The body as a place

I’ve been thinking a lot about the body, specifically my body, this week. I haven’t been feeling all that great. But it’s led me to think about how our bodies are places, too.

It took me a long time to realize that I carry my sense of place within me. I don’t just mean feeling comfortable in my own skin or feeling like a friend to myself, a self-companion where ever I went, or comfortable in a location. I mean, I carry my Land within me. I think I was in Wales when I realized that I carry Alaska within me, wherever I go.

Now I am thinking that I, too, am an embodied Land. At a minute level we each are entire universes for the mites and bacteria that live on and in us. If you have ever grown a human, birthed and nursed it, I suspect you can understand the connection many cultures have made between the fertile female body and the fertile land. The land feeds me from its own body and I feed another living creature with mine.

In another sense, I am my own World Tree, an axis between the worlds, both cosmologically and spiritually. Like the Land under our feet, I am a pillar that connects the worlds. At the very least, I connect myself to the physical world around me. On a good day, I can connect to other people and maybe even more.

My Welsh fairy tree, standing in for the World Tree today.

I am a location in space and time. As a physical site, I too can be colonized by forces that seek my subjugation and domination. I can be used a tool for others’ benefit. Whatever we do to the land we can do ourselves and each other.

I think as humans we are incredibly versatile. We can live just about anywhere and adapt to seemingly endless circumstances. We are also products of the Lands we come from, and locations ourselves. Each of us come from and are specific geographies. Just as I don’t expect the world to be all one kind of climate or landscape, I don’t expect or want all people to have the same texture or shape. We are geographies of our own!

This idea is not fully fleshed out. Feel free to run with this idea and help me develop it!

About Niki Whiting
  • Christine Kraemer

    I’ve had this thought recently too! To me, it relates to a period of time where I internalized my sense of Home, among other things. And also, if the gods and spirits are inherently connected to Place, then it’s clear that the Place where some of them relate to me is my body.

    The idea is definitely worth developing further.

    • Niki Whiting

      This week my brain is just not functioning. I feel like each paragraph in this post is worthy of several pages on its own. But my brain just will not cooperate! Maybe I can unpack this over time.

  • Molly

    I am writing my dissertation about a thealogy of the body, so this essay really spoke to me!

    • Niki Whiting

      That is so great! Both, your topic and that the post resonated with you.

  • alexander

    yours is an interesting take on landscape and place. i have never looked at those quite like that. we certainly do carry our specific geographies within us. i realize it more and more as i grow older. i have grown up and lived in so many different places that i have created a library of smells, visions, and senses in my head that serves as a reference for evaluating any new place. the largest chunk of that library comes from around the baltic sea, which is where i mentally retreat to for comfort. if you are interested, there is a book by anne whiston spirn called “the language of landscape”. she discusses our relationship with landscapes using the metaphor of language – a very insightful read.

    • Niki Whiting

      That sounds like a book I’d really enjoy! Thank you for the recommendation.

  • Sean

    Thanks so much for this meditation. It’s something we sorely lack the language to think about, being so literate and mobile these days and its good to see some well-thought folks thinking about it.

    Are you familiar with the philosopher Edward S. Casey’s books on place? The better known is called The Fate of Place, the other (more relevant to what you are talking about here) is called Getting Back into Place. Both are excellent and (especially Getting Back into Place) surprisingly readable. David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous get into a lot of what you’re saying here, too (even with a magical bent), and I can’t recommend that book enough to people interested in this kind of thing.

  • yvonne

    I have written a couple of poems about the idea of two lovers meeting being like two continents meeting, and how they affect each other’s inner landscape being like tectonic shift.

    And when you meet a new person, they are terra incognita, and you have to discover their inner landscapes.

    I like your idea that we carry our favourite places within us.