Seventeen years ago this morning my waters broke before I really had time to wake up and so a whole new life got started that day. As I lay there this morning around the same time (before I remembered the link) yet with a rare reluctance to get out of bed, my mind wondered off in free amble across the territory of the years in between and I suddenly got why I had been fixated on completing and posting all my new waterfall paintings this last couple of days, like a woman on a mission, though I had other things I would rather have been doing on the weekend. The footnote to this post will explain more about what these five paintings mean to me; why they felt like an urgent and tender package I needed to deliver within a particular timescale that cross-links with where we are at this time, though I had missed noticing (until today) the very personal link to myself.
For now, through all their unleashed water, they served as the timely reminder…to me…of the waters that heralded the entry into this world of the fire-sign daughter who literally transformed my world through the comet trail of her radiant blaze. In more ways than I can count, my life was literally never the same again from the moment she arrived.
In my musings of yesterday evening, I realised that she was the rocket launcher blaze that kindled all the dry wood of my splintery heart at a time of my life when I felt extraordinarily knocked-about. With that pilot light lit, she inspired me to do for her what I might not so readily have done for myself since, in her name, I got out of a whole desperate lifestyle that I, at last (not before time!), left razed to the ground as I turned on my heel and set upon the transformation of my world that led directly to here.
From the point of her entry into my life, that fire never once stopped burning and it has served as the fire of transformation, the phoenix-flame of my own rebirth from within the golden egg of her own. In this twin-ship, I realise, we both celebrate a birthday this week (as all mothers do with their first-born) as it marks my rebirth as a mother, linking us irredeemably in this life as, I have no doubt, we have been linked in many others. So, while the circumstances around her arrival were hardly picture-book perfect, those dark times were like the darkness before the dawn of my life and I feel those mixed feelings rise up in me every year at this time since.
On the anniversary of her birth tomorrow, the new moon reminds us all of the dark that preempts the return of light; that darkest hour before the dawn…that we might better notice the new light that is coming in. I have witnessed this many times in my life, like a zillion rebirths that have become the very footsteps of my journey, the left and right rhythm between the yin and the yang, the light and the dark…with the potential for a rebirth hidden within every little “death” along the way. From this perspective, we realise that death is not a finite thing, not a closure but just an extreme viewpoint out of which we jolt ourselves – often at the eleventh hour – into its very opposite.
I am brought to thinking about the alchemist fire, that blue-green fire of transformation (or the violet when we talk about alchemy of the soul…); one which catalyses, that makes different things out of old materials without destruction, as though its flame is soft and cool to the touch, lighting things up more so than burning them down. The up-cycler of all fires, the alchemist’s fire begins the upward curl of the spiral of evolution…and we are all alchemists at heart if we but take a little time to appreciate this truth about ourselves. A very dear friend (who is working her own alchemy, currently) spoke to me of peacocks yesterday and I realised my life-long love of this bird has always been because of the way it appears as a phoenix made manifest, its regally crowned profile cast in striking relief against its blue-green fiery tail full of many peeping eyes (that we might better witness our own transformation; as I have witnessed mine through what have felt like all the recent fiery years…the fire of my life burning down to the roots, of all the hot pain in my own body and the fiery injection into my life of a daughter who lit up my world). Many times, I have questioned my ability to parent this complex little person in my care. In many ways, it has sometimes felt as though she is here to parent me; so we have mastered the art of doing both, delivering to each other a collection of many beginnings and completions, all wrapped up together in a parcel of our love. It’s an elusive “mother – daughter” thing that I am struggling to convey here; one that many mothers may recognise as they read these jumbly words.
When those waters broke 17 years ago, I knew that my life would never be the same again and was frightened almost beyond my wits as the moment approached. Hidden within the exquisite pain of those many hours of primal experience – for the magic and dark mystery of many other lifetimes were all wrapped up in its one deeply resonant base note – was the reminder of many hidden tortures and so the trauma of them came bursting up through me like a volcano gush that day. Trauma I never knew that I carried within me shot up like a sharp pebble in the flume of my volcano, cutting my sides as it ejected, a little too fast, through my energy centres to where it was made (perhaps because I was already in a place of mental trauma) fleetingly conscious to my mind, which took in more than it was ready to bear about the harsh experiences of multi-lifetimes as a woman. It took 17 long years to do the work that made sense of the kundalini flame that started rising in me that day, let alone do the healing and clearing work that followed in its wake. At the time, the experience of labour (which was not handled well by either hospital or my daughter’s father) felt like a darkly gothic tale in which a gaping chasm had opened up in the everyday world; one that would swallow me whole and drag me down into unspoken depths and yet I was the only one who seemed to be aware that it was there. The profound fear of abandonment that came up in me during my labour pains very quickly self-realised as the almost instant breakdown of my already floundering marriage in the days and weeks following; nor did anyone seem to notice (since nobody was really there to help…I spent my time intensively isolated for the first part of her life) that I was plummeting into post-natal depression and complete loss of self while I struggled to make sense of all that new parenthood demands. Yet in the midst of all these feelings as black as tar was this shinning nugget, my little girl, hard-won through the grazed and tender sides of my inner landscape as though the hard pebble of all the bewildering emotions that had suddenly risen up in me from a depth I never knew was there had transformed into a jewel in my hand.
In the blaze of creation, this child seem to have combined all the least finished aspects of us both, newly realised into a form that would make a potent theme of healing them, being her particular specialism. I handed over to her (as we all do to our children) aspects of myself that were not chosen as the direct focus of this life, since I had claimed specialisms of my own, but which, in our mother-daughter partnership with each other, we would go on to transform side-by-side as the proxy elements in each other’s sub-plots, a fire often fed by the way the mirror of these least claimed aspects of ourselves most provoke the very reactions that gave rise to the purest alchemy. Together, across many moments of fiery reaction and healing follow-up (like dipping a newly forged horseshoe in the bucket of water and watching it simmer down…) we have worked many little miracles of transformation together these seventeen years. There is nothing like becoming a parent to test out what you are made of, your strengths, your weaknesses; and I have had all mine tested many times, to be the only blood-parent left still standing at this point (the other long-since gone from the scene). All of it has been so worth it; the making of both parent and child as we have uniquely made-up our own style of being what we are to each other. In fact, I don’t know anyone else who has quite done it our way and my daughter quips that we are “so weird” by other people’s standards; but then I imagine every family unit stakes a claim on such uniqueness and, more importantly, what we have created together has worked so beautifully for us. We still talk, we still cuddle-up on the sofa, we still declare “I love you!” at every turn; in fact, we are an open book on all counts. Perhaps we are at least a little rare; I like to think we have modelled how much love is possible to create and keep growing out of a challenging start.
That fear of a mini-death, of a cliff hanger as encapsulated by the primal fear of labour pains comes into so many moments in this life; those events beyond which we feel our old life will be lost to us and the return path sealed up forever. Yet, while an ending may be so on one level, there are always the threads of continuance strung across the whole glistening landscape, like the multi-dimensional spiders webs that keep communication open for all so-called time. I see how, even as I look back to a life to which I no longer relate, in the time “before” parenthood, I am still working on whole clutch-fulls of threads from back then; my ability to transform that old landscape all the more potent for the fact I now stand on the opposite side of an imagined divider. Our life can become like a jewellery box with so many sections and pockets; different gems divided up into them all including some we don’t even wear so very often or at all and yet we still know the value of them and, in turning them over in our hand, we remember why we still keep them there. Through consciousness we become the eye perusing these compartments; better still, we flow between them easily, following the themes and threads, the sense of self that remains as the unifying factor in having chosen this whole eclectic collection of trinkets and gems at some point. I smile, as I write this, to notice how I recently replaced a whole collection of complicated and many-layered vintage jewellery boxes with one simple glass-topped case with no dividers so that I could show off my most choice pieces without all the clutter; so I see how I have been working with this theme at many levels.
As I speak of flow (yet again; since it keeps coming up for me) I can’t help observing that the softer and more fluid the spaces, the more open the flow between aspects of self, the more we get out of all we have gathered through all kinds of experiences; nothing has to be sealed off or marked “out of bounds”. These pathways of flow are the subtle rivers that sometimes spring up to the surface, sometimes stay hidden underground and occasionally charge like waterfalls that roar recklessly over the edges of our landscape…yet they are always there, the feminine themes and impulses of life which do not always have to be visibly manifest in order to be “real” and active in our world. By just knowing they are there, we opt-in to work with them, allowing them to be part of our landscape, which makes room for all things…the light and the dark, the pristine and the not so perfect-seeming aspects of ALL of who we are.
To really get into this space of completely open flow, we need to look at all those concepts we have around finality and tidy endings; wanting always to be complete with one thing before we move on to another, obsessed with reaching a particular moment of completion (“when I am healed”, “when this or that happens”) or, sometimes, terrified beyond belief by the thought that something new might mean something else has to go forever. As she approached this birthday, I couldn’t help noticing my daughter’s apparent terror at the idea that childhood is nearly “over” (though, in my experience, it never really goes anywhere) and we tend to do this with all of life’s “stages”, its so-called milestones, its bends in the road.
A few weeks ago I sold a painting that I considered “finished”, not only in that the paint was long dry but because its fiery subject felt done with; it had burned itself out for me. This was a sunset landscape full of light-infused poppies (harking back to the “old” era of bloodshed and sacrifice symbolised by the familiar red poppies of remembrance) now softened into radiant blush-white hues of love and healing and I had processed what I had to say through it in November 2014 at a time of year when red poppies can be seen everywhere in our culture. I had visualised a new reality, a softened landscape, that felt transformational and I had unleashed it in paint.
In fact I so knew I had done what needed to be done, had expressed what was in me to be said, that I really wanted the painting to sell now so that a line could be drawn under it. I had shared what was my own truth; hard won through years of processing through old traumas and learning that I needed to reinvent these as the building blocks of a different landscape in order to heal. For a long time, this canvas had resisted finding a new home (for all it had been popularly received when exhibited in three galleries over the next two years) so when it finally sold on the exact two-year anniversary of when I had finished it, coincidentally to be delivered the day before the very cultural landmark of 11/11 that inspired it, I really sat up and noticed.
When the address that it was to be delivered to turned out to be a short distance from the most southerly point of a north-south leyline I have been having some powerful epiphanies upon this year, I sat up even straighter, knowing its message of healing and transformation was now being plugged into the broader energetic grid for others to experience; taking it out of my personal domain in exchange for this final wink of synchronicity. In other words, it was time for it to move on and it had naturally found its rightful place. I felt the absolute significance of this through the truism of how many of my artworks have continued their own journeys in ways that feel deeply significant to me even after I have finished painting them; not unlike the way we send our offspring out into the world and they are both the continuance of us and their own unique thread, working as one with us upon some of our pervading themes even long after we have watched them fly from the nest.
So I have learned that the endpoints of my creations are not when I have finished “making them” them…not even nearly when I (so often) keep them for a few months to hang on my own wall while I continue to unpack their deeper meanings for myself…and then not even when they go out of my possession to hang in other people’s homes. I could write a book about how meaningfully many of the people and places to which they have flown have proved the continuance of the story of their journey, beaming back their influence to transform me just as surely as they go on to make an impact in other people’s lives in their new place. Many times, I have watched my artworks anchor their particular nugget of light to some very synchronistic geographic node that fits their theme and into the lives of people who have fed back remarkable reactions and transformations on the back of their new artwork; such as sudden urges to move house or make brand new beginnings after my work has hung on their wall for a few weeks. I have heard stories of healing vibes that come out of these canvases and of conversations and catalysing situations arising out of them. In this way, I have seen over and over again how the end-point of the creative act is so often just the beginning, how what can feel like a loss (to me; as there is a little loss in giving up each one of my paintings) is really the birth of something new in the great flowering of circumstance that is our human condition. We are to each other the nudges and prompts of endless rebirth and flowering, like the Russian dolls that keep revealing to each other the deeper and deeper layers of experience that…ultimately, collectively…transform us all whilst we keep seeing enough familiarity in each other to recognise ourselves in all of the many layers.
In my own case, I see enough in my daughter to remind me, quite profoundly, of my mother (who she never got to meet) to be able to trace a continuance between us three that – I know – stretches forward and back through time like a thread with no breakages. There simply is no possibility of breaking that time-tested cord while we are still here to tell the story and, increasingly, the long-running themes and most resilient jewels on that strand are making themselves clearly and coherently known to me in ways that shed LIGHT.
There is nothing in this post that my daughter is not already familiar with, should she ever chance upon it; we are fully au fait with the profound gift that we are to each other, birthed out of circumstances that were far less than idyllic to start with and yet which brought us much closer together than a more perfect set might. She already knows what she knows about how much I love and am indebted to the catalyst of her, just as she holds me in place as the “reason” for existence and for her broad-thinking exploratory perspectives on what that amounts to. The mother could not be such without the child, nor the beginning exist without the ending…and so we go on birthing ourselves through the creative fires of each other, joined together equally by the creative watery flow that courses back and forth; linked by both the “fire” and the “water” processes that generate who we are.
There is no imperative to have been through the literal birthing experience to know and understand this fundamental process of life since it is the basis of all experience; the yin and the yang in action. Many of us have been (or are going) through our own particular version of the kind of fire that transforms and yet we can trust that the water of healing and deeper understanding will always follow. I sense that the healing, invigorating and enlightening waters of this reality are on the brink of breaching their holding spaces and overflowing their edges right now, for all of us, as we collectively birth into the themes of the Aquarius age. Just as I am hearing from water across so many aspects of my life, I sense that we are collectively expectant (and just a little bit nervous…as is only natural) as we reach that equally collective moment of the waters breaking ready to birth something entirely new and transformational into our world.
Moving Water – The Waterfall Series (I to V)
The Moving Water series is a collection of five artworks on the theme of exploring the sacred feminine in the landscape. Waterfalls have come to represent this aspect to me in such a powerful way (as written about in my earlier posts about my trip to Wales) since they work with the other elements of earth, fire and air in a similar way to the how the feminine uses these to make herself known and to get things done in nature. Take this description of a waterfall and see just how much this resembles the feminine aspect “at work” in the world.
When she arrives, she seems to come softly, prettily, dappled with light and accompanied by musical sounds, yet her arrival quite literally shifts the earth. Vast quantities of iron-red earth tumble from on-high in secret green places where she seeks no applause for the relentless and sacred act she performs, shifting and invigorating the air with energetic movements that make the heart race and the cheeks flush. Yet, aloof though she can seem, everyone wants to be near her, to feel her, to risk losing their footing to climb under her, to be part of her and remember her because she is all about the dynamic…the life-affirming…the healing, cleansing impulse…the gentle push…the cup over-brimming…the unguaranteed leap…getting things moving…flushing them out…re-sculpting to creating new out of old…the bringing of deep sustenance…and going with the flow. She is the source of endless showering jewels; the kind of diamond sparkles that multiply light yet melt on contact so as not to harm or be captured as riches. She is a yielding, unstructured version of formidable power in action. She dances and plays her ecstatic way to what she envisions, leaving a trail of reinvigorated life in her wake. She is a force not to be messed with; there is serious intent beneath all that she does. Yet she remembers how to be light-hearted, to be frivolous, playful and how to embellish what she touches
Where water goes, she moves with light-filled determination, always seeming to know where she is going and yet ever open to changes in direction or tempo that make her quite impossible to pin down. No one ever quite knows what is coming next from water, not even her; except that it will mean even more dynamic movement, a great deal of mud stirring (in a way that is guaranteed to throw up what most needs our attention), the injection of vast quantities of life-generating ions into the air like the profound freshness that comes after a storm…and so very much more dancing, sparkling light.