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Body language (10/31/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns

I've got the calendar! That maligned, then highly praised "Women Of Purpose." I had hoped I'd like it.

As the photos captivated my attention, and when I read the stories behind the calendar, I saw the smiles and comical expressions of January as medals of spunk and tenacity.

I've lost a mother, a dear friend, and a cousin to cancer. Each one of them passed on with dignity, their fortitude and faith sustaining them to new life.

I've had breast cancer. Anyone who's survived a cancer trauma has, in some way, been transformed. For most, that includes body alterations, limitations, and scars with brusque innuendoes.

It's what we don't see that counts. As flowers cannot live without roots, so a human cannot live without a soul. Bodies are not eternal...but caring, with pride, for what we have is an earthly prerogative.

The photos are done with sensitivity, woven with threads of hope. It's uplifting to gaze upon these women sharing sumptuous sips of a full-bodied zest for LIFE.

You know how one picture reminds you of another? As to why the spandex swimsuit caper and Aunt Ellen's wheelchair debacle were jarred by the calendar, I haven't the foggiest.

Body conscious. In preparation for a vacation to Ixtapa, Mexico several years ago, I was forced to conclude that my old swimsuit had not only become badly stretched out, but definitely did not accentuate the positive.

My friend Linda Meyer and I went shopping, on a venture that became "mission impossible." We liked what we found, colorful, full-bodied styles, carrying our favorites into the dressing room. That's when the hysterics began.

This new miracle stuff gives you that hourglass figure. The only problem is, the sand is forced to bulge above and below that nifty shape, the deception rudely exposed.

Both Linda and I, unknowingly, showed up with the exact same black and white swimsuit (no spandex) bulging at will. I happened to notice that the guys' suits had stretched out a bit as well.

Then there's Aunt Ellen's wheelchair catastrophe. Even the smallest body can seem like the heaviest sack of potatoes in the market when in a vulnerable position.

I was giddy with the adventure, taking Aunt Ellen on an outing on one gorgeous day some summers ago. From her Home and Community Options house on East Eighth, we set out wheeling up and down nearby streets of Winona.

No one told me that it takes a certain know-how to maneuver one of those metal buggies up and down curbs. We had smooth sailing until I sent her chair down a handicapped corner. She shifted forward and began hollering.

I used all the strength I could muster from an arthritic body just to keep her from dropping to the street. Talk about slip-slidin' away! Miraculously, two young men drove up to the stop sign and jumped out to rescue Aunt Ellen (and save my neck).

She enjoyed the attention. I, however, was badly shaken. You'd have to know Aunt Ellen. She delighted in berating me for dumping her in the street. We broke out in uncontrollable laughter.

It was foolish of me to hope that Aunt Ellen wouldn't share the incident with staff at her home. I asked Carole Fratzke if they were planning to offer wheelchair seminars anytime soon.

The incident was a scare that soon turned to relief and amusement, a good attitude to nurture, I suppose.

The ripe scent of words lifts from the printed page, fertile and poignant with each leaf turned. The moving captions with the calendar photos express personal triumphs of will. Red bras, red hats, and red letter days entwine to sustain a staunch sisterhood.

What was spurred by a Winona church group called Women of Faith, the calendar project of 2006 features seventy women whose differences complement one another...and whose bodies have upheld them through adversity and healing.

The calendar is beautiful! I know I'd love it. 


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