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L“Lie down on a piece of paper that is larger than your body. Ask your friend to trace your outline with a heavy black marker. Stand up and look at yourself. This is all there is of you. This is your boundary.” -Ruth Ozeki’s Prompt #12 in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)

Since we are at Pismo Beach, I modify the prompt slightly. I lie down on the sand. The sand is cold but not damp. The sun is shining but the wind whisks away any temporary warmth. I am wearing sweatpants and a bulky sweatshirt with a hood.

My wife, finding no sticks on the beach, uses the handle of her comb to trace my outline. Amory apologies for making my hands look like mittens. Fingers would be hard to define. She snaps a picture.IMG_4251

When I see it, I think, who is that thick creature with the disproportionately small head? I should have put the hood on instead of using it as a pillow. I could have  plopped on a baseball cap, something I never wear, but would wear to improve my sandy silhouette.

I take Amory’s comb and scratch a few lines in the sand to simulate wished-for spiky hair. Then, resorting to every lover’s cliche, I draw an off-center heart to render me a person with an emotional center, a person with feelings, even if I’m only a one dimensional sandscape.

I’ve never thought of myself as having a boundary–a line where one thing ends and another begins, an imaginary or real line demarcating limits. My boundary is my skin, and, for better or for worse, that skin is elastic and some of those boundaries can be stretched.

Countries have boundaries. In Border Song, author Jim Lynch was surprised that in places the boundary between the borders of the Northwestern United States and Canada was a mere ditch.

IMG_4281When I had almost completed this entry, I got up from my library table to sharpen pencils. At the entrance to the library I noticed a poster by a student: “My body. My mind. My boundaries.”

In the seventies, self-help groups popularized the idea of setting boundaries to define limits of acceptable behavior.

The poster for Sexual Awareness Month was a reminder to me that there are more important matters than how my sand drawing reflects me.

Perhaps A-Z Challenge blogger Pam Helberg who reflects on mental health issues, might take up this topic.