Sitting in a meadow writing, deer flies buzzing around my ears. Most times I come to this “other” woods looking for a beautiful path that I found a year ago, the long path through a cedar grove. Again I cannot find it, and I am beginning to wonder if it even exists. Some green iced tea sits in a bottle in front of my crossed legs.
I was saddened yesterday to hear that an aquaintence of mine attempted suicide a few days ago, someone whom I admire greatly. I sit wondering how her life became so full of despair? Was it sudden or did it build up slowly over many years? I had no idea she was struggling. But that is what we perfectionists do, project the perfect image so no one suspects, yet on the inside there is flailing, (and an inability to ask for help, lest we show others that we cannot handle it all.) I may be making assumptions here but I often have a sense about these things.
My first impulse was to send her a copy of the “lost soul companion”, (which deals with this topic in an honest and heartfelt way). But because I don’t know this person well I am unsure of how this might be received. Somehow I want to say, “I feel your pain”, it is the pain of being human, existing, struggling, feeling.
I am reminded of a quote from a few journals ago, something to the effect of “what will you do with your pain?” It is an interesting proposition as previously I had never considered that it was something I could actually use or channel in any way, rather it felt more like something that might suffocate you instead, (or threaten to cut you off from any light.) I like the idea that it can be reformed into something good, and that i have some control over that.
I just looked up and saw a bird land on the high branch of a tree. How many of us look at a bird and wish with every ounce of our being that we could inhabit that life for one day and look out at the world from such different viewpoints? How often do we assume that someone/something’s life is much better or more carefree than our own (i.e. celebrities, the rich, our neighbor)?
Today I wish I could sit in this meadow forever, moving about it, sketching the wildlife, napping under trees, and writing. This must be what Emily Carr felt when she camped out in her small trailer, (nicknamed “the Grey Elephant”). No pressures from the outside, no worries, no fighting, no feeling obligated. I wish I had her books with me but I sent them on to CA, (with all of my other favorites). It’s as if all of my friends are missing. Maybe it is time to do more writing of my own.
I smile to myself as I sit here, just ahead of me on the path there is a high grassy hill and I feel myself wanting to climb it so I can see the view from the top, I’m thinking it might be more interesting than my current vantage point. While on the beach a couple of weeks ago Jeff and I were talking about how that must be how the entire world became explored, by the need to see that which is just out of view. How silly we humans are at times, assuming that it must be better elsewhere, (better when…) Maybe it is.
Or maybe everything that is good is right here. This spot, this pen, this book, this hand, these eyes, this heart.
You can see the evidence of time passing in the forest. There are stories everywhere. It is summer moving through it’s cycles and as I walk I count the changes. The grass is higher, up to my waist. The bullrushes are tall and brown, like big hotdogs on sticks. The milkweeds are finished blooming and the pods are large and filled with seeds, (as a child my grandmother would dry the pods out and paint the insides with nailpolish, her own strange decorating invention, I remember being amazed that there could be other exciting applications for the bright pink polish.) The apple tree limbs are weighed down by fruit like old men wearing heavy coats. I crunch over discarded apples with my shoes and listen as they make a cracking sound.
The cure for all that ails you can always be found in a long walk. One of my favourite teachers told me as much many years ago. If you have a problem just start out in any direction and keep walking until a solution or a feeling of weightless drifts in. I go to the woods to be released from all of the weight of daily life. The worries about money, the leaky pump, the waiting to hear if a manuscript is accepted (or rejected), the bills, the missing, the procrastinating, the insecurities that plague me, the leaving.
and I walk. I am wearing my brown cordoroy pants and they make a swishing sound as I go. Swish, swish. You just keep going. Until a shift starts to happen.
At first it might be that you notice a tree that you hadn’t noticed before. You bend down to touch the wiry ferns. Your mind clings to the heavy stuff because it has a habit of doing so. Keep walking.
Somedays it feels like I could walk for days. Swish, swish, swish. I will do twenty laps if I have to. I wonder what the animals think of this strange girl who walks in circles. The one who walks as if her hair were on fire. (Maybe that would be my native name.)
I think of the long quote by sculptor Sol Lewitt who wrote to artist Eva Hess (whose work I have been studying lately), when she was feeling stuck with her work and her life. At the end of which he says, “relax and let everything go to hell.” That is what it means to let go.
We have to be willing to experience chaos and laugh about it.
To fill you in on the debate thus far:
I started reading the book Passionate Nomad -the Life of Freya Stark, about a famous travel writer and one of the first women to travel the world alone. ‘Candace’ commented with information that Freya Stark was a “masked anti-Semite”. Which started a whole questioning process for me. I find it so very interesting that I thought I would write more about it here. (you can read the comments in the previous post). I wrote:
It seems sad (and surprising) to me that a woman who traveled the world, spoke 7 languages, made a living out of learning about and understanding different cultures would be so exclusionary in her political beliefs (or should I say religious beliefs?).
So I put this out there…
As a reader of biographies (and as humans), do we discredit someone who has lived an interesting and powerful life and contributed much to our own learning and growth when we discover a hurtful and disturbing dark side, one that we were unaware of?
Do we all not have our own darkside?
Or do we look closer at it and try to understand it’s reasons for existing? Thereby making peace with the thing that is hurtful?
I’ve been digging a bit more into this controversy and was relieved to find this passage, (since Freya’s voice has been noticably absent in the debate)…
“Although detractors periodically surfaced to accuse Freya of anti-Semitism, she was both comfortable with and accepting of the great varieties of people who always made travel a fascination for her. She believed, she said, in “pluralist societies”, and she disliked any form of “religious extremism.” Her objections to Zionism were philosophical and political, NOT racist, and she pointed out that it was unfair to equate her anti-Zionist position with anti-Semitism. She was sympathetic to the Zionest dream of a homeland for Jews, safe from a world that repulsed, isolated, and ultimately murdered them, so long as, she would point out, it were not exclusionary. She foresaw that the creation of a Jewish homeland that displaced Arabs to fulfill the dream would spawn a legacy of violence lasting for years to come.”
excerpted from “Passionate Nomad -the Life of Freya Stark” by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
Candace, you mentioned that Freya was “feeding the flames that Jews are once again responsible for so many of the world’s problems”, could there not be another side to this? I have not yet found any evidence that she was ever inflamatory. Why do you feel that she was a “masked anti-Semite”? In my reading it seems that Freya was only trying to look for the best possible solution for everyone involved. Yes, it would seem that she might have had loyalties to the Arabs because she had lived, worked and written about middle eastern culture at length. But from what I read she was only trying to educate the rest of the world, (particularly America) about the dangers one culture being displaced for the benefit of another. She was against violence of any kind on both sides, (of which there was a lot at that time, around 1943).
It is not my intention to enter into an Israeli Palistine debate, I am certainly not equipped or positioned to do so. But I do think it important to look closely at both sides of a debate, especially when someone’s character is at stake. According to the book Freya was devastated by the criticism she recieved and found that she had been greatly misunderstood.
If anyone has information contrary to this I would be interested to hear it. I have no loyalties to the character of Freya, aside from the fact that I find her to be an interesting human. I am open to the possiblity that there are ‘ugly’ things that I do not know about her.
I find this learning process extremely fascinating and it brings up many issues applicable to my own life.
How much of it ideally comes down to perception? What are those perceptions shaped by? Do we have the courage to examine our own perceptions?
Often when I have had arguments/fights with friends or family there is the initial “feeling” that I am correct and that there is intent to harm on the other side. But on closer examination I might start to see that that perception has been tainted by some of my own stuff, (anger, fear, ego, etc.)
(On a related note there is a interesting book on the topic of ‘what is an extremist?’ entitled “Them”. It appears that most extremists do not see themselves as doing anything of an extreme nature, it is a label given to them by others. Interesting.)
addendum… it occurs to me that I may have opened up my own can of worms here, as well as a chance for others to misconstrue my words. I do not mean to imply that there are no situations in which a person might be “wrong”, indeed there are, (i.e. violence, etc.). I only meant to share my learning with regards to how I have found my own perceptions to have been tainted, (which have been numerous.)
Today I put on my favorite jean skirt that used to be my mother’s. It is a wide a-line shape from the 1970′s, and has large deep pockets on the front, perfect for holding your money, pieces of paper, or some candy. When I wear it I feel close to her because she wore the skirt a lot and I know she must have enjoyed walking along with her hands deep in the pockets, or collecting small stones as she strolled barefoot along the beach (which was quite a bit). You would only know this after wearing the skirt and walking around in it for a while.
I think it must be the most durable skirt that has ever been made because it shows no signs of wear, and I feel kind of invincible in it. Maybe it has protective qualities. Mom strength that she left for me as a gift. I haven’t been able to wear it until recently.
I rode my bike along the main street to do some errands, (this is the kind of skirt you can ride a bike in). When I passed my neighbor’s studio door I heard the distinct sound of a violin being played (he is a violin maker). I put my bike down quickly and tip-toed up to the door to listen. And I sat there listening and smiling for quite some time. This is one of the great gifts of knowing a violin maker, you get to hear beautiful music from time to time, drifting out onto the street. It stops me every time. When he finished playing I poked my head in the door to thank him.
Tonight I danced around my room in the skirt listening to Sarah Harmer.
My mom did a LOT of dancing around rooms in her lifetime.
Just the act of putting words on paper help to pull me up onto my feet again. That and a few words sent by a chorus of strangers, and also some friends. I find myself saying thank you a lot these days. Sometimes you send words out into the world not knowing what they are capable of, such a simple thing. I am still amazed by it. I am not trying to do anything special, only share some of my process in this sometimes messy life.
My husband left for California today, driving across most of the US with a full car (mostly books I think). I am sad for the moment, but I will be joining him at the end of August (after dealing with all of the things that one deals with when moving). Back to hearing his voice every night on the phone.
The woods are calling to me now. I have needed some alone time, to just be with my heart, to process, to let go, to feel o.k., to find some wisdom. There is another funeral party today at the legion across the street from my house. Men dressed in dark suits, women in their ‘funeral only’ dresses (black with white flowers pinned over their breast), and I am reminded once again that life can be fleeting. How quickly we forget even when we tell ourselves, “I promise to live better from now on”. I say this after every funeral I attend, and trust me, there have been a lot. I am convinced that we should all attend funerals on a weekly basis just to remind ourselves of this, (though I did know a funeral director once and he wasn’t any better off for it, arguably worse.)
So maybe instead what is needed is a constant visual re-affirmation of life. Just the words…
I think I will put that on a shirt and wear it around.
It’s hard to know what to write some days when your heart feels a little heavier than it usually does. You go out into the world hoping that the little things that usually lift you up are still there and that they still have the power to make you breathe a little deeper or smile even. Sometimes we just have to accept that our hearts are a bit heavier and that’s just a part of this big life.
I’ve been feeling the biggness of my own life lately, amidst this heaviness. The sense that all of it is unfolding exactly as it is meant to, this after many months of not knowing. There is a distinct feeling a shedding my old skin and growing a new one. One that is stronger, more honest and different. Beautiful, but in a different way. It is not a surface beauty, not about skin or hair or eyes or face. It is not determined by how other’s perceive it or what it looks like in the mirror. This beauty comes more from inside. And it grows and shifts, akward at first like an infant who is learning to walk for the first time on shaky legs. (Once they get a feel for the movement they are unstoppable.)
What I can tell you about it might surprise you. It has been emerging out of a long period of extreme doubt and questioning. Darkness. Out of the not knowing, and the fear, and loss. And i will admit that I didn’t see that it was possible at the time. I felt around for a voice that had been hiding. And I found it buried under a pile of debris. My intuition which I thought had left me for good has proved to be stronger than ever, I just didn’t trust it. But it was there the whole time. I had no idea.
And when I listened to it I became strong again.
Some of the things I feared most have happened. But I am still here. I can see that no matter what happens, I will be o.k. because no one can take away that strength, in fact they cannot even touch it. Even though it feels like it sometimes.
But we have to go into the darkness to find it.
“Look how beatiful this big, old, lumpy and bruised heart is?”, she said with a smile. With everything it has been through it’s capacity to love is greater than ever.
Do something to it.
Do something else to it.
I am not a hipster, though sometimes I find myself wanting to be.
My favorite sweater is fifteen years old and the elbows are wearing through. I don’t know what I will do when it is no longer wearable.
I like clothes that are old looking, worn in, used. Loved. I like taking what I have and putting it together in a new combination (green tshirt with brown 30′s bias skirt). My style might be refered to as “piecemeal”. I am still wearing a felt hat from the 80′s that has lost all of it’s shape, (in it’s former life it paid hommage to Duran Duran). I like to wear my hair in braids, socks are best striped. The bag I wear is chosen by my mood. Plaid for when I am feeling relaxed and lazy, leather satchel for when I am feeling literary, black rectangle for when I am feeling organized and business-like (not so often). I prefer my bags to be sewn by hand.
I don’t like tags, or labels. or logos.
Sometimes I rediscover a shirt I haven’t worn for a few months and wear it several days in a row.
Sometimes I wear the same jeans for a week.
A tube of lipstick lasts me for an entire year.
The person I am prefers to spend money on books rather than clothes. Proust over Prada. Lawrence over Lacoste. (I had to look those up).
I went to buy new jeans for my birthday and felt like an imposter the whole time as if people could tell I did not belong. Changerooms can be intimidating places. (I needed a lot of help from the salesperson to figure out the sizes, and I still have no idea what size I am. Things have changed drastically in the last few years.) I don’t like to listen to loud music when I am trying on clothes.
I feel safest if i have a book with me everywhere I go.
I feel unsafe without my journal.
My favorite boots could not be pinned down to any specific time or era. across time. anachronistic.
maybe I am anachronistic.
I think I would prefer to live in the 20′s and 30′s away from the machine of mass culture. In a way I have for the last few years. It scares me a bit to be thrown back into it. I don’t need billboards, or box stores, or malls. Give me straw hats, long skirts, trousers. (how come no one uses the term trousers anymore?)
I don’t need tv, or cell phones, or stuff.
I would rather get my food from the person who grows it. Or have the person who made my shoes be the one who fixes them when there are holes. Has anyone noticed that there are no repair shops anymore?
I used to watch Oprah everyday but I haven’t for the last couple of years because I find her to be extremely contradictory. Seems to be more about shopping than living.
I have my own contradictions.
I like candy.
I feel compelled to read the headlines on the trashy magazines in the checkout aisle even though I don’t want to.
I used to wish that my boobs were bigger (in my 20′s) but I don’t anymore.
some days I wish I was cooler, but maybe it’s o.k. that I’m not.
(the above confessions are subject to change.)