what i'm feeling from the soles of the feet to the top of the head
Summer is so sensate. The beading of moisture on my chest, the crisp bloom of cherries and peaches exploding in the mouth. The smell of charcoal in the air, the sound of Renaissance greeting me from every corner. The acidic rememory of peak summer tomatoes on my tongue is enough to make my knees buckle. I feel most alive when I can feel heat licking my shoulders, salt water drying on my face, the breeze on every inch of skin, the surprise splat of sweat sliding down my thighs and onto the ground. The way the heat requires a surrender to imperfection. These sensations help me feel alive and fully embodied, more than any other time of year.
And yet, as the weeks have unraveled, it’s become harder and harder to get as much delight out of the season — to relish the perfect flavor of corn while trying to comprehend and synthesize so much suffering and rage. The long-predicted vibe shift has arrived. The death drive has become unavoidable. There is simply still so much grief.
I’ve been refusing to feel the hard feelings, for fear of what might be unleashed if I allow them to creep all the way in, and it has eaten away at my aliveness. Feeling — everything — is a signifier of that aliveness, as my dear teacher and friend Prentis Hemphill likes to say. I didn’t realize how swiftly my numbness had spread, how vast the emptiness had become, until I was in Georgia for a retreat with Prentis, doing somatic exercises with a cohort of Black trans and gender-conforming folks. I want to be present for this life, this living, to hold it all, and not lose myself in the process. I am coming back online and it is exhilarating, debilitating, rejuvenating. I have to move slower and be more intentional, now that the aperture is fully open again.
Here’s what I’m feeling with my whole body, starting from the bottom and working my way up. As always, feel free to take what works for you and your body’s needs and abilities and discard the rest.
FEET — Putting my toes in bodies of water. Rivers and lakes upstate, the Atlantic Ocean. You all know this already, but water is how I heal, how I make sense of the world around me. If you aren’t already keen on what’s happening out at our beloved gay Riis Beach in Queens, now is a good time to tune in.
ASS — Rubbing fancy oils on my ass always brings to mind pleasure activism and the importance of laying hands. Touching yourself can reduce cortisol levels in the body and stimulate the production of oxytocin. I’ve been using this Moroccanoil that was in a gift bag for Jenny Han’s latest premiere party and I love to apply it all over after a shower. I also used someone’s Supergoop Glow Oil on a hike and became obsessed with it ever since. Oil sunscreen feels like an oxymoron, but I welcome this technological upgrade!! (Please be mindful that it is not reef-safe and will likely have a deleterious impact on local ecology if you decide to swim with it.)
PUSSY — Ever since I glimpsed a painting of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow person in a blue thong, I realized I need one too, and bought this matcher on sale. I am looking for more thong recommendations, ideally ones that glitter and have sexy hardware attached. All suggestions welcome!
GUT — When approaching Two Canoe, the stunning, 15-foot bronze sculpture by Wangechi Mutu currently on display at Storm King, you can’t quite tell what you’re seeing. The two green figures in the boat are birthing something, perhaps each other. The flowing water between them, and their flowering bodies, shape and anchor the boat into the ground and into each other. Their relationship is familial, their resolve and calm palpable. It is a stabilizing force that travels beyond their journey and into yours. Medicine. Two Canoe is one of eight sculptures that Wangechi installed at the outdoor museum, and each are worth seeing (plus her work inside the main building), if you can get there by early November. Also: Corn mochi! My friend Sara made me some. The creaminess of the sweet summer corn complements the coconut milk, and the chewiness of the rice flour is so satisfying. It’s not too sweet, which we like these days. And every single Renaissance fancam/splice/edit, whatever we are calling them. I’m convinced the Internet has become a massive game of Apples to Apples and it gives me the best belly laughs (my DMs are open for your favorites, too!)
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HEART — My social circles have shifted a lot over the last few years, both due to the pandemic and also my own reckoning of the types of intimacy and caliber of care I want to cultivate in my personal life, and this episode of How to Survive the End of the World is a perfect companion piece for anyone else observing tectonic shifts in their life with acceptance and curiosity. Also, Serena Williams, as a Black Madonna, in her most exalted state, by the artist Vanessa German.
MOUTH — Black seed watermelon. I have been living in New York for so long that I forgot watermelon didn’t always have those flimsy, translucent white seeds in them. Black seed watermelon tastes sweeter, and spitting the seeds into your hand, or fishing them out of your mouth is so animal and we need to feel our animal sometimes. They also serve as a reminder of something that hasn’t been modified to please its consumers. A lesson for us all.
NOSE — Astier de Villatte incense. Full stop. Must be my Jupiter in Scorpio placement because I love the smell of something dried and singed. It gives mossy underbrush and smoldering wood, thick oils like vetiver and sticky resins. Something suggestive of afterhours and full-throated sunlight all at once.
EYES — I am fully in my Bob Ross bag these days. I watercolor when I take book and life breaks. I keep a little table set up with these lovely and fancy traditional Japanese pan watercolors that Mona (whose work is up at Brooklyn Museum right now!) gifted me a few years back for my birthday. When I’m on the road, I take a travel set from Case for Making that my sweet friend Jen gifted me. They also offer incredibly invigorating and imaginative classes, and will waive the cost for folks who need the financial support. I mostly do fruits and florals, and the best ones turn into birthday cards for other friends — one attempt to pay it all forward.
EARS — Black Peace Strategies For the Future of Humankind, vol. 9. My friend Jihaari has been making these for a while now, and they’re equal parts a sermon and an archive. Jihaari only works with vinyl, and that crackling static gives me chills, a feeling of tangibility between me, his spirit, and the place where the music and the message enters. Also, night biking to The Forever Story, the new JID album, has brought my inner teens so much joy — “Surround Sound” and “Just In Time” are my fave bops.
MIND — Saeed, Zach and Sam’s new show Vibe Check has been keeping me company while I make lunch these days. Their genuine chemistry and incisive reads on the world are both affirming and comforting. I’m also reading the forthcoming The Black Period by my pal Hafizah Augustus Geter and her ruminations on deworming the shame America instilled in her brain is going to be this fall’s must-read memoir.
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