Seeing the dance

Maybe my religion is beauty. If I define religion as the beliefs and views we accept on faith, that may or may not be true for others but is true for us. For me, for you, for others – whatever is true for them. 

Some artists reveal beauty through everything and everyone. Every moment of grace. An invitation into seeing the beauty of a flock of birds gathering in flight, soaring across the park. I didn’t see it until an artist painted all the shapes and ways that a bird could be seen in flight – and from that point forward, it marked my ordinary mundane moments, of walking through Belmore park and seeing the huge flock of pigeons with the occasional scattering of ibis’ and seagulls, take flight, no doubt, something or someone had intrigued them on the other side of the park – food, undoubtedly involved.

Most of the time art doesn’t land with me that way. There is always going to be art that resonates with you and art that doesn’t. The artist’s job, isn’t necessarily to reveal what is beautiful. If they draw forth an emotional response from me, or an intellectual one, I would say they succeeded. Though… it takes two, to see and be seen and I am not always going to be every artists ideal audience. There are emotional responses I enjoy having evoked… and emotional response I’d be happy to not seek out… and sometimes, responses that require maturity… where the art, not only didn’t land, but drew forth an immature reaction. But here’s where it gets interesting, several years later, present time, I am remembering that piece and my reaction… and I’ve realised, I missed the point, entirely. The purpose of that piece was an invitation to question the nature and the purpose of art itself, and the impulses that draw us into the context of galleries. 

Context… being the operative word here. That particular piece of art, a rusted something leaning against a wall, was post-modernistic. For me that evokes, “That’s a chair, but is it really a chair?” and If a tree fell in a forest and no one heard it, did the tree still fall? 

Those aren’t really questions expecting answers, and whoever that artist was/is, I am humbled and they have my deepest respect. 

Now I see, the nature of that piece of post-modernistic art, was to question. Often, uncomfortably. Because what is up for review, is the previously held belief about something. In this case, the previously held belief I had, about art. But it doesn’t make it smaller… the only reason I would fight to keep that old belief about art, is because it threatens the status quo, it threatens what art means to me by asking me to question it… how I relate to art… and what I measure art as, by, with. For instance – talent, skill, finesse, detail, abstraction, process, communication. And not necessarily, all in the same piece/work. But if those measurements are no longer operative… how do I know who I am in terms of my understanding and approach to seeing art? Suddenly, I no longer know, what art is, only that the very medium, has been used, to question itself.

That’s a very… uncomfortable thing… to do. To witness an artist and their art, invite you to do. There is an impulse to guard against the chaos that I sense, will ensue. And that’s exactly what I did, insisted it wasn’t art, and went on my merry way.

But now I also have to question… what is that insistence keeping apart, at a distance? And what does it really serve? I confess, art is my subject here because I don’t have my hands in the clay – in the mediums that are art. There is an objectivity that feels safe to me… and a subjectivity that isn’t intimately tied into my sense of identity. If it were, these questions would be much more difficult.

Letting go of a previous belief… is like that. Letting go of my previous belief about art… didn’t make my understanding of art shrink. Letting go of a previous belief… doesn’t make the subject of that belief… smaller. It makes it wider. It makes more room. It makes more space. It invites, more acceptance. 

No one ever passes from the beginning to the ending… by skipping the middle… the process… for me that included anger, justification, riling for, riling against. I can take that to mean that something is shifting, there is a desire for that shift, and there exists an equally powerful impulse… for it not to shift. 

And… seeing that dance, is presently… the beauty of it. 

Sand

Apricity

You are such a solid enigma. Filled with frightful colours, bold and daring and tender and hurt. It’s in your lips and your touch. You touch me with softness, like I am something precious, like I am a darling. Tender and worth loving. 

Listening to Apricity makes me feel like crying now. I knew how it was and where we would leave each other. I stayed present for you, I felt your lips on mine, I felt the intensity of your lips on mine, your body, your weight. The feeling of you, how solid you were. That was amazing. I would have stayed if I hadn’t been learning how to love and respect myself. That’s what it was, but actually it really was a lot of things. I’ve made sense of them. We’re on a path heading towards different patches of blue sky. But I have known your depth, your warmth, your kindness, and in your darkness I see, you’re human. 

I see, I’m human, that we’re all just in this life thing together, even when we’re lonely and coming apart on the floor, in a bottle, in the high, or the pain, or the scars, in the destructive things we do to run, to hide, to feel, to scream in silence, how much are we struggling beneath the weight of our world?

I can feel that, I can feel where mine ends and yours begin, where yours end and mine starts. I’ve met you in all the people I’ve met before you, and I’ll meet you again in the people I haven’t met yet. 

Isn’t that a story? 

When I started writing Apricity, I wrote these words down to anchor what the piece was about; 

The present is past is here is gone. You build stories and worlds out of your identities. Make them beautiful. Make them truthful. Believe in yourself, but give your past a place of acknowledgement. It made you who you are.

I think things always get worse before they get better. Sometimes we do things to show other people that we’re decent human beings. I think all that reveals, is exactly how human we are. Apricity is the warmth of the sun on our skin in Winter. 

You inspired this piece… because in the time we spent together, I felt so much warmth. When I looked for a word to describe the feeling, this was it. You sprinkled sunlight onto my winter soul, you met me in my vulnerability, and said, but I see you, and you are beautiful. In all those moments, you left me a little softer. I’m in a world of my own making. Deeply blue. Softly healed… and not ready to be broken again. I’m going to leave the rawness behind in this piece, for the reason that life… like love, is also messy. And when you’re alone… feeling all the depth of your pain, I hope you take a moment to feel the apricity in this world too.

Apricity

July, 2017

From Merriam-Webster online:

Definition

: the warmth of the sun in winter

About the Word

This word provides us with evidence that even if you come up with a really great word, and tell all of your friends that they should start using it, there is a very small chance that it will catch on. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his dictionary The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words. Despite the fact that it is a delightful word for a delightful thing it never quite caught on, and will not be found in any modern dictionary aside from the Oxford English Dictionary.

~*~

Sand

We Remain

I remember back in 2016, I was listening to this song sometime after dinner. The house was deserted. It was the year that I found myself cracked open and this song buoyed me. 

All the ways that you think you know me,

All the limits that you figured out,

limits that you figured out,

mmm,

had to learn to keep it all below me,

just to keep from being thrown around,

just to keep from being thrown around,

yeah,

every single time the wind blows,

every single time the wind blows,

i see it in your face,

mmm,

in the cold night

there will be no fair fight,

there will be no good night,

to turn and walk away,

so burn me with fire,

drown me with rain,

i’m going weightless

screaming your name,

yes i’m a sinner

yes i’m a saint

whatever happens here,

whatever happens here,

we remain.

I was drawn to shadow work, not out of mere curiosity but because I had this sinking feeling that if I didn’t confront my demons, I would live out the same stories again and play the same scripts in my life with others.

Winston Churchill once famously said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” It was my refrain.

My naivety died that year, opening me to what I saw as weakness for landing myself in that relationship to begin with. Were I to speak to that younger self now, I would say, no sweetheart, you are not weak, you are human, experiencing a bottoming out of life for the first time. Grow.

I found expressions for rage, for anger, vulnerability, for love and tenderness, sensuality, for courage and strength, to fight and to surrender. Movement and dance became an invitation to drop in… judgement ceased to exist when one flows. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains this concept as a state of consciousness we experience when engaged in creative work where our skill set is equal to the challenge… or simply, whatever it is that lights us up.

In the healing, I realised I was the one that had no boundaries. That bottoming out could be seen as an invitation to develop strength and courage… that we don’t have to be psychic to deepen into our intuition. To experience our emotions more fully, to experience my dysfunction more entirely, to experience the barren landscape of despair, so that I learned, the extent to which we experience despair is also the extent to which we can feel joy.

In the healing, I realised that whatever was dysfunct in my life and yours, did not begin in our dance but was rooted further back in our lives. Does anyone come through childhood unscathed? How crazy, to settle for believing that’s just the way the world is. Would we still be here if women said that to themselves 200 years ago? 

I realised how sad… how sad… how sad I was. How sad I was becoming, that there was a reality looming on the horizon that made me uncontrollably sad… that this life could disappear beneath the waves and I would have failed in all that I came to do. In that moment, crouched by the side of the road with the darkness and the streetlights around me, that possibility scared me more than the unknown… the kind of death with no rebirth.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes put its, you fight to save your instinctual life. Her essays in Women Who Run with the Wolves, brought the archetype of the Wild Woman back into our consciousness… a reminder that domestication kills the wild spirit in us. It kills the part of us that is regenerative, full of creative life and power. In the culture of patriarchy, we lost this. In the political interest of patriarchy’s dominant religion, we lost our wisdom keepers. And in that loss, it is not merely women who can feel this emptiness but men too. 

Choices that feel like life or death – the slow kind, where one goes through the motions of life and work… drowning the truth of what has happened or is happening, is a death choice, no matter the reasoning. When I see you, I see your story and how it could’ve also been mine… perhaps with different characters and changes in the plotline… but you did not arrive at this point in your life without making all the choices you did… and I forgive myself. When made, life choices draw beautiful energy to them, doors open and you go through them and what you need arrives like a gift.

Fear is not a dragon to be slayed but a curious ally sometimes.

Halfway around the world… all things from childhood began surfacing. Understanding began to dawn in places that held shame and blame. Events that once held a shape larger than they merited… began to shrink in perspective. I learned that I could draw boundaries, that I could offer forgiveness and kindness and still express where my boundaries are. That I am enough, that I am worthy and my needs are real and they matter. I could offer that nothing we do… is unforgivable… and still choose not to re-experience the past. 

What does it mean… that a woman can judge another for being too free in her expression? Too playful, too flirtatious? What does it mean… when the offhand remarks she makes, places blame on her own sex? Is she aware of her own patriarchal conditioning… or has it faded into the background of life? How far would she have to go, to uncover her own pain?

How much it would hurt, to have everything heaved open, to upheave the life that has been built over decades… how much hurt is repressed?

How many years of patriarchal conditioning have we experienced in our histories? How did patriarchy take root? Sometimes there are no answers that suffice.

Out here, climbing mountains, stone walls, trudging across abandoned farms because I’d forgotten which path I’d taken… I learned to trust myself. Witnessing the chaos of life, I love it. I love the blue skies, the surrounding mountains, the traditional garb, the stray dogs… the bareness… of what is real. Of this life. Of my own privilege… I’ve learned, what that truly means.

I choose to experience my creativity fully. And that ones sexuality, is never, an invitation. That erotic energy is also creative energy and that the dance of life comes out of this spiral. 

Here, I learned to love. A different kind of love. A forgiving kind of love. A love that says… bloom… bloom… bloom.

Out here, away from everything else that is there, I understand the only person we can begin to heal is ourselves and that is enough. That we came together to witness each other, and that perhaps, we can carry the truth of each others innocence, deep within.

When you express the love you feel, when you express a desire to see me more fully, when you invite others to expand, when you see beauty… without needing to possess it… when you bear witness and offer strength and solidarity, you bring the healing. 

I am deeply grateful for your presence… for your guidance… for your truth… and for your faith in me. I am moved by the love you extend to me, the compassion you extend for me… not out of sympathy or pity but out of a deep inner knowing. In the way you witnessed me, you empowered me. 

I learned, to ask… what is here? What am I learning? And in my frustration, near to tears, the answer that came was merely, patience.

I know that stories will evolve and shift and wear new costumes as times change, but ultimately these stories belong to the collective and where there is resonance, there is universality. I have compassion for where we are in the process of becoming. I have compassion for the parts of me that have been afraid. For the parts of me that I disowned. For the parts of me now yearning for expression. To have boundaries and to honour them. To taste the mysteries of life. Eve’s story needs a re-write. To live is to experience life’s joys and life’s sorrows. Knowledge is not a sin and women are not responsible for men’s repressed lust. Before the snake was re-appropriated to represent ‘evil’ it was a symbol of regeneration.

To hear the judgements… and say… I know… and I am sorry. I know… and I forgive you. I know… and I am choosing a new story. I know… and I honour my truth, my boundaries and the life I am creating. That really, endings are merely beginnings… all beginnings come out of endings… so death, can be a doorway to life… to all that renews itself. To the rebirth, come Spring… and to the re-awakening of what is true for you.

July, 2019

Sand

Softness in the wilderness of surrender

(I don’t own this image. If you know who it belongs to, I’d love to credit them, or I’d be happy to take it down, otherwise.)

I

What is the magic that you hold to your chest?

In the thrums of your heart, beating its rhythm against your bones?

You are living poetry.

~

I don’t think the past is something you want to go lugging around… I don’t think the past wants to keep being dragged, mercilessly into the present, because I don’t think the dead want to crawl out of their graves to entertain your sorrows. They are only your sorrows because you’ve refused to let them go.

~

please… hold onto them as long as you like… treasure them as meticulously as the cranes you are folding… counting yourself to a thousand.

~

close your eyes and make a wish.

~

because you’ve spent half your life, making space for it, it’s time. time likes to flow as the seasons do – change – observe – mountains with clouds floating by, make good sceneries for zen poems… love poems… and soft kisses.

~

but now it’s time to love this soft human, warm blooded body of yours, because how long are you going to breath in this world through your skin and your magic? the one in your chest, beating its rhythm onto your bones. the thrum, steady thrum of this life of yours.

~

with time, even mountains change.

~*~

II

Sleep chases after me as I try to find words to fit into my heart, my mouth, words slipping out of the pores of my skin. Somehow, I cannot find them, I cannot contain them, I cannot morph them like a smithy cleverly sharpening her tools. I forgot… that because these are words, I cannot make them something else.

~*~

III

Surrender. She is a curious creature with a soft belly, a warm hide, basking in the delight of Summer’s heat and Springtime rain. Surrender… is like a river… flowing to the Sea… this is a metaphor… I love, that the Sea is a body, my body… your body… the Earth’s body… the depth, the deep, murmur of unconscious… wisdom… and also fear… the womb, the place of birth, creation… and the rivers… our veins, carrying our blood, carrying our death, our pollution… our waste… our healing? What do the rivers carry? What do they mean?

She said write… honestly… she said… examine your traumas, fears, wounds… face them… there is a healing…. in this kind of poetry… of letting it be.

~*~

IV

I stare at a blank page and wonder what words I can put across it, to soothe the restless, to invite the softness, now, the softness, of a beating heart, quietly rising chest like the maps of a well traversed terrain, breathing…

~

At what surrender feels like. these moments in time, these lessons in silence, in sound, the breath, is going home… sinking a little deeper. I remember the feeling of the cold stream on my feet, I remember the feeling of burning… and the coolness of the waterfall, soothing this earthly, fleshy carriage… vehicle… sanctuary… temple… I reside in. I remember what it felt like, to lay my heart bare, in whispers, in the heart of stillness, in the embodied invitation, words, inviting you back home.

~*~

V

Reading Rumi felt like my heart had been thirsty and I didn’t even know. Hearing the truth, seeing it in its squiggles, particular squiggles that my mind had been taught to coalesce into meaning… felt like the subtle hand of something else, beyond these walls, beyond the rationalism I mistook for over-thinking and judgement. I didn’t think I could believe in god… I don’t think I do, not God, layered with dogmatism and concepts too narrow and constrictive, to breath properly. But whatever this feeling is, whatever this feeling is, softness, surrender, movement, flow… joy, ecstasy… I could believe.

~*~

VI

You know, you are here. in this moment. take a look around… at all the beauty in your life… even the cracks… are blooming now, with sunlight and wild surrender. Wild, wild power. You know, when you follow those winding paths into the woods of your unconscious, you’re learning to take responsibility for the healing of your wounds… you think… but when you get deeper into the shadows, when they engulf you, swallow you whole, what do you realise? the joy of being. the truth of your experiences. the (w)hole of nothingness. the deep, deep pool of reflections, revealing your sharp teeth, dishevelled hair and sharp claws. the primality of that creature you see.

~*~

VII

feel her.

~*~

Sand

Human condition: Wild

“… the maiden represents the heartfelt and formerly sleepy psyche. But a warrior-heroine lies beneath her soft exterior. She has the endurance of the lone wolf. She is able to bear the dirt, grime, betrayal, hurt, loneliness, and exile of the initiate.” (pg.452)

“In the underworld birth, a woman learns that anything that brushes by her is a part of her. Sometimes this differentiation of all aspects of the psyche is hard to do, especially with the tendencies and urges we find repulsive. The challenge of loving unappealing aspects of ourselves is as much of an endeavour as any heroine has ever undertaken. … For the majority of women, mothering and raising the internal selves is a creative work, a way of knowledge, not a reason for becoming unnerved.” (pg.467)

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Women Who Run with the Wolves

I hope you come into this life chasing fire,

opening your eyes and your hearts,

your selves to the deep inner wisdom

and the universe within,

dear sister,

your sacredness belongs to you –

your body;

let me say that you need not share it to feel worthy,

nor share it to belong,

nor share it to conform,

you need not share it because someone looked at you

and said a thousand things you didn’t know you could say to yourself,

you need not share it because you fear not being enough,

you cannot measure how worthy you are

as a goal or a place to get to,

it is not some distance on the horizon,

an arbitrary shape or a number on the scale,

you cannot step onto it in the morning 

or in the evening 

or at any point during your day,

your worth, dear sister,

is you as every self conceivable;

the you in the mirror

and the you screaming at the sky,

the you drowning in the sea of your emotions

and the you laughing as the wind tickles your skin,

the you running a marathon

or the you sleeping til past noon,

the you showing up

and the escape artist in you,

how many selves are layered into the body that you wear?

take the kindness to know them,

every existence in the fire,

burning and untamed,

every existence in the waters,

flowing and alive,

every existence in the winds,

idealistic and poetic,

every existence in the earth,

erotic and sensual,

every existence in the shadow,

dying and liberated

in the darkness of the womb,

new beginnings

in the light of the dawn,

flesh, blood and bone,

an incantation to the wild;

sister,

wisdom is knowing your worth from inside out,

wisdom is knowing you have the power to know yourself,

wisdom is the work of a lifetime,

your birthright to being human,

look in the mirror and see,

you are the mystery

and the key,

the story 

and the teller…

the myth and the living,

embodied wisdom, 

truth and life.

This poem was inspired by a conversation, mostly one-sided, that I overheard between two guys a few days ago whilst waiting for the train. I remember thinking that I was glad the person sitting next to me wasn’t the person standing and asking questions, and right on the heels of that thought, I heard, “So how old is the slut you’re fucking?”

Shock ricocheted through me before the train came and I was gone. To me this feels like a conversation worth unpacking… not also because I felt a visceral repulsion or the coincidental timing of it… but because being a human being makes us part of this conversation.

Where were the women that shaped the experiences and life of a boy barely a man, posing this question? The question reveals more about him than his friend, who mumbled a reply that suggested he’d rather drop it… yet wasn’t quite willing enough to push the point across or defend his partner between the sheets.

It occurred to me later that the girl in question was, fucking his friend and not him. Was his remark, then, a defence mechanism for his own buried insecurity? Was he ever loved by his mother? Where did he learn to denigrate women with this double standard? Did women exist in his life or did his perspective come from men who simply passed on misogyny? Was everything just left to porn?

What immediately occupied my thoughts as I left, was my hope that she’d drop them both… and that for her to do that, what would have to shift?

The asking reflected back to me my own experience with self-worth. This particular moment, this conversation… I discovered, was one way to see the wound and feel into what is needed, what I needed.

I found myself pulling this classic Women Who Run with the Wolves, off the shelf to look for a quote and though I know I fell in love with Dr. Este’s writing… it still felt like a jolt – how much power lies in her work and how deeply rooted it is. If a hypothetical apocalypse came… and I had a time capsule to save three books, this would be one of them. Her wisdom is timeless.

“The ways and means of living with the instinctive nature are many, and the answers to your deepest questions change as you change, and as the world changes, so it cannot be said, “Do this, and this, in this particular order, and all will be well.” But, over my lifetime as I’ve met wolves, I have tried to puzzle out how they live, for the most part, in such harmony. So, for peaceable purposes, I would suggest you begin right now with any point on this list. For those who are struggling, it may help greatly to begin with number ten. (pg. 498)

General wolf rules for life:

1. Eat

2. Rest

3. Rove in between

4. Render loyalty

5. Love the children

6. Cavil in moonlight

7. Tune your ears

8. Attend to the bones

9. Make love

10. Howl often

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Women Who Run with the Wolves

Sand