Photo credits, clockwise from upper left: Kristine Wook, Cristina Eisenberg, Nathen Domlo, wusa9.com
By Petra Kuppers
How do I deal with hope and fear in this year of the unknown? I anchor, sense, and then write to ground down. I move to activate my memory, to remind myself of what it feels like, in a particular fleeting moment, to be safe and secure.
I gift this exercise to you, if it can be useful.
Go and feel into your childhood self, reach for a tiny place and sense of security. What image flashes up? Just go with whatever first appears.
Sense into this memory. What did you touch, what did you see, smell, taste? Take a moment to be there, to soak it in. Our childhood memory of safety is often much less conditional than our adult world senses.
Now feel for that sensation in the here and now, in your own world. Overlay the senses of your childhood with what you are touching now, sitting on now, hearing or seeing.
Lastly, mark it with words. Create a memory crystal of your story, something to remember and bring out when you feel vulnerable or destabilized. May this be a nourishing exercise for you.
Here is my own memory crystal.
I remember…my child’s crib at home, surrounded by wide orange and brown arcs. I remember the white spindles of my crib, and the way my hands held them: small, pudgy hands, with bones inside, but soft as twigs, holding on, looking out, toward big arcs, the big arcs reaching, the color changing from stripe to stripe in what I now know is wallpaper. There is a window on the right side, and light falls through, but not on me. The light falls onto the floor. I cannot see the floor. But I think it is fuzzy, maybe green, maybe shag. I remember the spindles and their rhythm, and my hands, and the rounded shapes in front of me. This is my earliest memory, early 1970s, Niederrhein, Germany.
It is 2021. I am lying on my blanket in Turtle Disco, the somatic writing space I co-curate with my wife, poet and dancer Stephanie Heit, out of our home. All our sessions are online now, and this community space, our repurposed living room, just holds my wife and I, and our dogs. Today, as I meditate on safety, there is the boundedness of this blanket, in this square room. In Turtle Disco, we have a bar attached to the wall, to help my disabled self get up from the floor, a handhold to provide balance.
There is my hand on the bar and my fist so similar to the fist of that little girl in her white crib. I hold on to the bar tightly, securely, anchored, and look at the world. My arms make windshield wiper arcs, and my mind’s eye colors them orange and darker orange and brown. I remake my safety. The blanket on the floor is soft and fluffy. Now a dog lies on it. The bar is a visual anchor point; there is the release of knowing I am held, I cannot be jostled.
Hopes and fears: as artists, we can activate our fantasies, we can try to feel into sensations, make new connections, animate a world into multi-hued shimmering moments of wonder. In this short meditation, I touched in with a fleeting childhood sense of safety, and I am glad for the privilege of having been able to store that moment in my nervous system and its memory caves.
Touching in and sensing moments of emotional intensity are central to my well-being. I have been disabled all my life, and I am often jarred by pain, and need to find balances that reconnect me to myself. Art practices of sense memory, small movements, and writing allow me to develop resilience to face what is happening. They allow me to both touch in with and begin to transform the unsettled and threatening emotional resonance of this pandemic.
I hope this short exercise and my illustration of it can be of service to you.