ONE WITH THE WILD FEMININE

“In order to converse with the wild feminine, a woman must temporarily leave the world and inhabit a state of aloneness in the oldest sense of the word. Long ago the word alone was treated as two words, all one. To be all one, meant to be wholly one, to be in oneness, either essentially or temporarily. That is precisely the goal of solitude, to be all one. It is the cure for the frazzled state so common to modern women…”

(Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves, via MysticMamma

I can’t help but write to you. I am in a coffee shop, listening to Bob Dylan, putting my B.L.O.G into a file, piece by piece, which I will send it to a printer, before rocketing it into the stratosphere. Somewhere along the way, we start to gain and lose things, gain responsibility, a sense of adulthood, a sense of normalcy. (Gasp!) Productivity, skirt suits (never!), coiffed hair, earrings, proper underwear. I have missed this energy, this sensibility. I remember you, Bob. I remember you, Henry. What happened? Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was a witch. I forgot about living on the edge. What an edge it was. Such seems the melancholy of growing older.

How do we return? Moment by moment. Edge by edge. It began when I sat outside under the tree my mother-in-law loves to be under when she smokes in the evening, tight pants, long hair, boots on. It began when I started to slow down, alone, quiet, peaceful. When I stop fully, my purest desires rise to the surface. It takes removing oneself. It takes being with all the edginess. With all the impulses to distract oneself, to remove oneself from that hot loneliness, the desires to go back, to be with people, any people. Being without my husband for five weeks is a new experience, and one I have welcomed with open arms. Welcome pure me! Welcome original me! Welcome fear! Welcome uncertainty! Walking through all of that, I have come to be still. Instead of running from all of my edginess, I stay still. I’ve heard that the Chinese say, “When in doubt, do nothing.” It’s a good move.

So, I sat under the tree. Everything was so quiet, so peaceful, and yet intensely alive. As I sit there, noticing the berries on the branches, the fireflies coming alight, even the young fireflies drifting by, I hear the birds cooing and tweeting, and I come to sense what I need in my life, at this time. That wild feminine energy is so ultimate, so essential, so uniquely ours. I start to feel the energy coming, regardless of how relaxed, resistant, or sleepy I feel. That issuance comes only in the quietest and stillest of moments, and it was incredibly refreshing.

These days, the weeks pass quickly without further ado. Much is said, much is done, and there are indeed more responsibilities than before, and my mantra is simplicity. “This too shall pass,” I tell myself often, knowing that not only will the tougher times slip by, but the beautiful moments too. In the quiet, all our urges, fears, tambourines and dreams sound louder. It’s the perfect time to look at all of those noises inside. I’ve found a few parts of myself that haven’t seen the light for some time, and they’re mad and angry and hot and wet and they want to talk to me desperately. They’re full of energy. Like holding a basketball underwater, when we release our grip, the ball rockets skyward. Thank goodness for the opportunity to release that energy, the energy it takes to hold the ball under the surface. Thank goodness for being so alive.

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WHAT AN EMPTY BOWL BECOMES

What follows is a passage from Cheryl Strayed’s phenomenal book Wild which tipped itself right into my heart. The book was a gift given to me by my mother-in-law. Thank goodness she did.

“My guidebook had been correct: my first sight of it was one of disbelief. The surface of the water sat 900 feet below where I stood on the rocky 7,100 foot-high rim. The jagged circle of the lake spread out beneath me in the most unspeakably pure ultramarine blue I’d ever seen. It was approximately six miles across, its blue interrupted only by the top of a small volcano, Wizard Island, that rose 700 feet above the water, forming a conical island upon which twisted foxtail pines grew. The mostly barren, undulating rim that surrounded the lake was dotted with these same pines and backed by distant mountains.

“Because the lake is so pure and deep, it absorbs every color of visible light except blue, so it reflects pure blue back to us,” said a stranger who stood beside me, answering the question I’d nearly uttered out loud in my amazement.

“Thanks,” I said to her. Because the water was so deep and pure it absorbed every color of visible light except blue seemed like a perfectly sound and scientific explanation, and yet there was still something about Crater Lake that remained inexplicable. The Klamath tribe still considered the lake a sacred site and I could see why. I wasn’t a skeptic about this. It didn’t matter that all around me there were tourist s taking pictures and driving slowly past in their cars. I could feel the lake’s power. It seemed a shock in the midst of this great land: inviolable, separate and alone, as if it had always been and would always be here, absorbing every color of visible light but blue.

I took a few photographs and walked along the lake’s rim near a small gathering of buildings that had been built to accommodate tourists. I had no choice but to spend the day because it was a Sunday and the park’s post office was closed; i couldn’t get my box until tomorrow. It was sunny and finally warm again, and as I walked, I thought that if I’d continued with the pregnancy I’d learned about in that motel room in Sioux Falls the night before I decided to hike the PCT, I’d be giving birth to a baby right about now. The week of my mother’s birthday would’ve been my due date. The crushing coalescence of those dates felt like a punch in the gut at the time, but it didn’t compel me to waver in my decision to end my pregnancy. It only made me beg the universe to give me another chance. To let me become who I needed to before I became a mother: a woman whose life was profoundly different than my mother’s had been.

Much as I loved and admired my mother, I’d spent my childhood planning not to become her. I knew why she’d married my father at nineteen, pregnant and only a tiny bit in love. It was one of the stories I’d made her tell when I’d asked and asked and she’d shaken her head and said, Why do you want to know? I’d asked so much that she finally gave in. When she’d learned she was pregnant, she’d pondered two options: an illegal abortion in Denver or hiding out in a distant city during her pregnancy, then handing over my sister to her mother, who’d offered to raise the baby as her own. But my mother hadn’t done either of those things. She decided to have her baby, so she’d married my dad instead. She’d become Karen’s mother and then mind and then Leif’s. Ours.

“I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life,” she’d wept to me once, in the days after she learned she was going to die. “I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.”

“Oh, Mom,” was all I could say as I stroked her hand.

I was too young to say anything else.

At noon I went to the cafeteria in one of the nearby buildings and ate lunch. Afterwards, I walked through the parking lot to the Crater Lake Lodge and strolled through the elegantly rustic lobby with Monster on my back, pausing to peer into the dining room. There was a smattering of people sitting at tables, handsome groups holding glasses of chardonnay and pinot gris like pale yellow jewels. I went outside to the long porch that overlooked the lake, made my way along a line of grand rocking chairs, and found one that was set off by itself.

I sat in it for the rest of the afternoon, staring at the lake. I still had 334 miles to hike before I reached the Bridge of the Gods, but something made me feel as if I’d arrived. Like that blue water was telling me something I’d walked all this way to know.

This was once Mazama, I kept reminding myself. This was once a mountain that stood nearly 12,000 feet tall and then had its heart removed. This was once a wasteland of lava and pumice and ash. This was once an empty bowl that took hundreds of years to fill. But hard as I tried, I couldn’t see them in my mind’s eye. Not the mountain or the wasteland or the empty bowl. They simply were not there anymore. There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began.”

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INTIMACY WITH FEAR

“Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” 

Excerpt from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, image via Inez & Vinoodh.

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WHOLE & HALVING

And I am here in this place between waking and sleep, and all I can think of is my future, the future as round as a new mother, as worn as lace, and holding me fast to its murmurings. Am I to write? For whom? It is always for me, in the end.

In this place of unexpected beginnings and inexplicable sorrows, insurmountable joys, I am whole and halved. I yearn for the next ending, though endings are always beginnings. I want to finish things I have begun, though I know this drive towards completion, beginning, completion, beginning, will always leave me bereft of satisfaction. I (desire)  – see there is only a turning, turning, turning. I (desire) – know that none may ever be satiated. Where do we go from here?

I think of the times I’ve created something and completed something, and I yearn for that satisfaction of DONE. Whether it’s a pregnancy or a manuscript. I am in the half-light, for now. I know that these things will happen in my life and they will be unlike what I’ve expected them to be. It’s always that way. I will shave myself of my expectations, as I see that is the only way forward – through the darkness. No light can illuminate the future that is mine, I’ve learnt, at least no light I can cast now. The light comes from beyond, comes from the boomerang arc of my dreams sent out in the sky, completing themselves in my hands.

I wake sometimes, even in the day from strange dreams, and it dawns on me, “oh yes. That’s right. I’m in this body. And this life. And this time. Oh yes. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing this,” as if returning to my body after being completely elsewhere, perhaps everywhere. Then there are the dreams where I’m walking in heels that are too high, too small, or too broken. In these dreams I can’t walk properly and I’m always being watched. At first I wondered what this dream meant; I’d had it four times. Then I realized that of course, in every sequence I’m having trouble moving forward in shoes that don’t fit me. There’s also the fact that most of the time, all eyes are on me.

Expectations. Others’ and our own. We are but human, and perhaps the dim light cast by our expectations shines some path ahead for us, perhaps only a few steps, in reality. There is longing and waiting and hoping, surely, in all living creatures. I saw a large bird propped up on long legs in the water today, waiting for something, perhaps a small turtle, perhaps a fish. This was the first time that it didn’t fly away as I approached. We were maybe 8 feet from each other, and the bird watched me, still and resolute as the clock in Grand Central. Does it not have expectations? Does it not have hope?

I tell myself, ‘One day, you’ll have everything in order,’ knowing how strange that sounds. ‘One day, you’ll have completed everything you wanted to,’ – though I can only imagine that would be at the time of death? (one hopes!) What comes next, great being of Life? In so many ways I am quite content watching the sun come up and over our house on the river, performing my meditative morning routines before breakfast, making bread and love, fending off ants. But there must be more than this. No, I don’t necessarily want to hike the PCT trail as Cheryl Strayed did, and no, I don’t necessarily want to give up money. There is something, a little something that I’m looking for, and yes, I do consider myself a spiritual (or might I say cosmic) person tapped into the great cosmos of dark and light.

Is this something the ominous ‘that which can never be attained’? I’ve heard it said before, that we go through life thinking: ‘College. I’ll just get a degree and graduate and then I’ll be happy. Marriage! I’ll meet the man of my dreams and we’ll be married and then I’ll be happy…. Kids! We’ll have beautiful babies and life will be complete. Then I’ll be happy. A different job. That’s what I need. A change of pace. A change of scenery. We’ll move cities. Get a new couch. That will make me happy. Retirement! Oh that’s definitely the answer. I’ll retire and never have to work again, that will be bliss. Hold on, where did life go and why am I not yet happy?’

It seems we’re not happy for some inner reason: perhaps that we just can’t seem to find ourselves. Tricky task that, in this dimension, when everything is changing at deceptive and varied speeds, when cycles of birth, decay and death repeat themselves over and over. How do we find this thing called ourself when everything outside is fluxing and fluctuating? This very essay is a meditation on life itself. I know there is an unchanging thing within that is the core of me. I can’t always know it, though. I can’t always touch it. Where did I bury it, again? Did I leave a treasure map somewhere? I wish someone could tell me, but only I have the key and I’ve forgotten again where I put it tonight.

It seems I find myself anew every day, every week, and through every hour that I change, I find myself. I discovered today that something within me wants to purchase a bow and arrow set and practice shooting at trees. It wants to ride horses again and again, learn their ways and spend time with their souls. It does want to buy a new couch, and move cities sometimes.

But then I see the light out the window as it hits the small flowers, bending low through the trunks of trees towards the wide meadow. Then I take a deep sigh and remember that I am of this earth and this earth is of me, and that to spend time in nature and with those that I love, connecting, is all that matters to me, really. I’m giving myself away, but that is what I do. I give it away. All I want is honesty, and authenticity, and a shot at understanding myself and this life. This fragmented window in time which cannot see all, but sees much.

I am what I am, and have no idea what comes next. In this story, my life, the next page is unwritten.

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MANIFESTO (I CAN)

I AM ANGRY.

Please life, free me from this pain. 

What wants to speak? Who wants to speak? 

The new me wants to say a few things and she wants to say:

FUCK THE WORLD

LISTEN TO ME

HEAR ME NOW

HEAR ME FUCKING ROAR

I WILL NOT BE SILENCED

I WILL NOT BE STEPPED ON OR BELITTLED

I AM MIGHTY AND POWERFUL AND

NO ONE CAN HURT ME NOW

I AM IMPERVIOUS

I CAN DO WHAT I WANT

I CAN DO WHAT I LOVE

I CAN LIVE A FULL AND RICH LIFE

I CAN LET GO OF MY FAMILY

I CAN FOLLOW MY HEART

I CAN LISTEN TO MY WORDS

I CAN LISTEN TO MY GUIDANCE

SCREW WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY

ALL I HAVE IS THIS MOMENT, THIS BREATH,

THIS BODY, THIS TIME.

I CAN LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND.

I CAN LET IT ALL GO

I CAN SWIM ACROSS THE RIVER

I CAN RIDE HORSES

I CAN MAKE FRIENDS

I CAN BE MEAN

I CAN BE NASTY

I CAN PROTECT MYSELF

I CAN EXPRESS MYSELF FULLY

I CAN LIVE A BEAUTIFUL LIFE

I CAN STAY UP ALL NIGHT

I CAN COVER MYSELF IN TATTOOS

I CAN DYE MY HAIR WHATEVER COLOUR I WANT

I CAN

I CAN

I CAN

I CAN EAT WHAT I WANT

I CAN SWEAR AND CUSS

I CAN TEACH OTHERS

I CAN LEAD OTHERS

I CAN START A REVOLUTION

I CAN BE ANGRY

I CAN BE INDIGNANT

I CAN BE RIGHTEOUS

I CAN BE MAD AT MY SISTER

I CAN BE ANGRY WITH MY MOTHER

I CAN CHANGE MY NAME

I CAN CHANGE MY PERSONA

I CAN CHANGE MY LIFE

I CAN CHOOSE WHAT I DO

I CAN CHOOSE WHAT I LOVE

I CAN CHOOSE HOW I LIVE

I CAN HELP SAVE THE EARTH

I CAN QUIT MY JOB WHENEVER I WANT

I CAN HAVE ALL OF MY DESIRES MET

I CAN FUCK EVERYTHING

I CAN EMPOWER MYSELF

I CAN BE THE BEST

I CAN BE THE GREATEST ME I’VE EVER KNOWN

I CAN BE THE BEST ME IMAGINABLE

I CAN HAVE MORE FUN THAN I THOUGHT POSSIBLE

I CAN MANAGE MY LIFE POWERFULLY

I I CAN GROW VEGETABLES

I CAN MAKE MONEY

I CAN HAVE HEALTHY KIDS

I CAN GET PREGNANT

I CAN BE THE BEST MOTHER I CAN BE

I CAN BE

I CAN BE ME

I CAN BE ME

I CAN BE

I CAN LIVE LIFE TO THE MAX

I CAN LIVE LIFE FULLY

I CAN LOVE AGAIN

I CAN FORGIVE OTHERS OF THEIR SHORTCOMINGS

AND MY OWN

I CAN TRAVEL THE WORLD

I CAN HOST SALONS

I CAN CREATE A GREAT BUSINESS

I CAN COMPLETE MY WORK

I CAN HAVE A GREAT BODY OF WORK

I CAN DO GREAT WORK

I CAN WORK WITH GREAT PEOPLE

I AM GREAT. I AM GREATNESS

I AM BOLD. I AM JOYFUL

I AM BIGGER THAN YOU’VE EVER KNOWN ME TO BE.

I AM HUGELY FUN

I AM HUGELY INTIMIDATING

I AM POWERFUL

I AM LOVING

I AM UNFORGIVING

I AM FORGIVENESS

I AM WHOLE

I AM PERFECTION

I AM THE SOUND

I AM SILENCE

I AM PEACE

I AM LOVE

I AM GRATITUDE

I AM CAPABLE

I AM HEALING

I AM HEALED

I AM RIGHTEOUS

I AM INDIGNANT

I AM MAD

I AM BIGGER THAN YOU

I AM GETING COMFORTABLE

I AM GETTING TO KNOW YOU

I AM YOU. I AM YOU.

I AM YOU. I AM YOU.

I AM HERE. I AM HERE.

I AM  I AM I AM

Posted in ON THE CREATIVE LIFE, ON THE SELF, THE CLASSICS | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

THE WELL

It’s almost summer and I can feel it in the flowers, from the river. I have been tired, overworked and unsure of my next big steps. There are too many to choose from, I can only take small ones. So, as often happens at times of radical growth and change, my Big Long Open Gash is recalibrating.

I do miss the simpler times, times when I was younger, freer and with less responsibility. I feel a great pull to take things away, off my plate, to calm myself and my environment. Though we live in such a lush place right on the river, the city of New York sits right over the hill, beckoning, pulsing, shining.

Meanwhile, it’s Sunday, and I just want to stop everything in my life and melt into these endless hours. I don’t want to work on anything, and yet I have commitments I’ve made, meetings to take, many emails to send and multiple projects to move forward.

All I want is to live here in my home, writing my books, bringing people together, creating beauty and community and family and life. Beautiful life. It aches, at this time. My heart aches thinking of all that I’ve been through and from whence I have just come. I haven’t told you this explicitly. I was pregnant over Christmas. I went to Australia and lost a little beating heart there. Part of me wishes I never saw that little flicker on a dark monitor in Mount Gambier. Part of me wishes I never left the green hills of Pennsylvania for my first home.

But my family were there, and I had to go. It had been two years since I’d been back. It’s getting easier now to see my childhood home. I used to be sad that the color of the walls kept changing, that the furniture kept shifting, that my bedroom wasn’t mine anymore, that I slept in the room where I once learnt piano. I broke down in tears once in the kitchen late after a long haul flight because the clock wasn’t on the wall where it used to be, and my eyes couldn’t find it. Small things. Big things.

I try to find time to write, but so many other things fill my time now. I sneak hours in the morning and at night, and my eyes well with water when I admit that I don’t write as much as I want, that I feel disconnected from my truth, from my honesty, from who I am. I haven’t told you that I was pregnant, because to be honest I could hardly believe that I had lost something so precious. I have dreamt of being a mother for many years, perhaps for as long as I can remember. It’s in our bones, we women, little or tall.

I don’t know what else to tell you, except that this experience has been one of the most challenging times in my entire life, condensed into a series of months. I’ve never known grief like that. I’ve never known loss like that. I’ve never known the blunt hand of death, and life, like that. I learnt a lot about letting go, about letting things be, about recalibrating, realigning, recreating. “It wasn’t the right time.” “I’m glad we have these extra months.” “Nature knows best,” people tell me.

All I could tell myself was Go through the forest. Do not turn back. Do not stop. Keep moving. You are safe. You are loved. You are protected. The grieving process was sly and surprising. The first week I went up and down, repelled by anything to do with babies, the next moment talking about sweet names again. The weeks following I could speak about the experience as if I had perspective, as if it was done and I was through. Little did I know that the mass of dark trees would suddenly appear one Monday night in the early hours across the horizon of my consciousness.

Oh, I have arrived.

I went through that forest and out the other side, having felt all of the pain, all of the hurt, all of the sense of injustice, and all of the shame. Life is perfect, how could this have happened? I had to come to terms with a voice inside me that said yes, you too are mortal and subject to the forces of life and death. I started reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying amongst countless books on pregnancy, birth, motherhood and parenting. In dealing with the great death of a tiny being, I filled myself with knowledge of life. I never knew the valleys of human existence could dip so deep.

What now? I am stronger. I am still healing, and hurting. Every month when I bleed it seems a new facet of sadness expresses itself. The well goes deep. I cry as I write this. I can’t stop the water, nor do I want to. My love is out at the store, wearing his hat with the feathers in it, finding food for dinner. Our ‘best being’ Joseph Peter is here for a day or so. We sit at the kitchen table sharing the small loaf of bread I baked this morning, dipping it in oil and salt, slathering it with coconut oil and raw honey, and drinking the beetroot juice that Isaac has made.

He cooks for me whenever he is here, and it’s such nourishment he gives to me. I can’t explain the love we share, it’s not even ‘his’ love, nor ‘my’ love, just an all encompassing love that floats us on an ocean of grace, gratitude, peace and security. I want to tell you more about him, and us, as time passes. It’s true that across the five year span that has passed since I moved to this country, since I began this blog, since I co-created Paper Castle Press, much has happened: so much that my life and myself have changed dramatically, and I have to check in with myself, and you, every so often, to make sure I’m still telling the truth. My truth.

It’s easy to pretend that everything’s okay, that one can keep spinning plates without smashing one, even though your arms are getting heavy and you’re not sure you’re meant for that job. I am not a CEO, nor am I anything much else but she who writes, loves, lives lovingly and shares her view from this particular crux of life. I don’t want a lot. In fact, I want to rewind and retune, go back to the simpler things, slow down and savor more of this nowness called life.

This is what I’ll continue to be, and strive to keep doing. Baking bread, being the woman that I am, and sharing myself freely. You know me well enough now that I can’t keep things bottled in. I’ll die somewhere if I do. Here’s to honesty, freedom, simplicity and beauty. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you my secret sooner. It feels so good to open up in that place of the heart.

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GRASPING UPON GASPING

Oh, there are times, there are times. Times when all seems quiet and yet with so many words. Times when there is such silence and such noise. I am speaking of the slowness and the quickness. I am speaking of the sense that life rushes, and yet is as methodically slow as it has always been. I know you feel this too. I think it’s stronger when you have dreams buried deep in your chest, your abdomen, the soles of your feet, in your eyes. I have dreams there. They call to me, and I can’t come to them quickly enough. They visit me in the night. Don’t leave me! I am always going and approaching. Do we ever arrive? I think the only true arrivals are birth and death. Everything else is a cleaving together of matter upon matter. Waiting upon waiting. Holding upon holding. Grasping upon gasping.

I feel at home here with the creatures who keep me company. From the first weeks we moved here, I’ve kept a mental diary of all the animals we have seen. I feel I know their spirits intimately. I am so grateful for their sweet souls, their fierce protections, their wild calls in the dusk as they fly over my head by the fires I build. The deer and the geese are always here. No matter what the season. My breath catches in this feeling of homeliness, the feeling that I am wrapped in the fabric of my own soul. I love the way the ground comes alive in this spring time, the way the grass suddenly turns technicolour, the way The Wizard of Oz comes alive. I love the way the white blossoms smell, the musky dusk of the trickling water and the hay on the banks, the resounding symphony of frogs whose imperfectly perfect music is better than any thing I can hear elsewhere.

I love that life loves me here, and that I love this life with the very force of my own existence. I know how lucky we are to be here on this planet. In 120 years none of us will be here anymore. The entire planet renews itself. Life is tenuous and yet ever straining, ever bubbling in the mud, quietly waiting, for its time to come.

Deer

Geese

Crane

Beaver

Turtle

Frog

Hummingbird

Carpenter Bee

Groundhog

Fox

Bat

 Firefly

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ASKING

“The last of ones freedoms is to choose one’s attitude.”  – Victor Franke 

Why am I writing a book for women? Because I want to heal women’s relationship with food and their relationship towards themselves.

Why am I writing a book about a fictional Prince? Because I want to empower young people today to walk their own path, free of limitations and constraints. I want them to believe, to know that anything is possible and that they don’t have to follow the suggestions of their society.

Why do I want to have children? Because my heart bursts thinking about the wonder and joy that children bring, the things they say, the way they see the world – which is how I see the world, essentially. Because I want to teach them what I know about the world and how it is fundamentally a good place when you see it to be so.

Why am I publishing my blog in book form? Because I want the writing I put into the digital archives of a web log to be made solid and true. Because I want to see what I have written in the real world and to share the explorations of my life, and what I have found, with others.

Why am I afraid? Because I am human, because the world can be a treacherous and unpredictable place, because I don’t know what’s coming next, although I try to make things predictable and stable. Because I am fundamentally wary of change as a human, for it may  destabilize what has already grown strong and stable. I am afraid of what I might become and what I might not become.

Why am I courageous? Because I have been alive for 27 years, and I have found the best love I could ever imagine – and with it within me, I can go anywhere, and do anything I choose. Because I know there is a power within me that can survive anything, and when tapped, can carry me through anything. Because I know myself to be so.

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EARLY THOUGHTS

By Sophie, circa 1986

Posted in ON THE COSMOS | 2 Comments

WILDER CHAPTERS

My boat has tipped over. I’m in the water, wet, annoyed, frustrated and upset. I don’t like this at all. When I was younger I had my feet in the water, safe on the shore. Soon I ventured out to see if I could stomach the waves. They splashed over my body and I was fine. Then, I was given a surf board. I learnt to ride the waves, to work with their power, and to understand that I could never really get hurt this way, it was just water falling over me.

When I grew older I was invited into my very own boat. I accepted the invitation. I went out to sea and all was very well. I enjoyed the sensation of sailing, of rowing, of moving about in any direction I liked. There was the sun, the glistening sea, the beautiful waves, and I marveled at all of it whenever I chose – the night sky, the deep ocean dark, the horizons I had left and that which I was heading towards, imagining, as a mirage, what I might find there. I never contemplated reaching land again. For me, life was the sea. To reach land again was the end of the horizons, of course it was death. I didn’t expect any horizons for some time, and yet I knew that there would be at least one at some point. That sand would be a homecoming, and yet the experience would be different from that of my youth, when I’d first dipped my toes in the sea, at the beginning of this inexplicable journey.

So you can imagine how much of a shock it was when my sturdy and trustworthy boat – that which I had used so gratefully to survey the scenery around me and within me, that which had supported and carried me – suddenly ceased to do so, and was capsized by a particularly large wave. It cannot be fathomed exactly what caused the large wave, nor can it be said to have been any more disruptive to an alternate animal. It was disruptive to me, however, and my boat. Here I was, with everything that I had known to be trustworthy now upside down and drifting through a fathomless sea. I am attempting to find the oars for the first time. I am more tired than I have ever been.

I must add that my sole purpose for being in this boat and on this sea in the first place, is that I have had a particular map with me for a very long time. This map is very old and very worn, and yet it feels as if  it has been written into the palm of my hand. I cannot lose it and it cannot lose me. The map is my path, it shows me True North. It also points out the terrain with all its previously experienced pitfalls and chasms, the previously surveyed scenery, as it stood before. Time honored and trust-worthy, the map is my compass. However, the map cannot predict sudden phenomena along the path. It can only show you your location on said path.

How can I pay close attention to the map when I am using my hands to stay afloat in a suddenly frightful sea? How can I use the map now when I’m treading such deep water? I feel (sadly) the map is useless now – I need to focus on getting my boat back in the upright position, and starting again toward the goal. The goal seems far from my mind at this time. There are more pressing matters to attend to. Thankfully from previous sailing lessons, I know exactly how to turn a boat that has capsized. I take a tethered rope and throw it across the upturned hull. Each action takes enormous effort and energy. At some point soon I will grab the rope with both my hands, plant my feet at the edge of the vessel, and pull continuously. This will right the boat.

But, I must gather some strength first. My fears are that I will tire and stop fighting the urge to relax into the deep. I fear both relaxing into the deep, and the potentially dangerous creatures which science says I’d be likely to find down there. So, there is desire to relax and a desire to fight. I chose to take moments of both, preventing descent but also tempering the speed at which I move forward. I don’t want to wear myself out. I keep breathing. It is the one thing continual at this time.

Eventually, I will get back in the boat. I soon notice that there are benevolent creatures who are assisting me, even as I think I’m doing it “by myself.” There’s a very kind sea turtle who allows me to rest on her shell every so often, and a dolphin who reminds me of the joy that is always available to experience. There are great whales who sing to me from very far away, comforting and rebalancing me, and numerous fish, porpoises and birds, too, calling from what feels to be a very far distance.

image by Matthew Cordell

As I’m paddling in the water, gaining new confidence, I suddenly remember that I have a map that’s always been with me. It has been hard to dismiss it, through all of this effort and wetness. It has been hard to admit to myself that yes, this happened, and your pretty boat with its sturdy confidence and your optimistic outlook, was capsized. We cannot tell you why. You are doing a great job getting back in again. Isn’t it interesting also from this perspective? I feel annoyed with the map and those who wrote it, and slightly disgruntled that I’m stuck with the same map, whose destination I’m not sure I’ll ever reach. I realize that the going is what’s most important, that the following of the map is honorable, and that the diligence in keeping my boat seaworthy and my outlook bright are both conducive to a more enjoyable adventure.

Writing is my map, and the boat is this body, my vessel. The ocean is life itself and the destination is not knowable. It’s an ongoing process, this journey with writing. Who am I and why am I here? I am a sailor and I’m on an adventure. 

Posted in LOVE LETTER TO LIFE, MY MUSINGS, ON THE COSMOS | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments
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