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

 

full body memory

 

This is a piece I wrote a year ago, but I have re-worked it here.

--

The body remembers.
 

It remembers every time Nana tucked a lock of hair behind my child ear; the prism of shattered glass that lodged itself in my temple, another car's reckless impact slamming my face into the steering wheel; the deeply fragrant coconut suntan lotion I'd slather across my limbs at the first suggestion of summer, days when you could almost taste the wildness of possibility on your lips; the beautiful poet's grip on my hips, moans swirling through thick air, offering my eyes his moonstone smile, nose crinkle-cut with laughter; Max's heavy forest of a paw reaching out to plant itself in my own palm.

It remembers the singular drag of a razor across my forearm, petrified that I was no one's daughter; the hours spent on the tips of my toes, happily trading pain for bliss; the meals skipped and the hollow cavern created inside; the tiny spirit I wasn't ready to love flowing out as an unrepentant river down my thighs; the too many uninvited hands.

A body strains under the weight of collected memory.  But it also forgives, perseveres and sustains.  I thank it by treating it gently, feeding it with life and motion. We're in this together.  We remember for each other.

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

image & text © Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week sixteen

 

37

--

Thirty-seven and here's what I've learned:

Always say yes to dessert.
Enormous hills are meant to be rolled down.
Only do the drugs that grow naturally from the earth.
Kiss a lot of dogs. All the dogs.
You don't need to brush your hair every day or tuck in your shirt. It's okay to be a little wild.
When your child runs toward you with his arms outstretched your heart will feel like it's too big to stay inside your chest. It will.
You can find God when you stop looking.
Beauty will come to you. Just be still.

©  Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week fifteen

 

gardening

Life tells us to bloom where we are planted; essentially, to accept our fate and make the best of it, but the roots that we have are not like those that tether trees to soil.  Ours snake around the heart-line that we carry inside, intersecting with each curving memory, a bulky and tattered piece of luggage that we never put down.  This leaves our body free to roam.  If the sun stops shining its nutrients onto wherever we’ve pinned as home, we are able to move to the patch that is drenched in light.  The choice is always ours.  You are as fluid as the next whim after which you give chase.

 

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

© Jennifer Summer | 2015

 

52 weeks words + images | week fourteen

 

under seas

--

When I was a child, escape was crucial to survival. I would close the door to my bedroom and watch my entire reality fall away, the new one existing solely inside those four walls.  I took the stage, flexed up onto my toes, danced someone else’s life.  In hot Midwest summers I sank to the bottom of every pool, lungs full and taut, body curled in on itself, carving out a safe womb.  

Nana would dress me for these journeys; flaring skirts, sheer scarves to tie up my hair, long wisps of gauzy fabric that would flow behind me.  The carpet in my bedroom was a deep, turquoise blue and I imagined it was the ocean, my ocean.  I asked Nana for a mermaid tail and her skilled fingers delivered a dark orange one with a zipper up the side.  I layered her costume jewelry necklaces over my bare chest, leaned back on both arms, shook out my hair and whipped my tail.  The crash of my imaginary waves would drown the anger on the other side of the door, and I would let the tide pull me away to absolutely anywhere.

© 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 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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