Yesterday’s post, from 2005, gives me a sense of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve healed. Events have taken place at Neskaya that were a fulfillment of my vision that was so far beyond any expectation that I had been able to imagine. Times when I would look around at this amazing group of people, co-creating community right before my eyes, and I’d suddenly realize — if I hadn’t built Neskaya, these people would never have met each other.
At this point, I’ve healed so much from trauma, I’m basically self-regulating which means when my nervous system gets activated it doesn’t stay in that state but calms down after a while. I’ve learned to be with uncomfortable emotional states without getting bent out of shape about them. In the last few months I’ve had periods of depression, and I’ve been able to say “Here you are, old buddy. It’s fine with me if you hang around for a while.” Then, sometimes in a few hours, sometimes in a couple of days, I’d realize that the depression had faded while I’d just gone on with my life. What a gift! I’ve been able to actually enjoy the ordinary things I do every day: feed the dog, take her for walks, wash dishes, go to the dump which is actually a recycling center and the guys are friendly and helpful, and so on. My creativity has also been blossoming, and the most exciting thing is I’ve been able to sustain working on a project for a long period of time. In the past, all too often, I’d get discouraged and quit.
I’d been wanting a writers’ group for at least a year, so when I saw a poster for a “Memoir Class” to be taught at our friendly local bookstore, I signed up. And I had a lot of fun! We were given assignments that we could complete, or work on something else, and in class we would also do “free writing” which is basically timed writing, the only rule is “keep the hand moving.” When I first started doing these, back in the 70’s, I would often be writing nonsense, but there would sometimes appear something I liked a lot after I got going. I used to call the nonsense part the “peanut butter” stage where you might be writing “I can’t think of anything to say. I can’t think of anything to say. I can’t think…” that you just had to write through. Most of what I wrote for class was pretty ordinary, but at the last meeting she gave us the prompt “It was all or nothing,” which called out of me a piece of “left-hand” writing I liked a lot. Here it is:
“It was all or nothing” —— sounds like a co-dependent or Child of Alcoholic statement. Back or White, Good or Bad. Nothing falls neatly into two categories. It just doesn’t work that way. There are all kinds of shades of grey. If you take Good & Bad, Black & White, then you can have Good Black, and Bad Black, and Good White, and Bad White. What happens if you add red? there’s good maroon and bad maroon, good pink and bad pink, good red, bad red, green, blue and how about putting some oranges in the mix? then we could go for a walk across the bridge, across the Ammonusuc, and go down by the river and watch it flow. I really love to watch water flowing. And I love that weird thing that happens when you’ve been watching for a while and then you look at the shore and it’s flowing the other way. I like to watch a leaf pass by, up & down, sometimes caught in a counter-swirl or ending up stuck behind a rock. I like to watch the wave form that shapes itself between two rocks and it splashes up & then runs smooth & then splashes up & runs smooth again but it never makes the same shape twice. And if you could move in closer and closer, with your camera and then your microscope and see how on each wave there are tiny little waves along the surface and on those tiny little waves are more curly shapes and the closer in you go the more complex and beautiful until you find somewhere deep inside, 10,000 magnifications down, you start seeing similar shapes again. Similar but not exactly the same. If a butterfly flaps its wings the weather will change. It’s truly Great White Elephants all the way down.
Becky Cummings was our teacher.
For the image of things that get smaller and more complex the deeper in you go, see the Mandelbrot Set. Click anywhere on the image and you will go in closer.