On Buoyancy

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I’ve never thought of snow as buoyant. Nor have I thought about how the word buoyant extends out of buoy and makes me think of plastic floats bobbing on waves. Lifeholds. Hope against drowning.

At 18 degrees farenheit in the sun-dense warmth that is uniquely Colorado, I float within and around diamond-flaked snow.  Strapped to my feet are snowshoes that give me superpowers. I cross scrub-saturated meadows with easy grace, lifted over the tangling growth by the snow.

Of course, I’m thinking about how these devices and a little snow transforms the world around me.

Snow is so forgiving. Molding over bushes and softening the lines of trees; snow blankets the frigid and weary foliage, a solace against the winds and ice. Snow spreads out the weight of my footsteps, holding me above the everyday surroundings.

The weight of the world, especially this world in this moment, also spreads across this snow.  I don’t posthole into the softness in my technical, green shoes. I think about how naturally these things come together and I understand that the snow and the shoes and the world are love.

Shuffling up a mountain trail, the love spreads before me and around me. Squirrels alert others about me. The sun heats my body until I’ve peeled off all but my bottom layer. Suffused in light and warmth, cradled in the mittened winter hands of the world, I admire the example set forth here.

We need to fill in spaces with pillowy soft forgiveness. We need to bring along our own green-shoed acceptance, the only way to embrace and rise on the this love-gift. We need to imbue everything with our love, meeting their love, creating the world’s love.

Then maybe we can make tracks away from the place we’re in.
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NE, 12 degrees

In the past now,

Sentimental Spanish moss,

Dripping rain,

Rotting squares of living.

Behind me,

Brand new starts, Dreams achieved,

Proudly watching

Youthful success.

Today it’s 12 degrees.

I’m facing northeast.

Glittering newness awaits me.

White, pure, fresh.

Ahead of me, today,

A small trail,

A frozen river,

Limitlessness.

Love in Any Language

body love

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies lately. Something so many of us do surprisingly little consider we’ve all got one. Mostly my contemplation emerges from reading women writing about their overweight bodies.  I’ve been researching for the essay I’ve been writing on my own unruly body; a body that was difficult to mold into Air Force standards. What I initially learned from this research was that I’m not fat enough to write about fat.

The other thing that I’m learning as I’m continuing to read about obese women coming to terms with their bodies is that I’m recognizing their narrative. And I recognize the language they use in their books from conversations with my not-obese and obese friends. I recognize the language in snippets of overheard conversations. I recognize the language in the ubiquitous, image-dense media. The cruel, bully-driven culture that shames people for appearances is so pervasive it is almost the carbon monoxide around us. I am in deep need of more oxygen.

No question, the cuts are deepest for people who cannot escape their physical appearance. For my authors, that is obesity and morbid obesity. It can also be gender. It can be race. It can be height. It can be an extra-large nose. One eye differently colored than the other. A perception of difference.

My point is that the climate that encourages people to make generalizations about other people and equate those generalizations to moral shortcomings engenders a climate of discrimination and injustice that moves beyond bullying someone for being fat. However, how we treat a abhorrence of fat translates to these other forms of discrimination.

Just today I lamented to my husband that I had seen skinny people who eat so much more than me. Later, reading Lindy West’s Shrill, I learned that there really is research that shows that struggling with weight isn’t as simple as “calories in/calories out.” And we all know that, somewhere inside, yet it was reassuring to find my sessions with a dietician whose horrified exclamation, “But you can’t eat less than 1200 calories a day,” was followed with my perfectly kept food diary and weight gain on her fiber-rich, calorie-low diet. Despite the personal trainer and the perfect diet, I put on weight that was not muscle.

My sense of kinship with obese authors makes no sense to me yet.

What I do know is that my affinity is most strong when they write about how other people feel justified shaming someone else’s body for perceived moral shortcomings resulting in their “problem.” When other people feel righteous about telling other people how to live their lives, maybe they should more time looking at their own lives. Like someone suggesting I’ll burn in hell because I love a glass of wine, where do the critics get the right to tell people what they should do with their bodies?  I would like to take your average white male troll who tells a woman her body is disgusting because she doesn’t match an unrealistic, male-driven ideal of beauty and remind him that if he could just grow a few inches taller, he might match my own unrealistic conception of beauty.  And until he does, to take his comments elsewhere.

This one goes against the grain. Let people make their own choices. And if those choices do not result in a thin body, don’t denigrate them for that. The worn-out arguments about health and self-worth really do not apply. Perhaps if we fixed our broken industrial food system and American “overwork” ethic, we could have a tiny start in making changes that really matter.

I’m not fat and I am interested in being strong and fit. But I would like to fight for the right to be fat without ridicule. My retirement, only about five months ago, from military standards of fitness has allowed me to loosen my grip on my disobedient body. What I’m finding is that it really isn’t so disobedient. It’s older now. It hurts more as I struggle to improve my cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength so I can join my brother for a couple hundred miles of his Appalachian Trail Thru Hike next spring.

But it’s also pretty great. It grows stronger with my work. It carries a load. It can run. And even though it looks different than that younger version I used to despise so much for its smooth muscles and tight arms that seemed to be mounds of unwanted fat at the time, I’m finding beauty in its unexpected willingness to conform to my demands after all.

Most of us have heard of love languages. My body has a love language—one that I think more of us would benefit from embracing. My body wants to be accepted for what it is by its own standard. If I set aside the images bombarding me from all sides, from the waif a strong wind could blow over to the power athletes nearly all pure muscle, and try to picture my body, independent from the others, I begin to see a beauty in a place that has only known a struggle.

For more than 49 years, the gaze coming back at me in the mirror has not wavered. The same eyes take in the same flesh. That is nothing short of a miracle. The flesh expands as it needs to accommodate life and the inevitable changes of age. As the browns emerge on my hands, the puckers evolve on my thighs, and my belly softens into a pouch, there is beauty in the colors and the shapes that make up me. Because they are me. Because there is only one that is me.

I’m learning to sing a song of love in my body’s language.

Lunar Howl

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Chill blue.
Mountains mere ink blots,
Trees stretch bony arms.

An orb ascending in the vast
Infinity of space.

Nothing infinite about this space.

I can’t read.
Can’t watch.
Can’t barely breath.

Fake?
It’s all too real.
History unraveling before me.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

Then the remote glow breaks
Over peaks, higher than you.
Higher than me. Higher than this.

Lake transformed to a
Mirror reflecting other-worldly light.
Other-worldly.

Is it too much to hope for,

Something new?
Under the new, full moon?