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There’s an old woman with a weathered face and a white halo of hair standing in a stone amphitheatre. I fell in love with that image, a photo in a National Geographic magazine, over twenty years ago. The image itself was a beautiful one, but what made it stunning was the story. The woman was building that amphitheatre, stone by stone, and had been working on it for years.

What was it about the woman and her story that touched me so? I’m not sure I knew then. I do now: I loved that she was old. I loved that she was building something. I loved that she had a vision and was following it. Would she live to see the amphitheatre completed? Who knows? She seemed to be doing what her heart guided her to do.

Some years back, when I went to look for that picture, sure that I’d saved that issue of the magazine, I was disappointed because it was not to be found. But, I’ve hardly needed it, as I’ve recalled it fondly so many times. Perhaps the image guided me, or I simply recognized some part of myself: an old woman toting stones, an old woman wanting to build something.

I suspect, now that I am in my sixties, that, as long as I can still stand, I will want to build things, to create something of the visions that I have.

A few weeks ago I was standing next to my thirteen-year-old truck, getting ready to fill the tank, when I looked up to see a friend filling her fancy new Prius. Hugs, warm greetings. A little catching up on the affairs in her life. My friend is several years younger than I, a darling woman with a playful smile who’s endured some significant losses in her life and several serious surgeries.

“So, what are you up to?” she asked.

“Remember I told you I’d been looking to buy another piece of land?”

“Oh, yeah, you’re still at it?”

“Actually,” I said, “I finally found ten acres! I’m set to close on the deal next week.”

She raised her eyebrows, cocked her head. I’m not sure what she was expecting me to say. She knew I’d had a parcel of land before, had spent considerable energy to establish a home there, after years of dreaming about it, and then, due to circumstances unforeseen, had moved after only a year and sold the property.

Did she expect me to say I’d bought a townhouse in the middle of the city? That I was moving to a retirement village? That I’d given up my dream and was content to sit in my rocker?

Was there a little defiance—or was it apology—in my voice when I said, “Yeah. I’m doing it all over again.”

Not unkindly, still with her playful smile, but, certainly, uncomprehending of such folly, she said, “Why?”

Why, indeed, at the age of sixty-three would I wish to take on my current project? Ten acres. No house. Starting from scratch, clearing the land, making a new nest.

It is the dream of lots of blooms (hundreds of Mexican sunflowers and even more bees), a lush vegetable garden (dozens of native squash), a funky house, some chickens, maybe a couple of goats, and the moon and stars as my companions at night that pull me to the country.

Whether or not it is folly, like the old woman in the National Geographic, I am destined to keep laying down the stuff of my dreams. Today, I am that old woman toting stones. The stones pictured here are ones I have moved from one home to another for almost two decades. Now they sit on my new property, waiting for my inspiration. They seem heavier today than they did some years ago, and the bricks I’ve accumulated seem more dense and more numerous. But, as long as I’m still standing, I will piece together the sticks and stones of hopes and loves and dreams.

How about you? Do you have some dreams and visions you’ve been toting around for a while? How do you piece them together?

Please also see my writing at (where I am describing my efforts on my new homesite), at, and at

even old things bloom

by Ellen Hamilton

I am looking for the beauty in wrinkles, those maligned signs of aging. Peering into the mirror at my own fears and prejudices, I hope to write some new songs about living in the land of the wrinkled, the wobbly, and brave. I welcome your comments and input about your own experience with aging and your struggles and successes in finding beauty in your wrinkles.

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