Ostara, the Germanic Goddess, heralds the beginning of spring. She is the maiden, full of potential, representing the opportunity of growth and rebirth after the hermetic months of winter sleep. East, dawn, and the morning light evidence the returning warmth of the sun's rays and the lengthening days, as we reach towards new horizons. In her strength Ostara is warm, dynamic and compassionate. But in her weakness, she comes almost too late. In folklore her delay nearly causes the death of a small bird, and when the young goddess arrives to find the bird that is dying, she warms him, and turns him into a rabbit.
At the cusp of spring equinox, the days and nights move to equal balance. And though there is this very real balancing between dark and light, we still hover between seasons for some time. The last clutches of winter’s long cool hands and ice breath spin and turn with the sweeter laughter of spring sun chasing in. Here in London the female fox scream and whimper loud in the night, sex driving this new season to open. Crack! Open! Creation! The nervous system teeters between past and future, and I challenge myself to steady my breath and deepen into my back, into my heart, for support. To know that life will lead the way, if you allow her. But yes, between worlds, we are still uncertain, before the warmth of a new era can be fully embraced. And it is here in the maw of uncertainty that transformation is possible, in little flashes, change can be grasped and earned. It is here when my nerves sing and scream that I wonder about faith, and source, and nourishment, and love. What are they? What are the things that hold us as we plunge into a new realm? It is here at this cusp that an assimilation from the meditations of winter need to be tended to, and then a good deal of clearing is required. Sweep out, cut out, burn with sweet sage. Make space for what is still unknown, for what will later emerge. Sit with faith, and if you don’t have any (yet), sit just with yourself. It is here that anything is possible, once again. If we work for that new vision. If we surrender to god, life – whatever you dare to believe is at the heart of creation.
I landed back in London three and a half weeks ago, and my body blood is still adjusting to align with her pulse. In waves I am carried and filled by this city, her abundant culture and wisdom. I feel her familiar shapes, lines and curves, power, and I am also acclimatising to her changes. I am aware of the transition period that London is living through, with the whole of the UK, with Brexit and the political climate of now. Not simple. Not clear. And sometimes transitions can be long laborious perplexing affairs, not linear, not comfortable, not welcome. But London has always been a city that is ever-changing. She is a center point, and yet she is always turning with the moving world. The layers of culture and pathways run deep, millenniums since Londinium. Layers of architecture, places, streets, that have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years, a territory for meeting, for people from all parts of the world, from all walks of life - and all the while new trends and buildings erupt right at her core, and onwards morphing changing she goes. The river at her heart. And it is an incredible thing to witness, the balancing of old and new within the matrix and complexity of these times, and people continue to gravitate from all over the globe, and onwards she goes. She is our teacher.
I am considering bridges. I am considering pathways between things. I am born from parents that were forced to emigrate to grow onwards, and so I am a child of the new world. My story is one of weaving, and I embody the desire to move between things. And to wish for a clear resolution or a choice between poles is not possible. My journey is in the expression of balance within a constant process of alchemy. And I must allow that the movement is never complete. And my faith is that something in what I am, that is greater than any one part, is the fuel for the thread that weaves. The beauty is in the possibility of this. The danger is in slippage, between things, as if there really were gaps.
Yes, sometimes I fall. I forget. I get weary of being a traveller between worlds. I feel schizophrenic from holding so many threads. I try to work it out. I try to solve it. I want peace and rest. I want recognition for my labour. But these are words that are dangerous if too general or too absolute. There are no such spaces for such generalities within this searching. I must challenge myself to find the intricacies and nuances in the changing of each day, within each small moment a universe is born.
It is a great gift to be alive. There is such balm in the discovery that another person’s creation echoes of similar struggle that brings similar determination, dedicated to opening, transforming, connecting. It is exciting to move within this funny elegant vulnerable tender body, reaching between the muddy earth and the impossible possible stars. It is paradox. It is magic. And, yes -- there is real darkness and real pain and real tragedy as we search for love. And it must be endured, it must be acknowledged and assimilated if we are to feel truth in this life. Courage comes from the French word Coeur – the Heart. Ah! In the hardest moments, when you feel the most lost and alone, if possible, be tender and kind to yourself. We are so young.
Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams
Almeida Theatre, London – March 2018
Director - Rebecca Frecknall
Alma – Patsy Ferran
John – Matthew Needham
Summer and Smoke (1948) is set in Glorious Hill, Mississippi, at the turn of the last century. The story centers on the highly-strung, minister's daughter, Alma Winemiller, and the spiritual/sexual romance that nearly blossoms between her and the wild, undisciplined young doctor who grew up next door, John Buchanan Jr. She, ineffably refined, identifies with the Gothic cathedral, "reaching up to something beyond attainment"; and her name, as Williams makes clear during the play, means "soul" in Spanish; whereas Buchanan, doctor and sensualist, defies her with the “soul-less” anatomy chart.
By the play's end, however, Buchanan and Alma have traded places philosophically. She has been transformed beyond modesty. She throws herself at him, saying, "… now I have changed my mind, or the girl who said 'no', — she doesn't exist anymore, she died last summer — suffocated in smoke from something on fire inside her …”. But by then he has changed, he is engaged to settle down with a respectable, younger girl; and tries to convince Alma that what they had between them was indeed a "spiritual bond", inferring that it was somehow right that it was never physical. And she realizes that it is too late. In the final scene, Alma meets a young traveling salesman at dusk in the town park; and, as the curtain falls, she follows him to enjoy "after-dark entertainment" at Moon Lake Casino, where she had resisted Buchanan's attempt to seduce her the summer before. (excerpts taken from Wikipedia)
Alma’s body wriggles and vibrates, fighting to contend with something that she cannot hold within the paradigm she has grown into. The faith she has been taught to accept has no place for the physical passion she yearns to express, and so her body spasms between what has been ingrained and what bucks inside her to be articulated and opened. From the deep wells of her innocent heart, her body-soul burns for recognition. She cannot meet or grasp the language of the body that flows in an almost reckless way from John. And so she falls repeatedly into the gap between them. He tries to reach her, a little bit, a few times. But it is not enough. He seems to forget her for durations, distracted by his own free moving urges. They are two different creatures, and though some feeling of love emerges for them both, it is not in the same way, perhaps. Tragically, they miss each other. Smoke and evaporation.
Alma’s journey from one summer to the next moves in painful throes. Her breath and body are racked by waves of anxiety, as her psyche grapples with a lonely and unchartered territory. No god she knows can help her here. Desire pulls without compassion at her health and at the foundations of her given moral code, until finally symbolically she dies, and as she gives up and gives over she is born anew – but by then it is too late. In the space between two summers the ships pass each other in the night, and there is no John to welcome her into the new world.
Tennessee Williams was writing about Alma and John, but he was also writing about American culture, the meeting of body and soul, past and future, masculine and feminine. Indeed, the story of love and meeting is complex, and so often tragic. And so it makes me think again about the teachings of Tragedy. It is the character’s flaw that is her/his downfall, the aspect that is not yet conscious, that seems to need a hard event to be realised or discovered. But by then it is too late, the object of the love is already dying or gone. And yet, the greatest love stories are also so beautiful. They can hold the energy of life, of continuance, of innate striving to become more whole, more connected. If we can integrate the wisdom of the lessons of era upon era, love becomes evolution.
I think about the spring opening and moving towards summer. I think about the place we are in the world culture. The ever-turning cycles of seasons, spirals of potential growth, and the very real challenges of meeting and marriage and balance and paradox and alchemy. We must work hard to keep turning things around, to see from various perspectives, to see new aspects - and we must surrender too, and invite the gods or morals or ethics or loves that guide us beyond the trappings of older chapters of ego.
Maybe it is not so much trying to find solutions to paradox as it is to accept the need to dissolve dualism – moral dualism, ethical dualism, sexual dualism. Things can be different, indeed we must identify difference and separate things out to understand and to honour them. But beyond that, I am pulled to feel into what connects all the parts, what connects us all. To breathe into the body-soul, into the 4 directions simultaneously, and to touch the web. Maybe it is possible to grow, to birth, to heal, to try again each morning as the days stretch out, to feed possibility and connection.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver