The little girl, walking slowly up the hill to school in the snow, observing meltwater running down the ditch. A fairyland, a miniature river with space for fairies. She tells herself stories all the way, imagining the lives of little people.
The old woman, walking briskly under a summer sun, observing flowers and grasses, hearing birds, seeing insects, trying to name and classify everything in this burgeoning natural world so full of wonder and mystery.
What is the difference between seven and seventy, except for decades of life, decades which seem to have leaked unnoticed through careless fingers, hours and days, months and years running down the drain of time, flowing eventually into the ocean of infinity from which they once emerged?
I asked Google to define “crone”. The top definition is “an old woman who is thin and ugly”. But there is another. “A woman who is venerated for experience, judgement and wisdom”. In other words, an “elder”, one in whom the word “senior” means one who is appreciated for their life experience, not dismissed as “senile.”
So I imagine how I look to others. I was sitting on the library floor, listening to a young man play jazz piano and another young man sing along. Two small children were climbing precariously on an armchair beside me, stealing the show. What, I wondered, would be the reaction if they toppled over onto me, a not unlikely scenario until their father decided to add his stabilizing weight to the chair. Another time, waiting for the laughing, oblivious young persons approaching me on the sidewalk to ease over slightly so that I did not have to step into a snowbank, or onto ice to avoid them. Does grey hair and a lined face make one invisible?
I remembered the time I was buying something in an electronics store and I mentioned something, I forget what, and the young sales clerk asked me how I had found out about it. When I said I had looked it up online he praised me, “Good for you!” and told me about his mother who was taking classes in using the computer. It was only later that I realized he had been thinking of me as some decaying relic from a distant past who could not really understand technology. He didn’t mean it unkindly. It was just the way he saw me. How could he know that I had spent the better part of two decades using a computer to help other people find information?
Inside, we “crones” and “elders” are the same people we have always been. The sixty year old contains the thirty year old, or the three year old, and will one day grow to contain a ninety year old, eventually returning to whatever version of infinity brackets birth and death.