Thursday, March 09, 2006
La-blue-eyez had discovered a site called Thursday photo challenge. It looked fun, so I thought I would also participate. The topic today is NATURE

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The weather is beautiful, Most of the snow fall has melted but there is a thin layer of frost over everything today. I'm really looking forward to spring and all the changes it holds for us.

Last night we went to a friend's birthday party. I met another American! (This is the third American I've met in Germany over the past 3 years - They are few and far between. Perhaps I'd been searching in the wrong places.) He's an actor from NYC named Ricky. He's opening an Art Salon early next month and asked us to participate. The topic for the gallery is "Let it be". He urged us to submit a piece of artwork. If we're still around.. (and the way things are looking with Eric's Green Card, we just might) I'll definitely join. It was so nice to find someone from my home state. It was like coming home for a moment. I loved his creative energy and enthusiasm.

After the party we went to the Irish Pub for karaoke night. At one point the singer on stage was performing Richard Marx's "Right here waiting". Eric started whispering the lyrics to me and we began kissing. We were lost in our own world. When I opened my eyes, I saw that everyone in the pub was looking in our direction. I was confused...

Then I realized the singer had stepped off the stage and was sitting in the booth seat next to us with the microphone, singing the song to us.

How surreal.

My face was burning bright red and looked down


This next part might be disturbing for some people due to the subject matter so reader discretion advised.

I was talking with my friend, Peter this afternoon. It was one of those chilling inevitable conversations you are bound to have at some point with someone. We were discussing death, dying and our mortality. It brought up a lot of thoughts, fears and memories

He had asked me: "Have you seen a dead body before, Clarity?"

I was silent, than I nodded. Not only had I seen a dead body, but once I had been in a room filled with dead bodies. It's not something I've ever written about before now.

During my third year of Art College, My figure drawing teacher conducted a field trip. In order to have a better grasp of the human figure, he wanted us to attend something called "Gross Anatomy" at a state college medical center. He explained that once a year, the cadavers are lined up and artists from universities are allowed to draw them.

I had no desire to do this. But My Ex-boyfriend, Justin did. He wanted me to come along because it was in the same town that his mother lived in and he wanted me to meet her.

I'll never forget the minute I entered that room, the smell of formaldehyde choked me. There were about 40 tables with bodies on each table. They were covered with sheets. A man with a lab coat explained that these bodies had signed consent forms ahead of time to donate their bodies and organs to science. Bags were searched and all Cameras were removed. we were asked not to touch the bodies. He also warned us that the sight might upset us because many of the bodies were opened up and parts removed.

I was ready to bolt out of the room at that point. I thought "I don't want to be here, What on earth am I doing here??"

Then he began to remove the sheets and I nearly fainted. Not only were body parts removed, but some of the arms were placed in the open chest cavities and some skin was removed revealing the muscles underneath. It was like a horror movie, but these weren't mannequins. They were real cadavers. I remember fighting back the feeling of nausea and trying to separate myself from the reality of what I was actually seeing. Some of the over-eager students were saying: "Wow, this is fascinating, this takes our figure studies to a new level, Isn't this amazing? How often in life do you have the opportunity to see something like this if you aren't a medical student or an undertaker?" they walked around as though it were a museaum exhibit.

"These are real people", I choked out. I was only 19.

"It's just their bodies, Clarity. They're all somewhere else now"

Everyone began pulling up chairs and sketching the cadavers. Someone handed me a chair and I sat next to the cadaver of a man in his mid-seventies. Half of his face had been removed. I sat where I could view the part that was still existing.

While everyone seemed unphased and able to see this objectively, I wondered "Who was this man? He was someone's father? Someone's Grandfather? He has has a life history and probably a family still living out there... Now he's on this cold table with his body pulled apart and artists sketching his remains"

It felt wrong to me. I couldn't make the feeling go away. I started to shakily draw a profile portrait of him, trying to be delicate and respectful. I realized I was the only one approaching this in this manner. Everyone else was drawing muscles, tendons, chest cavities. I realized that I wasn't at the level where I could look at this objectively, I was too attached to the physical reality of life and my mortality. I cared too much about the idea of who this man used to be and the pain his family must have endured when he died. I couldn't deal with this. I walked out of the room, went outside the hospital for fresh air and my eyes filled with tears.

Later on that evening I was sitting with Justin's mother and father at the dinner table of his family home.

His mother had made a big pot of Shrimp Marinara with noodles. "I heard you loved Shrimp, so I made this especially for you"

I stared down at the tomato sauce..and the shrimp..the noodles...I thought of the intestines I had viewed earlier in an open chest cavitiy. This nausea gripped my stomach again. I excused myself from the table, went to the bathroom and suddenly I was vomiting in the toilet bowl. I was sick the rest of the evening.

"Gross anatomy" was not for me. I didn't look at bodies or life the same afterwards. It was a defining moment for me in the sense that I fully realized how fleeting life was and never to take moment for granted.

There is an artist Gunther Von Hagens that has a very controversial exhibit "Body Worlds" I wont explain it, but you can see an article here. Peter and I were discussing whether or not this was wrong. Whether or not it was disrespectful to the families of the people they are using in this "art". I thought that it was rather disturbing, Peter said it was not. What do you think?

On the other hand, Sometimes using organs, skin donations and such can change a person's life significantly. Such as this situation with a french woman that received the first partial facial transplant last month. (read here) She had taken too many sleeping pills and she woke up to discover that Her own dog had chewed off the lower part of her face. (I read that and I was horrified) Now she is able to live a normal life. I can't help but wonder what the pyschological ramifications of having another person's face is though. Most people have seen Face off. It strange to think that this is slowly becoming a reality with the medical advancements we have today. here

I realize I have to lose my attachments to my physical body and not care what happens to me after death. What is the point of having my body decaying in a casket when it can be used to help others? However, I have to come to peace with the idea of being on a medical table and the possiblity of an artist some day sketching my remains or my face being sewn onto another person.

That's hard for anyone to swallow, I think it takes being at a level of enlightenment and non-attachment A level I want to reach. Why are we so attached to our bodies and care so much about what happens after our death? Obviously our true essense and real being goes so much deeper than that. No one can take that away from us, ever.

This is such a morbid subject, but at some point everyone has to come to terms with their own mortality. I guess my conversation with Peter today was a step in the right direction,

I have to confess, right now. I am really grateful to be alive. I think so often we get caught up in the every day struggles that we dont' really stop to contemplate this. I'm alive and I have this moment. 1.78 people die every second. 6,390 thousand people an hour. 1 out of every 113 people will die this year. So take a minute to appreciate your life and the life of those you love.

posted by Clarity25 at 1:16 PM |


At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Leslie 

Lovely nature shot.

Your entry was incredibly interesting and thoughtprovoking. I'm going to bookmark you to return and read more.

You got me thinking

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous alice 

First, love the nature shot, I know Ive asked before but what kind of camera is it?
Body Worlds just finished a run here. I didnt get to go but a couple of friends did and it was packed on all occasions. Im all for it because he doesnt take random cadavers, they have all signed up to be part of this project while living. He has a waiting list.
A friend said it was interesting but some of it seemed a bit silly, he said "does he really need to slice things into 30 sections so I can understand the body better?"
I signed up to donate my body to science when I was 16.
I remember people saying "oh I dont want anyone to cut me up." But after Im dead why do I need all my organs? If something of mine can save someones life or fix someone then why shouldnt I allow it to? Its the same reason I give blood and am on the non related bone marrow list. If I can do something to help someone then why wouldnt I?
I wouldnt want anyone to get my face. Thats kind of freaky.
I read that story, apparently the womans story didnt match up in places.

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous 

Something like that would give me nightmares for years!
I dunno know if I could donate my body to science either. The thought of someone walking around with my face is scary. I dunno. Maybe I will donate my organs, but not my entire body.
Didn't that guy steal some kids kidneys from a hospital without permission for his show too?

At March 09, 2006, Blogger warcrygirl 

Ah Clarity, I'm so glad you got your camera back. And as long as the person signed a form ahead of time that this was what they wanted after they died it doesn't matter what their families think. When my grandfather died he put in his will (and told my grandma) that he wanted to be cremated and buried at sea. His mother had a hissy-fit and tried to insist that he be buried. Fortunately, it was his wishes over hers. As far as dignity goes, at least they made sure there were no cameras present.

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Ladybug 

Beautiful photo!!

At March 09, 2006, Blogger Crystal 

Beautiful photo Clarity!

About the subject of this entry... When I was in school, I had to go in and observe an autopsy. (You may have read about it in my diary). I left a lot of things out when I wrote about it. I felt the exact same way you did. He was also an elderly man and I caught myself wondering if he had any children or family at all. (He was homeless)

It was a creepy place. There were bodies that had been brought in and were waiting in "line" to have an autopsy. It was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. I don't handle death well to begin with, at that moment, I was surrounded by it.

One of my classmates saw I was uneasy. She grabbed my arm and turned me around so I couldn't see the body any longer. She explained to me that was the shell of the man, the actual man is in a better place. She told me to look at it from a medical perspective. Look at it for what it was, and educational experience.

One of the first rules we learned in surgery is "Never associate your patient with anyone you know or as a person with family. If you do, you'll get attached and you can't do your job, which in my case was, saving their life.

Now I work at the children's hospital. We do an average of 1 to 2 transplants a week. One a few weeks ago was a heart transplant on a 2 week old preemie baby.

I don't look at it as morbid anymore. And I don't think of it as, "Someone had to die in order for someone else to live." I look at it as a blessing. That 2 week old preemie, is alive today because someone cared enough to give the gift of life.

Sorry I wrote a book here. Just wanted you to know that you're not alone in your feelings. Even me being in the medical field, I still to this day have to seperate my "normal" feelings from my "medical" feelings.

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous alice 

Anonymous-All of the bodies and body parts that Dr.Gunther Von Hagens uses in Body Worlds are from people who have signed up to have their bodies used. He does not have to steal body parts from hospitals as he has a very long list of people who have signed on to be apart of his project. He uses the whole body and would not really have any need to steal kidneys for any reason. He was accused of illegally obtaining bodies but was cleared of all allegations back in 2004.

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous 

alright clarity this is your best friend writing and i do no often coment on your blog because we talk...but i am surprised you feel this way knowing everything i have been through healthwise and how hard it has been for me to not be on the donation list ..maybe if less people felt this way people like me would not have the problems we have ...i do not agree with face transplants but if they could find a medical reason for it like a child whos face had burned up like in shallow hal then maybe it would be okay...i am not trying to lecture you ..or anyone else who readsx this ...but you KNOW how much my transplant gave me !!!and how much my health has suffered since it failed ...everyone who has not checked that box on your license please rethink it checking that box you may be saving a life...and to the non related bone marrow donor i give you mad props and much respect ..that is an awesome thing you are me if you read this clarity..i love you girl...and eric too!!!!

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous fifi 

First, lovely nature shot. Frost-rimed leaf, beautiful.
Anatomy topic- I declined our drawing tutor's invitation to go to the local university to draw some of the anatomy exhibits- eg deformed fetuses etc. I was only 19 then. Nearly 30 years later, I opted not to visit the Bodyworlds exhibition in London, because I thought it ghoulish.
Some people have a higher threshold for these things than others. Rembrandt couldn't have painted some of his works without seeing dissections. Leonardo seemed to be fascinated with the internal workings of the body. Yeah, both men.Hmm.
ps I know you're not trying for a baby yet, but are you sure you're not .....

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Catinka 

We do tend to think our bodies are just machines and that by picking them apart we can learn how things work, or we can learn how to make things work again. That idea comes into conflict with the idea that our bodies are expressions of ourselves, of our beings, and with a self no longer inside a body what is it but a discarded piece of clothing. I don't know if I could sit in a room of cadavers either. But I wonder if it is the actual bodies that is the problem as how much we tend to objectify our bodies instead of treating them as beings in their own right while alive. Oh, I don't know if I make any sense here. But do not be too ready to judge your sensitivity to this. Just because everyone around you feels differently than you does not mean you should feel that way too.

At March 09, 2006, Anonymous Olaf 

Hi Clarity. Yes, I too am interested in what camera you are using. I recall seeing it in a photo of past and it appeared to be one of the Sony series. You manage to get some beautiful shots out of it and that is an excellent example. Of course I am relatively novice in that department, so I guess that means looks great to me! Nice detail on the macro shot.

At March 10, 2006, Anonymous navin harish 

The shot of the leaf is amazing. The lighting is perfect

At March 10, 2006, Anonymous Amy 

Beautiful photo of the leaf.

My only experience with dead bodies is at a wake or funeral. Perhaps it is a little different because it is someone I know, and they are clothed and not taken apart, but still, the whole thing frightens me. They are there, but they're not really THERE. When Avocado was fishing, the boats would pull up a body now and then. I have this fear that I will see one when I surf. I DO think the human body is beautiful, and a well-designed piece of machinery if you will, but I'd rather look at pictures in books, etc. to determine that!

At March 10, 2006, Anonymous Tenshi 

*giggle* Your leaf has hair.

I'm skipping the part about the nasty corpii right now because... well... I'm eating breakfast. Blech. :\

My layout was changed again.

And anyone who catches this and is registered at DL should also visit the artist's guild for an update. (

At March 10, 2006, Blogger Kathleen 

Girl, I'm right there with you!!! My younger sister went to Body World and thought it was so cool. I thought it was disgusting - no, I didn't go. She also took Gross Anatomy at grad school and found it all fascinating - but this is the same girl who gets squeamish watching movies? Makes no sense to me.

At March 10, 2006, Blogger Kathleen 

And regardless of the fact that the people volunteered to be part of Body World, there are people like Clarity and me who do not need or wish to see it.

But I completely agree with anonymous best friend that everybody should check the box on their driver license and make sure your family knows you want to donate, as they can say No, even though you said Yes. A 12 year old kid (or younger) died just before Christmas due to a snowboarding incident and he had seen a show about organ donation so his parents knew he wanted to do that if something happened. His life then went on to save others and that is so much more important than worrying about being cut up after death. You're dead, you're not going to feel a thing!

At March 11, 2006, Anonymous G 

Having just recently started experimenting with backlit subjects, I especially enjoyed the photo of the frosted leaf. I kinda wish we had some frost here I could experiment with...

At March 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous 

i went to the body world exhibit. it was so neat. kind of gross. there was one that was just arteries and veins. a woman and man holding a kid.
awesome nature photo.