The new year rolled in with a global bang and shudder as we further face the realities of the climate crisis, the war-action of the US president, adding to all the other planetary and human urgencies now upon us.
Steadily and with single focus we each choose our action and go forward. Some might turn off social media for a time to bring back a little breathing room. Others will ramp it up, amplifying causes. Some plan to tune out the news cycle to tend a garden, write a novel, or develop new on-the-ground skills. Others look to deepen discovery of the news behind the news. I started this newsletter last August as a voice outside of social media, hoping to bring in something new, to cultivate my imagination, to communicate with you in a deeper way. I plan to keep it up throughout the year and follow where it leads me.
I’m trying and learning. The “audience stats” are not what I’m after. It’s a bit of a dance. We know each other, or we have at least met in person, so this isn’t a public message like a blog post. It is a letter to you.
As we go into the darker days to January and February, I’m listening. Some of you have been facing physical health issues, some big ones. Some of you are coping with grief and loss. I’m thinking of you. We are all facing the inevitability of change and its growing pains. I used to be so afraid of change I would wall it out if I could. I thought change = danger. The unexpected was not to be trusted. I learned this tension from my English mother, my often-disappointed mother.
My perspective changed for the better, though. Once, walking along a beach with friends, roses washed up on the shore. Roses! Long-stemmed, still alive, beautiful! As if they were telling me that the unexpected could also be good. Right to my feet, a gift of roses carried by the sea. My mythic magical thinking was in full force. Hope. Gratitude. Roses.
Years later, and further north, other friends tossed funerary roses down a cliff into that same sea. Then I clicked into understanding. Those magic roses from the beach that had given me such delightful happiness were no doubt mixed with ash - roses from a memorial. A mythic balance.
These are some thoughts I am putting aside and not writing about here: the parallels and the easy patterns of ebb and flow, give and take, blessing and loss; or the dead feeding the living with depth; or the self-centred idea that all I experience is about me, for me, when it is actually a much more interdependent inter-causal activity that I’m lucky to pick up even a tiny portion of.
Back to the real-time metaphor of the roses in the sea foam, coming to shore at the exact time people happen to be walking to find and receive them… A contact, or connection.
These roses were like a message in a bottle. There’s a romance to the bottle with a message in it, washing ashore. Even if the message is desperate and dire, even if the action we need to take because of that message involves a difficult quest or rescue. Today the romance of charming debris tossed to the seashore has turned into a nightmare story of plastic contamination. The message now is delivered in a plastic bottle that itself is the horror tale. The power of magical thinking and esoteric charms are not enough to clear this up and save the sender of the message. We need technology, legislation, education, and public will.
Meanwhile, in another romance, newly-weds cast their wedding roses into the sea, then they slip out of their finery, and dive off the pier. The moon is full. Roses float on the water. The couple swims out from the pier a ways before coming back. They vow that when one dies, the other will toss roses in that very spot.
The imagination, our poetic birthright, our access to the world’s past and future, gives vision, scope, and comfort. It is not just making things up but it is actually making things, just not with the dense material of the earth - but with “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Shakespearean stuff, known by Mirabai and Joyce, Milton and Hafiz, Blake and Rumi, and any child hearing a bedtime story or fairy tale.
Answers to our problems and quests come down those same corridors, as instantaneous flashes of insight.
The open mind is available. If guidance comes, we are to act on it. That is all. (And it is everything.)
They say the Zen mind is an open field watching for lightning.
The image at the top of this newsletter is a still from the amazing animation work of Suzan Pitt. We’ve just subscribed to the Criterion Channel, and watched 7 of her films there. Highly recommended.
And the bushfire smoke turned Australian sunrise into an image of the Aboriginal flag. Read more: Daily Mail, photo by Rose Fletcher, New Year’s Day.
Thanks for reading, and please give a little click on the heart so the internet knows you like it.