these quiet times…

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when I was a child, about 10-12 years old
there were times when I would be in the midst of an uninhabited space
and feelings of peace, and of relief would wash over me

I felt able to open up and breathe

I felt I was being shown
a different way to understand my place in the world
in the face of open expanses of land and sea and sky
I felt small and insignificant
and it was a comfort

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I would lie on the ground and imagine
that I could be unmade
all my many parts become small enough that I could be carried on the wind
disperse across the land
to disappear from the human world and fall into the earth
to take root like so many tiny seeds
and this was not a sad thing
I almost longed for it
this communion with the land

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I accepted this alternative perspective
as a child

and I still do

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in this time of quiet
I look out my window
looking onto trees
and all I hear is the wind and calls of birds
and I’m aware that this wild natural world doesn’t need me
I’m not important to it
I could leave now and it would go on
and I’m back where I was as a child
wanting to disintegrate and be subsumed
to be embraced by the rich dark earth
to be transformed
to come back as a leaf or a song or an iridescent feather

 

With the gift of hind-sight I recognize there was an element of escapism in my childhood feelings.
The future was all uncertainty and this desire for disintegration meant I wouldn’t need to confront the unknown country of my teenage years or an incomprehensible adulthood.

And what I realise now, is that this youthful desire, which I sensed then as a desire to disintegrate, to become disembodied, to fly apart into myriad specks of star dust, was really a desire to be integrated into something bigger than myself, something dependable and strong. I wanted to be held safe.

I imagine it now as a desire to become embodied, through re-integration with the land.

It seems that very little has changed.

During this time of isolation, of nationwide lockdown in order to overcome the threat of the corona virus, I’ve had days when this feeling has returned.

There’s something about the quietness, the stillness of current times, that is reminding me to reconnect on a deeper level with the pulse of the land.

I’ve wished I could just walk out into the hills and be absorbed into the ground.

And more than that, I’ve had the sense of how little I matter, and that if humanity stepped aside, the natural world would find its balance again without the stress of our presence.

It’s not that I don’t think my life has purpose or value. It has as much purpose as a seedling pushing its way up through the earth. It has as much value as the shimmer on the back of a bird, the purr of a cat.

It’s just that there are days when I can’t bear the suffering we impose on the land and every other creature that walks or swims or flies.

I walk barefoot every chance I get.

It’s my way of staying connected.

(written all the way back on 12 April
– near the start of the lockdown in NZ)

©griffin2020

 

smile

This little face !!

Eyes squinting into the sun, so easily misinterpreted as “grumpy-face” if not balanced by the smile. This smile right here.

I had glimpses of her over the years, but she was often lost. In these early photos here I am, staring straight down the line to the camera, smiling with a quiet confidence like I know who I am, like I know how I’ll be living my life.

The circle is drawing back round to the beginning and I am so happy to have found this little being again and been able to release her into the world before the circle closes.

Finding your own truth, your purpose, your voice – what is life otherwise?

This is me – someone just needs to untie my hair and I’d be complete.

the green inside

there is a place that lives inside me
a space between trees
low hanging branches
overgrown grass
glimpses of sky
cool, damp and quiet
the sound of a stream nearby

the grass is deep, vital green
and when I lie down
it surrounds me
and I see nothing
but clouds shifting
liquid jade between

I am invisible to all
except birds who watch
from high behind the leaves
beetles climb the grass stems
a bee lands on my hand

surrounded on three sides by trees
the fourth side opening into the light
I remember the sadness of leaving

walking out into the sun
the loss of place

revisiting is bittersweet

© Claire Griffin 2016

distance

there was always a distance

between us
a space I tried to cross
to reach you

I was alone
I sought your approval
thinking it was love

but now

I walk alone
crossing a bridge of my own making
to a place of my choosing

I don’t need you
to be on the other side

I am complete

© Claire Griffin 2016

This is the shortest edit I can make of a piece written in September. I find I am still processing the events and subsequent realisations from the end of last year. A massive emotional blow that led to the reassessment of a key person in my life and everything I thought I knew about my childhood.

I’ve been writing about these experiences over the last few months, and I hoped I had “dealt” with it all, but these thoughts keep surfacing.

So I hesitated to post this, yet another expression of my personal turmoil. When I shared this hesitation with a friend – she encouraged me to post saying “but you can put into words the things that others can’t – it helps others that you share your feelings” and then I remembered that I’ve always believed the deeply personal can be the most universal – so I trust that there will be something here to connect with.

And I’ll stop feeling I need to make excuses for them. These words are who I am, and who I am becoming. 

Still, while I’m tired of the darkness these pieces contain, writing my way through these feelings has released me, and I feel as though I am an adult at last, although I wish it hadn’t taken so long.

patience

stopped at the lights
I noticed a little girl
on the edge of a tantrum
all scowly face
and stampy legs
as she tested the boundaries
the struggle between autonomy
and safety

her mother talked calmly
over the curly head
to her own mother
but held the tiny hand throughout

by the time the lights changed to green
the little toddler legs were still
and a smile was edging out the frown

the patience of generations
guiding the energy of this tiny soul

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

the fallen

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the ground beneath is hard and dry
not a place to rest, not a place to lie
this far down was only ever for foraging
wind-rivers here can not carry
but blow dust flurries into eyes
dust rose and settled, glossy black coat undone
reaching into air but finding no purchase
eyes opened blind to the sun
fallen
fallen
this far down
all horizontal, all solid, all still
body cooling under sun
hard nest of stones and dust
bones and black
sight gone, shine gone
fallen
still

walking home she saw the contrast
black against the blonde ground
small lost body in the dust
she sensed fragility
approached cautiously
blew gently revealing the dull eyes
fingers nested, lifted
warm hands enclosed
one finger stroked away the dust
revealing the shine
compassion carried him away
her quiet voice shared secrets
whispered into tiny ears

she found a box and a doll’s blanket
and made a bed
she lay her black prince to rest
she knew this sleep was forever
there would be no wakening kiss
she tucked the blanket around him
to comfort and protect
a final nest
and blessed him in silence
a small child’s sacrament
a small child’s attempt
to honour the wild world
to care for the fallen

to an only child
anything could become animate
anything could become the voice of her imagination
he was her pet, he was beloved
he was a sleeping prince
a treasure, a secret
a gift from the world she walked in
at one with the raw pure energy of childhood
not yet disconnected

she felt the need to share
this treasure felt too much for one so small to hold
she showed her mother
expecting softness and awe and sensitive respect for her care

the mother snatched the box
threw it in the bin
half-filled with ashes from the coal-range
clouds of grey ash rushed up on impact
then settled slowly over the small black body
this last wind
this last nest
a desecration
a child’s heart broken

looking down
the blackbird thanked her, blessed her, kissed her tears
she would remain known to the birdworld, the greenworld
the elemental consciousness of nature
granted access
and held the thin door open

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

 

discovering who I am

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I’ve recently seen a photo of me
at about age three
climbing onto the verandah railing
and leaning out
leaning forward
bare feet, toes clinging on

I stand on the edge now
the edge of memory and time and history and loss
seeing my past self
a little girl who was funny
who was adventurous
and loving
and curious
and smiling
and brave

that little girl
looking into the future
full of hope, full of happiness
when I first saw her
I was astounded
I didn’t know that’s who I had been

and now
when I look in her eyes
I recognise myself
its taken a long time
I discover who I am

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

grass as tall as me

the grass is overgrown
as tall as me
long damp leaves give way
as I run through them
soft and yielding
and green, green
a vivid emerald sea

and I run through
to the gate
and throw a handful of chalk over
into the paddock
into the docks
and dandelions

its only now
that I can see and feel it
in memory and dream
then
it was all energy
and intent
and deception
and fear

I went back there
years later
the grass overgrown
as tall as me
the house burnt to the ground
I carried a burnt jarrah post all the way back to Wellington

and I see photos from that time
and there is no colour
the grass is cut
dry in the summer
but I’m still running
running

at Henley - running to my daddy

 

pt 2 – finding voice

So – reflecting on the episode when I lost my voice – it really seemed to be a very clear message – when confronted with my childhood I became again the voiceless child.

These thoughts were written a month or two later… about October last year

What I had for a long time thought was a harmonious relationship, I realised was based on the fact that I never challenged, or if I presented ideas that were disagreed with, I withdrew, submitted.

I’ve always had an overriding need to avoid conflict, to keep the peace. It has held me back, it has damaged relationships because it has stopped me from speaking (and there it is – the link to the silence that hit me after the lifemap experience!!!), from saying what I needed, wanted, wondered – to the point where I said nothing and this had been interpreted as not contributing, not sharing, not engaging deeply enough in a relationship. When the truth was, I was so deeply invested, so deeply engaged, I had silenced myself through fear of disrupting what I had. (and I cried when I finished writing this – that sudden emotional wave that breaks when you realise you’ve touched a truth)

I realised that my physical needs had been catered for, but much less my intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs. No-one really inquired into me, wanting to know what I thought, what I’d been doing, how I felt.

Hmmm – time to change the story, to shift the narrative. But to do that I need to know what I want, what I need.

Talking with friends a few weeks after this, the subject of purpose came up and I was wondering “Maybe I could be doing…, maybe I’d be good at …” and finally – “maybe I am my own purpose, my own project – maybe its enough that learn to I understand myself.”

So – I need to find my voice. I think this is my purpose. Speaking – on whatever I want, whatever I believe is important, or fun, or beautiful or interesting. It is enough that I want to say something about it. I need to tell my own story, share my own thoughts and opinions.

And so here, on the page, maybe I have found the right place to be myself.

and reading this now – its hard to believe how far I’ve come in just a few short months – the commitment I’ve made to write and write really does make me feel true to myself.

pt 1 – becoming speechless

A few months ago I took part in a two day workshop designed to give experience and insight into a resilience and confidence programme used with teenage students. I was really enjoying the first day, as we worked through the same activities used with the students. I realised at the end of the first day that what I liked so much was the opportunity to focus on myself, my strengths, challenges, high points and low, some shared, some kept private. I felt excited, bouncy, chatty, very “up”.

My response to the second day was so different. We revisited a “life-map” begun the first day. Looking at it again I realised that I had recorded, amongst other things, all the times I had moved house and town as a child, as a teenager. Seeing this on paper in front of me somehow made it more overwhelming than any time previously. It explained so many things, especially my difficulty making friends as a child. Its hard to get close and then be moved again in a few months or a year or so. I understood how it had became easier as a child to be “stand-off-ish”, to keep to myself, to tell myself I was shy, or that I liked being a loner … and I couldn’t help but begin questioning the actions of those responsible.

So, seeing this lifemap on the second day resulted in my emotional state plummeting. It was as if I could feel a part of me fall, as if I had physically fallen to the floor. It was the weirdest thing. I got through the rest of the day. Resilience has always been a strength – just as well. But I was quiet, I felt low and sad.

When I got home I felt as if I had a slight sore throat. When I woke the next day, I couldn’t speak. I lost my voice for three days. There’s a message there somewhere…

(My reaction to this course was unusual. Certainly not the expected outcome – and I do not bear any ill-will towards the programme or its organisers. In fact, the analytical part of me found the whole process fascinating – and recognises the insights I’ve gained as a result of this and events that followed during the next few months.)