Unrequited Love

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“The Rowan tree is the tree of psychic protection, and discrimination. …the rowan is about integrity and personal sovereignty.”  The Witches Book of Days




It is the month of Rowan, and what better time to write on the theme of personal boundaries? ‘Womens’ stories endlessly resound with the question of how to nourish others, without losing ourselves. From the baby at the breast, to the care and nurturing of relationships, to the petty drudgery of household tasks repeated ad nauseam, these are women’s duties, women’s concerns, and women’s agonies.

While it is tempting to delve into the question of how much this is women’s nature, and how much is enculturation, it seems pointless, for of a certainty, it is the way it is in my culture and many others. This is not to denigrate men; to deny real, loving men. It is simply to acknowledge this:

“…feminist Germaine Greer described something she sees with increasing frequency: the weeping woman, the woman stopped at a traffic light with tears streaming down her face, or exiting a stall in the ladies room with red-rimmed eyes, or slumped in her seat at the movie theatre, clutching a handful of Kleenex. The weeping is always private, indulged on the sly, and Greer sees the sorrow behind it as a cultural phenomenon as well as an individual one, a reaction to the lingering understanding among women that despite several decades of social change, the world remains largely indifferent, disdainful, even hostile to their most defining qualities and concerns.”

Greer goes on to say that women weep in frustration, at being overworked and underpaid, at attending to the needs of others before themselves. At the men who find it difficult to be intimate, at the continued requirement to always be lowering their expectations, or their standards. “…the power and strength of a woman’s emotions considered pathological or hysterical or sloppy, her interest in connection considered trivial, her core being never quite seen or known or fully appreciated, her true self out of alignment with so much that is valued and recognized and worshipped in the world around her, her love, in a word, unrequited.” (Greer quoted from the book “Appetites”, by Caroline Knapp.)

Does this idea of unrequited love strike you, my imaginary friend, as forcefully as it does me? That the warmth of kindness and generosity should have so little value when pitted against accumulation and power? That for love to be genuine, each must value the essential nature of each other?

This is the season to look deeply within ourselves, to understand what we value and why we value it. It is not a simplistic question of individual setting of boundaries, it is a conscious decision to live with integrity: to say I value family, friends, community – connection.  That I affirm their value by living them, no matter how the world may scoff. That I affirm that love is not unrequited by acknowledging that your efforts to make the world – your world – kinder, more generous, more loving is a hero’s quest. Love and strength to my sisters and brothers who share this quest.

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Every Cliché of Love Ever Written

What are you doing, my love?

I walk the aisles of the store, and more joyfully, the familiar paths of the forest…I make the bed and sweep the floor and prepare soup for dinner: my homely little tasks serve only to remind me I am not doing them for you. The time passes happily and usefully enough, but when I am with you, oh, with you – then I am fully alive and engaged and the great mystery of the cosmos is ticking over. And I do not understand, save I want to step into the mystery and let its currents take me where they will. Bravery? Stupidity? Naiveté?

“What matter”, says my imaginary friend, rather crossly, “for it is every cliché of love ever written.” Perhaps so, my friend, perhaps so. Though having tested the waters; being willing to step into the stream and see where it takes one would seem to be a fine metaphor for many of life’s endeavours. I try not to speak of trite romanticism here, though, but more about purpose and meaning. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of what he calls ‘flow’ – being fully present and immersed enough in an activity to lose sense of time, in an intensely pleasurable way. (Wikipedia has a fine piece on Csikszentmihalyi and his research linked here.) I am captured by the idea, although perhaps I see it in more mystical terms – after all, do not the fairy tales begin with ‘once upon a time’? Is not this sense of time outside of time a part of where mystery and magic reside? Do we step into this time, or step out of our own prosaic earth time?

That’s a question I best leave for now, but I do say this: that the rhythm of our lives can perhaps really only be satisfying when it has its moments of leaving behind human concepts of time and clock and calendar. When sun guides us through our days, and moon lights our evenings, and star fire bears witness to our love and longing. Take my hand, and we shall play in the great wheeling dance of the stars, my love…

I promise.

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The River Trail

My heart cries out for a little forest love, this mid-November day. The sun is glinting off the glacier as I head to the logging road, and that is a frosty, slippery adventure in itself, just getting to the trail. It’s chilly! Record low temperatures. I know it’s the right choice for my morning hike as I stop to take in the view of the headwaters of the watershed: river meandering on its course, green spreading out and up into the low hills, snow in the high mountains. The slanting autumn sunlight over all brightens the chill, and I never fail to be awed and exhilarated by this vantage point.

It is cold enough that my boots make a satisfying crunch on the trail; a rarity in this temperate rain forest where mud is the winter norm. Perhaps because of the cold, there is not a soul to be seen, and the silence quite profound. At one point in a clearing of deciduous trees, I can actually hear the sound of the few remaining leaves on the trees hitting the ground…echoes of crows in the distance, and faint forest rustlings are all the soundscape save me.

This is a trail with a few spectacular views, and I stop at every one. The sense of simply letting the beauty and stillness wash over me works its magic, and I arrive at my chosen destination – the summer swimming hole – with body warmed, head cleared, heart restored to the sweetness of life.

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I am deeply aware of what a gift it is, this beauty of the place I live in. Maybe it is merely that I am a simple person that I take such pleasure and sustenance in it, but it seems to me that seeking out the gift is a gift, too. My week has been full with work and writing and  friends, but it is this daily hour or two at deep, restorative play that keeps me most keenly alive. Alive to curiosity, potential, the mystery of it all.

Yes, how very sweet it is, my imaginary friend. The glacier, the mountains, the forest, the river – they move in a different stream of time. Stepping into the stream is to step into eternity, briefly. To become one with the cosmos… Merely my fancy, perhaps. Still, if I could, I would give everyone this gift – ah, here it is, offered up with love.

Metaphor

How...You Make Me Feel

How…You Make Me Feel

 

Blank canvas. Unlimited possibilities…

The petals of a hundred roses, pressed one by one into the medium. Layer after layer, chosen for shape and size and colour – for texture. Blossoming from the centre a full-blown rose. Flakes of pure gold cradled by softness of petal; pink of health; blue of brilliant mystery and potential. Stars over all, circles of connection anchoring.

Words. Shimmering, golden words echoing in the ether, bridging time and distance and dimension. Love.