, from behind the veil. -- Jeanne Hardy, Twisp, Washington

My mother had a mercurial temper. As a child, I found her thermometer difficult to read. One moment she would be quiet. The next, she would blow. The result was pyrotechnic, an eruption of words and physical threats that would send me scurrying, scuttling, or flat-out running for--I thought--my very life. Eventually I learned to read the warning: when the "eleven"--two deep vertical lines between her brows--appeared on her forehead, it was time to shut up and scoot. Over the years as she dealt with her private agonies and concerns, as well as my behavior, the "eleven" became a feature of her appearance. I vowed that when I grew up the wrinkles on my face would be laugh lines, not frown marks.

Now, asked to comment on wrinkles, I examine my 53-year-old visage under the harsh fluorescent light in the bathroom. Nearsighted, I remove my glasses and lean close to the mirror. I discover wrinkles I hadn't suspected.

Laugh lines? Well, yes--there is a complex map of tiny lines radiating from the outside edges of my eyes. The deep lines that extend from the edges of my nostrils and around the corners of my mouth are really laugh lines, I tell myself, although when I'm tired gravity tugs at my mouth until I look a little sour. But when I smile these deep clefts are repeated across my cheeks. More laugh lines than I know what to do with.

But what's this? These vertical lines between my brows? I'd like to say they have been caused by studiousness. And worry. I've had my share, something I didn't count on when I was a child. There has been anger, too--some of it justified, some just temperamental.

Life has betrayed my expectations in many ways. I try to learn from these lessons. I look at these ghostly furrows, these eleventh-hour warnings, and renew my vows. -- Lee Kirk, Eugene Oregon

What I have done to save myself from a thousand natural shocks is designate my own Wrinkle Weather Vane, someone ahead of me in the wrinkle world, who points my future, wrinkle-wise. Eyes on her, I have skipped on from mere laugh lines and crows' feet, through the more difficult terrain of dewlaps and elongated ear lobes, all the way to cross-hatched cheeks, and crepey neck. I won't say the trip has been smooth even with my weather vane alerts, but at least, no tears, no tantrums. My face is as it is. I tell myself I'm home free--no more natural shocks. So I tell myself.

Then why this pang when I noticed, just yesterday, new lines on the face of my beautiful 47-year-old daughter? Surely they weren't there yesterday. -- Maggie Kraushaar, Seattle Washington

My dear friend, Marianna, who died in her 80s, once posed for my camera. I asked her to furrow her brow in different ways so I could capture the amazing maze of lines that crossed her face and gave it such character. She laughed, delighted and agreed. She was beautiful. The lines show who she is. The struggle to become a woman doctor in the 1920's, the unacceptable marriage, the escape from Germany in the '30s, the daughters she reared in Iran, the full life she and Joachim lived in this country in Berkeley, California.

Wrinkles also symbolize kinks, glitches, ways that our plans go awry. I often find that the unexpected jog in my plan is a dancing lesson from the Goddess. And my job is to accept that change with grace: "to turn, to turn, it will be our delight/so by turning, turning we come around the right." (A Gift To Be Simple)

As a massage therapist, I see myself as ironing out the wrinkles in the person on my table--both body and soul. To smooth out, relax and release the wrinkles and kinks in the muscles, and to allow the person's self, spirit to spread out flat and whole on the table. Allow them to look at their whole self without judgment, without wadding up the place they don't like, and hiding from themselves, without tightening up the stomach muscles so they don't bulge, without pretending that they are unafraid.

Each massage I start by asking Spirit (Sky father from above, Earth mother from below) to come in through me, to my heart, add infinite compassion and come out my hands, to make for the person on the table a safe place to be exactly who they are, be comforted and nurtured, and allow to change anything they want to change.

Isn't that ironing out the wrinkles?

-- Barbara Millikan, Sheridan, Oregon


Excerpted from Crone Chronicles: A Journal of Conscious Aging.


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