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Entries in space (3)


Riff on This: Spacious

Meghan Davidson presented our little sisterhood with this image as our jumping-off point for this month's riff.  I've been one of the biggest fans of her 365 Impossible Self-Portraits project for the past almost-year, but ohmygod this month's riff made me realize exactly how impossible that project must actually be on a day to day basis.  In addition to having to come up with a different self-portrait idea EVERY SINGLE DAY, she has to contend with the challenges of instant film, one take, very little control over her exposure, no post-processing.  Every.  Single.  Day.

It is inspiring and intimidating and a little bit (a lot?) magic.  When she posted the shot above for us to riff on, I couldn't even get my head around exactly what I was looking at.  I still haven't the foggiest notion of how she did it.  And though I was nervous about taking on any one element (self-portrait, silhouette, double exposure) I finally found myself circling around the idea of what my internal landscape looks like these days.

Here's a hint: it doesn't look like the image below.

But I'd like for it to.

I find myself in a crowded moment, where the to-do lists and the obligations and the to-and-fro join with the multiplying stacks of paper to make me feel... constrained.  I have found myself whispering one word to myself like a little prayer in the past week.




I try to believe that there is enough room in my head, and my heart, and the vast universe for all that my life currently contains.  

I can visualize this on a warm winter day, with the kick and glide of my nordic skis, my breath, hard and rhythmic, and the blistering white of the snow laid out over a Rocky Mountain valley before me.  It erases boundaries and covers the tangled earth in a peaceful and soothing blanket.  That's how I want my interior landscape to look - calm, undulating, expansive.  Spacious.


To hop on around to see if my other creative muses are less tortured than me swing on by Meghan's blog next.


Seeking the Void

I forgot how to read when I weaned Ezra.  One of the joys of that first year, as I remember it now, was the perching of novels on the arm of the chair just beyond the Boppy and devouring them one by one during marathon nursing sessions.  An unintended consequence of reclaiming my bodily autonomy was that my reading space shrunk down to so miniscule a spot that nothing longer than a blog post would fit there.  That, plus taking on my 365 photography project and starting this blog of my own, resulted in a couple of years now where I've essentially read nothing longer than three paragraphs.  There's only so much space in a life, after all.

But I am not fully nourished when I don't ingest well-constructed words, or when I spend too much time in my own and not enough time swimming around in others'.  My friend Marjorie recommended Cheryl Strayed's Wild a few weeks ago and I immediately went out and bought myself a copy.  Strayed tells the story of her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in a time when she was broken and lost and needed to find herself.  A hiker she meets on the trail gives her a long black feather which she tucks into her pack.  She later encounters a woman who identifies it as a corvid feather, a "symbol of the void."  It sounds scary, but she describes it as "the place where things are born, where they begin."

The same day I encountered Mark Nepo's description of the void, the empty space of stillness, darkness, where perception is heightened and things are born: "Both the Buddhist and Zen traditions speak of an unbreakable emptiness at the heart of all seeing from which all things emerge.  The Hindu Upanishads tell us that in the center of the seed of the great nyagrodha tree there is nothing, and out of that nothing the great tree grows."

I am reminded of my long bad mood last winter and the feeling of claustrophobia so strong I couldn't breathe.  I am reminded of my efforts to hold just a little bit of space for myself, the place where a small sprout of hope took root.  I find myself drawn to the idea, not scared at all, of accessing that dark, quiet, protected place, observing it, and watching to see what grows.


Hold The Space

Certain gifts are so much easier to give others than to give ourselves.

To be present.  To listen well.  To accept without judgement.

These are gifts I want to offer to the important people in my community and I hope that I succeed in that, at least sometimes.  But I am not in the practice of offering these to myself.  I am not in the practice of receiving them from myself.

I noticed this, as I sat in the dark with only the sounds of my breath and the the furnace cycling on to warm the house before daybreak.

It's hard, sometimes, to know how much space to take in the world.  I don't know if I've grown lately and am straining against the edges of a container that used to be comfortable.  Or maybe the shape has just shifted and the new corners are irritating me but I'll stop noticing as soon as I form new calluses.

In the dark I can't see where I end and the world begins.  An image of my internal space materializes in my mind, a cramped and partitioned apartment building with lots of doors and not enough light.  That's not how I want to look inside.  Internally I want to be a vast meadow where the breeze ripples tall grass and any sound could echo for miles. 


So far it's worth it, trading 30 minutes of sleep for quiet, dark wakefulness.  It feels like a gift to myself, holding the space for an endless landscape to unfurl inside me, where I can stretch out and breathe.