Let’s start in the middle.
Tuesday May 1st, 2018
Tonight I walked nekked (that’s Steve Poltz for naked) outside a cabin in the woods all alone. I drank full moon water and danced in the smoke of a smudge stick. I walked down to the river over a pile of ice and blanket of pine needles, put my arms up to the sky and felt everything.
Sunday April 29th 2018
Early afternoon: My car is loaded with too many clothes, not enough food, gel pens, markers, four journals, three novels and six poetry books; I’m heading to college. For the next five days, I’ll be studying Sand-Tray and Writing, the 1st of four courses I’ve registered in from the Expressive Arts Program at Haliburton School of Art + Design. And before you ask, no I don’t really know what sand tray is all about. From my brief Google search, it appears to be therapy in a sandbox. To be honest, I signed up solely for for the “and writing” part.
While attending school, I’ll be living by myself at my friend’s cabin. It’s about 30 minutes from campus and one of these true little pieces of heaven on earth. (assuming heaven is a 1-room cabin on a river, without visible neighbours, nor electricity or running water and the sound of rapids on repeat…it does sound heavenly, right?)
Evening: Tonight I sit in front of the wood stove appropriately reading the novel “The Stranger in the Woods”. It’s about a man who lived completely alone in the woods for 27 years. (I’m about 3 hours in.. what’s another 236,517?) And as I enter this week, I read two quotes that ring out:
“No real excellence, personal or social, artistic, philosophical, scientific or moral can arise without solitude.” William Deresiewicz
“Not until we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau
Monday April 29th, 2018
I awake before 6am with the first beam of sunshine shining through the trees in front of my window. Despite the sun, it’s barely 10* in the cabin. Not unbearable but definitely brisk. This must be payback for turning the heat off in our house earlier this month. But it only dropped down to 15* before I succumbed to the pleas of my children (who were going to bed with toques on) and turned the heat back on again.
Ahhh… my children. They’re at home hanging with Grandma and Grandpa getting a proper dose of spoilage while I’m away. I will send them a message when I get to school. My phone refuses to pick up a proper WiFi connection out here. This is not a bad thing. I have come into this week with a commitment to stay as unplugged as possible. But saying you want to be unplugged and watching the phone say ‘searching’ while you sit in complete stillness is a completely different thing.
It feels a bit warmer outside so I sit on the deck in the streaming beam of sun, sip my coffee and take in my surroundings. I do my best to clean up with a handful of baby wipes and choose an outfit that feels like could fit in an expressive arts program, though I can’t tell exactly how successful I am since the closest thing I can find resembling a mirror is my reflection in the window.
I’ve got the first day of school jitters. “What if no one likes me?” “What if I suck at this?” “What if I hate this?” “What if something went wrong with my registration or my transcripts and I’m not actually enrolled and they laugh at my arrival and send me home?” Since I don’t have the WiFi to obsess over my enrolment confirmation, I just get into the car and start driving.
Thursday May 3, 2018
I woke up this morning and immediately started dropping everything I touched. I’m tired but more than that, I’m drained. For the past three days, I have sat with 8 other students, played with sand and made art. For realz. We’d pair up and one of us would gather as many objects as we wanted and play/position them in sand for an hour while the other watched us. Their role was to take notes about their observations and their own emotional reactions while holding space for us to feel safe. Then we would spend an hour creating some sort of artistic reaction to our experience (visual art/movement/music), again while our partner observed. After a break, we’d switch roles. Yeah, I know. It sounds simple. And weird. And it IS weird… but it’s so freaking hard and incredibly powerful. Basically,
sand tray is playing with sand until you cry.During these past days, I uncovered various components of my psyche that I had either been oblivious to or willingly resisting (or maybe I just had my head in the sand – I’ve been waiting all week to use that one!). I have done a fair amount of spiritual awareness work throughout the past 5 years and so I wasn’t completely surprised by my findings. But it was pretty wild that these depths of understanding could be revealed simply by choosing random items (and by random, I mean I chose them from a giant collection of items on a table, but obviously nothing is really random..) and placing them randomly in a sandbox.
After spending my day ‘playing’, I would head back to my cabin in the woods and process what was happening inside of me without any contact with the outside world. It was truly the perfect combination. And a recipe for a complete emotional breakdown.
And so this morning I woke up .. like this.. heavy and raw.
I sit outside in the foggy drizzle, open my journal and write, “Holy shit. World blown open.” then drop my gel pen. Whatever had been percolating inside me for the past three days is bubbling over.
Before this week, I hadn’t really considered that you have to experience therapy before you can learn to facilitate it. I also hadn’t considered that I would be experiencing this intense therapy during the most difficult and emotional week of the year; the week leading up to Jason’s death. It’s been four years and I still can’t really explain what happens to me (and others who loved him) during this week. There’s no avoiding it. There’s a motor memory attached to our bodies and we process and feel shit whether we want to or not. And this week, out here in the woods… there’s no where to hide. I consider quitting and going home. Even just long enough to hug my kids, fall into Sam’s arms and feel their love and support. Then I’ll come back…promise.
But today is the first official writing day. So I pack up my backpack, throw a hat on my very unwashed hair and hit the road a bit earlier than usual. I want a little bit of a chance to write and settle my nerves once I got there. And I also want to try to avoid the tetris of school busses that stream all the roads to Haliburton in the morning. I’ve been stuck in the congo line the last 2 mornings in a row. We stop at every other farm house along the way, picking up kids who look mostly happy to be going to school. Have a great day Mary-Lou, Buck, Chester, Cleatus and you too, little Trixie-Lynn…
Reflections from Home
Saturday May 6, 2018
I made it through my first week back to college and it was indeed life-changing. The writing part of the course at the end of the week was incredible. I’m not sure I have ever wrote for that long and that focused. Intermixed between long spouts of writing, there was more art creation. But I was done by the end. I wanted to go home. I wanted to take all my feelings that had been drawn out to the surface and squish them into my backpack and bring them home with me to examine another day. (like maybe in 2026)
I spent last night in bliss; in my kitchen surrounded my kids and friends drinking goblets of wine, laughter and love.
But this morning I discovered that those backpack feelings had crept out and I woke up feeling pretty raw and heavy. Thankfully I was love blasted all day by Sam and our (combined + additional) four kids. I spent a lot of time out in the sun with my bare feet on the earth (WITH my clothes on) and by the end of the day and I settled into calm.
Sunday May 6, 2018
Four years ago today, we lost their Dad. I’ve just spent a week processing my unresolved feelings about his death and our life together, (while trying to get an A+) and I’m exhausted. Today the kids and I had our own private ceremony of remembering. By holding each other during this process, we will continue our journey of love, laughter and new beginnings with our feet on the earth.