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A MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE OF THE GREATNESS OF EMBODIMENT
By Dr. Kacie Crisp
“I don’t want to be in my body!” and “I don’t want to be here!”
It’s always surprising to me how often that’s the bottom line in what’s stopping people from enjoying their bodies. This comes up in body classes so often, as well as in Right Voice for You, which I also facilitate.
It’s ironic, when the most wonderful things in the world (IMHO) involve our bodies—eating, sex, travel, just walking around on the planet in the sunshine….
One of the most wonderful ways to celebrate embodiment, for me, is to take photographs of beautiful things. I experienced this while I had a few days off between classes in the amazing city of Istanbul.
The first challenge was the timing. Photographers call the hour before and after sunrise and sunset “the magic hour.” The light is warm and rich, the shadows create wonderful patterns, and buildings, scenery, and people appear their warmest and most inviting.
My trusty iPhone informed me that sunrise yesterday was at 6:09 a.m. Ouch! I am NOT a morning person, to put it mildly. Nonetheless, I did my research. The metro didn’t start running until 6 a.m., too late for me to reach my destination in the scenic historic neighborhood of Sultanhamet. A taxi would take 15 minutes, depending on traffic. Even in Istanbul, at 6 a.m. there was not likely to be much traffic.
Once you get yourself vertical, dawn is such a beautiful time to be awake and alive. It’s quiet, the air is fresh and still, the mayhem that humans unleash upon the world with their ridiculous thoughts has yet to pollute the scene.
The pedestrian quarter of Sultanhamet, which houses such world famous, historic, and photogenic treasures as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace, is never deserted during daylight or evening hours. At 6 a.m., it was blissfully quiet, except for a few garbage collectors, another intrepid photographer or two, and me.
What a great opportunity to photograph these landmarks without having to dodge hordes of folks, to say nothing of the joy of avoiding having them spoiling my pictures!
Taking photographs requires intense multi-sensory awareness. It’s like walking alone in the city at night—all your senses are heightened. Happily, when photographing, it’s awareness of beauty and light, not danger.
Photography, of course, means “drawing with light.” Not only does light make photography possible, but the angle, amount, quality, and direction of light make a huge impact on what the final image looks like. If you’ve watched a physical sunrise lately, you know that the sun’s appearance is a very quick move. Photographing in this setting, with a scant magic hour to capture everything in all directions required an awareness of everything around me to a degree I definitely don’t practice in daily life. How could I be more alive in this instant?
Initially, I envisioned getting a picture of the Blue Mosque silhouetted as the sun made that speedy appearance. This of course would involve having the Blue Mosque between me and the sun, as well as finding a vantage point from which I could catch as much of it as possible in the crowded Istanbul skyline.
In contrast to that, I wanted to catch the Blue Mosque and neighboring Hagia Sophia, a stunning cathedral/mosque/turned museum that’s a mere 1400 years old, in that glowing warm light of dawn—which required my being between them and the sun. These two positions are perhaps a mile apart.
These are huge buildings, separated by the equivalent of several good-sized city blocks, and I am not a jogger. Talk about a possibility to live in the question! What shall I choose? Should I linger on the sunny side, giving up my internal picture of the silhouetted Blue Mosque? Or should I go for it, walking close to a mile around the massive Blue Mosque with its surrounding courtyard and gardens, hoping to catch my mental image on my camera’s memory card?
In the end, I decided to go for it, as I’d already captured plenty (more than dozens) of photographs of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in the glowing light. Orange feral cats greeted me as I made tracks around the Blue Mosque walls.
Unfortunately for me as a photographer, the Blue Mosque stands in the middle of a city that’s millennia old. It’s surrounded by haphazard and not necessarily photogenic structures that obscure its silhouette. I passed some traditional wooden Istanbul houses, restored to their colorful former glory and advertising their tenants’ political agendas, as well as some stunning tulips. The stunning silhouette I imagined, however, escaped me. All I could manage was a lone minaret, buttressed by more modern buildings. I took a shot that was the best I could muster, then made a new choice.
I could do some more research for my next photo excursion, perhaps checking out some drone’s eye views of the area, but it seemed I was on a futile quest for the photo of my mind’s eye. In the end I did the best I could, but it seemed I would have blocks and blocks and blocks more to walk before I could get the angle I pictured, and there was no guarantee I’d even succeed.
Living in 10 second increments, I turned around to check out developments in the main open and more photogenic area. It was starting to get populated by this time; the moment to capture these magnificent monuments in their deserted glory had already passed.
Though an ambitious would-be tourist guide informed me that the Blue Mosque did not open until 8:30, hours in the future, the gates of the mosque were open to the courtyard. I wandered in to see what I could see and photograph.
What a delightful serendipitous choice this was! The mosque was as beautiful close up in the morning light as it had been from a distance. The courtyard was carpeted with lush green lawns, sprinkled with an abundant display of white tulips. The occasional deviant yellow or red tulip popped up its head, making the misfit in me smile.
I saw an old man wearing a traditional looking cap, sitting in front of rows of faucets to be used for the Muslim tradition of ablution before entering the mosque. What a stunning timeless photographic opportunity it appeared—until I noticed what he was so studiously looking down at. Somehow the smart phone just didn’t fit in the image I wished to create.
By the time I made it back to the main square, it was no longer unpopulated. Vendors were setting up their carts on wheels, packed to the top with delicious smelling pretzels and baked goods of all kinds. Eating is definitely one of those body things that we just couldn’t do without a body.
I refrained these baked goods because I knew an even better choice—Rugelah, home of the world’s very best baklava, baked by an old Macedonian couple, is just a few blocks away from the historic area where I was photographing.
Though the bazaar and mosque would not be open for hours, this bakery would be. From previous visits, I know this couple bakes up a storm from incredibly early morning hours, and when they sell out, the bakery closes, whether it’s 10 a.m. or noon. Whereas an American business person might suggest longer hours so they could sell more of their wonderful goods and make more money, that’s not the way it’s done here.
No baklava today! Tomorrow is one of the few English words in their vocabulary, sadly for me. I had to make do with what they had. Steaming buns filled with cheese took “fresh out of the oven” to a new level. The buns burned my hands as well as my mouth, and when I bit into the cheese in the middle, steam escaped. After that and a coconut cake, I was quite stuffed, but my hostess insisted I try yet another baked treasure. The whole venture cost me less than $2 U.S.
So grateful for my body, which allows me to enjoy all of these pleasures and treasures! How did I get so lucky as to be alive right now?