By Rick Romancito, Taos News, August 20, 2015
“Claire Haye’s humor may zip past your head at the speed of light. But, if you tune in, it’s a wonder and a sly part of understanding what makes her tick.
Haye is a well-known Taos artist and jewelry designer whose work can be seen at her Arroyo Seco gallery. Lately, though, she’s been thinking about what it’s like to enter what she calls the “final stage” of her life. Don’t worry, though. This isn’t a morbid pursuit. It’s simply a way of looking at one of the facts of life. Face it, we’re all getting older, but when the truth of it is staring back at you every time you look in the mirror one may wonder whether there’s some way to guide you through this process.
That’s what Haye wondered too and decided to produce a book to serve that purpose.
A book launch for A Modern Woman’s Guide to Aging: Together We Consider Our Options took place Saturday (Aug. 22) at Haye’s Claireworks Gallery, 482-A State Road 150 in downtown Arroyo Seco. Upon the occasion, we thought we’d pin her down for a few questions. Here’s what’s on her mind…
1. What prompted you to write “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Aging”?
Claire Haye: I was an only child with older parents. I have always been aware that people age and die. After I became a senior citizen, I tried to gather a group of women to discuss aging. The only women to show up to my meetings were my employees. Hmmm. Two years ago, my very intelligent friend Jane and I had a profound talk about no longer being young. I enthused, “You should write a book about aging.” Guess who ended up writing the book?
2. In terms of your audience, for whom is this book written?
Haye: Of course, I wrote this book for myself. I am in the first group of baby boomers to become senior citizens. The demographics tell us that a large population of both men and women are going to be confronted with the issues and the challenges of the natural process of getting old. This book is primarily for woman who wish to consider their own aging progression and explore their options.
3. What went into your choice to use humor as a way to talk about personal issues and options?
Haye: “A Modern Woman’s Guide” takes a tough and stern look at the biology of the aging process and there is very little I find amusing about my body going through her dance of senescence. However, both the reader and I need to pause and breathe and smile as we take in the “facts.” Talking plainly about grim and taboo subjects can be emotional, but it is also refreshing and can be humorous.
4. What are the most important signposts women need to recognize, as they get older?
Haye: Although everyone who lives long enough will experience some of the unavoidable effects of the body’s decline, each person is on their own biological schedule. Just recognizing you are getting older is important. Take the time to know yourself. Consider your own journey.
5. Why did you include the opportunity to use “journaling” as part of your book?
Haye: I plainly express my viewpoint throughout the guide, but I do not expect my reality to be every woman’s truth. Can we agree not to judge each other? The guide is not a how-to-age book, but is rather a vehicle for self-exploration and discussion.
6. Is this geared toward women young enough to see what’s ahead for them?
Haye: My guide is for the woman, whatever her age, who feels ready to contemplate the last phase of her life.
7. The black-and-white photographs by Lenny Foster depict flowers instead of what we’d assume to be people engaged in the aging process. Why?
Haye: The guide is short, but dense. It is full of information, exercises, stories, searching questions and journaling. It is also an art object (a book) that I hope women will find appealing to own and friendly to write in. The soft images provide important relief from difficult topics. Lenny Foster’s work is evocative and beautiful. The flowers are held tenderly in my hands (yes, mine) as welcoming and perhaps soothing gestures.
8. What was the reasoning behind the section involving a 30-day trial involving vitamins, supplements and herbal substances?
Haye: One of the realities of modern life and modern medicine is that the patient will have to make her own health choices. She will have to decide about vaccinations, vitamins, Hormone Replacement Therapy, dietary changes or, in the case of serious conditions, whether she will want aggressive treatment or not. Throughout the guide, I encourage the reader to be informed, aware and in charge.
9. You address what it might be like to write your own obituary. Why is that constructive?
Haye: My experience of this exercise is that many women are genuinely surprised by what they write down as their significant accomplishments. Creating distance from your life pattern by distilling your history into a few paragraphs makes you underline what is really important to you.
10. How important is the question you pose, “What makes your life worth living?”
Haye: Youth gave us what seemed like an endless future. As you age you may feel the pulse of time and the limits of your existence. The guide has several exercises that all have the same goal: Know thyself. And my hope is that this self-knowledge will enhance and invigorate your last years.
Claire Haye is a well-known visual artist. She has lived in Taos since 1978. She came here as a young woman with her husband and two small daughters. Time has passed, she has become a grandmother, a widow and a senior citizen. For nearly two decades, she has owned her own gallery, Claireworks, in the charming mountain village of Arroyo Seco. Haye has had considerable success with her original jewelry and fine art. She says she loves the independence that her gallery has provided her. Sometimes she says she is lonely and restless, but most often she is fully occupied by her many art projects. Last year she completed a large ceramic mural as well as a dozen new jewelry designs. You can view her work online at claireworks.com.
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