Archive | November, 2013


26 Nov


Many months ago I decided to return to the island at Thanksgiving. Eight days, I imagined, of writing magic and inspiration of the sort  found here last year. But instead, a very different feeling arrived. Yesterday, the high temperature was 36 degrees. Bundling against the chill, I walked Clarence around town and refused to acknowledge a growing suspicion that coming here was to test the foundation of something I’m not so sure I should have built within me. Because in trying to prove my strength, that I can be alone and can fulfill all my own needs, I realize that I’ve been lying. Absolutely lying. . . to my deepest core self. I do need others. But this needing creates vulnerability. And I am afraid of vulnerability. My fear of possibly being hurt by others, especially men, is keeping me safe, but in a tiny nest of observation rather than participation.

Boarding the ferry, I began to think about the relationships in my life and how I felt like something in me was actually broken, as if nothing could be loved so truly or deeply ever again. I was wrong. For when in stepping into the little house at the corner of Fig Tree and Howard, I felt my heart crack. In feeling love and attachment again for people, terror arrived. It hurts to miss them. What if they go away? What if they lie about their affections? I can’t execute the “take it or leave it” detachment I once managed so well. Nothing works…not writing, not painting, nothing. I have to sit in this miserably alone place like a duck in open water.

Yesterday, while shopping some favorite places here, I fell in love with a bracelet of Kathleen O’Neal’s made of tiny silver cast bird bones. That’s how I feel walking this town now. . . like a fragile tiny breakable bird. I hate it. I’ve worked so hard to be flesh, to be muscular physically and emotionally and all of it seems to have disappeared in the one place where  so much strength was found. My heart is now a bird, of hollow bone, the size of a sparrow. And this heart says,

I am still alive. …and now beating.

This heart  is not broken. It has sprouted tiny hollow boned wings that want to soar in gasping fear into an immense open sky. So breakable…so small. Precious. There is a message in those braceleted bones, linked together into a loop too big for my wrist so that one must dangle down disconnected from the rest.

Kathleen said, “I can take out a bone to make it fit”.

And I thought  No. This bone is necessary to the rest. Don’t take out the bone that makes it too big for my wrist. The odd bone is necessary. It’s still attached, barely, but don’t sever it from the rest. And there I was …looking at myself and knowing some way to become part of the circle of normal loving life again has to be found. The odd bone hangs down to show where one doesn’t fit into the form and file of the rest. And I’ve been dangling on the outside too long.

Coming over on the ferry, we passed by the small inlet where the sea birds and ducks roost. In passing, they took off in flight and began to circle the ship. Great wide circles around and around and then I knew… I am in Air. When I started this journey, it began in Fire. The bird of self emerged from ashes and grew. Last fall, I fell into Water…trying to learn to allow, to know that all things come in time and I went way too far out into the deep end. Having no other option, I sank into the unconscious to learn the corners of my psyche. I drowned in the darkest ocean swell without light, without oxygen… on purpose. Last year at this moment, I was fighting an emotional current that would bring me here.


In this place. On this island.

I was reborn.

In January, the walking began on Earth, connecting to the landscape of my Self. This writing space became home to all I tasted, saw, smelled, heard, and felt. It grew my voice.

And now I must take to the Air. Birds fly inside my dreams. They populate my thoughts, my art. I have become obsessed with feathers and with flight. Near the beginning of this current couch sleeping period, I had a vivid dream that I was getting ready to come to the island. About to board the ferry, I had a paper bag with two empty brown bottles and a chocolate bar. The bottom of the bag was wet. I was slightly afraid that the bottom would give way. A man in front of me in line said

You can’t take that over to the island! They don’t allow you to take that over there. . .

I was embarrassed, angry, and ashamed.

As I thought about where to put the bag out of the way so as not to litter or lose it, the sky cracked. A thunderous roll split the darkening clouds and a swarm of migratory birds on fire began their sinuous flexing flight across the sky directly toward us. Fear spread across people’s faces like a Second Coming.. a judgment… an End. As the swarm reached us, suddenly I was one of them. I saw from the bird’s perspective. We burned them. In a wave of blistering heat and fire like a rolling searing cloud, we flew flame against masses of people, their fronts like seared slices of bacon, their faces, and bodies arrested in a blistered mass of instant incineration. And I soared, horrified yet helpless within an avian swarm of flame and wing. We flew on beyond them into wakefulness. I gasped when fully awake. My nest of couch was gone.

So the Phoenix has arisen has she. . .to what? If I stay in this nest, I can only watch, the eternal observer of life. I will not know love if I do not chance loss. How will I see the sky if I do not dive? When does first flight happen? How can I be an earthly being and yet made of bird bones? Hollow limbed, light and made of flame. How do birds connect? In a negotiation of air?

They soar, solitary watchers in blue cold cloud and yet in flocks of flame.

One can only stand on the edge for so long before the lesson of flight emerges …on tiny boned wings.

Into the Light

8 Nov


He flies through the corners of my dreams, bounding quickly over bush and fence. Always at the edge of my mind’s field on the other side of the fence post, he stops and turns.. .his delicate nose quivering. Those great fire blue eyes seem to say, “I am waiting Elery. Come back to me in the woods, where quietness stops the breath of time.” Every second of looking at him, his arching neck, the soft sheen of his iridescent silver coat, the late afternoon sun glowing through his pale ears is an aching gift. I know, even in my dreams, that I only have moments to see him. Then, the inevitable thunder crack of the shot and piercing pain like an iron stake in my left shoulder. I am thrust to my knees. And though I do not cry out anymore, I always look back to the fence. . .  he is gone.

The dreams come in the late spring, when the windows have to be opened at night and I am not accustomed to sleeping with the night noises again. I lie down in the cherry poster bed, a framed nest since childhood. My pre-slumber wandering dream takes me back to Momma and Daddy’s big house near the Oaks Hunt Club. In a room filled with night noises and softly swaying lace curtain, small slips of Saturday night music trail in like thin clouds from the distance, beyond the dark woods where I found him. And in night noises, I begin the journey to remembering that summer, when the world was wrapped in kittens, creeks and darkening green fields filled with lightning bugs. I travel to that ninth summer, the last one Birdie was with us. As I drift off into that shadowy world, the moss and pine path to the past, I know he will be there… shining. . . .

–From “Shine” , MS

My students eagerly sit in the circle around me with their tombstone collages. Their faces peer out from behind a virtual graveyard of posterpaint, glitter, photos, fabric, and self consciousness. We’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book as a catalyst, exploring the assumptions we make about community and identity. This collage assignment is one I have conducted for a few years. Requirements are linked to analysis and to novel content, but what has been most fascinating for both them and me is my interpretation at the end. At its most basic, my “reading” is art analysis. But many times it reveals my empathic side. Students have returned years later to tell me that many of the things I saw about them were true, or came true. And the activity has been a popular one year after year. This year though, the process changed, for I am somehow different. I “see” them much more clearly and easily. These feelings about their present, about their futures even surprised me. I knew secrets, yearnings. . . things I had no way of knowing but to sense it. For the last three days, they have been in an uproar after class, hungry to know themselves, hungry for anyone to hold a mirror up to their souls and say…

See, here you are.

Trust it.

You are on the right path.

Each day this week I have been eager to begin. It feels incredibly good to give to them in this way, better than I have felt in years. This is something I need to do more, offering  the mirror of insight and wisdom. At the end of the presentations and discussion, I invited them to “read” my room, something I have never done before. My living spaces are always highly decorated and reflective. The classroom is no different and the years I have spent here, the lessons I have both learned and led are somehow implicit. Eyes swept the walls, the photos, posters, and projects.

One girl spoke…

I think you had at one time in your life a real interest in Catholicism. There’s all those medieval paintings over there.. .and then maybe a Japanese connection…still in past though cause they’re old paintings. And then, the other wall panels, they’re like mythical…more faeries and nature. It moves in a circle around the room.

She hesitated. I smiled.

“You mean, maybe I’m on a spiritual journey?”

Yes, she said shyly.

“You’d be right”, I smiled back.

Then, a lad spoke up.

But it’s all in the past, it seems…most of this is from past trips or past students. It’s like you’re keeper of the past. Keeping them in the past.

His words hit me like a rifle shot. I have been a keeper of the past, resisting change,resisting transformation. Too scary…change meant something too much filled with the possibility of being hurt by a life which didn’t “seem” under my control. On reflection, the fall of 2010 was the actual beginning of this journey. Living a life of Facebook connections and caring solely for my partner, I focused on the perfect house, and the perfect relationship, and being the perfect teacher and feeling pretty miserable about being an imperfect wife. My sensual side was completely shut down. I was as Estes describes: parched dry, shriveled and feeling old. When he looked at me, I felt like an object, a thing, merely something for his use. I hid my psyche and soul. He didn’t seem to care to know them anyway. In deciding that fall to take a course in Children’s Literature, I began to explore again, to become creative. Art classes and spiritual work began and continued into the spring of 2011. I slowly grew. In many ways, the leaves on the tree of a false life began to fall. My truest self began to emerge. I think he could sense it. I was to be who I was before him and then, maybe….just maybe, I might fly?

In October of 2010, an idea for a novel came to me and a good friend helped me to plan out the entire narrative arc. I had written a few pages and a prologue, but somehow the full novel wasn’t ready to be written. I could see the cover in my mind’s eye so clearly. The central character is a white deer, found in the woods near a 1920’s Hunt Club by a young nine year old named Elery Buchanan. The deer’s name came to me just as easily. A black groundskeeper, Moses, is lead into the woods by Elery where she shows him the orphaned baby. He says to her

Oh sugah, he’s a shiner..that ain’t good. When they shine like that anything can see ‘em… can get ‘em…you ought to let the woods take him. He can’t be hid.

Shine became a symbol, a guide, a comforting presence in my life. In hypnosis and guided meditation that spring, I saw him again and again. He was within, eventually, becoming a symbol of my masculine self, my strength, my ability to do and not fear an uncertain future. Shine grew exponentially when my relationship ended, although I am only now able to see the connection. In physical training, I built muscle as armor. In frustration and anger, I developed and wielded my  masculine side like a Valkyrie’s sword. And I’ve been living and growing in that for a long long time, but now, it is essential to transform.

Driving home this week, in heavy contemplation over some insight about my past relationship, a worrisome heaviness settled in. A conversation with a friend had shown me something I wasn’t so sure I really wanted to see…something quite shocking but enlightening about my previous intimate life. Suddenly, breaking the thoughts, a truck pulled in front of me seemingly from nowhere. The view of it’s contents struck like the iron spike of a bullet in the left shoulder…right above the heart.


I pulled over.

I sobbed.

This is a sign… What does this mean?

But now, I know. The message is clear. I have still been tied to the past, trying in subtle ways to make right the ending of my relationship. My toughness, my masculine assertiveness and vehement “aloneness” while delivering innumerable gifts and massive personal growth is incomplete. It links to a past that needs to end now. If I continue on this path, I will not know what it truly means to be a strong woman, one who can be independent yet also partner with a man. A man who would have the courage and insight to treat me like a complete woman.

It’s scary. Terrifying.

Being Shine has protected me, but I see now that he also has kept me from relationships. I needed to be taught that I have incredible reservoirs of strength. That I can run if needed. I can defend myself and yet also connect to the power of Universe. Shine has led me through the underworld, but now I must emerge into the light.

For I am after all, a woman.

And I have soft places.

Fluid and connective.

Dark and sensual.

And I find pleasure in allowing.

There is no shame in sometimes being a follower with full freedom of choice rather than the perpetual leader who offers all the options. Strength does not have to be physical armor. It can be a curiosity, a reliance on a wildish wise intuition. I cannot learn what it means to be a strong woman wearing the cloak of masculinity. Embracing the feminine is the path. The strength to walk it is there, Shine’s love to light the way.

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