When I set the blog up, it was deliberately anonymous; now, it’s perfectly possible to connect the dots and find out who does the writing here. Even so, I don’t usually post pictures or other details about myself, so this is an exception. The photo is from the same set as those I posted yesterday, and manages to show the colours I failed to capture in the second picture. It also shows another colour entirely: my natural hair colour.
When, aged around 16, I found my first grey hair, I was told:
grey hairs are honourable;
old maids are abominable.
Since I couldn’t remember my mother’s hair ever being anything other than silver, the idea of starting to go grey wasn’t a problem. My natural colour was at best a “lighter shade of mouse”, so something a little less anodyne appealed; if I plucked each white hair as soon as it appeared, it was only because I had been warned that two would grow in its place and I thought it might speed the process.
I don’t know when the silver started to outpace the brown, but it’s probably been like it is in the photo since the mid nineties.
Now I find that #grannyhair is a thing: over-sixties are sought after for advertising campaigns, older women are embracing their roots, and young girls are bleaching and tinting their hair to fake the colour that it’s taken me decades to achieve naturally. Although my hair is about as low-maintenance as is possible, it seems I am “on trend”, whether I want to be or not.
However, although I’m on trend, I’m not exactly on track for the blog, so I’d better find a poem to post. This one, written back in the days when most women were trying to hide the grey, seems appropriate. It was included in the Poetry Wivenhoe 2011 anthology.
In Beauty’s Temple
A novice greets and robes the worshippers
then leads them to the alabaster fonts
for ritual cleansing. On all sides
primary-coloured bulldogs snap and snarl
and rat’s-tails drip from plastic teeth
while cotton snakes writhe and entwine
in chemical intoxication.
One priestess braids a dreamcatcher
from human hair: she weaves
bright beads and tassels
with unnatural plumes. Neither
Solomon in all his glory
nor the gaudiest bird of paradise
wore feathers quite so fine.
Another white-gowned Little Sister
works a different alchemy: her task
is to disguise grey winter roots
in shades of Indian summer.
Through her fingers flows a slow
amber cascade. Silver and steel
are transformed into gold; mahogany
and chestnut are made liquid
in this sanctuary.
Mirrored walls reflect
the metamorphoses. The devotees rise,
phoenix-like, restored to youth; they leave
their tithes and offerings,
their minds lulled by the steady hum
of handheld Santa Anas
that teach the autumn rivers
how to dance.