shapeshifting

I’ve been reading about Celtic shapeshifters, who were the shamans of pre-Christian Ireland. They could access the other side easily (spirit world), and were often considered poets, philosophers, creators - no doubt there was power-claiming and manipulation of status even for these animal-connected humans - but it’s dreamy to imagine a de-institutionalized version of spirituality (of which there are many examples in countries all over the world).

Shapeshifters were known to take on the form of animals, in order to access information they needed, to carry out a confrontation, or to simply build upon their current circumstance. A power, a freedom, a skill, an ability, a fluidity to existence and being and state.

Sometimes it feels as though I ‘shapeshift’ all day: taking in and letting out, absorbing the thrill of those around me. Other times my body feels like a cage. I understand others truly have to shapeshift on the daily just to survive in these united states.

These sacs of flesh we were born into are so huge in determining our circumstances, experiences, what we endure in this world. My white one provides some kind of protection, I realize - many kinds of which I will likely never be fully aware - in our continued white supremacist world.

I think of Nick Cave’s costumes, I think of animorphs, I think of ruby amanze’s breathtaking drawings, I think of the way we imagine freedom, I think of all the ways the privileged of us take our freedoms for granted and fail to extend them to all the shapeshifters around us.

learning from middle schoolers

Artist and co-teacher Star Hamilton and I have just witnessed the 8th graders we have worked with for the past 2 years (since they were wee 7th graders!) graduate this past month!  All of our internal parent selves burst forth as we had our final few classes with them, and inwardly weeped at the end of an 'era' of our adventurous mornings with them. Transitions are the definition of that age (and every age), and I think we mourn the loss of them as a collective group - their bumbling, lively dynamics with each other, and the indescribable edge they seem balanced on: one foot in childhood, and one in a very self-realized adult world. 

The alive and unfiltered way in which they tend to inhabit the world is infectious.  At that age they embody all the contradictions of the teenage world that is waiting for them, whilst holding onto full faced grins and hilariously self confident quirks.  They don't hear anything said to them as a group, and hang onto every word said to them individually.  Don't we all, no matter the age, thrive on individual attention, one-on-one conversation, feedback tailored exactly to our situation?  The rest of the noise floats over our heads, too. 

 

self portraits.... :D 

self portraits.... :D 

They were endlessly forgiving of any and all of our shortcomings in the beginning of our working with them, when we communicated in large circles, hoping a word would drop.  

I learned so much about my process of preparation as a teaching artist; what to ask; what to let happen; and how to make as much room as possible for individualized attention.  The more structure and clarity, the more room for young people to take projects and run with them, on solo. Balancing a vastness of supplies with very specific ones can help move students through steps on their own, before you need to attend to their individualized questions.  and more and more and more... 

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internal-external

my dear friend Gyun sent me this photo from his art residency travels out west, in the caves of New Mexico.  

this could be the bloom of our guts, no? 

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those lines, oh so sexy! 

what makes you bloom, inwardly? 

for me, recently: a moment of verbal understanding, followed by piercing eye contact, with a close friend.  brighten, my insides do. 

I have been slightly nauseous for several days in a row, and I have thoughts of us all being poisoned, slowly, by our shower water, ever-present guar gum, inescapable wifi signals, mold and dust as the city upends itself in development tsunamis and factory tear-downs. 

A colleague in north philly stood in the sun yesterday with us and spoke eloquently of the mightiness of plants: they can read human gender. they can respond to moisture and sun by breaking through concrete. their consciousness is downright otherworldly. (or THIS worldly). We can correspond in our blooming, and live. 

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 - How cavernous are we, how tunneled do we let ourselves become - 

source materials

I've been studying the gut.  But only vaguely, somewhat half-heartedly, with a bit of a screen between my searching and the root.  I know we are bombarded these days by promising probiotics, pretty kombuchas, and leaky-gut videos on social media, warning us of the longterm health effects of damaged, low-bacteria-count intestines.  

So I just keep drawing my own intestines, in hopes of bringing them some comfort, some ease. 

Since childhood my stomach has both served me and tortured me: I have memories of spoonfuls of mineral oil, having my stomach prodded by the doctor, and lots of time in the bathroom. My stomach and its conversations have taken different forms at each phase of my life, and my awareness of the interconnectivity of my internal and external systems has expanded. 

I oscillate between using poetry to understand my own physical undertakings/reactions; and published, spoken, or googled information drops.  This has led to a lifelong commitment to focusing in on the nervous system and its dealings in my eating, digestion, metabolism.  And yet the poetry of it often gets in the way of all the directives.  I know how certain foods make me feel. And yet I know how certain situations make me feel even more intimately.  Is it the intake, or the INTAKE? 

I remember a film maker, at a film festival, musing on his need to maintain a diet of specific visual material: he compared art to food.  It seems as though each of our presences is also food for one another - we intake, and outtake - each other.  We digest whole moments, and our stomachs buzz with anticipatory joy; anxious clenching; ease-filled air; bubbly curiosity. (too cheesy? like cheese pizza? which, btw, I can digest quite well in the company of teen artists, celebrating... but not in a moment of stress-filled solo eating)

more to come on this... thanks for reading about one of my (many) obsessions.

lovely anatomy below, from an old textbook, fffound at the gem that is mostly books. 

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the state of the air today

I am falling in love with light.  

We all can't help but moan or exclaim to each other about the weather - we all dismiss "weather talk" like its indicative of our shallowness, our inability to connect more deeply, our universal "passing the time" discussion choice.  But isn't it our collective aquarium?  The state of our skin? The moisture of our eyelids, the comfort of our eardrums? 

We are porous creatures, made of water, bags of organs walking around, just trying to keep it together. All "quietly struggling", as I read recently in a reader's contribution to Sun magazine

The valves in our legs open and close, squeezing our blood upward, against gravity. 

I love that we are collectively affected by the return of light, and these spring days where we both shiver and sweat within the same 8 hours. 

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this body is so cavernous

It's on the days that I let my blood sugar drop too low, going too long between meals, that I am reminded that my body is on a continuum.  That each 24 hours is not separate unto itself -- or each 16 if sleep is the turn of the chapters, the space between each ending and beginning.  That my hours are strung together unceasingly, linked and linked, dictating the new piece.  The heart never rests. 

When my blood sugar drops and I start to sweat and shake, I feel like a little animal, scurrying for food. I'll eat anything in sight and just taking a bite starts to calm my nerves.

Emptiness must eventually be filled.

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When I moved to a new city, I coasted through space in silence. The first time a new friend grasped my shoulder as he told me a story, I almost burst into tears. My skin had thirsted for touch, without me knowing it. That first drop of familiar touch was like the start of the heart-skin caloric intake I needed.

The body keeps wanting, and wanting, and wanting. 

Nutrition and touch and movement and people. 

It is line drawings that allows me to connect the full places to the empty ones: When I draw my internal organs on paper, intersecting and being embraced by the spine, the clavicle, the ribs, the internal growling & rumbling gets a little squeezed, a little quieter, a little more up in my throat, out into my words, and across the air to another being ready to love.