You make me think of valleys
Of quiet moments, of forging paths, of nature’s pocket: we shed what we know in order to make space for new layers. 1
- read this out loud and outdoors, so the earth can hear as well.
My favourite coat has needed mending since I found her in a charity shop. There are holes in nearly every pocket; coins and receipts fall into the liner constantly. Actually a size 48 men’s blazer, she’s charcoal grey and I have to roll her sleeves up quite a bit so I don’t drown in her magnitude. Slouchy, but still structured in a way, she’s just thick enough to layer (and layer and layer). She’s technically damaged, but still functional, so I’ve let her be. We are quick to assume that everyone is doing better than we are. But her weaknesses are secrets that only we share. Weaknesses that I know more by touch than by sight, and these secrets somehow excuse my neglect of care – and if anything, leans deeper into my affinity for her. I feel guilty whenever my fingers fall through the growing hole in her right pocket liner, and even worse when an erratic movement snags a loose thread, prompting her to tear even more. There’s both comfort and disregard embedded within every tear, and both are able to coexist in various capacities within a single handful. This leads me to think: is there space for guilt in gatherings?
Threads continue to fill the gaps until textile forms. Weavings suggest tension held at rest, a testament to the necessity of (self) control by acknowledging the pressure imposed on each fiber. Cloth unravels with (re)action; it’s a balancing act of force and ease for the sake of utility; for the sake of consistency. It’s a time-taking practice that speaks wildly of maintenance and the labour of constant care. Textiles naturally lend themselves to a hosting practice as they rest in closeness to our bodies – bed linens, handkerchiefs, tablecloths, underwear.
All together now: If my pocket is made of/for/with you, it must be a haven.
But “to be in one’s pocket” (in one’s control or possession) is to be held hostage, a term that shares etymology with hospitality. There exists the expectation for fulfillment of a course of action. The tension between rest and complacency constantly sits heavy on my mind. But pockets are shared spaces, and they prompt me to be mindful of how much strength it takes to remain soft. In its existence, a pocket is a holding place; a gathering of things that matter: my hands, a stone, a note, lint.
PS. I often carry stones in my pockets the way others do crystals. Either lovingly kept or recently gathered, they rest close to my person, in turn offering me a moment of refuge when my fingers catch or graze them because you can only be so far from nature when close to a stone.
You help me touch the sky
I was born on Earth Day, and I use any excuse I can to mention this because I’ve convinced myself over the years that this is the reason why I feel most at home when my body is in close proximity to trees.
Trees are keepers of space, patience and knowledge. They turn to the warmth of the sun, reminding me to take more time for stillness in order to grow. Malleable enough to move with the wind, continuously emphasizing that staying doesn’t mean staying still. They teach me to stand stronger while still being willing to bend, even selfishly, for my well being alone. They have the opportunity to grow. I’m made aware of my scale around trees, and when hiking through forests, I recognize that we’re stronger together than we are apart. I’m curious if trees ever wonder if they are worthy of space, or if they’re too occupied existing to be self-conscious. After all, they can thrive in abundance and without formal acknowledgement.
How often do we notice the earth that allows the trees to grow?
I frequently think of what it means to be in relation. To be in proximity. Seeing takes time, and knowing takes longer. To see each tree in the forest eventually extends to knowing every leaf, branch, knot, ring, root. What does it mean to be in relation to one another and ourselves? Perhaps we’re less unique than we like to think we are. Perhaps choosing to meet each other at our points of similarity is more generative than highlighting our differences.
How tender is it to feel growth from the palms of our hands to the soles of our feet?
Trees are, by nature, gatherers. And I’m drawn to them in every sense. I find refuge under the shade of an old tree with the company of a good book. I realized long ago that I fall deeply for books the way I fall deeply for trees, only, in turn, to recognize that one is born of the other, with book pages being a community in and of themselves. A tree transforms to words through the shift of wild forests to:
to bound pages
I go towards trees for grounding. They centre me in my humanity through my senses in the most humbling way. I hold them and inhale, their green smell falling straight to my heartstrings in a way similar to the pheromones of a loved one, and it is unparalleled to any other scent. The wind rustling through their leaves is a language all on its own that I lack fluency in, but that rests so familiarly in my ear.
How lovely it is, to hear the quiet in growing spaces.
You waved goodbye with rain
- Along the shoreline, seaweed, sand, stones, shells, push towards the earth. An offering of sorts; as if the gesture of movement that naturally happens is, in and of itself, enough.
- I’m hyperaware of my body in water, and how each movement pushes particles (away, closer, towards). How each breath, if expelled underwater, forces air to fit where there once was not. They make space. They rise. I think of kicking my feet to propel myself until transparency becomes white – how movement shifts tonality in the most literal way.
- This leads me to think of washing rice, and how important it is to wash away any translucency (rice flour/starch/talc) for the sake of a good meal; for the sake of being nourished. This was one of my daily chores as a child and I dreaded this task back then. The repetition didn’t make sense at the time, but it soothes me now. If overwashing rice is possible, I likely have for the sheer sake of meditation.
- How curious it is that soaking in a bath is an action of release and removal – of stress, dirt, the day – but soaking in any other context is an action of absorbing, of taking in, of keeping.
- The shoreline was about a minute from my flat in Reykjavík. There was a picnic table where I’d spend countless hours throughout my time living there. Usually writing, and often with coffee (and I’d bring a kleina as a treat if I was really feeling sorry for myself). I’d let tears fall from my face and imagine that they’d join the ocean. Through snowstorms and sunsets, I’d go to the water to feel a sense of familiarity. I’d let the smell of salty air and seaweed fill my nostrils until it brought me back to childhood summers along the Jersey Shore. I could almost taste the Three Brothers pizza if I thought hard enough, all the time wishing nothing more than to be closer to familiarity, surrounded by family, sun and warmth. This shoreline was my refuge and it held me in the most tender and forceful way. The last time I was at the Jersey Shore, I closed my eyes and imagined sitting at my picnic table in Vesturbær. The salty air filled my nose, and I could almost taste the kleina.
- Water allows me to hold a mirror onto myself.
Hold it up and let it go.
Hold it up and let it fall into communal waters – the pool, the ocean, the river, the sea.
Let it feel shared as your fingers tickle the shoreline
Just as one washes their face before bed.
- Whenever the tide touches my toes, I’m reminded of what a deep privilege it is to have a close relationship to nature, knowing that it is not a refuge, or even accessible, to us all.
- Tears are present in times of joy and sadness, and the more I think of it, perhaps the (body of) water that I’m most connected to on this earth, are tears. Afterall, our bodies are 60 percent water, and sometimes our bodies are the hardest place for our beings to be.
- Find your voice and fill the silence. I’ll draw a bath.
- I watch the rain fall from the comfort of my bed. I lean in, and it wraps me in sympathy.
You make me feel safe
It’s quite radical to unpack the offering of a plated meal:
Fork Plate Knife Spoon
place the napkin on your lap.
The notion of plated meals and table settings are deeply rooted in European customs. They now act as the general standard across the culinary field, and as a gesture of exceptional hospitality in a more mainstream culinary capacity. The effects of colonization through the lense of food are perhaps more conventionally acknowledged through spices, ingredients, and dishes that evolved across cultures and countries over time, but maybe it’s less commonly recognized how colonization has influenced how we eat today. It’s strange to consider that anything could surpass what our bodies are capable of. How can metal know my mouth better than my own two hands?
This speaks volumes about the tension built into every plate, every spoonful, every bite. There’s an expectation (or imposition) to finish the entire plate of food set in front of you. It’s only polite. It’s only respectful. There is a power dynamic that exists between the person preparing and serving the food, and the one who is being fed and served. But then this raises questions of autonomy, and where choice actually exists. Who gets served the first (and best) spoonful of food?
If I consider a spoon as a conversation, the handle is the tangent.
The relationship between our hands and spoons is curious, and is a testament to the relationship between power and touch. It’s unreasonable to spark a conversation regarding spoons without opening ourselves up to notions of trust in relation to care. One has to allow oneself to be cared for (to be held safely) in order to be able to rest into trust. Formed in the image of our hands themselves, a spoon’s curves are held by our mouths, and they’re the final place that food rests before it enters us. We know the bowl 2 best through our mouths, as they make way to accommodate the spoon in order to be fed. The bowl is unequivocally the most sacred part of the spoon as it enables nourishment; its function is to gather and give. Its purpose is intentional – urgently, and almost to a fault.
- The concave portion of the spoon where the food is held.
Spoons can only hold so much before they overflow. Their limits are clear – both to us and themselves. Every bite instills how boundaries will nourish you. Even gluttony must succumb to speed over scale through the limits of each spoonful; they can only hold so much. Much more in a single bite and we’d choke.
I stare deeply into the bowl and see my reversed reflection.
Do we attract what’s in our mirror?
Juliane Foronda (she/her) is a Filipina-Canadian artist, organizer and writer. Her practice is invested in notions of radical care, feminist hospitality, and traditions of gathering. She works predominantly through object, intervention and text.
Juliane received her MA in Fine Arts from Listaháskóli Íslands/Iceland University of the Arts in 2013, and her BA in Studio Art from the University of Guelph in 2018. She’s currently based in Glasgow, Scotland and Toronto, Canada.