It turns out this was a month for paying homage. The thread tying everything together lately has been strength as I continue to meditate on who I am as a woman, where I’ve come from, and what all women continue to fight for. In my Instagram feed this week, I somehow connected to a friend-of-a-friend’s photo of a Gap ad, and the caption to the ad was “Life is short. Wear a mini.” And the friend-of-a-friend commented on the photo saying, “I wish this caption said, ‘Life is short. Love your body.’” It was like time stopped when I read it (Katrina, if you see this, can you direct me back to the photo and author? Can’t for the life of me find it). Her sentiment is the culmination of so many things I’ve been feeling: endurance, powerful, good enough — peace.
And if there’s one thing I hope for regularly, it’s that the women of my generation will raise their daughters to feel a deep sense of worthiness and strength; a feeling so imbedded in muscle and might that it will never be compromised, so these girls coming up will never doubt themselves. Can you imagine? Think of how the world would change if we all walked around feeling compassion for ourselves and our fellow humans rather than judgment, strength instead of shame.
So I write to you from this place of project-forming. How all these feelings will manifest in art — I’m working on it. Perhaps it will be a series of poems or photographs, or something new. In the meantime, a photo of another friend’s daughter inspired the poem below. The photo was taken months ago, but as I looked at it again recently, the youthful cheek and her hair pulled back with a clip that says, “You are beautiful,” it immediately dove into the space in my heart that is full-to-brimming with the feeling of how strange and imperfect and perfect and beautiful we all are. Exactly as we are. The final line, I need to note, pays homage to the title of Howard Norman’s new book, which I’m looking forward to reading.
Changing the Definition of Beautiful
I’m changing the definition of beautiful so it is inherently me and inherently you. Once the strangeness and reluctance subsides, see how it is the sum of all parts. A ballad to the meat of existence as we grasp hands and seek out a sea expedition; the young body as perfection, the elder body as perfection. We are all swimmers treading water in what was once boyhood and the guttural exhalation of girlhood. Even forever only last a little while and we all dream of the streets of Rio: the lemon groves and kissing in a schoolyard garden while fragrant leaves render a stain, salt the memory. To edit shame from the human experience, it was simple. The flight from there to here hardly left a mark. And summer in the evening, the starburst blossoms and cul-de-sac streets make the heart wing for home. I was a gardener, I was a girl, I was good. This is the warrior in a woman; the dynamo. The fullness of every moment is bittersweet. Oh, how I hate to leave this beautiful place.