Cathedral of the Body

I prepare to cut. 'Anatomy', literally to cut up (the Greek 'ana' up, and 'tomy' from 'temnein', to cut). Or Latin, 'secare' (to cut) as root of dissection. I stand at the edge of knowing.....of experience. Again.

This is a revisitation for me. Familiar to my mind, to places named and learnt. Familiar to me by way of assisting autopsies briefly one summer over three decades ago at Sydney's Coroners' Court, called 'green' (as in new, not faint) by the senior Pathologists, and in Histopathology labs in Sydney hospitals assisting in post surgery 'cut up'. Familiar from my postgraduate brief dissections in Functional anatomy ('did you get a wing pack or a drumstick?').  Places not ordinarily touched by light, yet illuminated in anatomy books as if this rich ecology can be circumscribed and ordered in neat drawings, from which I have taught.

And it is not familiar. The witnessing of the body is familiar now to me as a felt, and therefore directly known terrain, the intimate interior of the body. Tectonic continental plates of skull, subtley shifting with each of my breaths, cradling the fragile looping corridors of mind; chambers of the heart, inscribed like ancient writing on their inner surfaces (the Trabeculae carnaea), heartstrings of chordae tendonae - connecting muscle to valves; cathedralic ribcage embracing rainforested lobbed lungs. Whose touch I know now  as direct experience with each breath. Ribs as fingers, holding my lungs. Mobile. Sensate. Poetry made flesh. Spirit incarnate. Literally.

And so I breathe as I begin again. This journey to San Francisco (city named after Saint Frances of Assisi), to encounter the gift of the body on the table. The body offered. My Teacher.

What will I encounter? Myself, surely. What can I leave behind? Can I be open and available to this 'now' experience, allowing it to touch me? To change me?

As I begin to prepare I re-read both 'Body of Work', by Christine Montross, and 'First Cut', by Albert Howard Carter. Language curls and evokes not only structures, but experiences. I move in...


Later... There is peace as I read. Notes to prepare for the 6 days dissection from Gil (Hedley), the writings of others, re-looking at texts. Peace, and order. Perhaps this is what I love about anatomy. The capacity to name (almost a creative act; 'abracadabra'; aramic I believe, for create it as I speak), to identify and place in a niche this part of the hologram. To divide and yet make whole. Complete. Balance and harmony. And beauty.

I think of the Circle of Willis in the brain, a roundabout of blood vessels from the internal carotid arteries and the basilar artery (itself a merging of the two vertebral arteries), so that blood flow and pressure in the brain can remain balanced should one become blocked; it looks like an exquisite red huntsman in the center of the head with its paired branches of anterior, posterior and middle cerebral arteries together with the superior cerebellar.....or so I've told my students many times. A disturbing thought; a spider in the center of your head...