Today I bring you my next eight December Reflections via photographs!
December 8: 5 THINGS ABOUT ME
- I am slightly far-sighted and as the years progress I notice that I need my glasses more and more for computer work and reading — especially when grading my students’ assignments.
- My hair is naturally light brown. Well, my hair is naturally light brown with lots of silver and gray.
- As far as I know, my cultural background is Irish-English-Scottish-German-Swedish and Prussian. My paternal grandmother told me that we’re related to Prussian royalty, but I’m not sure I believe her since she also told my brother that he was 1% Hawaiian. I’m also (apparently) related to Rufus Putnam, an American Revolutionary War general, so I guess that makes me a “DAR,” but I have no interest in that label or association. My favorite label is HUMAN and my favorite cause is PEACE.
- I have green eyes with a little bit of gold around the edges. These eyes are sensitive to light and this sensitivity sometimes causes ocular migraines.
- I have four tattoos on my body, including six birds and two Sanskrit symbols.
December 9: FAVE PHOTO OF 2015
It’s often so challenging for me to pick a “favorite” anything, so I have many favorite photos from this year. I will say that this photo of my cat Selkie delights me to no end. Last winter he sat with me in front my full-spectrum S.A.D. light absorbing the warmth and light with me as we traversed the dark months together.
December 10: SHADOWS
This last summer in Seattle was unusually hot. For the first time, my husband and I were considering getting an air conditioning unit. Instead, we cooled off in the kiddie pool and hid in the shadows of the sun.
December 11: GOLD
This sky! I took this photo on a walk home from the grocery store one evening this summer. The clouds were littered with gold and the sky was so softly blue. I dropped all my grocery bags and stared and stared. Remembering this moment reinforces my intention to stop and really look at the world with my whole body.
December 12: BEST DECISION OF 2015
So many good decisions this year, but I am going to focus on one that is constant: my decision to keep connecting, learning, and growing with my partner in this life.
December 13, 2015: A is FOR…
ART! And making artful messes! And reminding myself how the process of making art invigorates me like nothing else quite does. Here’s to a 2016 of setting up my art space in our new home in Bellingham and creating!
December 14: THE SPACE IN BETWEEN
Speaking of old and new spaces, this is a photo of our cat Selkie scoping out our empty bedroom right before our move. I think he found a few ghosts in that room … in that space in between.
December 15: SOUNDTRACK of 2015
My new (longer) commute from Bellingham to Bothell twice a week to teach at Cascadia College has certainly been an adjustment, but it has been made much more lively with some riot grrrl tunes. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ani Difranco on my drives and her strong energy, provoking lyrics, and social consciousness have me rockin’ and singing along with her up and down I-5.
Spine Hawk, mixed media by Courtney Putnam
Alright, creative wonderfuls,
I know that you think about your spine. I just do. During my time as a massage therapist it was a rarity if someone didn’t ask for their back to be massaged. I did not often hear comments like, “You know, today my back feels so loose and free, you can just avoid even touching that area.” So that is how I know you think about your spine. You want someone to touch it. You want relief from its pains.
You spend at least a portion of each day feeling and interpreting sensations in your back and neck as you sit at your computer and take a walk and do yoga and sit to read and do just about anything. I am very conscious of my back right now as I write this blog post. I can tell my back wants to talk. I wonder what she would tell me if I gave her a voice? The spine is fascinating and complex.
First, here are some fabulous factoids you might find interesting to ponder:
- Humans and giraffes each have seven cervical (neck) vertebrae.
- There are over 120 muscles that make up the spine area.
- When we are born we have 33 individual vertebrae. As we age, some of these vertebrae may fuse together, like the five bones that fuse together to form our sacrum.
- Potentially, the spine is so flexible that it can bend to form two-thirds of a circle.
- Etymologically speaking, the word “spine” has evolved from “backbone,” “thornlike part,” “thorn prickle,” and “sharp point.” It wasn’t until 1922 that “spine” also referred to the back of a book.
So I invite you to dive into this writing exercise (below). If your spine were another “thing” in the world, what would it be? No huge time commitment needed. Give yourself just five minutes to write if that’s all you have time for. The point is to check in with yourself and engage with your creativity. No pressure, just a little “push.” Got it?
Writing Prompt: Spine Metaphor
What is the life of your spine like? On a typical day, do you feel expansive in this area or cramped and compressed? What words come to mind to describe how your spine feels? What sensations live in your spinal area? Write about the purpose and function of your spine, as well as how you experience your spine in your body. Don’t worry if the words that arrive don’t seem to make sense. Keep writing. Allow your body to speak to you and through you. Breathe. Press your back up against your chair or the wall.
Now imagine your spine is not your spine at all, but something else. Is it a ladder for your headaches to climb to reach your head? Is it a river flowing from your cranium to your sacrum? Is it a snake? A rain stick? Is your sacrum a drum? Are you half-giraffe? If you get stuck in your writing, I recommend that you connect with your spine by doing some small movements and stretching in your torso. What does it feel like when you gently bend forward, back, or to the side? How does your spine respond when you engage with it? Perhaps this movement will help you to reveal the metaphor.
As always, what comes to you is what is meant to arrive on the page. We’re not going for perfection here; instead, we’re going for connection and expression. What does your spine say? And notice if the sensations in your back shift and change as you give your spine a chance to be seen, heard, and understood. Our bodies LOVE acknowledgement!
After you’ve written, please share a snippet of your writing or a reflection about your writing process in the comments below! I’d be honored to hear from you.
with sacrum drum beats,
ZenPen, my e-course for process-oriented, body-based writing begins on May 5th!
I was running around the Roosevelt High School track last night to continue my (semi-) training for a 5K run for Lymphoma, which is on Sunday. As I was running, those creeping negative body image thoughts started invading. Sigh. “Again?!” I said to myself. Sheesh, I thought I had vaccinated myself from this crap.
No, I am not immune. Yes, I need massive doses of body-love sometimes.
I felt heavy, slow, and sluggish. I’m 30 pounds heavier than I was 10 years ago. My body doesn’t feel light when I run. You see, I used to be an athlete — a cross-country and track and field athlete — and a good one back the in the day (in my high school days, to be exact). My body still remembers being able to move through space in a much more effortless and less painful way. As I was running, I felt twinges and aches and the occasional light-headed vomitty feeling.
But I kept running, even as the fast dude who yelled “track!” behind me to let me know to move the hell over sped past me. I kept running as I watched 20-something young men do leap frogging maneuvers across the football field and observed young women with their tight, defined arms do push-ups and planks.
Comparison is a killer.
I kept running until…I stopped. I realized that I was so focused on my dislike of my body that I needed to stop running, get the hell out of there, and go hug a tree.
Tree hugging is quite recalibrating, I find. Trees have strong, certain energy. Grounding. I felt my belly fat pressed up against the bark and somehow felt okay. I felt my 37 year-old self breathe in deep. I was belly-to-belly with a maple tree and I felt beautiful in the way leaves and dirt and roots are beautiful because they have purpose. They are beautiful just because they exist.
When I came home, I revisited this wonderful post by a massage therapist who describes our (ALL our) beautiful bodies — and who demystifies our cultural distortions related to body perfection. If you haven’t read this yet, be prepared to feel loved, accepted, and a-okay:
Yes, everything he writes is so true. As a massage therapist for seven years, I found this to be true. EveryBODY was beautiful to me. Sacred, too. We’re supposed to have cellulite and dimples and sagging parts. Our human form is natural this way.
Time to apply the body-appreciation I have for others onto myself. Isn’t this often the case?
I leave you with this edgy, beautiful, and powerful poem/song by Mary Lambert:
Here’s to our perfect imperfections, our “being-in-love-with-ourselves-right-now”-ness, our acceptance of time having passed and our bodies being different, and our resolutions to be as kind to ourselves and our bodies are we are to those we love.
blessings to your beautiful body,
“Symptoms are words trapped in the body.”
~Jacques Lacan, French psychoanalyst & psychiatrist
Skin Love, mixed media art journal entry by Courtney Putnam.
This evening I am marinating in some news I just received from my dermatologist: I have a severe atypical mole and I need to have surgery (like my melanoma surgery in 2011) to remove a significant disk of my flesh from my right lateral thigh.
After I received the news I was marinating in tears mostly, and feelings of shock, anger, and sadness soaked through me. This time around, the word melanoma wasn’t used to describe what I have (thankful for that!), but rather to point out the ranking of atypical moles from best to worst: perfect, mild, moderate, severe, and melanoma. Of course, my thought was, this severe atypia is a close neighbor to melanoma, perhaps even an underdeveloped melanoma, or a melanoma-in-waiting. But we don’t know. That’s why surgery is next.
Here we go again, dear skin. I want to love you, even so. I want to thank you for containing my body, even though you seem to have developed allergies, rosacea, and skin cancer. Even so, skin, even so, you are whole. We are whole. I am trying to feel this.
I stumbled upon that Lacan quotation above this evening and wondered what words might be trapped in my skin. What voice does my skin have? What does she have to tell me? Why is she giving me these irritating and malignant blooms? And here is what she said:
You are sensitive. Well, WE are sensitive. We are one and the same in so many ways, you and I. We take in the world deeply and it hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? And sometimes it feels like radiance? We are porous. We have always been this way. I am doing my best to protect you and yet sometimes I fail. I am sorry about this. Sometimes inflammation and irregular growths burst through. This is not your fault. I know you think it is. Please burn that thought and allow something beautiful to grow in the ashes. You are not your allergies, your rosacea, your atypical moles, your cancer. You are light. I want you to know that I have nothing against you. I want you to shine. Please be gentle on yourself, just as you are to me when you apply organic and healthy lotions and potions to me. Be proud of how soft we are, how truly empathetic and full of love. Live in that love and when you must protect yourself, do so without armor, but instead with light. Let your light out. Let me shine, too. Show everyone how luminous we are. Please don’t trap us in the dark.
We all have parts of our bodies that reveal symptoms that may be hard for us, even painful. If these parts of your body could talk, what would they say? What words are waiting to emerge? You might be surprised (and even moved) by what your body has to say. I’d love to read what YOUR body has to tell you.
If you feel so inclined, please submit to me your letter at email@example.com with the subject line: BODY LETTER and I will publish all our letters together here on The Healing Nest. Deadline: Sunday, June 2, 1:00pm PDT.
I’ve taken a leap.
I’ve said YES to myself.
I’m taking a break from giving bodywork sessions this summer.
It’s been seven years and I’ve given over 1600 sessions.
It’s time to rejuvenate, recharge, realign, relax, recalibrate, and revive!
Here is the letter I sent out to my list which was oh-so hard to do, as I LOVE my clients and peeps: http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=361210a76fc02c5e4e1bdff31&id=a38142b94a
Is it kinda scary? Yes!
Am I a little uncertain? Yes!
Am I going to do this anyway? Yes!
My last day giving bodywork sessions is June 9. On June 11 I embark on a pilgrimage to Hawaii with my mother to spread my grandmother’s ashes in the tropical Pacific (a long overdue rite of passage for us).
During my entire sabbatical time I will be documenting my process here on The Healing Nest.
Will you join me on this sabbatical in spirit? This is an experiment and I’d love for you to be part of it. And maybe you can find a way to take a sabbatical from something in your life for even a little bit. Hmmm…what might that be for you?
This afternoon, after a lovely morning of teaching a sweet couple how to create encaustic paintings — they created five! — I started to feel the “art itch” myself and created a 2013 list of intentions…on my face.
There is something powerful about finding a photo of myself and writing on my face, almost like tattooing on it. It feels rather daring! I notice now how I placed the word LOVE on my nose. I hadn’t thought of it until now how healing that is, for as an adolescent I hated my nose. I also love that “peace” and “ease” are gently placed below my eyes as little glints to remind me to soften.
And goodness, look at those three power words near my mouth! I hope this year is full of manifestation and actualization. Pow!
My homework for you:
Create your own “Face Your Intentions” art piece. Print a photo of yourself and write words on your beautiful face that represent what you want to feel for yourself this year. Add any colors or images or embellishments you want, and email it to me by this Sunday morning, 10am, PST. I want to collect our face intentions and put together a collage or slide show of us. Got it? Who’s in? Remember, you don’t need to feel like you are an artist. It’s not about art identity, it’s about being YOU and sharing what YOU want for yourself.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and put in the subject line: Face Your Intentions
I can’t wait to see your faces!