I think of my back as a landscape, an enigmatic canvas that is rather specific about who touches it, paints it, blows on it and encircles it. And I think our spines that sit aloft are wildly beautiful. To me, they encapsulate mysteries and unravel secrets: miscellaneous bones that perch above a creamy expanse of skin, penetrating our lives, begging us to make the most of what lies inside. I’m specifically thinking of talents and desires, openness and freedoms, as frightening as they are exhilarating.
Georgia O’Keeffe said that “making your unknown known is the most important thing, and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” Shimmering with growing vibrancy across a lifetime, our spines exchange ideas daily, writing each other letters under endless skies and atop fiery sunsets. Like the books we read, we display spines that we’ll never crack and hide the ones that we thumb to death. To expose a bookshelf (like a spine) is to compose a self, because books can be owned without being read and read without being owned.
Spines forge our passage to a world that excites with its chambers and contours, frills and fleshy folds, potential for abstract form. Somehow they reveal at once our most private selves and our most public personas. Unlike volumes of paper that have the potential to be mauled savagely, I like the idea of spines that have been carried around in pockets, a passage in every volume to be underlined in pencil with an exclamation or interrogation mark inserted in the margin opposite, treated with old coffee, tea, and maybe even whiskey stains. Vertical one-dimensional stripes on paper become a 3D point signifying a certain kind of freedom. But remember, the spine in itself, was never really the point at all.