Dirt on Our Skin and in the Cracks of Our Hearts: A Conversation About Embodied Writing [Episode 6]

In this episode, word-diviner Jen Violi talks about getting beyond the intellectual exercise of writing, instead sourcing our creativity from the rich dirt of our bodies. Perhaps our bodies know something about letting go of the certainty or pressure of written language. Some stories are so alive that they just don’t want to be held down by pen and paper (or computer).

Here are some the the highlights:

(4:00) What might open up when we have conversations with everything? We can practice introducing ourselves to the river, the tree, or the land where we are.

(5:20) “My embodied connection is just getting dirty.” Jen shares a childhood memory of getting her doll marked up with dirt, simultaneously feeling like she messed something up while also feeling like the dirt made her doll much more real.

(11:30) Jen combines her love of writing, ritual, and sensory exploration while teaching her class, Elemental Writing. She recently completed a deep dive into the Water element and will be beginning the Earth element on June 27th. What happens when we include our bodies in the writing? What do the elements know or want to share as living beings that we can engage with during the writing process?

(19:30) Stories are alive. We can explore moving beyond metaphors as just abstract ideas. Getting ready for her Water element class, Jen soaked in the bathtub and actively asked Water for help. “I’m not kidding when I say that I am talking to Water.”

(23:00) Perhaps stories aren’t always meant to be written down. We can let go of the certainty of written language; sometimes it is more alive when it is not glued down to a page. In many ways, we are all starving in language. Social media has this way of never satiating us because we don’t allow for the expansiveness of what language could be.

(33:50) Eco-grief, eco-anxiety, eco-anguish: we are constantly trying to slap a label on everything. Sometimes talking about the problem is the problem (Sophie Strand).

(36:20) We have stopped giving our grief space to grow. Some beautiful words from Jen: “Let your grief grow tall. My grief--mother gone, father gone, "healthy" body I once knew gone and gone, more I cannot say right here and now--has grown tall, I think. Grown with me. Grown into something beautiful and unexpected. When allowed into the fullness of herself, when allowed space, grief can grow into something tall and strong.”

(43: 50) How can we be better members of the alive family of the world? How can we soften ourselves around the harms humans create? Jen tells a story about offering a mint sprig in water to a stranger as a simple gesture of connection and remembrance of the generosity of the earth.


Elemental Writing (the next class in the series, Earth Element, begins June 27th)

Initiation Station (Jen Violi’s Patreon)

Jen Violi's Website 



Sophie Strand

David Abram

Bayo Akomolafe

No One Is Talking About This: A Novel, by Patricia Lockwood

The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise, by Martin Prechtel

Enchanted April (movie)


WATER RESOURCES (some of my favorites):

Sing the Water Song

Speaking to the Water by Pat McCabe

Our Watersheds, Ourselves by James McGowan as part of the Dark Mountain Project


“Grief is but a gate, and our tears a kind of key opening a place of wonder that’s been locked away. Suddenly we notice the sustaining resonance between the drumming heart within our chest and the pulse rising from under the ground.” -David Abram, "Becoming Animal"