Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Being the Mountain

I have not been very well recently, so this winter season, so far, has not been as productive as I had hoped it would be. Instead of being full to bursting with words and ideas, I am empty, bereft. I thought that there would be story-seeds planted in the ground, readying themselves to sprout within me, but there has been barely a peep.

All I have, at present, is my own story.

It is at difficult times in the past that I have imagined myself to be a mountain (or an ancient, gnarled tree), solid and enduring, and able to withstand whatever storms come. As a mountain, I can sit, deeply rooted, substantial and strong and completely still, as the winds buffet my flanks, or the rain wears lines of erosion into my skin. I can allow my emotional weather to pass over me as I remain at peace. An occasional earthquake may shatter the stillness, but I move with it, in synchrony with the earth. I ride it out, with patience and acceptance.

All the same, I do start to question myself sometimes. Perhaps I am doing something wrong to be feeling this way. I look to my diet and speculate about whether I should stop eating dairy again … yes, probably. I wonder if I should be meditating more often, with more commitment … it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Or whether my fortnightly yoga class is in fact too much for me, physically … it may well be, but giving up may be even more detrimental, just as I am starting to feel more comfortable in my body again.

I do what I can to take care of myself, but usually there are no clear answers to these questions, and I just end up lost and confused, not really knowing what to do. That is the reality of living with the ups and downs of a chronic illness. And so I must be the mountain, for as long as needed.

Sometimes I also wonder whether my lack of creative work is contributing to the way I feel. This is always a possibility, for I often do feel better when I am working, enlivened by words or images. That is when I get in touch with the wildness within me, and I love it.*

Yet if the energy and inspiration simply isn’t there, well, I cannot force it. That could result in more harm than good.

If I am unwell, I need to rest and re-centre myself. 

Though I am not writing (or doing anything much) as I would like, the upside is that I have been doing some other important things:
In addition to Ursula Le Guin’s extraordinary novel Always Coming Home, which I wrote of last week, I have been reading Bill Plotkin’s amazing book, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and the Psyche (2003), described by David Abram (on the cover) as ‘an abundantly wise and carefully crafted survival guide for the wild soul currently dozing (or dying) at the heart of your civilized life’. It is reminding me that the spiritual journey is threefold, requiring the development of a healthy ego in the middle world, the ascent to Spirit in the upper world, and the descent to Soul in the lower world (underworld). This is a gentle and inspiring nudge back in the right direction, to refocus on my soul-seeking work in the deep, dark underworld realm (which is the particular concern of the book), though not to neglect my ego or my need to ascend and connect with Spirit either. I now have more ideas for furthering this aspect of my development.

I recently went to view a small exhibition by three women artists called Flight Print Stitch at Gallery ONE88 in Katoomba, and I have fallen in love with Jan Melville’s exquisite etchings and assemblages. With their focus on natural and spiritual themes—and birds!—they are just the kind of mythic art that I am attracted to and inspired by. I wasn’t able to take photographs in the gallery, but you can see some of her work by clicking here.
And the knitting of my ‘Braveheart’ jumper is coming along beautifully.

I am not writing stories, and it does bother me, this inability and lack, the feeling of hollowness inside; but I have been pointed in other directions, towards other occupations and influences, and this is good, necessary. Perhaps the stories are simply waiting for the spring, when they can break free of the ground with new vigour. 

Until then I will retreat into a dark cave in the mountain of me and bide my time.

*Writing this has helped.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing the frustration, vulnerability, and hope of your journey, Therese. I loved hearing about the books you are reading and the way that art and knitting inspire your days. I too understand the frustration that you have shared here but also the sense of 'being the mountain'. I don't so much have that sense as that there is a mountain at my back stopping me falling too far. For some years I have called her 'Grandmother Mountain' and have tried to write about her several times without success. Thank you for calling her out just a little bit with your beautiful and truthful words.

    1. Thanks, Jacqueline. I'm glad this post is resonating with people. I needed to remind myself that everything can be a subject for writing, even not being able to write! That loosened me up and I even got a couple of other things written last week. And I'm glad Grandmother Mountain is there for you. I kind of visualise my mountain as like one of those monumental neolithic goddesses sitting on the earth, all her great bulk rooted there, but touching the sky too. She's a powerful presence indeed.

  2. I was SO sure I'd commented here - I know I did in my head when I first read it...
    Anyway, I hope you can trust your natural writing rhythms - there's always times to be fallow and times to be fruitful... And your knitting is GORGEOUS - love the colour, the pattern, everything really!!
    And thank you for your comment on my blog post yesterday - I've left a wee comment :)

    1. Thank you, Claire. Yes, I am learning all about my inner seasons and cycles. Knowing they are there, and natural, takes some of the fear away from the times when I am not, or can't be, creative. Everything passes and changes. It's just a matter of being patient, and using my time well to absorb inspiration and ideas that will hopefully feed into my work later on.

      I am knitting this pattern: http://www.loveknitting.com/braveheart-pullover-in-rowan-original-denim-downloadable-pdf It's a little bit of a risk as the yarn used is a 'denim' yarn, designed to be washed in hot water for the first wash, when it will shrink in length. So it remains to be seen whether the end result fits me (I hope it does!). But yes, I do love the cable pattern on the front.

    2. My g'ma tried to teach me to knit several times - without success :/ But I'm a real sweater girl, whatever the season, so I certainly appreciate fine knitwear :)
      I had to smile when I followed the link... I think the sweater on the model HAS shrunk! I like a baggy body and extra-long sleeves on my sweaters - to cover all my lumps and bumps :)
      I hope you'll share pics when your creation is complete xx

    3. If it all turns out as planned, yes, I probably will share a pic of it. As for the size, I am quite small, so often I have to make some adjustments to knitting patterns to ensure they are not too loose on me. But on this occasion I just have to follow the pattern and hope the result works out okay. Fingers crossed.

    4. May the knitting fairies be on hand to help you interpret the pattern and keep count of all those complicated stitches and loops :D x


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