Thursday, 31 August 2017

Awakening at Winter’s End

Now that the August winds have departed, and the air is still once more, I’ve been able to spend more time enjoying this time of in-between, when winter is slowly turning to spring. Already, the cherry blossoms in gardens are almost spent, and other blossoms begin to take their place. And the daffodils are nodding their heads, saying Yes! Yes!

Bee and nectarine blossoms
I’ve been in a strange place lately, edge-dwelling, resting in the liminal. I feel the need to mourn the passing of each season, even as I welcome the next. I don’t want winter to go—I am not ready for the light. Yet spring is calling to me, tugging at my sleeve, and I cannot help but be drawn towards it.

I wanted to spend this winter cocooned in darkness, going inward and focusing on reconnecting with imagination and magic. It hasn’t exactly played out that way. My energy has remained low, and I’ve had to (re)learn that my body-mind can only do so much. In fact, as I read recently, people with CFS tend to procrastinate. This is not because we are lazy, but because our bodies are wiser than we realise. A lack of energy or motivation is not a fault, but a natural occurrence in times of illness. The body knows its limits, even if you, consciously, do not (or wish it were otherwise), and the body asserts itself, removing motivation and interest in order to cause you to stop, rest, slow down. Kat Duff writes:

The first thing that happens when I get sick, even before physical symptoms appear, is that I lose my usual interests. A kind of existential ennui rises in my bones like floodwaters, and nothing seems worth doing … That is when I know I am succumbing to the influence of illness … I slip, like fluid through a porous membrane, into the nightshade of my solar self, where I am tired of my friends, I hate my work, the weather stinks, and I am a failure. (The Alchemy of Illness, 1993, p. 6)

Losing interest in what normally enlivens and enchants us is not pleasant, as often much of life’s meaning inheres in our passions, and not to have or feel them is dispiriting. Yet it fills me with humility, and a kind of awe, to know the wisdom in my own body, that it speaks. I want to be able to understand it better.

So, even though I would love to be writing more, especially writing stories (which my mind simply cannot manage right now), I am trying to be content with where I am, where my body needs me to be, for now. And I’m happy that I have been able to create some small things over the last few months, despite everything. Thus I know that the spark of magic that I seek is still within me, and always has been, and I should not despair over its seeming disappearance. It is just hiding a little deeper than usual, waiting in the darkness—which is such a lovely, generative place to be—for when it can emerge again. Remarkably, even when illness is with me, that spark can still sometimes rise to the surface, very briefly, and it is those moments that I try to catch hold of, in the midst of the ‘existential ennui’ Duff speaks of.

I’ve said before how important creativity is in a world filled with destructiveness, but I don’t really mind that I am creating less at the moment. It seems more important to just let my body have what it needs: rest, quiet, a certain kind of nothingness. And small beauties: the migrations of tiny birds, calling to each other as they go; magpies singing; spring’s gradual unfurling; the few butterflies I have seen; the scent of violets; and the delicate green of a gum leaf, bringing with it the knowledge that the tree sheds the leaves it no longer needs—as can I—and the shed leaf feeds the soil which feeds the tree, which is a whole world in itself, a continuous circle of life inside the earth-circle—as am I. 

I can’t quite smell spring yet, but I feel it coming, rushing over the earth like a great green wind, petals flying in its wake.

The world is awakening. And since my body is part of the earth-body, so am I. Just in my own way.


  1. Very beautiful words and images! We are tipping into Autumn here - mists greeted me this morning, and there's a definite chill in the air! I can hear my heart singing - September's golden light is THE most beautiful!!

    1. Thank you! I think the in-between seasons are the loveliest. Enjoy your movement into golden autumn.

  2. Hi Therese, I've been vicariously reading to help understand life through the lens of chronic pain and illness. I have a good friend struggling immensely and becoming more despondent. Your writing gives me a persepctive that I am grateful for. I know it's an impossible question, as people are individuals, but from your experience what is the most (and least) helpful things that friends and family have done for you when you're going through a particularly rough patch? Gem

    1. Hi Gemma. Thanks for reading. This is a difficult question. I'll send you a reply via FB.


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