Is it that I have an intrinsic eye for detail which was honed by highly detailed work like millinery, costume-making & photography? Or did those interests train my eye? Most likely it’s a spirallic journey of building one upon the other–interest upon skill, facility upon fascination. At Wild Camp in Catalunya, one of the leaders said I was a good tracker because I quickly identified the tent of a fellow camper based on the striped jumper visible on his sleeping bag. I track the details of people’s clothing. In university I proposed an independent major called The Semiotics of Dress–why people wear what they wear. Most people think there is no thinking behind their clothing choices, but I suggest that that proximity to the unconscious brain, of one’s costume choice, is part of why it indicates so much about the person. For some, clothing is very much a conscious choice of individuation, but for most it’s tied in to ease, profession, necessity. I met a young economist in Sweden at an activist training & she wore her hair up like a cone-head beehive. It clearly took time to style that way & the rest of her costume followed suit in being consciously & creatively chosen. For her it was a statement of her self, a beacon of her difference from others, a means of signaling instantaneously that what you would learn from her would not be the usual & expected. I love the stories woven into the fabric of our lives, that are so often unknown to others but that my detective mind delights in ferreting out.
So when I offered to mend one of the wild camp leader’s signature pieces of clothing, I learned a bit more about him. Most days he wore a leather waistcoat (vest) & it had a few holes in it at crucial stress points. He obviously loved it so I offered to mend those tears & holes to prevent it from falling apart further. Which was when he told me that he’d found that vest in a thrift store for 1 dollar, but that it had been one of very few pieces of clothing he’d taken on one of his many missions. He’d spent a night in a cave, wearing that vest & when he woke in the morning, a mouse had eaten some of it. The hungry & brave mouse had also eaten the bottom of his wallet so that when he stood up, all his change spilled out & ran circles on the cave floor. With each stitch I imagined him alone in the cave & the mouse braving his mountainous, sleeping body to make a good meal of an old leather vest & a wallet.
Another camper sat down next to us at the fire to chat & I offered to mend the hole in the back left arm of a jumper I’d seen him wearing earlier in the week. He thanked me but then explained that that hole was where his son, when he held him in his arms, would stick his fingers in & make contact with his arm, skin to skin. That touched me. That story of the father being touched by the son touched me. It was a necessary hole, one that was better left gaping. It made me wonder if I’d been hasty in my own mending, in my own life. Had I run headlong into mending everything, fixing it & patting myself on the back for taking good care, when there may have been moments I could have had greater access to the soul of someone, or the story that binds us together, had I been willing to leave the holes open. Of course, what came to mind is “the wound, the hole, is where the light enters”, as opined by those two great poets, Rumi, & then Leonard Cohen.
We’re smack dab in the middle of eclipse season & I’ve, once again, been contemplating what it means to cover over & to reveal. Like Christo’s work with his wife Jeanne-Claude shows us on grand scales–when we hide something from sight that the populace has become blind to through regular surface seeing, & when it is then revealed again, the seeing goes deeper. When the sun is obscured by the moon or the moon is obscured by the shadow of the earth, the revelation of light after the obscuration feels meaningful, significant. From what I can understand about eclipses, they are like trees. These eclipses we are in now are like a ring being added to a tree, but unlike a tree that will add a ring each year (all going well) these rings in an eclipse cycle take about 18 years & are called a Saros Cycle. I was wowed by this learning because 18 years ago I left the US to see the last full solar eclipse of the millenium in India. I went to India in search of Indians, & in search of myself separate from my homeland. This year I returned to the US, after living overseas for the past 18 years, in search of “Indians” in my homeland, & in search of myself aligned with my homeland.
The first ring of this tree-like eclipse cycle (poetically named Saros cycle 145, a cycle that began with the origins of the US & the early battles between Pocahontas’s people & the colonists in 1639) I would have experienced in this lifetime would have been when I was 8. What came to mind when I considered these touch-down moments were the splits that occurred in me. At 8 I had a bike accident that split my forehead & upper lip in half, required 52 stitches by a plastic surgeon, & which separated my right side from my left. 18 years later, at age 26, I aborted a child which psychically separated my lower body from my upper body. It has taken me most of the 18 years since then to reconnect to my sexuality & (pro)creativity in a positive way. What I instantaneously saw with these two was the vertical split & then the horizontal split, which, when overlaid on one another, creates the symbol for Earth–the cross in the circle. Immediately my mind & heart went to the vision of reuniting myself. The gaping hole in my head had been sewn up. The centaurian split or chasm between my animal, libidinal nature & my elevated, spirit self has been united.
So now, as I swim within the deep unknown, I know in my bones that those were necessary holes in my life. They were the access points for contact with the great beyond. They enabled my heart to crack open wide & for light to both pour in, & pour out. They made clear the fragility of these human forms, the fleetingness of these precious vehicles. What I see now, what I feel now, what I live now, is these two rings of experience on a much bigger time-scale than my human body can encompass, as vertical & horizontal splits that now, in their healing, come to meet at my heart. The centre point, when I draw the lines inwards to meet one another, is my heart. And as I’ve explored elsewhere, the only true & deep response I can have to heartbreak is gratitude. When I see my heart as a fist, its potential for contact with anything other than itself is limited. When I see my heart as a hand splayed open wide, which is equivalent to my heart breaking into pieces, I inevitably feel more because there is more surface area to feel more.
And I have actively avoided this. I’ve actively protected myself from feeling the pain of the world, feeling it would drown me. I would die of grief. I would be incapacitated by care. And I have been. I have done. Yet I’m still here, miraculously. Still here, learning to look with unflinching & fierce love at how sick we’ve become. What I can offer you is my grief. Traveling down the Hudson River on a solar boat with the SeaChange Voyage these past couple weeks, I have cried a river as wide & ancient as this mighty two-way river, called by the First Nations before Hudson & other white men, Muhheakantuc. The most disturbing experience I had was one fish. One fish among 6 of its fellow fish who were belly up & dead, but this one was still living, or trying to. Something in its bloated belly caused it to rise to the surface, its sore-ridden, vulnerable white belly up above the water’s level, even though it was alive. Imprisoned from within by plastic that made it float. Or gas from the pipeline nearby or poison from the water treatment plant nearby. I don’t know the cause. I only saw the effect.
I also didn’t know how to help it. Do I pierce it to release the gas? Do I kill it to end its struggle & seeming suffering? I was helpless. I am, so often, helpless. I have only the innocence of my care for other critters, my horror & immense grief at how humanity’s selfish unconsciousness has tortured & destroyed countless species. I can offer only my prayers, it seems. I look for the victories, like the bald eagles returning to the area where high DDT counts made their eggs so porous that when they sat on them to incubate their babies, they crushed them. Imagine. Imagine your love for your child, your instinctive care for your unborn baby, being the very thing that kills it because your environment has been so poisoned. So, a small victory that we saw bald eagles.
Another small victory that sturgeon, dinosaur-ancient fish with exo-skeletons that I came across in my research for PocaHauntUs & that, at that time in the late 1500’s could be up to 14 feet long! They are still surviving, despite the immense disturbances to their watery world with petrochemicals & other poisons dumped onto them, & the disruption of their circadian cycles with 24 hour traffic of high-vibration barges & trains up & down the river.
When I was little I cried so much for animals & habitats that salt crystals perched at the edges of my eyelids. I picked them off in flakes, leaving my eyelids raw where the eyelashes met the lids. Eventually I learned to close my eyes to the details. I didn’t know how else to survive. Two Saros cycles later I come full circle to standing at the edge of desecration & realizing that as helpless as it still feels for me to simply stand & see all the details of destruction & cruelty & heartlessness in the pursuit of industry, perhaps my heart, my eyes, my existence are a hole in the fabric of humanity that allows contact. Perhaps this aching hole in my heart is a necessary hole.
Tell me, if you dare, which wounds allow the light to enter you?