Volcano Choir, Dancepack
Take note, there’s still a hole in your heart
Volcano Choir, Dancepack
Take note, there’s still a hole in your heart
She asked me to place my feet on the ground and notice the way they felt.
“Comfortable,” I replied “but my toes are cold.”
Then she asked me to feel the earth beneath the building and begin to imagine its strength moving through me, beginning with my toes.
She told me to close my eyes and imagine ancient powerful roots starting from deep within the earth and moving slowly toward me sitting in the chair.
“Can you feel them at your feet?” She asked.
“Describe that feeling for me.”
“I feel connected to the earth, here in this moment.”
“Anything else? What do the roots feel like?”
“I feel them as dark and full of ancient soil. I feel that the soil is rich with nutrients, almost black. I see them at the soles of my feet.”
“What does that feel like?”
“It doesn’t make me feel scared. It’s a powerful feeling. It makes me feel strong and ancient like the earth.”
The roots moved through the soles of my feet and followed the path of my veins up to my ankles. They roots turned golden as they curled around my calves. The golden grew brighter as they knotted and twisted their way up my thighs and throughout my abdomen- giving strength to those areas that have scars, both old and new.
She asked me what it felt like inside my abdomen and I described small, hollow grey stones nearly the color of driftwood or something that has been bleached by the sun. The stones are neither heavy nor light, but they exist in clusters on either side of my lower pelvis and I feel them almost constantly. It’s a place I store tension, memories, and physical scars.
“Breathe in light,” she said “And turn those stones into smoke. Exhale until they are gone.”
When the roots reached my chest I could feel them trying to push through the impenetrable clay that surrounds my heart. I felt them move and struggle, their thin golden ends probing for a place that they could enter and surround my heart with the healing power of the ancient earth. But there was not a single entry point, not one fault in the wall that I had built around my heart.
It was difficult work and so she made me take a different approach. She asked me to look inside my heart and describe what I saw beneath the dense hard clay. Deep within I saw a heart that was bloody, red, and beating strong; the ventricles and vessels all pumping exactly as they are designed to do. Everything functioning just as it should. I described my heart and she instructed me to breathe in white light and direct the golden roots to surround my heart. I repeated this breath, in and out, and showed the roots where they needed to nestle in order to soften the clay. After much breathing the clay began to soften, but only by a small amount. Only enough to make it feel like my clay encased heart was being embraced by the golden roots.
“This is where your work is meant to be done.” She reminded me.
It was in our first session together, a few weeks prior, that she initially instructed me to fill my body with white light. She asked if I could describe what the white light was for me.
For me it felt like a fabric lighter than silk, like a vapor that could fill any space, and it shimmered like the sun on the surface of ocean.
She asked where I could feel the light inside my body.
I felt it enclose the top of shoulders and move slowly down my shoulder blades. I felt it surround my throat and move gently over the back of my head until it cascaded over my face like a stream of water. I felt it flood over my chest and fill my abdomen, releasing the tension in my stomach. I felt it in my thighs, which until that point I had been unaware were tightly clenched.
She told me to let the light fill my heart until it grew brighter than any other point in my body.
I breathed in the silky, shimmery light and focused on my heart, but nothing happened. I tried again and again, slow focused breathing and exhaling, concentrating because I wanted to experience the same feeling that had relieved the tension in the rest of my body.
But it didn’t work.
“It’s not working.” I confessed.
“What does your heart look like to you when you breathe in the white light?”
I focused on my heart and breathed deeply. A small ember of orange light flickered in my chest.
“It feels like my heart is a coal, or that very last ember of a fire, and with each breath it’s like the bellows of a fireplace are fueling my heart with its very last moment of life. When I exhale, the light goes out.”
“What do you want your heart to look like?”
“I want it to be so bright that it’s white and too hot to touch.”
“Well then, that’s what we need to work on.”
"This place is full of healing" a friend said to me.
Never take for granted a kind woman who will leave you cookies, scones and bread at your door, or a hot meal when you’ve come home after twelve hours at work, or a delightful little gift when she’s realized that you’ve cancelled your travel plans.
She took me on a tour of her home and, because most would agree that I’m an old soul, it didn’t surprise me that we enjoy a lot of the same things. Her collection of Sydenstricker glass made me swoon. She loves colorful candy dishes and feminine trinkets. She even has the same turquoise glass flour and sugar containers that I’ve been coveting of my grandmother’s for years.
"Honey," she said to me "I’ve been living alone for 39 years! I can make it as girly as I want in here!" It’s evident that our souls exist on the same plane.
But there is more to the healing power of this place than simply the kindness and generosity of the woman whose house I share. There is a quiet here, there is the water, there are the trees, there is the light and the sounds of the geese on the pond in the morning, and most importantly there are the swans- one of the most powerful and ancient of animals in a symbolic sense.
I believe truly that I found this place for a reason. To some it may sound absurd, but to me I believe that the swans brought me here to encourage my soul to heal. It wasn’t until my first Saturday morning that I heard their beating wings. A mother and father were teaching their cygnets how to fly. I counted seventeen swans that day, more than I had ever seen together at any one time. I sat out by the edge of the pond and observed them for some time, and have often done so since. For those of you who know me, you’ll understand that I’ve always recognized how meaningful swans are when they appear to me. I notice if they are together or if they are alone. I thoughtfully observe their nature and playfulness. I make note of their habitat and constantly wonder what I’m meant to learn from them.
I feel that way now, especially that I’ve found myself living on what the locals refer to as the Swan Pond. As a cancer I’ve always been drawn to water and understood that its ebbs and flows connect directly to my intuition and emotion. This pond is peaceful and the swans glide with ease over its ever still waters. I am meant to learn to glide in that way too. The deep emotions I feel on a daily basis, equivalent to the depths of a body of water, do not have to pull me down. I can discover my inner grace and beauty and begin my path of spiritual evolution.
Early morning, watching the swans.
"A Swans graceful entering into your life signals a time of altered states of awareness and the development of intuitive abilities, for those with this medicine have the inherent ability to see the future and to accept the healing and change that is starting in their lives."
We didn’t speak very much on the ride down. He had thrown up on the side of the road after breakfast and, at my wits end, I decided that we needed to do something unexpected. Truth was it had been my plan all along, but it was a last minute decision to invite him. I suggested we go to the beach and dive into the water together, no matter the January cold, as a way of cleansing our spirits of the pain that had occurred in the last seven days. I wanted the hurt out of my chest and I wanted to feel certain that I was alive.
He had been calling me at all hours of the day. He called to tell me that he had fallen over on the side of the road and was vomiting between swigs of whiskey and beer. He called to tell me that he felt the devil inside him and that red light was permeating his vision. He called to tell me that I was an angel and that he would destroy me if I didn’t let him destroy himself first. He called to ask me to bring him food. He called to ask me if I would come and help him take a bath. There were so many calls for help that I forgot that I needed help too. Of course friends did all they could; they bought me dinner and made me eat, they made me tea and sat with me for hours. But our interactions all ended the same, they looked at me with pained expressions and said “I am so sorry, I can’t believe this is happening.” They knew I was a ghost, scarcely present even as I sat beside them.
Despite all this, I was at his place nearly every night. We talked through the chaos in his mind and tried to figure out how to put his pieces back together so he could function for another six months or a year, or until the system broke down again, which it inevitably would. I held him tightly to help him sleep and gently rubbed his arm to distract his mind and bring him to a place in the present where he could feel safe in my arms. No devil, no angel, just us again as we had once been.
But on this morning I needed the earth to remind me that I was a living human being. It had been a week of waking into a nightmare, days spent in bed, not a thought of eating and intense mental anguish that manifested itself as physical pain throughout my body. Pain so profound I’ve discovered recently that it still exists inside me. It’s a deep wound that stretches from the pit of my stomach to my heart, as if a demon tore open my chest and left my flesh dark and festering. The tissue is black and viscous as tar. It gurgles and moves slowly like cooling lava until it hardens around the edges of the place where I was ripped apart. The trauma is deep and no light ever goes there.
I thought that going to the ocean that day would be a rebirth of sorts. I decided that it was an experience we could both benefit from, like it could offer us some sort of clarity on what we had been through. So we drove to our beach in Waterford Connecticut, a place that we had been every few weeks for over three years. Nothing is more beautiful than the ocean in winter. The water is perfectly clear and takes on a much greater tone of teal, almost convincing you that it’s tropical. I appears warmer than it does in the summer when the water is often murky and a dark blue. It had snowed one of the previous days so there were chaotic pockets of beautiful snow throughout the beach reminding us that it was indeed January.
We ran down the sand until we found the perfect spot. The bank had been slightly washed away so the water lapped the shore a bit closer than anywhere else on the beach, inviting us in. I looked at him and started striping off my clothes. He seemed surprised by my courage and his eyes ignited.
“How are we going to do this?” He asked.
“Quickly,” I said ‘this isn’t the type of thing you ease into. We run and then we dive.”
He was the type of man who would inch his way into the water, minute by minute, even on the hottest day of the summer, holding his arms above his waist until that last possible moment when they would touch the water. He plunked his body down once and then he was out. He was never a swimmer and he certainly would never dive in.
I remember thinking how bold I felt striping down to my underwear on the beach. Feeling the cold on my skin was a delight. Every goose bump filled me with excitement. I saw him watching me in awe. I knew he couldn’t believe that I would be the type of woman who would willingly go into the ocean in the middle of winter. It was a small moment when I realized how truly fragile he perceived me to be. Three years together and he had no knowledge of the depths of my strength or determination.
Fully undressed, we looked at each other counted to three and ran. I hit the water first and remember extending my dive so I could feel the slow sensation of the water gliding over my head, neck, and spine and all the way down to my toes. I was smiling under the water. It was exactly as I had imagined. Pure bliss for those few seconds when every part of me felt alive: mind, body, soul.
But as quickly as that feeling came, it was interrupted by his experience. He was bewildered by the cold, laughing maniacally, swearing, and rushing to put his clothes back on. In contrast I felt completely calm. The air felt warm on my skin and I wanted to experience those few seconds with him and hold tight to the feeling of being alive in a moment with our arms clasped around each other. But he was already gone, off on a manic rise.
I thought he was angry with me until he shouted, “We should get married! “
For a fraction of a second I got caught up in his hysteria. Our love flooded inside me and I thought, “Yes, life is this crazy! We can get married! This pain has purpose! That’s what all this is has been about!”
But the moment was so brief. It almost immediately felt wrong. I looked at him and realized that he hadn’t even been looking at me. His face had been fixed towards the sky. He sometimes spoke of the vibrant colors he saw while experiencing mania and I wondered what sort of dazzling firework display our plunge into the ocean had set off for him in his mind.
There were no brilliant colors or lights for me. Embarrassment clenched my throat as punishment for that second when I believed in fairytale endings and legendary love.
With his face still turned toward the sky, he said it felt like he was falling in love with me again, that diving into the ocean had been the equivalent to that week we spent together in bed three years ago; becoming best friends and discovering all the ways that we could share our love. He had no idea how much that statement hurt me, because despite all that we had been through in a week, it had never occurred to me that he had fallen out of love with me.
“We need to get you a ring!” He said breathlessly. “We’ll just stop somewhere and get something cheap.”
Nothing could have felt more wrong. I realized that he hadn’t even waited for my response. Just like that, no thought, no care, no sense of what hearing something like that would mean to me, the woman who cherished him the most. The hopes I had of marrying him years before had been diminished to five seconds on a beach when he didn’t even look me in the eye or wait for my response, followed by a statement that implied it didn’t matter what ring he chose to represent our union. I was alone on a beach with a man who was unstable. It was the first time I remember being wary of his unpredictability. I remember thinking, “I just need to stay quiet, keep him calm and get him home. Then we can talk about this.” I followed him around; he took my hand and led me up the rocks, all the while proclaiming how magical it all was that we had fallen in love again. That it was seeing the woman who would jump into the ocean in the middle of winter that had made him realize how much he loved me.
We followed the rocks to the bay side and he wanted to carry me across the channel like a knight, he even begged and started walking into the water himself to demonstrate, but I didn’t trust him and managed to convince him that it would be too dangerous. Eventually we made our way back to the car and he asked me again, “Will you marry me?”
I took what felt like minutes to respond. I planned the words carefully in my mind, fearful that if I said the wrong thing I could send him spiraling. “Yes, but not because of this. That’s not what this experience was about for me. Let’s go home and we can talk about it.”
On the drive home he was still ecstatic. He went on and on about the speech he would give at our wedding, how beautiful it would be, and the more he talked the more removed I felt from any possibility of marrying him. I was certain that I had very little presence in whatever scene was playing out in his mind. It was all about him.
When we got home, I used my body to quiet his mania. It was the first time I had ever consciously done so, and it made me feel empty. I felt like nothing could replace what I had just given away, though over the course of the next year it wouldn’t be the last time I would make that same decision. Afterward, I kneeled beside him and said, “For now, let’s put this marriage idea up here.” I motioned to an imaginary shelf on the wall and he agreed. It was the last we spoke of it for a year.
And so yesterday, nearly three years later, I reclaimed that spirit cleansing experience for myself.
I walked out on the sand and my excitement level soared. I could feel all the light of the early morning sun shining on me and not a single other soul. I took in deep heavy breaths that filled my lungs and stomach with thick ocean air. I ran around on the sand like a child; inspecting shells, checking for seaweed, discovering my perfect spot- three quarters of the way down the beach. I stood calm and strong and let the light fill my body as I continued to breathe. I paid attention to the air on my skin as I slowly removed each article of clothing. I felt sensual in nature as the breeze grazed my shoulders, waist, and hips and set my cheeks aglow. And I felt like myself. I examined my body: my arms, my breasts, my stomach, my legs and feet and thought, “Yes, this is what I look like.” It felt accurate and it felt good.
I looked toward the water, smiled, took a deep breath and ran. I baptized myself in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Except that for me those concepts refer to my ability to connect to my family and our history, my ability to connect with nature, and my ability to live in the present while respecting lessons learned from the past and maintaining a hopeful outlook for the future. I dove into that water three times and it was just as I had remembered three years before.
Each time I immersed myself it ignited every sense in my body. I was awake and aware in the present that my fingertips were thrusting water, my face felt alight with a thousand diamonds, my nose exhaled that thick ocean air, my hair moved slick and wet down my back, my legs and feet glided with ease as I held my dive for just a few seconds longer. I wanted to feel every cell alive and flourishing. The water against my skin felt like a bright, silvery blanket that cloaked my entire body.
I took my time getting dressed. I had no fear of the cold. A brilliant, electrified feeling filled my chest. I felt cool exhaustion in my limbs. My mind was clear of the past or the future, but made note of the texture of the sand on my toes, and how wide my eyes felt as they looked towards the sun, and how the stream of water dripping from my hair down my back felt thrilling. I was present with my favorite elements: earth, air, and water.
It was a moment that I had wanted for three years. I would dive into the ocean every day if I could. It’s the best way to remind yourself that you are alive.