The 26th leg av the Camino.


Today our lovely guide asks us to put our intention on “healing” today. And I meet with another point of internal resistance.

One which takes me completely by surprise.

I was listening to a podcast the other day about trauma. The interviewee’s position was that people who have insecurities have them because they were traumatized as children. And after all these years of therapy, I am beginning to wonder if there is really any benefit in using the metaphors of wounds and healing and scars when it comes to processing the emotional experiences of our lives.

The whole paradigm of trauma implies a state of perfection that is damaged. And I find myself asking: where is that state of perfection? If someone has a concept of that, my guess is that it precedes the time where they became conscious of their own point of view being discrete from the rest of the world. The toddler whose mother closes the bathroom door for the first time while she pees alone, may very well experience that moment as a small trauma: an abandonment. The spectrum of abandonment is long and varied and ultimately subjective.

Isn’t our concept of this “first trauma” a form of nostalgia? A fiction?

I am in no way belittling or denying the reality of the pain that we endure. And believe me, it both surprises me – and makes me uncomfortable – that I find myself asking these questions.

What if we framed the small and large events of our lives as something other than trauma? These are events. Phenomena. I am certainly aware that this is not a novel thought. I’ve read the philosophers, but there is always a different kind of understanding when you plod the long way around and bump into to the idea on your own: experiential-ly, not intellectually.

Healing is generally defined as a form of “restoration”. Or reparation. I find it ironic, the definitions of the word reparation – one being healing, and one being payment for being wronged. Am I the only person who has muddled the two? Expected healing in the form of payment: a lollipop from the dentist, an eye for an eye, a medal, a title – moral superiority.

It might just be me. I’m not proud of this. I often question my motives for having “shown off” my scars. Doing so always leaves me with with a feeling of shame. When will I decide I am “healed”? Believe I’ve received enough reparations to move on?

I’m considering other metaphors. These events as shapes, not ugly or pretty in themselves, but shapes I can sort into mosaics. These stories (since I cannot let go of the stories) that are not about healing and happy endings, but about the weaving of compassionate observations into a greater whole. How can experiences make me a better person, but – no: and not give me a sense of being more deserving?

I’m grateful for many of the concepts I have internationalized from my childhood faith. Martyrdom is not one of them.

What if the “work of healing” is nothing more than willful creativity? This is the material you are given: a bit of mud, a bit of coal, a fleck of fool’s gold. Make something of it that is yours.

It’s our nature to be altered by phenomenon.

Just like the trees that grow around the fence posts, that layer their bark each season – callouses that look like faces, faces that read like stories. Nothing healed. And nothing gained. Just part of the great forest.

 

 

 

The 25th leg of the Camino.


Every day I get to sit in this little library, between the walls I’ve painted a deep green. I’ve hung dark mustard paisley curtains in front of the French doors. There are shelves of books, a great oak desk, a purple velvet wing-back chair, a standing Tiffany lamp, and a sleeping dog  – who takes up this tiny room otherwise.

This room is my pride. My bower nest.

Sometimes my love sits in the chair and reads, or works puzzles while I write.

I have always been comfortable in snug spaces. Always taken a pleasure and sense of calm in the arranging and rearranging of objects in space. Even when that was a mattress, milk crates and two-by-fours. And books.

But this space is different. The room is still small, but sitting here – my back to the window – the blackbirds’ singing sounds through the glass. Unfailingly, they sing.

In all the moving I’ve done in my life, this is the first time I’ve not felt that my personal physical space was a kind of panic room; a secret sound-proof sanctuary, the tighter the better.

I think it’s the singing that makes this home different.

Sometimes I wonder if the blackbirds that sing in our driveway are the same blackbirds that hop along the trail in the dark winter mornings – darting into the underbrush when we run by. Maybe they follow us home.

This winter I neglected them – and into this spring. I’ve neglected to notice them. Of course it matters nothing to them, it is all my loss. I fell out of habit and haven’t run regularly in this new year. This wearying year that has been off-groove for so many ways for so many people. And when things are off-groove, I retreat.

I want to write: “It’s only natural.” But it’s unnatural.

Today I forced myself to push the hamstring for a run along the lake. And something like not having seen a small child in too long, I realize that I’ve somehow missed the world going by. The lily pads speckle the southern edges of the lake already with their big, flat leaves. In the pale reeds, the cottontails are thick and dark brown. The ducks are paired off, and I am overdressed in a fleece and a jacket.

I’ve missed the smells of the woods, and the active focus of scanning for tree roots at a steady pace. I’ve missed stopping and listening to the trees in the wind, the rare woodpecker drilling – I’ve even missed the little electric jolt at the site of an iridescent beetle crawling over my fingers while I try to balance in an awkward crow pose in the middle of the grove.

I’ve missed opening myself to nature, which is necessarily opening one’s self to death. Even the mushrooms in the shade of Njåskogen look like ivory-silken funeral lilies.

All this while, away from the woods, I’ve been planning a garden. Planning. While sitting in this little room. It makes sense really. What is a garden but an attempt to tame nature? To stave off death – or at least create an illusion of control over it.

From this room I make plans for a garden in the yard that will be a kind of bridge to the lake and the woods down the road.

It’s time now.