Earth practicing for a holiday show with her local choir. She has made many new friends and receives a delicious hot lunch after practice.
Earth practicing for a holiday show with her local choir. She has made many new friends and receives a delicious hot lunch after practice.

Earth, formerly Ruth, Clemons was left in an orphanage at 4 years old by her mother. She believes her mother was probably mentally ill which she inherited, but she will never know. Put in foster care homes, she was physically and sexually abused.

Finally at the age of 18 she went out on her own and ran into some caring people that helped her finish college and work as a teacher. Despite a difficult life, Earth has remained strong and resilient throughout.

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How does it feel to be 72?

72 is good! I feel lucky to finally feel settled in a comfortable home. The nicest home I ever had! My life has been full of ups and downs. I was abandoned as a young child. No one ever came to look for me. I suffered abuse both emotionally and sexually, but managed to finish college and taught in Seattle for years. Forced to leave teaching because of poor health I decided to live off my disability in a small quiet town in Mexico. But my illness increased and I needed more medical attention so I headed to San Diego.

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What do you look forward to?

I don't ask for much. I look forward to peace and quiet and getting back to the things I enjoy. I finally feel content. I hope to enjoy the things I have missed for so long - music, theater, friendships. I live near the airport and enjoy sitting on my balcony watching the planes coming and going. I realize my life is more limited now. Sometimes I'm sad but I have come so far in spite of all that I went through. I'm staying positive.

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What is your biggest concern?

My biggest concern is that I am able to remain in my apartment and continue receiving the services I am getting. I finally am feeling safe and secure. This is something many take for granted. I lived in terrible shelters when I first arrived here in San Diego. With no family, little money and a mental disorder, I was placed in a shelter for mentally ill homeless women. What a scary place. Now that I have my own place I pray everyday for things to remain this way. I don't want any surprises.

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Life expectancy 2023

79.74
years
United States

About the photographer

Michele Zousmer

🌐

I am a humanitarian photographer, storyteller, & advocate for change. My work has been exhibited at Prix de la Photographie, Julia Margaret Cameron Awards, Lens Culture Critics Choice Awards, New York International Film Festival, and more.

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