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  • I am part of an online group of women in their 50s, most of whom went to college with me, where we can talk freely about midlife issues. It has been a wonderful space to talk about all sorts of things "midlife" brings. Originally, we shared a lot about perimenopause, what was going on with our bodies, but that led to all sorts of other discussions.

    Of course, one topic that comes up often and draws the most comments is around body image. No matter what we weigh, or what we look like, we all feel it, that dissatisfaction with our bodies and the ways they are aging. And not only are we bombarded with images and advice from the media (including those 5 tips to lose belly fat alongside every woman's Facebook feed), we provide plenty of self-talk to bring ourselves down.

    The online conversation made me think more deeply about how I feel about my actual body and living in it. It is something I've thought about before. About eight years ago I was finishing a manuscript of poems, Bringing the Body Down, that is full of poems that think about physical/spiritual/intellectual/imaginative realities and how they interplay. I was writing sonnets that answered questions, and one of the questions was: "When were you happiest in your body?"
    I wrote three sonnets to answer this question.

    The first is the opening poem in the collection. And here it is.

    When were you happiest in your body?

    I weigh the pleasure of a naked swim alone
    in a deep glacial pool in Desolation Wilderness
    against another with my lover and the public
    at a nude beach at Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side.
    Clothed only in clear water, visible and light,
    moving to a rock I was not ashamed or scared.
    In the deep dark cold of the lake or warmed
    against a granite shelf, I loved my body then.

    Other moments in yoga folding back to child’s pose,
    feeling myself small and compact, or on one side,
    full weight on my hand and stretched like a kite,
    or when the strength I didn’t know I had
    lifted my whole body straight up in my first
    stunned headstand, shouting "Look at me! Look at me!"

    photo: Lake Aloha, Desolation Wilderness Area, near Lake Tahoe, California
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