A story or poem follows me around for a while, I write it down to get it out of my head and sometimes after rereading it seems universal enough that I hope it might also speak to someone else.
At the end of this first year of blogging the one thing that has become clear is the photography and the writing seem to be morphing into one, the photograph being the muse for the words or the words for the photograph.....and then a quote I find from someone who had the talent to put what I am trying to say into a few precise sentences.
As my dear friend reminded me recently "it is all just confetti"
Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were behind you, like the winter that has just gone by. For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter that only by wintering through it will your heart survive.
Rainer Maria Rilke
We arrived at the crossroads while wandering in the woods, it was so perfectly aligned, so quietly asking for a decision…..right or left, no easy answer, no promise that one direction would lead towards a place less difficult to traverse.
The direction chosen did not matter and the timing of the arrival of no consequence. There was no invitation to linger, just a gentle request to lift one foot and hope the ground held as you lifted the other to propel yourself forward.
The ‘winter’ we are inhabiting promises to be ‘endlessly winter’ and those whose hearts survive will have shed something that cannot be named, leaving it behind like a snake’s skin. Whatever path we choose, most will lead to the base of the mountain.
The mountain is the true ‘wintering’, from it’s base all paths call you to that place “ahead of all parting” and ask that you arrive alone, trailing the substance of life in your wake “as though it already were behind you.”
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give Bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
– Derek Walcott
…..As I put the key into the lock and opened the door to ‘the loft’ on this distant island that feels so very far from home, this poem came to mind. It is a piece that has haunted me for a few years perhaps because I don’t want the message to be true.
There is no ‘magical other’ waiting to save us from ourselves or from the circling storm of uncertainty that surrounds us.
There is a welcome shedding of expectation that comes from the words, a sigh of relief that the only goal is to “give back your heart to itself” and “peel your own image from the mirror.” Those things in themselves appear to be insurmountable right now but when compared with continuing this exhausting upstream swim, the image of simply floating with the current back to my “own door” is indeed a feeling of “elation.”
The latch is well worn, many have opened it and returned …..
“You are being called, we are all being called. We stumbled upon the Hero’s Journey and now there is no turning back. We know too much, overcame too many trials and received initiation into the Great Mystery, the river will not release us without a struggle. We asked to be conscious, we cannot become unconscious…it is too late for that. We are reluctant heroes.
TheEmpty Handed Offering
What does an Empty Handed Offering consist of?
I am not sure, but my gut tells me it looks something like the walking forward of this photograph. No idea what it actually is, or if it even exists. I hope to attempt an answer over the next eight months. A series of synchronicities has allowed me access to a small loft over the winter that is located on a remote island a few ferry rides away.
I have taken to calling it “A Room of One’s Own”. Full disclosure, I have not read in its entirety “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf but now have a copy in hand and will finish it before the first departure of my solo journey. Books, art supplies, camera and hopes for inspiration will travel with me as I move back and forth every few weeks from ‘home’ to ‘room’ with the question of the “Empty Handed Offering”.
I was born on the Winter Solstice, each year there is comfort in knowing that the days become longer, the light returns slowly from that day forward. This year I enter another decade of life, more decades are now behind than in front.
This opportunity is the perfect gift, a room of one’s own and a question that can only be answered walking forward with hands and heart open… into the ‘Great Mystery’
The summer is slipping away, you feel it in the cool of the dawn before the dew evaporates.
It is in the darkness arriving minutes sooner as each day comes to a close.
These times have been at once, strange, tragic and transformative. We are lurching towards a Fall that is unpredictable and unknown at best.
The poem below has been appearing for me in partial and complete form many times in the last few days and I want to share it before “The Summer Day” has passed.
The last two lines are ones I will be repeating to myself daily as we edge slowly forward.
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
It is a negligence of the mind not to notice how at dusk Heron comes to the pond and stands there in his death robes, perfect servant of the system, hungry, his eyes full of attention, his wings pure light.
A photographic series….
This beautiful creature allowed me to sit very close and still while it ‘fished’ I witnessed the catch, the positioning as it prepared to eat and most disturbing to me the final look of the fish as it peeked over it’s bill and prepared to enter the gullet of the Heron.
The cruelty and beauty of nature on a late summer evening.
” In a world where everything is ridiculous nothing can be ridiculed. You cannot unmask a mask.” G.K. Chesterton
A DAY IN A LIFE
And then there is this……travelling back from town my eye caught the blur of a motorcycle coming up on the left. I asked my passenger to attempt to catch the image as it passed, here is the result. Clown? Skeleton?
He was social distancing and wearing a mask, following all the guidelines. Nothing to see here. The reaction of the three occupants of the car ranged from laughter to horror and affected us individually as a piece of impromptu performance art.
Later, walking in the wind and rain on a deserted beach my thoughts strayed to the masks we all wear. Recently I attended what was billed as a Public Information Meeting for a controversial development project. It was hardly ‘public’, tickets obtained online, twelve people to a sitting, masks mandatory and cut off for tickets five days before the ‘event’. Covid used as a mask to prevent an actual public event. The ‘public’ attendees were masked the presenters were not, but we were all masked in one way or another.
Speaking during the question period, my words muffled through the mask, I felt a strange comfort with only my eyes revealed and facial expressions hidden. The anonymity and calmness that it provided was in stark contrast to the verbal attacks that came my way. I realized that even if we had not been physically masked our daily mask(s) would have been our armor.
“You cannot unmask a mask“
We live in strange, tragic and interesting times, clowns on motorcycles, clowns in power……. where the majority of us put on our physical masks and wait for the opportunity to be able to remove them and breathe deeply again. Finding it harder to ‘breathe’ to find our personal authenticity to find that place where we can see ourselves and others naked, maskless and all vulnerably human clinging to the illusion of Control.
The Sweeper. Banksy
If you want to say something and have people listen you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honestyou have to live a lie.
“A life that is truly lived is constantly burning away the veils of illusion, gradually revealing the essence of the individual.” Marion Woodman
Wandering almost always takes me to the edge of the ocean, especially if I wander alone. These days that seems to be my preference. The last wander brought me to a beach that was deserted except for two young girls who appeared to be about ten years old. Close to the shore they had fashioned a structure out of driftwood and returned to the water’s edge to find something to use as siding.
Seaweed, thick, wide and long proved to be the perfect material. I watch as one of the girls held two strands, one on each shoulder. It gave the impression of a veil from my vantage point. Her companion followed her lead and they both squealed in delight as they headed back to their ‘house’ trailing their gifts from the sea unaware of anyone watching in the distance…..I was the congregation, they were Brides of the Sea.
Brides of the Sea
Partially formed Mermaids Oceanic without curves trailing seaweed veils skin of the sea, from small bare shoulders unable yet to carry the weight of the world.
My heart calls out… Be Brides of the Sea ride the swells surrender to the crest the trough, the holy trinity Earth, Moon, Sea
No paper hearts No man-made veils, love, honor, obey all that isn’t spoken, one deep dive Body, Heart, Soul.
“There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.” Adrienne Rich
OFF MAP -FOLLOW THE TERRAIN
“Sit down and weep”, not something I have considered during this period of containment. I own but have not read a book titled “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept”. I like the title so well I am not sure I will ever read what is inside. Weeping appears to be a more enlightened form of crying. Do we weep for humanity and cry for ourselves?
I want to learn how to ‘weep’ and then search out ‘those among’ us who could acknowledge my strength as a warrior. My hope is they are waiting somewhere ‘off map’, beyond the beyond.
This poem by Joyce Rupp, OLD MAPS NO LONGER WORK speaks to that part that yearns to go ‘off map’ and discover new terrain… perhaps that decision has already been made for us.
like the lion in the moonlight,
not in expectation but
longing for the gifts that hover
just beyond our grasp
hoping for an invitation,
the magic hour begins
the veil briefly lifted.
Darkness defines Light,
dew, the momentary threshold
releases our trembling fragility
“the shimmering of the web”
this alchemy of dawn,
dimensions where words wait
the moment being witnessed.
remove the shoes of the past the door was always open
these days when words fail us and so many need to be heard, I offer these “two words” in a quote from Richard Wagamese……..
“Sometimes people just need to talk. They need to be heard. They need the validation of my time, my silence, my unspoken compassion. They don’t need advice, sympathy or counselling. They need to hear the sound of their own voices speaking their own truths, articulating their own feelings, as those may be at a particular moment.
Then, when finished, they simply need a nod of the head, a pat on the shoulder or a hug.
I am learning that sometimes silence really is golden, and that sometimes “Fuck, eh?” is as spiritual a thing as needs to be said.
Richard Wagamese. Embers One Ojibway’s Meditations (2013)
“I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
“I want to unfold”
I have retreated to my garden. ‘Social distancing’ in a garden introduces a whole new social order, a separate society carrying on totally oblivious to the chaos and trauma being lived out by the human species.
This shy fellow and I have been playing hide and seek for the last few days. I would disturb his sunbathing and he would retreat into the log he calls home. Today I caught him sleeping and ‘folded.’
I feel my folded parts unfolding day by day. This moment in time has given us all much to consider. How we treat and care for our fellow human beings and the more-than-human-beings will determine how our shared future unfolds.
Holland House Library London September 1940 morning after an Air Raid
“Order in the midst of Disorder, Outside but also Inside”
This photograph, taken the day after an Air Raid on London in the Fall of 1940 has lived as an icon on my desktop for a few years.
I click on it intermittently to remind myself how resilient we are as human beings. Story-telling animals who in the midst of chaos and uncertainty keep moving forward. Reading, writing and telling our story as part of our survival.
Split screen, calm and chaos, our story being written day by day.