… if only for a moment:
(Manna Meditations, Day 10)
… if only for a moment:
(Manna Meditations, Day 10)
It’s late. The rain falls on the house for hours without stopping — a slow, steady rain. The kind that brings the world to life.
Meanwhile I’m here inside, listening to the drumming on the roof.
The dinner guests have gone.
The dishes have been cleaned, the wine glasses placed back on the shelf, upside down, glinting in the yellow light.
After all the laughter, it’s quiet, and suddenly I have space to draw a breath and take it in.
And I realize: it’s enough.
The echoes of conversation and laughter. The fading image of myself with my head on a friend’s shoulder. My husband, now asleep in the next room, his breath easy and slow.
The summer, so wet and green and full.
And oh, God, there is so much more I want to build and be and do. But if this is all I ever have time for — well, then…
It’s enough. ❤
The green begins slow, like someone waking up after a long nap.
It spreads subtly across the forest at first: the tiniest leaves spangling the understory.
But then the grass on the lawn grows long.
The wood moss puts out furry wands tipped with tiny capsules of new life.
As for me, I go out to the back yard and cut down an armful of forsythia blooms. I bring the long stems inside, and stuff them in my great-grandmother’s blue Ball jars. Suddenly, every corner of our tiny cottage is filled with the color and scent of sunshine, green things, growing things… Life:
I rest, and say It Is Good. ❤
The other day, while rummaging around in an old box of photos, I stumbled over this snapshot from the 1990s, and I just couldn’t look away:
For two days now I’ve been going back to it, trying to puzzle what it is about the image that haunts me so. And then today, it struck me: This might be one of the last photos taken of me when I was completely comfortable in my own skin.
Tonight, I set the photo gently beside the keyboard, where I can stare at it while I type, and I look hard into the eyes of that smiling girl.
I must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of seventh grade when it was taken, caught in in the middle of a wicked belly flop from the edge of the pool at the Swim & Racquet Club. Already I had breasts and smooth curves by then, and a ballerina’s slim arms. Still — I didn’t yet know that my body was A Thing, mainly because the boys I knew also didn’t seem to notice that my body was A Thing. I was bookish and dreamy and artistic and smart, and it would be many years before those traits would crystallize into a chic sophistication that made me seem alluring and mysterious to the opposite sex, rather than just strange and a little intimidating.
And so, for the briefest moment in time, I wore a woman’s body without being self-conscious about it.
I didn’t know, yet, that my frame would become a liability and a curse: a source of constant shame and insecurity.
Didn’t know that a thousand voices would converge to tell me that I was too fat, too short, that my skin was bad, that my eyebrows ought to be plucked, or penciled in, that my cheekbones were too low, my feet too wide, and that if only I bought a certain dress/diet pill/lip gloss/anti-cellulite cream/tanning oil/cuticle trimmer/hair remover, I would finally — finally — be beautiful.
Beautiful, and therefore loved.
But I didn’t know any of this then. And so I raised myself on tiptoe at the water’s edge and just let myself fall, grinning for the little waterproof camera that my sister clutched in two hands.
I wasn’t worried about sucking in my stomach, or keeping my straps in place. I just fell, free and wild and easy through the summer light.
And I wish I’d never come crashing through the surface of womanhood. Wish with everything within myself that I could freeze that girl in that frame, and keep her in innocence forever.
But we both know that isn’t possible.
It’s been some time since I posted regularly on the subject of body image, and I’ll be honest: it’s a hard subject for me. After finishing my project Same Body, Second Glance, I felt exhausted by the white-knuckled vulnerability it took to share those images with you, and my little blog went dark for close to a month.
But lately, I’ve been feeling drawn back to the body: to its beauty and fragility. Its strength and wonder and joy.
So. I’m letting you know.
This month, I’ve been celebrating alpha // whiskey // foxtrot’s one-year anniversary with a series of flashback posts, and while I may still share a few more of those, I want you to know that there’s a change in direction coming. And I know it’s not for everyone.
While I’m still dreaming up the details, I think you’ll find — for a time, at least — that I’ll have a lot to say about the body … a series of personal essays and meditations, accompanied by special photographs. And while I originally meant to save this series for the post-January 1 season, I feel more and more that it may come sooner than that.
Because I need the joy now.
I look down, again, at the sweet smile of that innocent girl in the photograph, and I know as well as you do that her unselfconsciousness is not something I can regain.
But the joy — the wild joy of celebrating my own physicality — that is mine to keep, now and always. And that’s a wild joy I want to share with you.
I hope you’ll join me for the journey.
I am a keeper of secrets — especially from myself.
A long time ago, I realized I was one of those souls who felt everything too deeply —
Who wept inconsolably when I saw a little bird crushed by a car tire.
Who agonized over the troubles of friends and characters in books.
And so, over the years, I learned the trick of keeping all this emotion where it couldn’t hurt me: I’d sink it deep in the cold waters of the subconscious — repressed.
This is both a useful habit, and a dangerous one.
A year ago, when I began photographing my own body, I learned another trick:
In an unguarded moment, my face would say a great deal of things I never knew about myself. In the hollows below my eyes, the hard lines of my mouth, I’d suddenly see all the secret emotions I’d been hiding from my mind. A lot of these were emotions that should have been acknowledged honestly and released many years before.
And so, I’ve learned to recognize my soul’s unguarded moment when it comes. I might be hiking over a mountain pass or ambling down the grocery aisle. I might be hunched at my work desk, or mowing the lawn. But wherever I am, when I feel my subconscious rising to my musculature, my skin, I pull out my iPhone and snap an image, before the moment can pass:
Slowly, I’m teaching myself a better way to heal.
I’ve mentioned, briefly, that I’ve been carrying a quiet hurt for three weeks now.
And it would be easy at this point to ignore it, forget it, sink it below the surface like a body in a lake.
Earlier this week, while walking in the woods at twilight, I feel a strong emotion cross me like a shadow.
I pull out my iPhone.
I snap a picture:
There. Do you see it? Slow ache and sleeplessness and regret? Me too.
So now, the only question is what to do with it.
It would be such a simple thing, to do what other people do when they’re hurting: buy a drink. Dye my hair. Ride around town with friends. But these things are deliberate distractions from the hurt, and lately I don’t want to be distracted. Because if life has taught me anything, it’s this:
When my soul is wide-open to hurt, it’s also open to joy.
When my senses are attuned to my troubles, then they’re also attuned to magic and mystery — my spirit suddenly imbued with the language to understand each word the wind whispers in the leaves. And I don’t want to miss this.
So I get out my paintbrushes, my camera or my journal…
I give myself permission to feel it all.
Three days ago, in the fading light, I take a long walk.
On the last uphill climb toward home, rain begins to fall, and I could run for shelter, but I don’t.
I lift my face, let the rain fleck me all over — drops of wet cold that sequin my hair, my skin, my lips.
I close my eyes and breathe … feel a sense of wonder crossing over me like light.
I take out my iPhone.
I lean back and snap a picture:
This is what a silver lining looks like. ❤
…I mean really seen it — not just in passing, but with purpose? Because whether you notice it or not, it unrolls itself for you every day — your own private gallery, right there above your head.
(All these images, by the way, are perfectly unedited — which should say something.)
On our recent road trip to Florida, we drove and drove, the road slipping beneath us. While my husband listened to Serial, I got out my DSLR, pressed the lens close to the passenger window and took shot after shot of passing clouds. I did this for hundreds of miles — more than a thousand miles, in fact. If my husband thought this was crazy, he didn’t say so. He just turned up the radio and ignored the shutter banging away in his ear. (He’s patient like that.)
Meanwhile, I watched bands of blue darken to salmon and lavender and gold, and I thought about all the good gifts this world has to give us — like this quiet light show, performing over and over again without any presumption of an audience. Every minute a new show, invented and reinvented, so you never see the same sky twice.
You don’t have to pay for a ticket to watch it…
You don’t have to live in a good school district…
You don’t need a proper education or title or special skill …
You just need eyes in your head and a heart to see, and I’ll tell you — even if you don’t have those, you could sit down beside me and I’d try to speak the Sunset in words you could understand… I really would.
Which I guess is what I’m always trying to do.
I hope you go out and marvel at the sky today, if only for a moment. ❤