“ Consider the silence of a Winter’s day cracked open by the sound of a woodpecker’s beak.” - Avia
What I have needed is opportunity to write again. The recent solstice and holiday has gifted me that opportunity. There is also the clear realisation that ways of working which in the past have given me huge, professional joy, as well as understanding, are no longer present in the current economic and political climate. Continuing to fight to reclaim those ways of working within the current bureaucratic structure is to deny the presence of Winter and is now actually draining what, in the past, had been energising. Austerity – seemingly endless austerity has broken what once worked well.
Mourning this has also diminished my hitherto enormous capacity for joy which in the past has been sufficient to earn me the name Annie Joy.
Withdrawing now into family time and the warm light of home, the holidays have opened up to me. I have heard the green woodpecker
(a totem animal of mine) and seen it on the moss and in the oak tree.
My pace has slowed and I have had time to notice again, and time to respond to my friend Annie’s e mail asking if I was free to meet up, as she unexpectedly had time herself last Saturday 6th January 2018.
With this, the where and what to do swiftly show themselves.
I suggested a meeting at The Sticky Earth Café in Cromer see www.stickyearthcafe.co.uk
This is a place I have used in the past in one of my heart’s dark times when all I could do was paint. I painted those words on a heart shaped cup and saucer as a means of both creatively expressing that distress and in the hope that crafting it would be the vehicle to travel through into brighter times.
The delight I felt when meeting that cup and saucer, after it had gone through the process of firing in the kiln, was a source of joy to me and confirmed at least two other things:
What I know to be true, namely that art indeed is medicine.
Albert Einstein knew what he was talking about when he said,
“It is the supreme act of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
When welcoming clients into our offices as therapists, there is much psycho education to be done before the real transformational process begins. Little preparation is routinely extended to children or adults about family dynamics; the basic principles of how to understand our inner psychological worlds; or even how to grow from relationship challenges let alone self awareness and emotional regulation.
Another saying which I keep in my pocket as a sharp stone to keep turning and softening its edges is, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”
As therapists, we have no basis ethically to offer light to others in their challenging, dark places, if we do not, ourselves, make similar journeys. Using the methods we offer indicates that we too are humble enough to find the mystery emerging from the silent darkness and sufficiently trusting of it to offer it on to another.
Just as the woodpecker awakens me to the coming of Spring bringing evidence that, despite any Winter weather, the days are steadily lengthening.
The space and opportunity to meet up with a dear friend is a brightening gift of which I can take advantage.
We are both therapists, Annie speaks a similar language to mine in an external world where sometimes one can feel at one’s loneliest in a group of people.
So often undertaking the role of being the person who understands the basics of how our psyches work creates the space for people to project their own fears/ resistance/assumptions into the space between us.
For me, and Annie, the space is clear. We engage in the ordinary pleasure of an unhurried catching up after the laughter only a warm, warm hug can evoke. Having someone interested in the personal details of one’s life is a nourishing experience, if invited, for both and rarer than one might think.
It is poetry for her which has real value and a wonderful new anthology called The Poetry of Mindfulness edited by Phyllis Cole-Dai & Ruby R. Wilson. This, along with the magic of having her own personal space now in her home, and the figures she has made help her make sense of her life. She shares one of the poems focussing on the sacred value of broken things which has touched her most deeply.
This is the first encounter of the poem for me and I know that I am being given a gift which may well turn out to be like the Buddhist symbol of the thousand petaled lotus, as it has for her - offering more and more messages for me to discover.
Symbols and signs earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives led by intuition.
What sings for her may not be what the poem offers me.
There may be cross pollination immediately.
It may take years for the seeds sown to germinate in my internal world.
This the realm of the heart where there is no issue of “either/or” so much as the “and/and” of a band of consciousness which has little interest in conflict. It is an ordinary reality which, once within it, makes perfect sense and thrives on subtle energies with lives of their own threading in and out of the quiet mystery that is creativity and creative expression, fecund in its silence.
One person’s sharing completes for the moment and with it, space for something new becomes possible.
My focus was been on sharing the distress and grief I had been facing about how much poorer I was with the loss of the team I had previously worked within for so many years.
The ensuing confusion of not knowing what the new way forward would be created discomfort. I knew only that I had, like others, to turn away before it made me sick - well, made me any sicker actually. My blood pressure had been dangerously high and I had even had cardiac pains – a new experience for me. The high blood pressure is a familiar accompaniment to those times when I am challenged to change. Where I am now is apparent. No longer am I following the true flow of the river of my life. But, in turning away from the limitations being imposed on me, I can honour the concerns I know are real for the future of one young lad. I had decided to be true to what I felt was the “right” action to take.
In doing this, I was delighted to find another caring professional willing to do the same for that pupil he had felt the need to expel but now was willing, at least to reconsider exploring other possibilities before imposing his decision.
It was a meeting which put me back to the place where I had been enormously supported to make the transition from being a teacher myself to requalify as a psychotherapist over thirty years ago.
With this crucial direction found, I could slip back into the space which allowed me to regain trust in the process.
I have found that when trust is there, life works beautifully. Not knowing becomes less stressful vulnerability so much as excitement for what emerges - so often richer than anything I could have imagined on my own.
This, in turn, had brought peace and released me into having space to read the book I had been given for Christmas – The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. With it, I reconnected to another of those crises which forced me to take space to recover and a mystical interaction with a wild octopus in the Red Sea. I found I had a great deal in common with the octopus.** We shared a gentle curiosity and willingness to play which remains a source of joy which has lasted for over twenty years.
Once Annie and I had satisfied this “ordinary’ exchange, we separated to seek out the pottery blanks we would each choose to paint with glazes. These then would be offered to the fire of the kiln before we could know what our creative endeavours would look like.
To say that one is not in control of the outcome is a bit of an understatement.
Different vulnerabilities arise.
Wandering, searching, we bumped into each other several times. Still it was clear that we were making our own choices and not influencing each other. And yet ……….
And yet it was in the end hardly a surprise that we both chose heart shaped objects. Hers, a heart shaped bowl, fitted perfectly into her hands in a sacred gesture of tender holding. Mine was a dish more two dimensional in that it had a clear front and back. Each side has its own distinctive character at first meeting: the one apparently separate from the other.
For me the back invited my attention first and from the pictures you will find evidence of my interest in octopuses.
I finished the front uncertain about whether what I had put on it was “good enough” to satisfy me at all. What emerged seemed primitive.
It was, however, the best I could do. It adequately symbolised the message I was wanting to express sufficiently for me to turn to the back again and add the words which distilled what was now so much clearer for me.
(There is so much symbolism to found in a heart. What, I wonder does a heart speak of to you: the reader?)
Waiting for something one has created to emerge from the kiln and collect it is actually a kind of creative birth process I find.
Below are photos of what did emerge for both of us.
We did collaborate on awakening joy through creative expression.
The ordinary did lead to an experience of the extraordinary.
We both have a physical reminder of the time we spent together which shall, I believe, continue to inspire us. Time well spent.
Please see Annie’s website for her account of our day and her explanation of her reasons for the choices she made - www.anniepointer.com