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  • Betty Girardeau

What Does Our Looks Say About Us?


On one of my more recent walks in the woods I spied this aging tree and was fascinated by all the things about it that I could observe by a quick look. Of course, the first and foremost was that it was old and nearly dead. Its bark was shedding, and beneath that bark could be seen the trails of insects that had made their homes there. Because they were there, wood peckers had come to the tree and left their marks as well. Tucked into the crevices of the deteriorating bark were several varieties of green mosses that seemed to be lovingly caressing the wrinkled and rough bark edges. So much information readily seen in just a small view. This got me to thinking about people watching and the things we can quickly learn and infer about those that may briefly be a part of our life experience. It is interesting to see how people dress, do their actions and words indicate their emotional state, are they accompanied by others, do they like to read and, if so, what kinds of things, what color or patterns do they seem to favor, do they appear friendly, does it look like they have health issues? Even our ethnicity. So many little things all rolled together tell volumes about us to just the random observer. Not surprisingly there have been all kinds of studies about appearance and its importance. We have all heard about the importance in the work-place of "dressing for success." But that is not what I am talking about here. I know some fantastic portrait photographers whose work is exemplary because they have been able to somehow catch and reveal something about the inner soul of the person they have photographed. The lighting that was used may have brought out the individual's wrinkles, indicating perhaps a long and difficult life path, or ones around the eyes that suggest laugh lines. Perhaps it is the eyes that tell the story of happiness or sadness or deep thinking. It's all interesting to me. Like the tree, the sum of our parts can say so much about us. But our "parts" are so unique to us. They have been crafted by genes and life experiences, by what we like and what we don't like. People and things that we encounter are just so interesting!

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