“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
With every storm that rages in our lives there is the before… and then there is the after. When we survive the storm, when the wind stops howling at our backs, biting at our cheeks, ripping through our hair; when we no longer feel each drop of rain that touches our skin as some kind of stinging assault; when the chill of the experience has stopped causing our teeth to tremble and our bones to quake; we gradually start to rediscover a sense of equilibrium. At first, this is tenuous. One false step, one sleight of hand, one eye closed for just a fraction of a second too long, and we can become pulled back into the funnel cloud and lose our bearings. Too much spinning will definitely do that! Round and round we go, tossed about like a feather in the wind, but, with each successful stride, our confidence grows a bit stronger. We move forward. Slowly, cautiously, but forward nonetheless. Our awareness of our own strength returns too. And though there may be moments that send us into a tailspin, back into the eye of the storm that we thought we had freed ourselves from, we are able to find our stable center more quickly. We regain our balance, and we keep breathing, keep moving, keep growing. The path becomes easier to tread. Our feet feel more sure. Our steps become larger and more purposeful. And so it goes, this movement away from the past, away from the trauma, the loss, the grief that threatened to overtake us.
Storms are a natural part of life. Who among us has not known loss? Who among us has not experienced some kind of hardship that tested her to the core? Who among us has not experienced pain so deep that he thought his bones might crumble from the weight of it? Loss is inevitable. To be alive means that eventually we will come to know death, first by losing people whom we love, and then, culminating in our own death. I don’t think however, that there is only one death in this life. I have known thousands of tiny deaths, each one changing me in undeniable ways. Every loss is a kind of death, even if it’s only one of our tightly held illusions that has died. We tend to be very attached to our illusions. They help us to feel secure, but like everything else, we hold on for awhile, and then there comes a time when we let them go.
Storms blow through our lives, regularly, in fact, but they also continue to blow over. The sun comes out again, eventually, and with trepidation, we emerge as well. Though the person we were before, the person whom we had come to know so well, ceases to exist. How could she remain unchanged, when knowing what she now knows, knowing the breadth and depth and sheer magnitude of the waves that swallowed her, how could she possibly remain the same? William Blake said, ““In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” Storms drag us, kicking and screaming sometimes, across the threshold, forcing us to open our eyes, to feel, to pay attention… even, or perhaps, especially, when it is painful. The truth about knowing is this: once we know something, we can never go back to a blissful state of un-knowing it. We can repress knowledge, consciously or not, but even something that has been repressed still exists in the mind. It just gets filed away in a different drawer, under a cryptic heading. And then one day, something triggers the lock, and the drawer pops open. The contents of the folder spill out, splattering across the floor in a tidal wave. Once we have experienced the storm, once the door has opened, and we have stepped through, there is no going back. We are forever changed. As Haruki Murakami points out, that is what storms are all about.
And so, once upon a time, before the latest storm in my life swallowed me alive, threatened to drown me, and finally spit me back out, I made the photo that you see here. It was intended to be my “Before,” as I knew that the storm was coming, I was trying to prepare for it. This cyanotype is something that captures the innocence of not knowing, the freshness of spring, hinting of the darkness that lay ahead. Spring is rife with storms, after all. It was made to be an impression of who I was at one time in my life, speaking of fecundity and possibility, vulnerability and newness, and yes, speaking of (my version) of femininity also.
The storm has come, and now it is starting to pass. It was a most brutal one, the most powerful that I have known. It rocked the foundations of who I am as a person. I am starting to regain my balance, but healing doesn’t happen in a straight line. There are advances and retreats. We spiral around and back again, moving forward little by little. This, too, is a dance with mystery, much like the tango, a dance of passion, possession, and surrender.
I am learning to surrender to the storm and to find the hidden gifts that it can bring. I will leave you with this thought: “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”
― Anais Nin
Here’s to the mystery! Until next time…