This March day of sun and brisk wind, I am at home with a cold. I drink tea with ginger and honey, baptize the air with my sneezes, feel my head foggy and dazed. The cobwebs between windowpanes invite my contemplation. My house creaks, settles. I’ve heard soft scratching, found tiny pellets in corners; appraised the piles of books on the floor, the box of half-opened mail. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen sick when my kids are away. I used to dream of ambitious projects for these times, rarely realized. Now I am grateful for some hours of silence; for time to think without interruption, to tend no-one but myself. I’ve come to trust tears and menstruation as rituals of shedding: letting it out, letting it go. Perhaps these fluids in my head, considered wryly, are telling me the same thing: release, release. Take this day as it is. Let go of who you think you should be. Meet yourself as you are.
From my currently daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: release.
This morning I came across photos of Australian artist Shona Wilson’s work with ephemeral nature mandalas, intricate creations of precise symmetry constructed out of the tiniest plant parts. My breath seems to slow down when I am presented with this order, or when I can conjure it myself in small symmetrical experiments on paper or in compositions of collected parts. My favourite folk art from Poland is the circular cut-paper wycinanki of the Lublin region where I was born, delicate wheels of geometric shapes, foliage and repeated creatures, paper snowflakes taken to a higher plane. I’m soothed by balance, by the perfection of mandalas and medicine wheels, all those radiating mesmerizing mirrors of quarters and eights. Most of us are. We crave the visual representation of the ideal, of the divine. Of a perfect reciprocity and balance elusive to our brittle messy entropic world.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: symmetry.
I’ve lost interest in being obliging. There are seasons of yes, and seasons of no. I have lately been pledged to the latter. I have been experimenting with silence. Deep full-throated silence. Using my voice only if and when and how I want to. I have been experimenting with stillness. With absence. With stealth. With staying at the edges, lurking in the shadows, reclaiming the in-between. I once said goodbye to my sullen adolescent self. Now I have welcomed her back to my table. I have thrilled in her uncooperative energy, her defiant intensity, her whims. She is a secret ally, reminding me of the epochs when I wanted to both please and resist. Now I please if I want to, resist if I choose to. I am reclaiming my time.
From my current writing practice with three women across the continent. Today is day 48. Word prompt: obliging.
This has been a winter of burrowing, hiding out in my lair like a mammal in hibernation, or a wild creature tending its wounds. Digging deep into the earth of myself, I imagine myself as grounded. It’s an internal process, I admit, not visible to everyone I encounter on my daily travels. This week I read the Handless Maiden chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book that keeps coming forward to meet me when I need its wisdom. She writes of the woman undergoing initiation, soul deep underground, but body anchored firmly in the daily rituals of the outer world. I feel this too, core strength and discipline rising like a tree out of the soil in the barren months of winter, but with vitality humming down in the roots, threading deep in the soil, sap preparing to run.
From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: lair. This is from two weeks ago.
I told my friend today that I miss our camping trips with kids. She said, “me too, but my kids wouldn’t come if we planned one now. It would be only me.” How could it be that we didn’t know, the year she moved further south and we camped on the property she lived on? And the following year, after she moved back to North Bay, and we met with friends at Mansfield on the summer solstice? When we made a little village of tents and sat around the fire at night, sang songs to the full moon, and drifted on our backs in the gentle current of the Pine River? How could we not have known that it would be so fleeting, so evanescent? That those days would soon be past?
From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: evanescent.
June 2016. Camping with friends, a full moon and an (evanescent) rainbow. And much shorter kids than I currently have.
At this time of year, I feel the energy of the earth stirring. I feel it passing through me too, a resonance that pushes against the shell of my winter covering, the one that keeps me warm, protected and enclosed in the cold dark days. But now, instead of directing that surge outwards, as I have often done, I am holding it close, compacting it, building it up layer after layer, until it is as hard and bright as a diamond deep in my chest. Stored energy I can choose to use and direct, or hold on reserve. Am I trying to hold that energy back because I am afraid of it? Because I now feel like it diverts my focus, hurts my discernment, sends me spinning and reeling and ablaze? I tell you: what I want is simply to hold the banks of my own river; to channel the current wisely. I want to set limits for myself gently and firmly, to say: “Thank you. This is enough.”
Word prompt: surge. From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. This is from a month ago.
I only came close to drowning once. A cottage on an Ontario lake, owned by Polish friends of my parents, a generation older, who had survived their share of trauma. Me, an immigrant child from a small country, raised in tight places. Not used to all this space, all this nature. Did I know how to swim at all? I was alone in the deep water regardless, close to shore, simply slipping down into the darkness, arms flailing, head submerged, gasping for breath. No voice. Someone spotted me, shouted, one of the sons – an older teen – jumped in, dragged me out. I was self-conscious already then, my body too close to his. He got me to shore. I brushed him away. I never thanked him for saving my life.
Word prompt: submerged. From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent.