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...
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