To be seen

image

When I was a child I did everything I could to get into my mother’s photographs. She’s one of those people who takes photos of churches, architecture and scenic views. I longed for her to take photos of me, longed to see myself through her lens, to know myself and to know her eyes were on me.

When I was 4 we lived in a weatherboard in Mitcham. The kitchen had a lime green breakfast bar with a great big mirror so you could see who you were talking to you. I was fascinated by my own image, thoughts of beauty never entered my mind. I longed to see myself as others see me, to see myself strange and alien and candid, to see myself as I truly was. The family joke went that Kiri just likes to talk to herself, it’s one of those stories that’s been told about me over and over.

Later I came to interpret these things as vanity, and I learned to feel ashamed. My longing to be seen, to know myself was somehow wrong, I’m not allowed to want to be seen, I don’t deserve to be seen, I can’t ask for it or expect it. Over time I learned to hustle, to try and get the attention I craved without anyone knowing.

But people always know.

People know and they are irritated by it. The fear in me triggers the fear in them, the fear leads to comparison and judgement “Oh my god, I can’t believe she’s hustling for approval again. My hustle’s so much better than her hustle. If only she stopped she’d be so much more likeable.” Inferiority triggers superiority, two sides of the same coin. 

I have to find the middle path, this is what people mean when they say “Just be yourself” but words don’t work. The dance is within us, buried deep, the habit of a lifetime.

Humans are fickle shysters caught up in their own games, surely only spiritual masters are free of it. (Not being a spiritual master I’m not actually sure what it’s like for them, perhaps they are not free of the game but comfortable with their humanity.)

I have found trees to be particularly helpful as exemplars of being. They are generous to a fault, utterly present and free of pretense. However my heart longs for human community interwoven with the more-than-human world. Perhaps that’s the middle path the reweaving of the human being within the more-than-human Being.

Pondering proliferation

Mushroom in a forest

Groups are proliferating like mushroom caps pushing their way out of the mycelium net
Svasti, Evolver, Deep Ecology Network, Mother Tongue, Sisters for sisters, Wild Mind, Open Communities, 5rhythms, Dancing Freedom,
So many interesting people and things that I want to support
That I want to be supported by
How to find one’s place amongst all this juicy goodness?

In the language of competition, the world of separation, diversity is bad
But in the language of compassion, the world of connection, diversity is good
In time they will come to occupy their own niches
They will serve the needs of a variety of groups
They will ease the transition from the old story to the new.

So gather good people, recognise the universe in each other, honour our mutual beauty
Support it all because who knows what’s needed
Who knows the value of heeding the call of our hearts?
Some things are worth doing even if you fail
Please yourself, but not by halves, go all the way to the bottom of your heart and let those yearnings guide your actions.

As for me, I’m quite happy to wander around, doing what I please
If others begin to do what I do then I shall leave them to it and wander some other way
Or not
After all my expression, my networks, my calling are my own, unique
Who can say what the outcome might be?

Grief and gratitude

I seem to be pulled toward grief and gratitude at the moment. On the face of it, according to common understanding, it seems incongruous like being pulled in different directions. From the inside though the connection is seamless, grief and gratitude entwine each other, the latter is a balm for the former.

Earlier this year my 4 year old moved up to the kinder room and was quite sad about the loss of his beloved child care room. I mentioned this to a colleague at work who responded with enthusiasm. “That’s great, he must have felt really loved where he was.” Her response shifted my thinking and inspired me to tell Mr A “I know you feel sad and that’s okay. That sadness tells us that we loved something so what we can do is be grateful and say thank you. Thank you child care room, thank you toys, thank you carers.”

Some weeks later I cradled Archie, my beloved dog of ten years, as he lay on the threshold of death. I was moved in that moment of letting go to give thanks for the life we had shared and wrote the below poem in his honour.

Poem of gratitude to my dog

At the Wild Mind Gathering I offered a ritual of grief and later a song of gratitude. The song was inspired by the joy of finding community but the grief of separation was just around the corner. I knew everyone would share my pain at leaving such a beautiful space of connection and sharing, so I offered my thanks for what we had created together.

Joanna Macy says that gratitude is a revolutionary act. Gratitude says “I am enough. I have enough.” The danger in grief is that the pain will lead us down the path of fear and scarcity, closing us off to love. Gratitude stops the descent and holds us in grief as a pure expression of love.

Grief is becoming a friend to me. It shows me that I’m alive, that I am capable of love and that I am engaged in the world. I am learning to be grateful for the pain of grief and finding that the more I embrace it, the more it sets me free and the more open I am to embracing the love that comes my way. I am grateful for all the people, things and moments that I have loved and lost for helping me learn this lesson.

Struggles with creativity

Over the past year part my of journey has involved trying to reconnect with my inner artist. Part of that has involved writing poetry which has been very satisfying but I long to express myself visually. In the past (I’m talking about 10-15 years ago) painting helped me uncover truths that would never have occurred to my conscious mind. At times the process of creation has felt liberating and joyous, who doesn’t want more of that?

So when my troubles hit crisis point last year, I made time to paint. It kind of worked but it wasn’t as cathartic as I remembered. It was peaceful enough while I was engaged in it but it didn’t yield any insight or lasting solace. I know I’m asking a lot of a few hours but family life is crowded, I need to get bang for the time I invest. If something like 5rhythms is more effective then I’m going to go dancing for two hours instead of stay at home and paint.
 painting experiments
Over the year I have continued to fight myself and the tide of life to create space for the unstructured playtime I find crucial to creativity. It felt like a lot of my attempts failed. My inner dialogue was driving me to succeed, to push myself in new directions, to stick with it until I developed the skill to be brilliant. All of which effectively stifled anything I might have to offer.
girl holds origami butterflies on strings
Then a couple of weeks ago, after the Brene Brown course on the Gifts of Imperfection, I started thinking about working with myself, working with the skills I have instead of pushing myself to do things I can’t. Later that night I remembered a little piece of drawing and origami I did one evening, the only creative project over the year that was genuinely satisfying (and turned out beautifully, picture above). I decided to keep experimenting with drawing that same figure and the results have been astounding. I never knew I could draw!
Surrender
This journey reminds me of Mary Oliver’s advice to “let the soft animal of your body love, what it loves.” It strikes me that we all have gifts but we undervalue and undermine them in a stunning variety of ways. We think it has to be hard, it has to be a struggle, we have to earn the right to express ourselves. Charles Eisenstein would say that this is the Story of Separation, urging us to conquer and dominate ourselves. Life thrives on diversity, the Earth needs us to express what is most unique and heartfelt and natural within us. This is the birthplace of innovation, this is how we will change the world.

Pursuing purpose

In my last post I shared a poem about my life purpose which has been a beautiful thing for me and also challenging. I find myself anxious to escape the present by building castles in the air, grand ideas about living more closely with nature or generating widespread change.

There are practical things I’ve been doing – running deep ecology workshops, deepening my personal connection with myself as nature,  and writing this blog. When I look at the list it seems like a lot, I love the things I have done so far but I want to do so much more. I want to make this way of being the heart of my life, not just something I do on the weekend. So ‘what is’ butts up against ‘what could be.’

My grand plans are often unrealistic, they are personally or professionally unsustainable, they are far beyond my current skill set or they just don’t have the kind of momentum needed to get them off the ground. The last workshop I ran barely had minimum numbers and it only went ahead because I decided I was going to do it no matter what and my parents came along (thanks guys). This all sounds like I’m clipping my own wings but what I’m trying to get at is that this journey I’m on is a cocreation.

I genuinely want to create something that is larger than myself, that is of service to the Earth. I am beginning to understand that what I need to do is hold the ideas, record them, honour them, share them with other people but stay open to what wants to emerge. I could get a grand idea, unite people under my vision and push it to fruition by sheer force of will but what I’m much more interested in is participating in a shared vision that is held by a whole community of people.

We need systems solutions to systems problems, lots of different people each carrying their own little piece of the puzzle contributing to something larger than themselves. I have come across several groups around Melbourne who are each interested in similar themes around deep ecology, spirituality, social justice and compassion. Who each want to transform the human story, to walk with the Earth not on it and are engaged in deeply personal journeys of inquiry.

I long to bring all these groups together but I’m biding my time, I don’t know whether I need to create a new vehicle or whether it already exists and I just need to jump on the bandwagon.  It’s not clear what the Earth wants of me, my heart is open and ready, we will create the path as we walk it.

Craft is cool

I’ve been on a craft spree over the last month or so. I’ve made a journal, a dress and some wall art. I lost my phone for three days (which was unnerving and liberating) and was inspired to do a bit of crochet on the train. It has made me think about the value of working with my hands.

girl holds origami butterflies on strings

I once taught someone to crochet and jokingly said “It’s good to have a practical skill come the environmental apocalypse.” Of course I don’t know if that’s where we are headed but it certainly seems like things need to change, (this post articulates it beautifully). One of the things that would have to change is the value of manual labour.

I find it strange sometimes that sitting at a desk pushing paper is valued so much more highly than my ability to create books or clothes. To the point where it’s just not worth trying to sell the fruits of my labour even though I love it. Our economy values the thoughts in my head much more highly than the skills in my hands.

Handbound coptic stitch journal with postcard covers

I admit I find the thought of a reevaluation of this hierarchy … delicious. ‘Craft’ is overlayed with political and cultural connotations that become particularly apparent when one considers its distinction from ‘art‘. According to one scholar “what white European men make is dignified by the label “art”, while what everyone else makes counts only as craft.” I hope for a more socially just world as well as an Earth-caring one and this seems to be one of places where those passions combine.

Thank you trees

I’m coming up blank this week. There’s big stuff going on at work and it’s doing my head in. I’ve been reading Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Love letter to the Earth which is helpful. I am taking refuge in the present every chance I get but the maelstrom of ego is pretty brutal right now. I’m particularly grateful for trees. They are so grounded and so effortlessly perfect. They are a mindfulness bell for me, reminding me of my true nature and my place in the cosmos. This too will pass.

Here are seven other reasons why trees deserve our gratitude.

Below is a picture of the great grandmother tree who is starting to become a regular character on this blog. I have grand ideas about writing about how I feel about her and how much of a presence she is in my life but perhaps as I weave mention of her through my posts you will come to see it for yourself.

Great grandmother gum tree