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Beauty, Art, and Posture

August, 2015

I came home from my visit with the Sami with a treasured possession, my new Sami knife and sheath. I had commissioned my student and friend, Fredrik Prost, a Sami handicraftsman, to make a knife for me and he had it ready for me on my arrival in Sweden. 

 

My traditional Sami knife and sheath created by Fredrik Prost

 

Fredrik encouraged me to put it into use right away when we cut birch branches to make our “mattresses" in the lavoo (traditional tepee). I would have balked at using a thing so fine and beautiful for an activity so rough and pedestrian, but he insisted - the knife was made to be a working knife. Since my return to California, the knife has harvested okra and zucchini from my garden, trimmed apples from our tree, and cut thin slices of the dried reindeer meat Fredrik sent me home with. 

 

In addition to being useful, the knife uplifts me in other ways. It is easy to be present in the moment when I work with it because its beauty is so compelling. I experience the specialness of cutting a vegetable, of caring for its blade, of putting it back in its sheath. 

 

Cutting homegrown tomatoes and mushrooms with my Sami knife

I’ve always believed in celebrating the sacredness of everyday life, but using a beautiful object makes this easy. The knife also helps me feel connected to its maker, to the culture that created it, and to hunter gatherers, past and present. Because it is exquisite, because it has such great design (down to a little hole in the sheath for liquids to escape from), and because it represents the cultures I have learnt posture from, it inspires me to up my posture game when I handle it.


Hiphinging to cut okra with shoulders back and neck elongated

It reminds me to roll my shoulders back, to anchor my rib cage, to lengthen my neck and back, to put just a little extra muscle into my movements. It has become my teacher.  

Posture and beauty are deeply intertwined. Maintaining healthy posture is one of the surest ways to retain the natural dignity, elegance, and beauty that is our heritage. I teach my students to think of their bodies as their most important art project - this “art project” is shared every day with those around us.

 

Young Woman Before a Mirror, William Merritt Chase, circa 1900

 

Not only do people around us see us constantly, but also - whether they know it or not, whether they want it or not - they are mimicking us on a second to second basis in small, almost imperceptible ways. Sometimes I quip with my students that vanity is underrated.

 

Baby showing no hesitation in checking himself out in the mirror

 

Celebrate your beauty - beam it out! And if beautiful objects lift you, then include them in your life. Do you have a beautiful object that gives you a boost? Please tell us about it...

 

Warmly,
Esther

 

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Comments

Dear Esther,

On these beautiful summer days, I've been going out to the mountains to contact beauty in nature. I would like to ask you for some tips on glidewalking downhill. I've been trying to apply inner corset, wrapping legs outward, hip hinging, squeezing the glutes with each step. However, I still get pain in my sacrum area which detracts from appreciating the beauty in nature for sure! I think maybe I am landing too heavy on my downhill foot so I have been trying to apply the Glidewalking instruction of landing on a bent leg but that proves to be difficult downhill. Any tips would be most appreciated. Thanks, Tina

Glidewalking downhill is challenging to teach in this format! Let me try to give you a few hints: Lean forward, not backward; lower yourself in a controlled muscular way instead of plonking downhill; front leg will not be bent going downhill. 

I too find Nature to be the ultimate go to for beauty and inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Hi Esther,

I just found this post and am awestruck at the beauty of the knife. I love seeing how you use it.  I too have a special handmade knife and also use it in the kitchen and garden - it's a tool that quickly becomes an extension of yourself.  Your knife, though, is the most beautiful I have ever seen.  I went to drool over Mr. Prost's website too!  He is incredibly talented.  Besides the knife - your experience in the far north sounds really special.  Thanks for sharing it.

I will be speaking with Fredrik in the next few days and will convey your sentiments to him. It was a special experience indeed - I hope to go back.