“[…] the bones often do not exist prior to the flesh, but are shaped after a vague and broad shadow of its form is discerned or uncovered during beginning, middle and final stages of the writing.”
-Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands
Anzaldúa is talking about writing, about fleshing out (as the phrase goes) an idea once we already have the bones, but the thought sticks with me both as a literal description of a growing body and as a metaphor for so much. We have so many phrases about backbones, about skeleton crews (the minimum that can still function) or characteristics that are bred in the bone (and therefore hard to change), about skeletons as the ‘essential’ structures that hold us up, but it’s not like bones do much on their own. It’s not like bones create the flesh around them. So I sit here, thinking about soft stem cells, thinking about the softness in which all of me coalesced together.
And then metaphors. So often I’m left, wondering when something happened, when I started a certain habit (when did I start waking up later?) or a certain project (when did I really start writing my novel?), wondering what the essential core is for some part of my life. The bones. Someone asked me, “When did Urbana start feeling like home?” Or another time, “When did you and Dusty become friends?” Or another time, “When did you know”—that you were in love, that you were happy (or sad), that you were connected (or alone), that it was time for a walk (or a rest)? And I think about vague and broad shadows. I think about what is “discerned or uncovered during beginning, middle, and final stages.” Perhaps paradoxically, I start moving away from “stages”—from beginnings and middles and ends—towards ways of being that are growing and dying in many places in many ways, all at once. And that’s lovely.