Looking back over the last week or so — no matter what the topic or level of experience & meaning — I see Trickster’s tracks weaving in and out and over my own tracks, sometimes almost obliterating them. I feel flummoxed and frustrated and have wanted to raise a fist & shout “Enough Already!” …..But, of course, it isn’t enough; otherwise he’d skip away to other business. Trickster is summoned into existence by many things — inattention, indecision, distraction, lack of perception & imbalance, and hyper-seriousness, to name just a few. They all seem to describe the sort of funk I’ve been in. Trickster is my eternal teacher, usually advising me to praise paradox more loudly & to dance through this journey more lightly, more joyfully.
– – – – – – And, since writing those words yesterday, since naming Trickster’s message, I’ve found myself turning a corner, choosing a path, no longer stuck in indecision and useless lamentation at the crossroads. I continue to be amazed by the power of words. Preoccupation with words — or with a lack of them — may occasionally cause me to stumble into some deep crevasse … but words can also provide the handholds & footholds I need to climb back out and continue the journey!
Of course, many feelings and experiences are way beyond words & need to be protected from attempts to nail them down & cage them with language. Trickster himself is one of those beings/experiences. This is why poetry, metaphor, story are the linguistic vehicles we use when trying to share the deepest truths. And there are non-linguistic ways as well — image, music, dance….
I love nonverbal communication. Still, words are strong — and, like Story, potentially dangerous. Many indigenous cultures (including the Navajo and the ancient Hebrews) have taken language seriously, recognizing that spoken words create or shift reality. For me, writing, saying, or just thinking a word, metaphor, or story can sometimes be a prayer, both a source of clarification & a kind of commitment. Such commitment is essential before undertaking true work. (My teacher Luisah Teisch teaches that Trickster sits at the Crossroads and, if you lack clear intention & commitment, he is more than happy to lead you astray.)
William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), Scottish mountaineer & writer, reminds us:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
And so I am, once more, beginning — remembering the words of St. Benedict:
“Always we begin again.”
I have finally begun to put into words for myself a paradox that, especially in light of political struggles here in the U.S. & around the world, has been drifting in a cloud around me like a swarm of gnats, bothering me incessantly. Somewhere earlier on this blog I said (no doubt, many times) that the power of Story is stronger than we’ve imagined and can be harnessed for healing or for harm. But when I read definitions of Story, I hear little that distinguishes these 2 possibilities from each other, little to explain the difference and how to identify & avoid or overcome the latter. Why/how is one story “better” or more “true” than another? After wallowing unhappily in my puzzlement for far too long, I feel like someone who’s been drowning in shallow water and suddenly — simply — puts her feet down on the bottom and rises up above the waves. [This reminds me of the saying — highlighting the stunted growth of trees in the cold of Iceland — that advises: “If you are lost in a forest in Iceland, stand up!”]
Well, more on those thoughts as they develop….
I’ve also been dithering for weeks about the colors for my next weaving. As I’ve pulled out more & more possible (or impossible) fibers and yarns from my stash, my studio came to resemble the messy, unstructured, hodge-podge nest of a mourning dove — though the mourning dove is definitely more minimalist than I am in the collection of building materials. (I once read about a mourning dove who constructed her nest of just five poorly arranged twigs.)
Two days ago, I came across words written by Maeve Brenan to her friend Tillie Olsen:
“You are all your work has. It has nobody else and never had anybody else. If you deny it hands and a voice, it will continue as it is, alive, but speechless and without hands. You know it has eyes and can see you, and you know how hopefully it watches you.”
Hooray for synchronicity & serendipity! This was just the reminder, the wake-up call, I needed. “... and you know how hopefully it watches you.” How much longer will the work be patient? There have been times when, faced with my endless wavering, it finally gave up on me and went off to look for someone else.
So — I finally pulled out some fluffy gray wool & slick hand-dyed mohair and began to spin yarn for the mask’s warp (which will become the hair). Yesterday I plied the two uneven yarns together loosely & washed the skein to set the twist. …… Ha! The power of commitment took hold! When I couldn’t sleep last night, I got up & found the yarn to be dry. I cut the lengths and warped the loom — and returned to bed for a few hours of satisfied & restful sleep. First thing this morning, I began playing with a variety of wefts on the edge of the warp, anxious to see some of the possibilities emerge before unraveling them all & beginning to weave the form in earnest. (Warp colors are not bright pastel than shown — more subdued & subtle.)
Throw Yourself Like Seed ~~ by Miguel de Unamuno
“Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.
Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.
Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.”
In the meantime, the other-than-human world continues to offer its multiplicity of gifts. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron has visited the neighboring pond (drained during a construction project but now refilling) a number of times this week — Such a magical creature!
And Old Oak continues to shed leaves & let go of overt growth so that she can find a deeper life in the darkness of winter — a time when, though the part of her I see above ground will appear dead & dormant, deep underground her roots will continue to grow & to gather water and nutrients — storing them to propel her sudden burst of life in the spring.
I love how her bones are beginning to show: the form, the strength, the scaffolding on which her life and the lives of many other beings depend.
Of what am I currently letting go? What is the shape of my own scaffolding? And what, I wonder, will my roots be doing this winter?
In the meantime, I’ll leave us all to ponder the advice of Osho:
"Don't move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move."