Friday, 29 December 2017

Elsewisdom: A New Knowing to Close the Circle

What a strange year it has been, full of journeys through dark and low places, punctuated by occasional bright, high peaks. I’ve written poetry, and stopped writing altogether for a time. I’ve made some art, and wished I could make much more (and let’s not forget my knitting). And confusion and unease have been near constant companions, forcing me to re-evaluate and reconfigure my perspective and way of being, but I think I am finally finding my way to the creation of a new amalgam, a new understanding. 

In June I wrote of the winter solstice, my feelings of unwisdom, and my movement between opposing poles: 

I have been both still and in constant motion over the past year. I’ve been myself, and changed. I’ve been high and low, light and dark, wise and unwise. I’ve come full circle, and will again, and again. (Stillness, Unwisdom & the Solstice)

And so it seems appropriate that I am coming to the end of another cycle, to some kind of conclusion with which to end this calendar year, and then to begin again, renewed.

Dualities and paradoxes have been at the forefront of my mind for some time—the dance of opposing forces. And these opposites—light/dark, body/mind, spirit/matter, nature/culture—do indeed dance. While they are distinct things, they are not wholly seperate, for they work together; and, sometimes, in the space between grows a third thing—a merging, a oneness, an equilibrium. It’s not an easy thing to find, balance, but I know it is there, in that calm space between the whirls.  

An illustration from Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home
Rereading Susan Griffin’s seminal germinal book Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (1978), a classic ecofeminist text, was a necessary part of my search for answers. In it she argues against the philosophical separations and dualisms that have been part of the thinking of many civilised humans since the time of Plato. In Griffin’s poetic prose, what is separated is rejoined, the mind comes to re-inhabit the body, the heart to work once more with the mind. (I think it was Clarissa Pinkola Estés who wrote that it is better to work from a position of and/and than one of either/or.) As someone who struggles with being too much in my head and not enough in my body, Griffin’s work is both inspiring and instructive. Thus, my aim for the year ahead (if all goes well) is going to be an exploration of embodiment—in writing, in art, in food and nourishment, and in forms of somatic meditation and other spiritual practices. (This need for embodiment is something I have known about for several years, and is thus long overdue.)

I also read an anthology of Griffin’s writing earlier this year, in which I came across many things that resonated with me. It is a wondrous thing when someone’s writing speaks very directly to you as reader, as if made just for you—even things written decades ago, as in this case. So I will leave you, and the tumultuous year that was 2017, with this quote, which I think sums up much of what I have been thinking and feeling:    

But fearful as I am, there is joy in me. While one eye sees disaster and the causes of destruction more clearly, the other eye awakens to beauty. I am beginning to put the shattered being, myself and the world, back together. We are all connected. I know this. Dark and light. Male and female. We are a tribe whose fate on this earth is shared. I do not know the outcome. I have moments of despair. But I have learned that when I see out of my own experience, and chart it as precisely and clearly as I can, I see what I have not seen before: I am surprised.

This earth holds a vast wisdom and a capacity to heal that we are only beginning to comprehend. We are made from this earth. This is my hope. 

(Susan Griffin, Made from this Earth: An Anthology of Writings by Susan Griffin, Harper & Row: New York, 1982, p. 20)


  1. I wish you a grounding year of reconnecting with your self and creation through the breath and the senses, and exploring your life's paradoxes. You are wise to follow the red thread.

    1. Thank you so much, Carmine. I am holding tightly to that thread. Many blessings to you too. Bring on 2018!

  2. Wishing you many warm blessings for the year ahead. Those books look very interesting and wonder full.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. Oh yes, 'Woman and Nature' is a classic, and highly recommended. Many blessings to you too for 2018.

  3. thank you for the book recommendations - not an author I know...
    belated yule/xms wishes and early new year felicitations, dear Therese x

    1. Thank you, Claire. Blessings to you for the year ahead. x

  4. what a wonderful quote from griffin...

    we need hopeful guides like that very much now.

    thank you, and best wishes for the new year!


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