Caption: Wall of round mirrors.
I think it took me about three days of living on the farm to fully realize the limited presence of mirrors anywhere on the property. Of course, my lovely hut dwelling held no secrets and was a very simple setup, so no mirror there. There was a small, handmade mirror above the sink in the kitchen bathroom that revealed almost all of your full face. This stood out to me because the space is run by a woman and I know how much we women can dwell over our body image and how so many of us have a love and/or hate relationship with seeing our own reflection. Finally, I said “I noticed a lack of mirrors. Are there any other mirrors than the one in the bathroom?” To which I was informed that there is another small mirror at the compost toilet up the hill. I didn’t remember seeing one, but I noted to self to check on my next visit. Alas, there was another handmade mirror, matching but smaller than its sister in the kitchen, hanging on the wall above one of two toilet seats. This one you can only use from a slight distance unless you stand on the toilet. And that was it. There was no place to look at yourself in full (face or body) other than a passing reflection in a window. Given the inevitably dirty and physical daily activities, there wasn’t much need to check one’s appearance or more specifically -- check to evaluate and critique if the beauty standards we personally hold are being met. Both in Puerto Viejo and on the farm, no one cared.
Caption: The kitchen bathroom mirror. Handmade on the farm.
In my Brooklyn home, there are four mirrors and two are in my bedroom. To get from my bedroom to the kitchen on the other side of the house, I pass two body mirrors. Of course, I am a master overthinker and as such, I can’t help but analyze my own reflection almost each time I encounter it. Maybe you can relate. There is an ongoing narration in my head about my physical appearance and place in this world -- from ‘I like what i see’ to ‘I don’t like whatI see’ to ‘I want to change this’ to ‘I feel judged for judging this part of me’ to ‘who the hell am i?’ Because self-dialogue exists as a natural part of daily life in this weird world, I noticed when my loud, inner voice grew quieter on the farm.
I intentionally manifested this experience with a purpose of disconnecting from the pace of capitalism, the sounds of New York, and the smoke and mirrors of success to cultivate and lean into a flow that would support the major transitions happening in my life. I expected to feel the drastic difference in my daily activities and surroundings, but I hadn’t given much thought to how the experience would affect the smaller norms that exist in our lives. Though I noticed their absence, I did not miss mirrors.
It took me no time to adjust to getting dressed without a looking glass, but funny enough, not one of the dogs, hens, ducks, or lizards cared how I looked. As long as my clothes fit normally, I assumed I looked fine. My locs, even at home, always end up in better top buns when I don’t look at myself and just feel it out. Perpetually dirty, you stop fighting the moment-to-moment battle to keep yourself clean and tidy. (Obviously, this aspect is not for everyone. Know thyself.)
Caption: Me. Dirty.
I felt light moving with no concern of what I’d wear each day. I rotated a short stack of tops and bottoms which was usually a pair of biker shorts and a midriff or tank with the same pair of shoes, my Crocs. If the clouds brought us heavy rain, I wore sturdy water-hiking shoes. I felt quite cute and comfortable in my farm wear actually. Because we were in the garden/kitchen, I didn't have to be in long pants and sleeved shirts. If I was going into town, for fun I might throw on a dress because they can give a “Yep, I got dressed today” vibe and then my feet would be visibly dirty in my sandals. I felt natural leaning into beach-farm-jungle life which is essentially the feeling of being too busy enjoying nature and peace to be bothered with society's sartorial standards.
Unfortunately, for so many of us, access to success and safety requires adhering to beauty standards and social norms that oppose our natural ways of existing. In the case of women that might mean existing with body hair and for Black people that might include wearing natural hair outside of the restrictive, assimilation-based guidelines. We have to make sure we “look the part” or look a certain level of “dignity” to even be treated with human decency and respect. Though these expectations are slowly changing, in some ways, the mirror is still a harsh and unforgiving reminder of where we do or don’t belong as decided by white supremacy and patriarchy. So as I connected with my roots and performed some activities of my own ancestors, I was poetically relieved of the expected ways of being that are ubiquitous to American culture of success, beauty, and shame. As a result, I was kinder to and more understanding of myself.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a spa day or a fancy occasion for a fancy dress and generally enjoy looking nice and feeling cute. I’m drawn to pretty handbags and fun shoes. It’s in my blood (thanks Mom). And there’s scientific proof, somewhere, that looking good helps us feel good.
In true Aquarian form, I am easily not materialistic but desiring a comfortable and abundant life, something my ancestors never knew and all Black people deserve. And so I dance with guilt around that desire as so much of the world suffers in huge part due to consumerism and capitalism. So, what I appreciate and learned from my farm experience is seeing and accepting my own duality, leaning into my own raw authenticity, and embracing abundance from a place of alignment and sustainability not greed and destruction. I had the opportunity to check in with my inner voice from a much less critical place to remember that whether I look and smell like outside or am draped in gold or have hairy legs in a dress -- I got the juice. And that I don’t need to pick one part of me to honor in the act of being and becoming ... that it's okay to want to feel and look beautiful and equally okay to dismiss ideas of beauty and simply exist. Jungle-farm life reminds you that neither perspective makes the sun rise.
Caption: Showing off my daily style and drinking water in front of the kitchen door.
I will say though, I am actually a big advocate of women seeing themselves fully in a mirror as a place for self-acceptance, but obviously it can go too far and our perception of our own reflection can block our shine. So, my questions for you are -- What are you unable to see in yourself because you are too busy criticizing what you see in the mirror? How might you positively pour into yourself to accept what cannot be changed and to form healthy habits as to change what can be.
P.S. When I got to the hotel where I was staying before catching a flight back to the states, there were mirrors everywhere. One whole wall in my room was a mirror and the sliding bathroom door was a floor to ceiling mirror. All of a sudden, I saw myself head to toe and was faced with my own fuzzy outgrown roots and wild eyebrows looking like the before picture of a makeover, yet feeling quite beautiful.
Caption Left: A fuzzy me in my fave travel sweatshirt after arriving at the hotel after 6 hour ride.
Caption Right: The next day, still fuzzy, leaving for dinner and checking myself out for the first time in six weeks before being seen by other people.