There is a sculpture by the master Auguste Rodin named "The Old Courtesan", she is striking, it cannot be denied. The weight of her years hangs against her bones. She’s immortalized in cast bronze. This small work of art has also been called "La Belle qui fut heaulmière" - She Who Was The Helmet Maker’s Once-Beautiful Wife.
I met her on a trip to the museum. I walked ahead of my husband through the exhibit, shuffling through the masses. Everyone whispered of " The Thinking Man", arguably one of the most famous pieces of his career for both it's scale and subject. My own exhausted body slowly fell back behind the crowd, and then I saw her. This courtesan, she was passed over, barely observed by anyone. She stopped me in my tracks and I whispered "I see you", you aren't alone.
It's easy really, to pass over that which is not immediately perfect in our eyes. It’s easy to be ungrateful for Time itself. We want our homes built quickly, smooth and bright, and without fault, and we want our lives to echo this impractical perfection.
Smooth the cracks in the walls.
Repaint the chipping plaster.
Hide the faults.
We pass over the worn and beloved, even in ourselves. It's easy to say "I used to be beautiful, my skin was once smooth and my eyes were as bright as stars."
This helmet makers wife, weighed down with her years, even named for what the world saw as what had been, and what no longer was mirrored how I felt in that moment. Hidden under layers, my newly postpartum body was a source of disappointment and fear.
My body had seemingly failed me in so many ways;
failed to keep a babe safe twice,
failed to birth vaginally,
I failed to stay strong during birth, so I hid myself away most days. My consistently shifting weight and ever softening lines, a reminder of my so called shortcomings, and a deep unfamiliar reality.
Our meeting was poignant, I was struck by her raw beauty and then again by a simple thought.
This woman from the past held forever in that moment, she was me now...and my future. The veins of age and life are inevitable. Even walls begin to bow and crack, but when the bones are strong and loved by the owner, the age becomes it's greatest asset.
My ever growing resentment for the wrecked state my body felt left in dissipated and in it’s place a thankfulness settled into the lines across my softened belly.
The crowd around me shifted into the next room and I turned to my husband who was now at my side.
He gently remarks "She is striking"
"She is, I’m sure, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I think I would like to be like her someday."