being strong

We start with the best of intentions
to share the load,
the weight of life.

When others falter
we catch their hand
and lift them, and shelter, and console.
We carry what we can.

and this, we think, is how it should be.

Until, after time,
we notice, we cannot see the horizon.

The weight we carry has bent us
and we have spent so long looking down.
We have forgotten to let go.

We carry worries and fears and debts and doubts
in a basket we’ve woven from our own hair.
We struggle to shrug it off our backs,
but it has become part of us.
Our body has grown around it.
We would need to cut through the braids
that hold this weight against our backs
but in doing so, beware,
we would cut away part of who we are.

Why do we carry so much for others?
We do it because we can.
We do it because they cannot.

This does not mean that we cannot sit down to rest
with our backs against a rock.
Perhaps, we wonder, if we rub against it
the burdens will shift, become uncomfortable,
crawl out from between the strands.
Perhaps, we wonder, they might prefer to start walking on their own.

Still, when we come to rise
we must lift our own bodies,
press against the rock and breathe.
There is no-one to take our hand.

We do it on our own
because we can.

We lift our eyes to the horizon –
it is still there.
We step forward
and intention becomes action.

There is no-one to take our hand.
We do it on our own
because we can.

and this, we think, is being a woman.

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

a deeper impression

my body holds me close to the earth
I’m grounded, weighted
no risk of losing myself
of being overlooked
of drifting away

when I was younger
I was insubstantial
innocent and inconsequential

oh, but I could dance

I could lose myself in the music
it would carry me and I could fly

now walking leaves a deeper impression
air moves to give me space
leaves bend but may not straighten

my body has caught up with my mouth
full and curved
but it is heavy now, and its harder to fly
my hands the only slender thing about me
as they dance across the page

I am present, barefoot
feeling the wild pulse of the earth
light passes over and around me
my shadow stretches and contracts

gravity is drawing me home

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

 

the visitor : myth, traditions and interpretation

With reference to the poem “the visitor”:

Myth:
In Māori mythology the fantail was responsible for the presence of death in the world. Maui, thinking he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-po, tried to enter the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth. The fantail, warned by Maui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-po, who was so angry that she promptly killed Maui.

Tradition:
In some traditions, the fantail is regarded as “a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house”.
(Kelly Keane. ‘Ngā manu – birds – Birds associated with death’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-15)

Interpretation:
I remember that my own interpretation at the time I experienced this feathered visitor, was less that the presence of this little bird foretold a literal death, but more that it came as a confirmation of the end of a relationship and the changes that were to come. Still, it was a death of sorts.

When emotions were raw, when change was inevitable, this visitor from the natural world somehow seemed to be an acknowledgement, and a reassurance.

Visitors from the wild-world:
This little bird was not the only animal visitor I had during this time – the other was a possum.

I was living in a semi-rural area, near bush, but I had never in five years seen or heard a possum near the house. And then, one night, returning to what was still my home for the time-being, after spending time with friends who had offered me a room in their flat, I parked the car and walking to the gate, there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. It was looking straight at me. I was surprised, but I remember greeting it, asking “What are you doing here?” Of course, there was no answer beyond its silent presence. And I felt that was its purpose – to simply be there with me in that moment.

Days passed and I moved out to live in a flat in the centre of town. I carried on with life, putting on a brave face, and clinging to my misplaced hope that this might be temporary, that there might be a return to the way things were.

One night not that long after, coming home from a night out with friends, I parked the car and there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. Again surprised, again confronted. Here in the middle of the city I was face to face with a wild creature. (I even caught myself wondering if it could be the same one). And just as with the fantail, it felt as though my decision was being affirmed, that I had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.

Each time, I was alone. Each time, I was reminded of my aloneness, but it felt as if I was being reminded that I had the strength to cope. There were so many days and nights when I felt as though my world was collapsing, had in fact collapsed. I felt alone, adrift, abandoned and the pain was palpable. Hearts do break, and there is no relief.

One of the few things that gave me strength was knowing that the wild world had crossed the threshold, had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me. Quite possibly it stopped me going completely off the rails over the following months.

© Claire Griffin 2016

the visitor

fantail1-223

the decision had recently been made to leave
but the heart was torn apart, and still struggling to accept it
standing alone in the centre of the square kitchen
the inside light was subdued and everything quiet and hushed
bright afternoon sun shone outside, the back door stood wide open

a fantail entered
flew silently around the room
and then calmly back out the door

it felt as though time had slowed to a standstill
barely breathing I turned following the bird as it circled the room
feeling both highly aware and slightly stunned
recalling the meaning given to visitations like these
but still, welcoming it, feeling chosen
aware of what I was seeing, how incongruous it was,
and what I was sensing
space and time expanding with every wingbeat
then contracting as the bird left
snapping back to the pace of a heartbeat and the blink of an eye
the wild world had crossed the threshold,
had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me
it was an affirmation, a reassurance

and ever since
I’ve kept the door open
the thin veil pulled aside
an open invitation
and ready for my own departure

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

photo by: D. Mudge
image sourced from : http://www.doc.govt.nz/