In writing group tonight, the prompt was to reflect on the questions you currently have about your writing. Here’s what I wrote.
How do you write about the drama that is occurring in the inner world – the rich and complex landscape of dreams, active imagination and synchroncities? How do you tell the unfolding story of the evolving psyche in crisis, the breaking down and reassembling of the persona into a new and more unified Self? How do you do this without seeming ridiculous, absurd, self-indulgent or just plain nuts?
In 2008 when I retired from teaching, I thought that I would finally be able to devote myself to writing. After 34 years of nurturing thousands of young writers, of being the mid-wife to the emergence of my students’ stories, it was finally going to time for me.
The retirement coincided with the my children’s graduations from college, then law school and graduate school, their growing independence and their marriages. Even MORE space and time for me to write, free from the constraints of motherhood, needing to spend less and less of my intellectual, emotional and psychic energy on the well-being of my children.
Instead of plunging into the writing life, I entered a quagmire of confusion, which lead to what, looking back, I now know was a breakdown. Well, maybe not a breakdown, but a dis-location and dis-integration of what had once been my oh so tightly held together identity.
With teaching no longer part of my life, I lost my public role. With my children no longer requiring my daily attention, I lost my private purpose and when I would sit down at my computer in my comfortable and lovely book-lined office, with all of the time in the world at my disposal to write, nothing worthwhile would come.
In his work, Carl Jung describes the process of individuation and the cataclysmic changes that can occur in the psyche in mid-life. I was able to postpone this eruption through my immersion in my family life and work until later – post mid-life and post menopause.
“What is not brought to consciousness, comes to us as fate,” he writes.
The holes created by the dropped stitches in the garment of our lives become too enormous to ignore as they threaten to engulf us — if we do not allow ourselves to confront all of the aspects of ourselves we discarded in the construction of our personae.
And so it was that I found myself in the darkness of my life, wrestling with ghosts and shadows.
Next came photography where I started snapping my shadow everywhere – on the pavement, in the sand, in the ocean.
Then one day, while playing with a picture of tree on photoshop, I accidentally discovered a way to split the image and refract pieces of each picture back on itself, revealing a strange and new dimension with spirits, goddesses, mythical creatures appearing in the the spaces between.
A map of my inner journey.
I followed these images with ones of my face, splitting then recombining two left halves ( pretty, full-faced, inviting) and two right ( thin-faced, hard, unapproachable).
I began ordering materials from art supply companies, tiles, paints, adhesives, ephemeria and wood. They’d arrive on my doorstep in huge cardboard boxes which I would eagerly unpack, placing the new items on the window ledges and the worktable I’d purchased and planted opposite my writing desk.
I turned my photography into note cards and ceramic tiles, lined my shelves with mosaic boxes, mirrors, trays, vases, all made too quickly to give away to family and friends. My office of its own volition had been transformed into an art studio.
Last month, I took a collage class. It was here that I finally found the language I needed – a language of image, size, shape, color, context, juxtaposition – material that can convey and carry the complexities of my dreams and inner drama.
The pieces of my deconstructed face became part of totems set inside the refracted tree photos.
Colored glass fragments formed flowing tree-women whose arm/branches swayed in the pale blue sky – each glued piece grouted together with a paryer for healing and wholeness.
And the one I just envisioned today — a round,fecund earth mother goddess, all breasts and womb, inside of which a beautiful tree is growing. The roots of the tree extend down through her feet and toes to the earth below as her branches reach towards the sky.
And on each bough? Thousands and thousands of buds, each one containing a brand new folded image just on the brink of blooming.
I am going to begin making this one tomorrow.