Tag Archives: jung


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.


17 Oct

It is play not properness that is the central artery, the core, the brainstem of creative life. The impulse to play is an instinct . No play, no creative life. Be good, no creative life. Sit still, no creative life. Speak, think, act only demurely, little creative juice. Any group, society, institution, or organization that encourages women to revile the eccentric; to be suspicious of the new and unusual; to avoid the fervent, the vital, the innovative; to impersonalize the personal, is asking for a culture of dead women. — Clarissa Pinkola Estes

For the last few weeks, I have curled inward, cocooned around a softened space that holds more than can be seen or completely felt. I have trod a deep wave, and begun to swim downward.

I cannot sleep in my own bed any longer. It’s too big, too vast and cold. Clarence and I curl into a pile under my Donegal wool blanket on the couch, a virtual aquarium from a well worn DVD of Finding Nemo endlessly repeating its digital undulations in the blue black dark.

I sleep deeply now, so deeply that I have begun nightly technicolor travels into memory and the unconscious world. I dream effortlessly … visually for the first time in years. A food borne malaise settled over us both mid week and there was nothing to do but sweat the fever out in this softened pile of couch and cotton pillow and read for class. In Women Who Run with the Wolves, I found an acceptance, an acknowledgement for my essence, my way of being. Suddenly, a maternal voice spoke from its pages, a voice which said…Yes, this is what we do. Already swimming in the deep dark blue, each wave from the page sent me deeper.

 It is safe to go here, it said. You are on the right path.

While reading I knew, a critique would be inappropriate. Analysis essay?No way. Academia needed setting aside in the light of it’s subject matter: the reclaiming of the creative feminine self. And I must attempt something I had not faced since beginning this journey. Painting. Art was ready to be resurrected from the cave. My professor’s enthusiastic permission sent me on a tour of video about wild wolves, listening to wolf howl recordings. Suddenly I understood the dogs in my neighborhood who howl so intensely at sirens. I wanted to howl with them. At once, Clarence became a more of a spiritual companion. His physical closeness in our pile on the couch induced night dreaming, his spirit more significantly connected with mine.

Unfortunately, last week also culminated in the end of the marking period, and serious conflict arose: professional obligation versus the creative artistic urge. After spending two days at home cocooned on the couch, healing physically and spiritually, the real world of school and daily life became difficult to manage. My spirit was entirely on the creative plain and I wanted nothing to do with rules, routine, bells and sleepy children shaped by mindless multiple choice.

Friday, I was angry, cranky, frustrated and in wolf terms . . .bitchy. I ranted inwardly about how my students couldn’t read a simple set of instructions and follow them. Thinking for themselves seemed such a foreign concept. I longed to be home with my pastels and paints, creating. I had been given permission to be wild, to indulge what my soul most needed. My inner artist had been starved for too long in the grief of being abandoned.

The summer before I began this journey, I had become quite a good water colorist. My talent had been surprising, and I had begun to pursue it passionately. But then one evening, I returned from painting class to find I didn’t have a relationship any longer. Its no surprise to me that the last painting I accomplished was one of Clarence. I packed my brushes away along with all things “frivolous” and began to simply survive.

So during my sixth period class, my most playful, boisterous and challenging group, I held the lid on the boiling pot and spun plates as usual. We transitioned at the end into a “Code Red” lockdown drill, which practices a shooter in the building. It is serious. During the drill, we are to keep quiet and hidden. We are to protect the students. As the code was called and I locked the door as required, I turned to my gaggle of giggling 17 year olds and said,

“Shhhhhh.!!!!! Okay people!!! This is serious business!!!!” And flipped off the lights.

They paused. Three seconds maybe. Then erupted in the most joyously loud laughter. Seriously? Are you kidding me? But their laughter infected me. I began to feel the irony of the situation as they swept me into  a wave of pure innocence. I stepped up on top of my desk chair and began to read to them from the laminated Code Red lockdown sheet. What the code meant.Why they we supposed to take this practice, five minutes before a homecoming pep rally, seriously.

Then, suddenly, all I could think of was to tell them stories. Perhaps if I kept them entertained they would quieten down and we could get through the five minutes without too much struggle? But as I began to tell them a recent funny story, they became enraptured.

They laughed.

They hung on my words for the first time and their mischievous energy fed my starving artist soul.

Within moments, I was performing the story on top of my desk chair loudly enough to be heard down the hall, loudly enough to keep them with me.

We connected.. We laughed… We played.

For two moments, we reveled in the hilarity of the story, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar figure at my door. Her frown was puzzling to me.Why wasn’t she a merry as me? I was entertaining this corral of ponies, herding their spirits into delightful rows.

As I opened the door to my assistant principal, I was actually still laughing. Literally, I had no cognizance that I was behaving entirely against what a lockdown requires.

Seriousness. Quiet… Fear.

“We can hear you all the way down the hall!” she yelled in a whisper. “What are you DOING?”

“I’m ……I’m keeping them quiet by telling stories… ” I stammered back in growing shame.

Suddenly the ridiculousness of my actions broke over me like a wave of cold North Atlantic. The shocking icy splash said, No, that is NOT the correct behavior for a life threatening situation. Or a practice to live through one.

She looked at me, her face contorted in anger “If a shooter was in this building you and all these kids would be dead right now! Do you understand that!?” Her voice showed her disappointment and annoyance at my supposed ignorance.

“I’m sorry.” My playful spirit evaporated. “My apologies”, I said. “I’m so sorry… I’m profoundly sorry.” I said in a whisper, my eyes looking to the floor. She turned and walked up the hall, walkie- talkie in hand.

I closed the door. My students were silent; our faces were white, drained of the joy of the previous moments.

“I’m in trouble”, I said quietly. “Let me explain to you why I made the wrong decision.”

And so I told them why a lockdown was serious, how we would all be dead right now and I would have failed to have protected them through my inappropriate behavior. Now, I could be written up or even dismissed, sent home for days without pay. I had no excuse.No defense. I lost myself in creative abandon and for that, I might pay. It wasn’t their faults, I said. It was entirely mine. We were playing… And I should have known better.

They were somber when they left for the pep rally.

“I’m sorry Miss Kelley.”

“Sorry Miss Kelley, I hope you don’t get in trouble.” This followed hanging heads and embarrassed faces. We were all ashamed.

Their assurances spoke of times they themselves had been lost in innocence to the joy of play.

That evening, I went home and knew I would have to climb out of the straight jacket of real life. What had happened to me was an example of a state of imbalance, what happens to a creative soul who has been starved for too long. I poured myself that night into an artistic self that was comatose. Eight hours later, I emerged unwillingly from the land of hand and thought, soul and color.


Howl (33 x 22.5) Oil pastel and gouache. Interpretive mandala of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves.

I didn’t know what would happen Monday when I returned. Whether I would be disciplined or it would be chalked up to a long week of testing, and pre-homecoming disarray. But I knew one thing. My days in this environment are numbered. For I cannot play with my children in the way I am used to any longer and I must be who I am now and let that teach them, too. It seems as if that type of teacher is not welcomed by the state, by the culture in our refusal to acknowledge the wildishness of our natures. It saddens me that I cannot show my pups the wildness of the human world, the way in which to negotiate a creative life, and the secrets to remaining awake and alive:

To play.. To create.. To think… To trust… To love… To be.

What have our systems done to destroy the passing of this learning? Before they even set out on the road of life, they are tamed.

Not in my world… Not under my watch… Not under my protection.

I know they must be taught of danger and predator, but they must be taught of moon and stars as well. In the world of shooters and multiple choice we must not tame their wild spirits.Or life will be one long sleep in which we lose the possibility of resurrecting the wild creative, the authentic self.

Tangled and Dark

29 Sep

Donato Giancola Eowyn082

I’m awaiting a lover. I have to be rent and pulled apart and live according to the demons and the imagination in me. I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again. — Anais Nin

Something in the air is changing me, a darkness there that wasn’t before. It’s as if I walk only by moonlight, completely alert only after sundown. In delving into the spiritual, I feel a deep dark ocean beneath me… unfathomable….. unknowable…  a murky warmth seaming the edges of inky indigo veil covering a vast expanse into which I will somehow dissolve. A need to understand why men are as they are and why I am as I am and why there is this deep pulsing anger in me at the thought of being worthy of masculine attention only if I am weak, only if I am a helpless woman.  As much as there is this darkly sensual feminine emergent now from my consciousness, one open in equal power to the masculine there is also a vicious evil queen who would encircle her consort within an iron band of condescension and dismissiveness. One invites, writhes for male energy. One scoffs and degrades it. And I know it is all within me, this battle to balance the masculine and feminine within my own psyche.

One of the readings for my class nearly pushed me over the edge this week.  An article by a Lieutenant Colonel Hernandez on female leadership *, identifying archetypes which women may use as models for success.  At the second page, my blood pressure went so high, I had to stop reading. My anger at his soft benevolent  yet condescending tone, his illogical assumptions, and stereotypical gender misconceptions about women and symbolic/mythic female figures made me want to be physically violent. Needless to say, it triggered my Shadow. For within me there must be this desire to be under a man, figuratively and literally. The Shadow wants ravishing. And I must find a way to come to terms with it.

The advice from this paragon of male leadership? Be beautiful, assertive, wise and little bit flirty while keeping your knickers firmly on and you’ll be a successful female leader. Seems to me that advice could be well served upon most modern male political leaders today as well as female. In other words, women need to deny their sexuality, “rein-in the Lover’s ‘oceanic’ exuberance and desire to transcend all limits in order to allow her energy its life-giving role without creating chaos in the realm.” Sexuality has a purpose it seems and only one purpose: to procreate. Women are tied to biology as the defining factor of sexual identity and a source of power.

Hernandez’ discussion of The Faerie as archetype triggered my anger the most, mainly for it’s inaccuracies, but also for its obvious cultural bias.  He describes faeries as predominantly “attractive, centrifugal energy”, classifying them as the twinkling airy princessy sort. They have no substance other than to provide Beauty and Inspiration (he links them to the Muses), giving their explosive energy away to the artist to appropriate into his own creative expression. “The Faerie is not just a Princess. She is the symbol of all that is fair and that is beautiful all that transcends material existence”. A symbol of beauty which denies her own subjective creative energy apparently.

But then, he did the unthinkable in my world.

 He aligned the Valkyries with the “virginal” Fae.

Now I’m not saying the Valkyries weren’t “maidens” (there is contention about that) but he misses the real point about their strength here. Leadership ….power ….isn’t dependent on virginity or maiden status, but on the ability to detect battle prowess. The Valkyries decide who will be chosen to fight the ultimate battle of Ragnarok. They choose the BEST warriors to join Odin in his hall. Now, even if this is viewed outside of the mythic ethos, dying Norsemen wanted beautiful tough maidens to take the bravest of them to the beyond to wait for the ultimate battle. These are no shrinking violets. They are badass women. Their fierce striking beauty is born of physical strength and the power of death. Not “stout maidens” as Hernandez portrays them, which makes them sound like the plain, practical, sturdy utilitarian sort. “Mopeds”, as the sexual expression goes. . . fun to ride but you don’t want your friends to see you on one.  The point is that they embodied knowledge of skill and assessment of courage, affirmed by Odin himself and this is the most important quality, in my opinion. After all they choose. He doesn’t send them with a list, as fetchers of souls.

Think of it:  A culture in which men believed that beautiful powerful women were the judges of the best of them, acting at their best.

In Hernandez’ world, leadership is tied to sexuality but about wielding it or withholding it, external to the self. I tire of a gender landscape in which the art of dangling a fertile carrot is the deciding factor in connection.  Perhaps my anger is at a system which denies the concurrent power of wisdom and sexuality at any stage of life in any gender.

So I look for patterns, for models. I search for ways of being in men. In becoming like them, I learn to understand them from the inside out. The kind of power that I see in admirable men: presence, assertiveness, ability to inspire and motivate is within me. A power that lies in voice and agency called from an internal power, such as Dr. Martin Luther King. That is the sword I want to hone, like a Valkyrie preparing for the field. My frame longs to wield sharp blunt power and feel a body connect in explosive passion. Then maybe the hard cold iron of my anger will be shattered and the warm soft velvet of incense laden feminine will spill out, turning into a great dark ocean wave. And I will know what the deep holds. I will sleep soundly again without the Universe pulling my hair with its stars.

* http://www.leadershipreview.org/2009spring/article2.pdf

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