52 weeks words + images | week seventeen

 

earth day

Nana used to say that she believed trees were people reincarnated, and you could tell what kind of person they had been by what kind of tree they were now.  The full, deeply green trees were mothers, their lush leaf curtains providing just the right amount of protection from a scorching sun.  Under these trees you could find respite, a mother’s cool hand against her child’s flushed forehead.

The ugly trees had been bad people.  Trees with branches that appear decayed, that have no hope of ever being kissed by spring; dry bark that peels and flakes.  These trees had not loved hard enough, given enough, and now they were damned to look on the outside the way they had looked on the inside.  

Every tree I see is a potential glimpse at my future.  My heart thumps down in these roots.

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week thirteen

 

closed windows

--

It can be a heady thing, thinking of all the other potential lives that lie just outside your own.  We wonder what would have become of us if we had said no, or yes, or jumped instead of retreated.  We try to calm our restless hearts by making our gratitude sing more loudly than our regret and usually it works.  But, no matter what we do, the tiniest desire to escape is always there, always fermenting.

 

52 weeks words + images | week twelve

 

for her

I have a vast collection of shells, many of which I didn’t even have to look for; they simply washed up at my feet, poking at my ankles, nudging my attention.  Those that tend to just appear are always varying degrees of flawed.  Their color will have smudged, they’ll be cracked down the middle, have pointy edges, or sometimes even disintegrate upon touch.  These always end up being my favorite ones.  The people who have floated into my life are so much like these favorite shells.  They’ve been battered by the waves, split through their core, faded, missing pieces of themselves.  Yet, they still manage to find their way to the shore, reaching for the warmth of the sun, offering up their hearts again and again.  We find ourselves when we find those whose shells match our own.

 

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week eleven

 

move


These shoes are like coming home.  Every day, I remind my body of what it can do and from where it came.  Others may raise their hands to the heavens to glorify that which they cannot see, but when I feel the motion tug at me from the inside, clawing its way out, I know that this is the kind of holiness that can make me believe; the drenching ache that steals your breath and leaves you glowing and satisfied.  

 

Alternate images:

 

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week nine

sur la pointe

Aching bones, shooting pains through the arch of my foot, toes that bruised and bled.  I was a slave to a burning pull inside that whispered, move, extend, reach, breathe, breathe, breathe. You give over your body when you dance; you allow the music to carry you to and fro like crisp leaves being evicted from trees by howling winds.  The surrender is sweet and bitter at once, a willingness to open your own veins with a smile just to let the rhythm into your blood.  The desire is not one of those which fade over time, sinking quietly back into the recesses of who we used to be.  It stays alive and present, ready to lift us up and out of whatever reality in which we’ve settled.  

 

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

52 weeks words + images | week eight

cage-free

He told her that her rib cage was big to accommodate the size of her heart.  Without the confines of those twenty-four ivory bars, it would take reckless flight, careening into passions that would leave a dull scar on its wings. Swooping down purposely, it would pull her along into the sinking mirrors of his eyes, part her thighs in response to the full lips that bite into her own.  Enclosure was impregnable, but less intoxicating.   And the safety is an illusion; the devastating consequence of a heart that never breaks free of its prison is that it dehydrates slowly. This heart speaks for us with brittle-boned words that turn to dust the second they leave our mouths.

 

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

52 weeks words + images | week six

 

milk

--

And we were the girls who were told we’d be ‘spoiled’ if we let anything inside us before marriage; a tampon, a penis, a finger.  Like a forgotten carton of milk left to curdle on a kitchen counter, light-swept with the day’s dying sun, our future righteous husbands could smell it a mile away.  Our sin, our trespass.  Our ache.

But what they didn’t count on was us finding something delicious in the damage.  We weren’t giving away our virginity, we were taking our pleasure.  And if it meant we were unclean, we learned to love that, too. Our lovers were leavers of bruises, blueberry-stains on our thighs and arms, they were the ladder of bites up a spine.  It was better than anything else God had yet to offer. 

We sat with our legs slightly open, we ate with our fingers.  We tipped our faces toward the sun.  We were the girls who would scream into the wind, who would kiss our sisters hard on the lips and spill ancient words into their mouths: Part the clouds, find your moon.  Howl.

 

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52 weeks words + images | week five

immortal spirit

The 1937 edition of Webster’s Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines ‘soul’ as: a word common to the Teutonic languages; Grimm derives saivala from saivs, the sea, the soul being regarded as the moving billowy element of man.  The spiritual, rational, and immortal part in man which distinguishes him from brutes; the immortal spirit which inhabits the body.

I often write in the sloppiest order.  A word will prance across my brain while I drive, a sentence will spark while I’m in the midst of washing my hair.  If I’m lucky, they will all have a common theme, some message or personal truth that has been in slumber and is now waking up slowly, not all at once.

I write by digging down as deeply as I can, opening my hands wide and grabbing onto what I find.  There is a lot of sifting, and there is a lot of tossing back, and then there is the process of trying to piece it all together.  Sometimes I think there isn’t a single word left to be found, but the reality is that I just have to stalk them more precisely.  I have to be hungry enough.

Like there is no end to our soul, there will never be a shortage of ways to express what that soul feels.  Words, then, are the essence of the moving, billowy element of man; an invisible God, eagerly turning a page.

 

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

52 weeks words + images | week four

growing out

It’s all still there, in your lungs; the living memory of every gasp you took in fear or elation or bliss; all those atoms that made up the physical response of a singular moment.  You swallowed them down and the seeds for these stories were planted. One day, that story will begin to grow.  It will wind its branches through your chest, creeping up the back of your throat, knocking tentatively at the door of your voice and it will wait to be told.  When you spin your tale, you flourish.  Those tiny moments become the roots that tether you to this life, this truth ripens into the breath of your song.

image & words © Jennifer Summer | 2015

image & words © Jennifer Summer | 2015