Today I watched the amazing Jae West of The Liberator Family bravely stand nearly naked on a busy city street. She stood for all of those with eating disorders and disabling body image issues. She stood blindfolded with pens in her hands and a sign asking people to draw a heart on her body to help her love herself; to help us love ourselves.
What is it that we see when we look at ourselves with unkind eyes? What is it that we see when we look at someone else with unkind eyes? We do it all the time. I look terrible in that picture. What’s wrong with her? Why would anyone wear that? These are trivial comments on one level. But on a deeper level, this harsh way of looking at ourselves, at others, is the most fundamental way in which we cast out, shun and “other” our very selves and our neighbors. My goal is this: the next time I look harshly, and it will likely be at myself, I plan to stop and point by point articulate what I see. I suspect that in the hurry of these commonplace harsh thoughts, we are sweeping over things that we would not actually want to inflict if we were mindful of what we were saying. So I will draw it out, come face to face with that personal meanness, and see if I can rummage around in myself and find a gentler voice.
This is my time to clear a path or two for those that come behind me. Surely I can do this. I know enough. Now I just need to bring that knowledge into my core. Maybe I can help my younger sisters to get to a place of self love sooner than I did.
What do you think? Is the world ready for a gathering of nearly naked crones on a busy city street? Meanwhile, I will work on my clay Crone Vessels and think about it:)
As I have aged, I have become more appreciative of the vessel that is my body. As time and illness and injury have each taken its toll on my physical vessel, I have come to regard my body as an imperfect, wonderous miracle. It is with kinder eyes that I see myself now: lumps, bumps, bulges. I can feel how hard my heart works, scarred though it is, to supply enough oxygen rich blood to get me up a short set of stairs or across the street. It is an effort. I notice that. I appreciate it. I’m thankful for it.
Conversely, as a young woman, I led a busy and very physical life. Working. Raising children. Engaging in my favorite spiritual past times: hiking, swimming, kayaking, walking. The list goes on and on. I enjoyed using my body and I demanded a lot of it. In significant ways, I took my youth, my beauty and my health for granted. I was far to busy to THINK about it. When I was still, I was in nature, thinking about oneness and connection. I felt a great kinship with the land, the sea and the sky. That meant a lot to me. But I did not fully appreciate the vessel that allowed me to BE.
I imagine that my son and my husband, both of whom have had to contend with severe physical challenges, have long been more aware of their vessels. Imperfection, physical imperfection, was and is something that they have to confront in every instance that they live and breathe in this world. I will venture to say that I bet they never take their bodies for granted. But those of us with fully functional bodies usually do. Until we age or until something goes wrong.
Rumi says there are a hundred ways to kiss the ground. My way is through clay. I make clay vessels, one of a kind, unique. Each is meant to be a meditation on the beauty inherent in imperfection. Invite me into your story and let me make a vessel in honor of your beauty.
Clay in my hands makes me happy. Specifically, red georgia clay, dug straight up from the earth, right here in my state. This clay has body, has substance, has something to teach me. keeping my hands in this clay, forming, shaping, co-creating, keeps me close to the earth. Those of you who know me will remember that I love the ocean, love the Maine coast, love swimming, hiking, kayaking. When I lived in Maine, when I was younger and healthy, the land was my true companion and my joy. Now I lead a quieter life, a city life, a southern life, a life with health challenges. Balancing my fond memories of other years, other joys in other places, is my discovery of art, of making things and of the great joy of Georgia clay in my hands.