Emily Rath


I take a picture of you.  You’re nervous.  I am too.  I want this photo to come out.  To honor this moment, all the moments, all of the time, we have spent together.  The moment is captured on thousands of pieces of salt, suspended in gelatin, inside of my Rolleiflex camera.  Neither of us can see this moment, even though we are swimming in it.  This single second, or 1/125 of a second, is now immortal.  But it’s so much more than 1/125 of a second.  It’s the food, the eating, the smells, the sounds we’re hearing, the music we’re listening to, the tastes we have in our mouths, our words, our eyes, our encounters, our memories, our hopes, and dreams, and worries… its our connection, immortalized into one frame.  I want to honor you.  I want to honor our connection, our time, our relationship, together.

I take you and put you into a black room.  I pull you out of my camera.  I push and pull in total darkness, feeling you as I put you onto a reel.  Then I put you into a metal container, where you can be protected from the light, which is too bright for you, right now.  You’re delicate.  But you need to be handled with the correct chemistry.  I pour developer on you and swish you around in it, for ten minutes.  I bathe you in acid, and water, and fixer, and hypoclear, and water again, and then I put you into a box.  You are finally out in the open again, breathing hot air, as you dry for twenty five minutes.

Now I cut you into pieces of three.

I never know how long I am going to spend with you.  With some men it takes minutes.  Others, hours.  Others, days.  And there has been one boy who I have played with in the darkroom for years. His name is Jaaden.

I am trying to be Italian

I am trying to be more Italian.

I am taking siestas.  Or at least going home for lunch, sitting in the sun, and drinking coffee.

I am trying to be Italian.  I am drinking a lot of espresso.  Not doubles like in the United States, where you feel it.  And you feel amazing.  But little single shots, again, and again, and again.

I am trying to be Italian.  I take three hours for lunch.  If class goes over, I get nervous.  If something impedes on my lunch time, I get nervous.

I a trying to be Italian.  I go to Nerbone, for lunch.  The man sitting to my left is alcoholic.  You can tell by his big nose.  Red, swollen.  Like the tomato covered meat I am eating.  We are both alone.

I am trying to be Italian.  I didn’t used to drink wine at lunch.  I wanted to.  When I read about nutrition it gets in the way.  I want to lose weight.  Alcohol gets in the way.  I go to Nerbone for lunch.  I eat tomato covered meat.  When I ask for a glass of wine, they say “brava.”  I think, I am doing well.

I am trying to be Italian.  I go to Nerbone for lunch.  I eat tomato covered meat.  I read the dictionary.  I never feel like my Italian is good enough, even when they call me “fluente.”  I go over words in my head, again, and again.

I am trying to be Italian.  I have fewer things to do, on my to do list.  I do fewer things.  I am practicing the art of doing nothing.  It is very hard.  I get nervous I am not doing enough, even if I have accomplished 15 things that day.

I am trying to be Italian.  I am trying to have loyalty to a certain meat vendor, or fruit vendor, or caffè.  I am trying to go places consistently, on the same day, or time.  Without this, they get very sad, and disappointed in me.

I am trying to be Italian.  I sit in a caffè, and drink my coffee slowly.  I stay longer, much longer, than when I finished.  I always feel guilty and like I shouldn’t be there.

I am trying to be Italian.  Last night I went to bed at midnight.  I felt awful when I woke up, eight hours later.  I am no loner on my circadian rhythm.  It makes me sad.  But

I am trying to be Italian.  I read too much about nutrition.  I am conflicted.  The grain brain, the paleo diet, ketosis… it all makes sense and works for me.   When I try to order prosciutto without bread people get confused and don’t know what to do.  So I give up.  Because

I am trying to be Italian.  I consider getting a cappuccino.  I want to eat pastries for breakfast.  But

I am not Italian.  I am not there yet.  I do not understand, most of what they do, how they think, or how they live their daily lives.  How do they get anything done, and how do they honor and love their work so much?  How do they stay slim in an ocean of carbohydrates?  How do they not get tired, and bored, of doing the same thing, everyday?

I am not Italian.  When I eat a pastry for breakfast, I am not satisfied.  I want more sugar.

I am not Italian.  When I have a coffee, I do not add tablespoons of sugar, or milk.  I like it black.  I like to taste the bitterness, and the black creamy espresso.

I am not Italian.  I do not thinking eating pasta, and grains is healthy.  I believe it is making us sick, emotionally and physically.

I am not Italian.  I love waking up at 6, and going to bed at 9.  Everyone calls me “nonnna” meaning grandmother.

I am not Italian.  I like doing many things, everyday.  I don’t know if I could ever have the patience and dedication to do the same job with the same people for a lifetime.

I am not Italian.  Drinking wine at nighttime affects my sleep.  I wake up tired,  and I have big circles under my eyes like them.  I don’t know if I can do this…

I am not Italian.  Walking is not enough exercise for me.  I like the gym.  Even if it is expensive, and uncommon.

I am not Italian.  I like eating alone.  Maybe because I am like the lonely Italian men, middle aged, and just needing their quiet time.

I am not Italian.  I like to run errands when I don’t have class.  But everything is closed.  I try to have siesta.  But feel guilty, angry, and hopeless.

I am not Italian.  I  do not wear heels, or dress up everyday.  I wear shoes with inserts, and carry a backpack to help my posture.

I am not Italian.  I do not like to argue.

I am not Italian.  I am not sure if I like consistency.

I am not Italian.  I cannot fall asleep in the afternoon.

I am not Italian.  My to do lists are never-ending.

I am not Italian.  I do not smile, as much as they do.

I am not Italian.

I am American.

And I hope, one day, I will understand.

Urdhva Dhanurasana

FullSizeRenderurdhva – upward
dhanu – bow

Backbending can be intense, but it is wonderfully healing.  It comes at the end of the seated postures, immediately before the finishing postures in the Ashtanga Primary Series.  When I was living in Scotland with an immense amount of stress, this pose brought me to tears, not because of physical sensations, but because it was releasing the worries about my sister’s health, my trying relationship, and pressures to do well in culinary school.  I’d lay there after each backbend, silently trying to hold in the overwhelming emotions pouring out.  When I was living in Italy, this pose would once again bring tears to my eyes because of the relationship issues and depression I was going through.  Now that I am in a more stable period in my life, I do this pose without crying.  Sometimes though, especially when I go weeks without practicing, it will release strong emotions which I’ve been stuffing down my throat.

This posture is essential for keeping your heart chakra open, while staying grounded to the earth.  In the photograph, I’m in a partial backbend, but I always do at least three full backbends (the bow/wheel).  One spring I was doing a yoga workshop in Boulder with internationally renowned yoga master Richard Freeman.  We did at least five backbends and in my own practice two or three was enough.  “Why so many backbends?” I asked shyly during class.  Richard explained that it cleanses the nervous system and opens the psoas muscles which hold trauma.  It opens up your chest, therefore opening up your heart to new perspectives.  Now every time when my mind jumps in the way like a bus and tells me to just do a few backbends, I remind myself of the healing properties this pose brings.  Days I do fewer backbends, I am more unstable, quick to anger, and sad.  Days I practice five full backbends, I am open to new possibilities, full of courage, stable, and I can breathe.  This pose lengthens your spine, relieves chronic neck and back pain, stretches the abdominal muscles, internal organs, lungs, and chest, tones your arms, legs, abs, back, wrists, and spine, stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands, and helps with infertility, asthma, depression, and osteoporosis.  It relieves stress and insomnia.  Holding this for five breaths, five times, is like having an intense therapy session.  You may want to cry, but it’s an incredible release of stress which heals your mind, heart, and body daily.

I like Kino MacGregor’s thoughts on this posture.  You can read more about backbending in the link below.  “One of the deepest lessons in the yoga practice is about brining the energy up the spine and cleansing the nervous system. Backbends thrust your full life force up through this central channel and burn through blockages along the way. When one of these blockages gets triggered it really does not matter whether you are doing a deep backbend or a beginner backbend because the emotional state that gets triggered is really of paramount importance. When things are difficult, scary and emotional it is hard to remain clam, breathe and think clearly. This is where the guidance of an experienced teacher is crucial. They can support your process, direct your body with sound instruction and finally give the process back over to you when you’re ready.”



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