the way i treasure my body: a tribute

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.

Lately, I’ve been indulging in these daily prompts. As I reflected on this one, I immediately thought, “My most prized possession? I don’t think I have one!” Then, after a moment’s thinking outside of the box, I knew what my most prized possession is: my body.


my body

tending a garden using my body

tending a garden using my body

when i was a young girl i used my body to climb trees. i was like a little monkey then, scrambling and scuffling amid branches, up and down trunks. sometimes i’d stay in trees for hours pretending i was a mother monkey. one christmas i got a set of “babies” that fit in a snug fanny-pack carrying case. i was SO excited to receive those triplets because what i most wanted to do with them was scuttle up that tree & pretend we were all sitting up there. and then i was so content just to sit up there pretending with my children. thinking back on it now, that was the peak of my satisfaction then, climbing a tree as a mother monkey, babies in tow.

some things have changed since those days. though these things remain: i still love to climb trees, i still have no children of my own, and i still love to use my body in all manner of ways. when i think of my most prized possession, in fact, it is my body which comes to the fore. recently my partner and i moved to the appalachians where we have been experimenting living on an old homestead. we’ve planted potatoes (sweet & not), herbs for tea & medicine & kitchen, carrots, tomatoes, arugula & flowers. we’ve worked on the old shack we’ve been staying in- putting boards, rat wire & steel wool up to keep mice out. we’ve looked into running a pipe from the stream to our shack, which is off the grid, to have easier access at doing dishes, getting water for cooking, drinking & bathing. we’ve met the neighbors & put down some roots. we’ve traveled to the nearby mountain during a festival and sold some hats we got in Peru. all in all, we’ve been settling in and wondering if this could be a place that we eventually build a house & put further homesteading dreams on the ground.

last night, however, many of our dreams finally came crumbling to the ground – maybe they were even aflame and burning down! you see, my partner’s parent’s best friends recently lost one of their tribe to the hantavirus, a virus carried by deer mice (also known as field mice). this has made us cautious from the start about the horrible end-game possibilities of living with mice. and there are deer mice all over our shack; pooping in corners, on our food bins & counters and scurrying about as the dawn breaks or shortly after we retire for bed. it’s all too much! we’ve been putting so much effort into living in this place (and mouse-proofing it!) and really hoped it could be a place we could settle our dreams in, but health is more important.

our current shack sure is cute & we love it, but the problems with the mice have proved to be too much.

our current shack sure is cute & we love it, but the problems with the mice have proved to be too much.

in the end, my body is more important. because this is the vehicle that gets me through life. my breathing is my primary contact with this earth. respiration in and out of my lungs, taking in the earth, letting it feed me down to my cells, and exhaling back into the greater whole. where would i be without my body? i cannot allow molds, funguses, air-borne viruses or any other silent, lurking, invisible slow “killers” to find a home in my primary home, my body!

it feels sad to choose to leave this place. i am grieving today as i tie up loose threads around the property & carry things to again be wisely placed into our car. and while i am feeling this sadness & grief in my body, i am also breathing in my body, and feeling thankful for this opportunity, for the chance to experiment in this way on this beautiful appalachian homestead with its cool sweet mountain fresh spring water, drinkable straight from the source; for its wild delightful mountain air; for its trees & people. for it really is a lovely place. but, in the final count, i need my body, my sacred temple which allows me to interface so freely & jubilantly with the world outside of myself.

for you see, i would be a much different person if i didn’t have my body. being active has always been a part of my life. from taking 6 weeks to ride my bike up the west coast from LA to BC, Canada (you can read more about that awesome journey here: ourdailyride.wordpress.com); playing D1 college soccer; taking innumerable bike rides all over Indiana, Maine, Missouri, California, & Oregon; being a massage therapist for a time; being an outdoor guide & climbing mountains, rock climbing, hiking for days; trekking with my beloved recently in Peru… i use my body for so many things in my life. and i have been with it through sicknesses and challenges and anemia & weak adrenals. when this happens, i feed it what it needs; take proper medications, and i always eat so well.

i have gone through high school in my body, when it looked different than it does now. i have learned to cut the hair of my own body (and shaved my head twice!). i’ve made love with my body, and pushed myself to run faster with my body; two activities which leave me feeling relieved, but in drastically different ways. i have taken pictures of my nude body and posed my body for group shots, for fancy events, family photos, outings with friends & art projects. i’ve felt water in oceans, bathtubs, showers, rivers, cenotes, streams, ponds & puddles caress and careen my body. i’ve grown food via my body & eaten tons of it! i’ve put clothes on my body, gone without clothes & i’ve rubbed mud all over my body,

see! happily rubbing mud all over my awesome body

see! happily rubbing mud all over my awesome body

 

i’ve done so many things with/via my body! my body is my primary focal point as i live. through body-based therapies i’ve learned to listen to my body to find out where emotions are speaking from, and through doing this, i’ve gotten more in touch with my body & emotions. i’ve learned how to use my body to help free my mind. and i love using my body to pleasure myself and others of my choosing. this vehicle through which i travel this globe is my most important possession. i choose to possess and carry it with as much wisdom as i have in any given moment. and if i see that i’ve been making choices that are unwise for my body, i will change those things so that i can live in greater alignment with health and well-being. because my body is an awesome gift & i want to use it the best way i possibly can for many more years to come!!!

when loving has been forgotten, we must ~become~ again

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We become the things we care for, that we invest our time in, that we love
 because love is an act of expansion, an opening, a reaching toward. When we love, whether plant, person, place, etc, we extend ourselves to that object, becoming more than our bodies. Our concepts of our self & our awareness grow, and we merge or connect with that object of love. In some ways we have now become that object, or in sensing our connection with it, we have a tendency to have more empathy (or we feel what they feel more easily) with the beloved.

 

But what of a culture whose bottom line necessity has been made up to be survival through greed, overwork, one-up-manship & racing one another to an ethereal finish line time and time again? The finish line of monetary gain at all costs- even over the health of ourselves & our ecosystems? Cultural champions can be holistically strong, but they can also be way out of balance: never resting, the disease of over-work constantly taking hold; raised stress levels leading to a myriad of health conditions; a perpetual valuing of doing over being. And the earth, our larger body, in the scheme of a capitalistic, racing economy where one has to grab & take before the other is able to in order to get the share, is largely leaving our literal playing field of the ground we walk on dreadfully raped & pillaged, polluted and overlooked. In a word, the playing field is disrespected. The playing field is seen as a backdrop and as the culture’s main Father God says, The earth is here to serve you, it is seen as an eternal, limitless bank account where everyone has the bank number- it’s just a matter of who gets there first.

 

But the earth is not a limitless, eternally giving bank account for everyone to take from. The earth is a system, a living organism, a dynamic combination of finite and infinite resources playing together much in the same way our body is a largely mysterious system of interchanges amazingly keeping a healthy equilibrium. The earth is abundant, yes! But she is also kind of like your mother, who will give you everything, but not if you disrespect her, take her diamond and gold jewelry, cut off her hair, blow smoke in her face, inject her with dangerous toxins, spill harmful substances into her mouth and other orifices, and when you say you’ll take her for a massage, lace her with life-sapping chemicals leaving her body in a state of depletion & warfare. She is abundant & giving, our Great Mother, yet we must learn to work with her instead of treating her like some backdrop wishing tree that has no relationship to us beyond what we can get from her.

 

So we begin again to care, to see, to behave in relationship with, to love, adore, & worship, even, this being on whom we live and breathe and have our being. Take my body broken for you, eat it in remembrance of me, the Christ says, and I wonder- Isn’t this verse more apt in relationship with our Primordial constant mother, the earth? Instead of setting our spirituality on an ethereal God of total spirit who will nourish our spirit but not our body, what if we integrate and ground our spiritual leanings? The verse can then take on a literal meaning wherein our Great Mother says to us: take my body broken for you, eat it in remembrance of me. And, if every time we eat, plant a garden, & break bread, we see it as such a spiritual, sacred sacrifice she has made for us, giving us of her literal body so that we can continue to live. In this way she is our sustenance. Which of you can live without being a part of her in this way? Yet in remembrance, connection & union with our mother – how could we treat her with such sacrilege? With such ultimate disrespect?

 

I don’t believe we could. But we have fostered and nurtured religions and economic and political systems where the ones who make it to the finish line, chunk of mother’s flesh in hand first, make it to the bank & so continue to contaminate and control. Wherein the god-figure is a male and tells us the earth has nothing to do with us beyond being something we subjugate and have dominion over.

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Yet yesterday I planted the remaining holy basil plants into the garden and looked at the last one, a runt very small in size compared to the rest of the seedlings so far and I gave it a special place. I planted this little one in a container that I would take up to my room and I sang to the plant in worship as is the centuries old tradition in India. As I did I felt my heart & my being extend to include this plant in my circle of care. I felt myself expand in adoration to this little runt who through my love and the vitality in its DNA will grow to be big & strong, cared for and nurtured and will therefore bless me in turn with its medicine, its presence, its sweet juicy leaves. For you see, the earth & her beings are inherently giving. The Great Mother, like most of our own mothers, wants to give us every good thing. But first we must treat her with respect and see her for the gift she is. Let us sing along in adoration with this “Ave” as written by Diane Di Prima,

 

             you are the hills, the shape and color of mesa
you are the tent, the lodge of skins, the Hogan

the buffalo robes, the quilt, the knitted afghan

you are the cauldron and the evening star

you rise over the sea, you ride the dark

I move within you, light the evening fire

I dip my hand in you and eat your flesh

you are my mirror image and my sister

you disappear like smoke on mist hills

you lead me thru dream forest on horseback

large gypsy mother, I lean my head on your back

 

I am you

and I must become you

I have seen you

and I must become you

I am always you

 I must become you

 

For when we become something, when we extend ourselves out to see ourselves as connected or not-that-different than something, we are not apt to treat it any differently than we would want to be treated. And over time this leads to great care & a deep, abiding cherishing.