“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” ~Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Everything about her was tiny, her frame was petite and her voice was softly small. She pulled at each finger of her glove before fully removing it, and repeated the process on her other hand. I estimated that the woman in front of me was in her 40s, but her hands looked 2 decades younger.

“Can I have a chair?” she asked, and I rolled an office chair over to the cart I’d cleared for her things. As she unrolled a bundle of manicure tools, and set out various bottles of skin products, I wondered if she was more accustomed to jobs that offered her private dressing rooms. Did they actually have stars on their doors?

It was the first time I’d ever met a hand model, and since my job was to basically hover until she needed something, or until we started shooting, I probed her with questions about the job. As she spoke she barely looked up from her hands and never stopped massaging them, but she was happy to indulge my curiosities.

She never does dishes, I learned, or anything else that might risk damaging her precious hands. Her worst fear was of getting paper cuts, yet she’d been expertly trained to wield a knife for chopping vegetables. I tried not to imagine what a chopping mishap might look like… without success.

She never leaves the house without gloves on, she told me; in the summer too, and even when she goes to the beach! I imagined her in a bikini with Cinderella gloves on, and the perplexed looks on the faces of any strangers who noticed this odd attire.

“The hands are the first things to age,” she said, with a slight smile, still elegantly moving her hands against one another.

I pitied her in that moment, but only because I couldn’t imagine her life for myself. A life without being able to get my hands dirty. A life spent hiding from the sun. A life full of superficial fear, and a fear most of us will have to face… the fear of aging.

I think of the palm readers who can tell so much about a person from the lines in their hands. I think about how the repeated expressions on someone’s face are what determine where the wrinkles will show. I think of how much more interesting a dilapidated building is compared to a flawless new one. The more cracks you can find the more stories there are to tell… and I’d say the same thing for wrinkles and scars.

To age well is to barely live. That is my humble opinion.

I look at this photo and I see a wrinkled Earth. I think of how we, humans, are worse than the sun to the Earth’s skin… prematurely aging it. Lost in all the hopelessness I have for Earth’s survival, and our own, the only thing I can say is, at least she lived.

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Artsy Reflections started out as the Photo and 100 Words project back in 2014 – find out why I started it and how it evolved.