From Out the Cave

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years that
you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way,
when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing you
remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

Joyce Sutphen

Standing Nonetheless

Today I had a very brief but heart-warming encounter with a little girl in the street. Walking back home this evening, I came upon a family group getting out of a car. They were obviously visiting someone close to them who had a birthday: one of them held a cake box, another had gifts. Amongst them, stood in the middle of the pavement, was a little girl of about five. She was holding, with both hands, the most enormous bunch of red roses, beautifully wrapped with ribbon. As I reached her and waited for a space to move along the path, she looked up at me with such a glorious smile – as bright and as wide as any I have seen – and said a big and enthusiastic ‘Hello!’, as if she had known me always and was utterly delighted to see me.

I had been feeling low all day; applying for jobs that I have no confidence in getting; juggling my lack of financial security with the absence of a place to live, resulting in the gnawing fear that I will not be able to materialise either… In the process, I had become horribly internalized, tightly circling my worries, closing down on the world outside. That little girl’s sheer joy  to see me – a complete stranger – was a jolt back into life for one wonderful moment; one little trusting and fearless face reminding me, for just a second, that I needed to step out of myself and stare pure joy in the eyes.

I am so damn tired all the time! The emotional strain of these last couple of weeks, coupled with the pressure to sort out the logistics of living and surviving after separating from my husband, have been tough to deal with. I have been floundering in my own shallows, wondering if all this frantic psychological flapping will reach a current that will propel me onwards into a happy and secure future. I am scared I will just remain flapping and exhaust myself, or worse, eventually suffocate. Friends advise that these are natural and normal fears given the circumstances; that this is early days and to take my time and be gentle with myself when I am feeling less than strong and capable. Sound advice and yet hard to feel amongst all the chaos and confusion.

Today gifted me with a moment to draw on during the inevitable times of emotional slump and slide. The little girl’s exuberant expression keeps poking at the raw edge of my tiredness and fear – it says that despite how I might be perceiving things, the world is really a lot of fun if you let it be; that passion and love still count for something, despite poverty, uncertainty or any number of struggles that one might face. Life can kick the feet out from beneath you but one bunch of vibrant roses and a child’s happiness, innocence and trust can help you to know that you still stand, admittedly on shaky ground, but standing nonetheless.


Three Paintings…

My good friend over at A Slippery Mind Blog, had the rather lovely idea of posting three paintings that had an emotional impact on him; in posting, he invited the viewer to explore their own responses. In this spirit, I post three of my own – not necessarily my favourite paintings but ones that draw me in some way…Do check out the images at A Slippery Mind also and see what you think. You can find them here:      

Judith Beheading Holofernes - Artemisia Gentileschi


Music Pink and Blue - Georgia O'Keeffe


Nonchaloir - John Singer Sargent


The Colour Red

The autumn equinox brought that moment when the light and dark hours of the day, for just a brief moment, were perfectly equal. That moment is like the silent, still gap between breathing in and out; sometimes we catch ourselves noticing it, frozen in our observance of its stillness but knowing full well that we must release back into the relentless movement of the inhale and the exhale.

And now the dark seeps across the lines, spreading out and staking a claim to more of the day than I would currently like. Samhain will soon be here…

For modern Pagan’s the festival of Samhain celebrates the earth’s shedding, that part of its cycle that expresses the dying back and letting go. Amongst other things, it honours the rot and the shit, that through the miraculous transformation of death and decomposition, transmutes into the rich compost that feeds new life.

It is perhaps easier for us to accept this process in the natural world around us but painful to experience it in our own lives. This year, Samhain will hold a powerful resonance for me as I find myself walking away from a 27 year old marriage.

Endings can have their own unique tonalities; sometimes they are joyous things: the end of pain or a difficult time; sometimes they bring almost unhealable grief: the death of those we love and the things we cherish. When we are there in the midst of the chaos that endings can bring; we can only, as a friend of mine recently advised, ‘keep breathing’. Just like that momentary pause of equinox, there are still, clear moments but we quickly realise that none of us can stand truly motionless; life will not allow us the luxury of a long pause because our hearts continue to beat and betray the unstoppable nature of living.

I am walking away from a whole life-time of shared experience; someone (me, something deep inside pushing for it) set fire to the forest and now I stand at the centre of a strange kind of devastation, one that brings deep feelings of sadness and grief but also a sense of the necessity of that act.

In our northern hemisphere, at Samhain, we can walk in the forest and smell the rich, woody earthiness of the mulch beneath our feet; the wet, rotting mass breaking down gradually but relentlessly into the food that will sustain the forest’s life. In less temperate areas of the planet, where the change of seasons are fewer, this vital transformation crucial for the continuation of a forest’s life  must come from other means. Fire plays its part; stripping back whole areas to charred plains that on first observation are distressing and lifeless. However, the nutrients from the ash prepare the ground for new life just as effectively as the moist, rich compost of our own woodlands and are as necessary to the survival of those habitats.

This said, on a human level – although the inspiration of nature can help us deal with the changes that we encounter – the courage it takes to let go – the pain and uncertainty of it – are no easier to bear and we are called upon to trust in the process, to face the growing darkness without even knowing if the light will ever reappear.

For me, there are places of hope in my life that keep me going when I feel the exhaustion upend me or when the fear of the future paralyses me; even amongst the hurt, guilt and confusion can be found strength, love and joy (although it might take a greater effort to see it, or sense its presence, on those days when all that has happened weighs heavy).

Yesterday evening, the autumnal sky in the west shone with a golden light reminiscent of Turner’s paintings; in the east was a vast bank of the darkest cloud, a wash of murky browns and greys, thick with rain. The two skies began to merge, the cloud taking on the light as if the world below were on fire and it reflected its burning. And there, drawn across the darkening sky, a rainbow, it’s most dominant colour, a vivid red…the colour of love, of passion, of the blood that pumps through our hearts; the colour of the energy and will to keep living and breathing and being, whatever life brings; whatever losses we inflict or endure.