The wind was really blowing today and the yarn, stretched by the weight of weeks of icy rain, was rippling in the wind. I can hear the rush of traffic on Poplar. Watching the yarn billow, the traffic hum slowly transforms to waves. The damp earth becomes warm beach sand and my yellow glass heart begins to glow.
[Bethany's latest post}
I revisited my nest for the first time in over a week today. It was hard! A bit like cracking an egg if I had gathered it myself and it had been bright turquoise. I couldn't bring myself to step in there, it was formidable.
I took 7 breaths in the median, inside my ochre yarns which were sagging from the freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. I mushed the now muddy ground and stared hard at what was going on above me and below me. I still couldn't stand to look out at my fellow human beings driving past on either side.
I find myself coming back to the term 'in medias res' lately, particularly because my nest happens to be in the median, just right there in the thick of things. I wonder why it turned out that way, that my nest should be there and not somewhere else. I do believe there's something about working in the middle of things. Picking up my attention all at once and dropping it suddenly there, with all my might. I don't know.
So the next 10 days I'll be quick to enter and as quick to exit; if you drive by, please honk and wave. I could use a little nudge coming out of this shell, no matter how turquoise or hand-gathered.
If I use the word dance, what happens? If I use the word 'creative process,' what happens? If I use the word 'meat,' then what? If I go out on a limb and say, 'the politics of space'...? What will you do?
Bethany has been including her four-year old son in her meat-space process since the beginning, and I'm flipping excited to have this young mind's feedback and perspective. I'm going to give you, with Bethany's permission, the entirety of her email to me this morning.
Rough telling of my conversation with Grayson. Feel free to do what you want with it. It is all over the place as most conversations with four year olds are.
My son Grayson has recently been referring to his "nest cage" as a trap. I asked him what he was hoping to trap and he said "birds to roast." I asked where he got that idea from and he mentioned his Grandpa John and Nona who live in Arizona. Hmmmmm. He went on to talk about the "bird" that we roasted and ate at Thanksgiving. Ahhhh, turkey, now mommy gets it. I asked if his trapping and roasting applied to all birds, including the Cardinal that frequents our yard. NO MOMMY!
When we first built his "nest cage" he placed his toy elk, moose, and fawn inside and made nests within the "nest cage"for each of his animals. I asked if he would trap and roast a moose and he vehemently replied NO! I asked why he would trap birds to roast (excluding our Cardinal) but not elks, moose, or fawns (animals I know he has a special attachment to). He then asked me if I had ever eaten an elk, moose, or fawn and if they were good for you. I said no I had never eaten one and I was not sure if they were good for you. We talked for a bit longer about other animals like pigs and cows. I asked if he thought the pigs that supply the bacon he loves to eat so much were happy. He said yes because bacon is so good and because we fed the pigs at Delta Sol our vegetable scraps.
Grayson is not a huge lover of vegetables, but he is starting to come around. He eats corn, peas, broccoli (a recent addition) and green beans. Yesterday I was cutting up carrots for a green minestrone and he asked to taste one. He has tried carrots before and didn't like them. He took a bite and declared that the carrot was delicious. He then asked me what animal had to die so he could eat this carrot. None I said.
THank you Bethany and Grayson! I am curious to see those nests for elk, moose, and fawn.
Micah installs her meat space on Saturday February 14. There's been like a forty degree drop in temperatures in 24 hours; I hope she's not still out there untangling.
Have you ever studied a pig in its natural habitat?
The one you see here, Abbie "Frumpy" Christopher, was raised for meat on a beautiful and loving farm in Eastern Arkansas where I volunteered. My dear friend Maggie Rawling-Endlicott and I saved him and moved him to the Pig Preserve in Eastern Tennessee in December of 2014. Here he is in his first hour as a free agent, in a rather large enclosure that leads out to 100 acres of forested wilderness.
I thought of him, as I do every time I enter my enclosure on Belvedere but particularly yesterday when I entered and discovered exuberance within my confines.
When AFC first arrived, the first thing he did was check his perimeters.
I did that. It felt right.
The next thing he did was make himself known. Snort. Stare. Paw. Excavate. Investigate.
I did that too. It felt... useful. Nutritious. I did some high kicks, and paraded around on all fours. I rested, and I galloped, and I looked deeply at the two and a half nests over my head and the small buds daring to emerge from the Magnolia Stellata that serves as my tangled entry point.
Then he got interested in who else was there. Had a couple of tousles, greetings, exchanges, and met gazes.
Well, I did that too. It was harder. That whole 'road-show clown' complex that currently plagues me with self-consciousness. To be fair, I was inside. Absolutely everyone else was outside (my enclosure.) They weren't peers. I was the one in a box.
I'm so happy for Abbie Frumpy Christopher. As for me, I have work yet to be done.
Ugh. This is hard as hell.
I spent my first session inside my enclosure, which is too public for any kind of decency. I literally felt like a road-show clown. Can you imagine? You're driving your sweet little car, sipping your powerade or latte, tuned to sports radio or NPR. You love Belvedere for all its nice trees and big bodacious homes. You like to even pretend for a second that you live here; or not, the opposite, you are relieved you don't live here. You get to just.. admire the trees, the homes... and the lunatic standing in an enclosure made of yarn in the middle of the street.
Despite my self-consciousness I persisted. I told myself, "I own this space." (not true.) "I deserve to be here." (questionable?) "I look really cool standing here/doing sun salutations here/ doing walking meditations here/doing physical therapy exercises here/thinking/feeling..." (uncertain.)
then, without arguing with any of those thoughts I simply persisted.
I thought about the lives we draw circles, squares, triangles around with cement, barbed wire, lateral fencing, horizontal fencing (mine is yarn, and self-imposed.) I dedicated my uncertainty, fear, and vulnerability to all of those beings everywhere.
and called that enough.
I’m writing you to invite you on a journey into your very own Meat Space. That is, the space between your inmost self and the limits of your skin. Not the ‘you’ I can pull up on google; not even, in some cosmologies, ‘you’ at all; rather, the real-time flesh container you live with and through. The space that is, for most of us, the only one that truly belongs to us. A space which is changing from the moment of our conception until there is nothing at all left that can be called by our names.
This space is not usually deemed a space at all, but considered an object, a subject, animal, earth, visceral, ephemeral, sexy, too big, too small, too heavy, too light, too much; fantastic; orgasmic; vital; inescapable; as rich as bone stew, as nourishing as mama’s milk, as elastic as the milky way herself; a layer cake. a fondue. a labyrinth.
I invite you to join me in re-discovering this space. If you accept, you will be given a spool of wool yarn. You may use as much or as little as you wish. Your task is to build yourself a fort with invisible walls. In your house. In your garden. Above the toilet. Deep in Overton park. Make it in a place you can visit easily. And please only make one, because you are invited to commit to that space, with all its imperfections and specificity.
Spend time in your space fort, either briefly and frequently, or take some longer sessions on a weekly basis. let it be a space fort which defines your range of movement narrowly but does not punish you for overreaching or under-sneaking. Let it be a confine that suits your proportions but which walks a fine line between captivity and frame.
My questions for your investigation are as follows:
who are the various ‘me’s’ that dwell inside this fort? Note the personae, the attributes, perhaps the emergence of a ‘presence’ not quite you, not quite other than you.
what kinds of movement are facilitated by this container?
what kinds of movements are limited by this container?
What desires and urges arise in me as a result of being inside this fort?
when you leave your fort, what is the very first thing that you do?
is this fort an enlargement of your meat space, or a diminishing of your meat space?
what do you see/smell/hear/feel?
Invite a friend to join you just outside your fort and see if you can maintain a conversation with your friend as you work inside and they work outside. Allow them to ask you questions, prompt you, or describe through active noticings. You may take turns and ask your friend questions, prompt them, or describe their actions through noticings.
My request is that you harvest your research in the form of your preference: my website has a blog where you are invited to share the babbling brook of your stream of consciousness. But you may draw, make audio recordings, write in a journal, have a friend snap photographs. Whatever your mode, please harvest. You need not share all of your harvest, but some would be greatly appreciated.
The second layer to this process will be group practice sessions, to which you are invited but not obliged. If you rsvp YES to this second layer, you are automatically invited to participate in the works in progress showing in April. But again, this is optional and not obligatory. The first, second, and third layer of this process are all investigation and research, so the works in progress showing will be a kind of inclusion of witnesses and observers into the research.
I sincerely hope you will consider where you are at and what is realistic for you, and I hope your reality includes a bit of meat-space-time. But no matter what, I cherish and respect you! Holler if you have thoughts/questions/doubts/inspirations to share.
Well, snap. It's my turn. Since I recently adopted a puppy, my yard is off-limits for my outdoor enclosure. I will have to work in public, probably along the corridor that is South Belvedere in Central Gardens, midtown Memphis. There are plenty of trees I will enjoy working alongside, but the constant whirr of traffic of every kind will be off-putting, not to mention a tad embarrassing and even a wee bit dangerous. Let's see how this goes. I'll grab some photos.