Sunday, 8 April 2012

life transformations

Transformation is an ordinary aspect of life, any thought-processes or philosophies that ignore or exclude or fail to factor in transformation is not telling the whole story.

Spring is one of those times of transformation, in temperate realms where distinct progressions of seasons are-- or at least, have been-- observable, becoming a part of the cultural expressions of the people who live there. Where i live, is a tiny corner of un-usual: almost everything they say about "Canada" in terms of seasons and the weather, does not wholly hold true in this region. However, we do have our cherry blossoms, lighting up the street first here, then there, soon the whole avenue will succumb to the pale pink party, and we will be racing the cherry petals down the sidewalk on a windy day. We do have the chickadees and crow, the eagle and the seagull, the hawk: heron, robin, hummingbird, all sorts of bird companions.

The story I shared yesterday, as told by Ida Ratt (SK), tells a tale of loss and grief and transformation. I can see why this story was first told, and why it has continued to be told, down through the ages, through historical time. In this story (see, small birds: spring  transformations), a hard choice is made by parents in a time of wealth, a loss occurs, and grief causes further transformations, in effect tripling the loss of the parents at a moment when they felt all would be well with the world, that they could support their family in a good way.

In 2009, i did some research on the pagan roots of my Catholic girlhood celebration of Easter. What is the meaning of the rabbit, the hare, the eggs? I found an old story of transformation-- in some stories, the goddess of dawn finds a little bird, shivering, and in other versions of the story it is a little girl she finds, weeping. The heart of the story is, a small bird is on the verge of freezing to death, and the goddess of the dawn, the benign female power, feels compassion, decides to intervene. As the cold is expected to continue for some weeks, and the small bird is near death, she decides to transform the bird into a larger, hardier being. As the bird's wings are already eaten by the cold, no longer functional, she decides upon a new body for the bird, in the form of a hare.

Here is the poem that came of the research into Germanic old stories of springtime:

so small a creature as this (easter story)

stepping stepping the touch of dawn a
springtime morn arriving to light
a small bird, bone quivering cold
eating the wings and devouring
the small heat of life
a simple gift
transforming the body robust
to survive the lingering fingers
of winter's hold, o light bearer
hare of the goddess
heart of the small bird
shelters within

(c) Joanne Arnott
Richmond 2009

The significance of a rabbit laying eggs is the truth, that within the new body and being, the essential nature of the original being is intact. Through all the transformations of our seasons, and our lives, we are essentially the same being within. I once met an elder on a bus, whilst i was travelling with one of my many preschool sons. This man who engaged me in a teaching conversation, he told me, "I am 92 years old! I am 92 years old, but on the inside, how i feel, who i am, is just like i was when i was his age" (pointing emphatically at my son) "I am exactly the same!"

I have been talking about poetry and life transitions with my friend Eric, and wanted to share two poems that I wrote, that formed a part of our conversation. The first, "Justice," I wrote in Taipei, in 1992, when i was first becoming aware of how all the idealism in the world did not create an ideal parent, and that I individually had a long way to grow, to learn new ways of being that my parents could not teach me.

The second, called "an impressive array," I wrote in response to a question from my beau, "what is a body for?" For some reason, the word "panoply" popped into mind, as an answer to his question, which is where i got my title from-- it is about armouring, but, how necessary is armouring? There is a time and a place for everything, and whilst many of us develop armours as a full time aspect of self, the old way, the better way, is to remain flexible, to be able to armour when armour is needed, to be able and willing to blend when the world is safe and the season is good.


my body is just a place
that memory calls home— a long
twisting pattern of thought
snaking back through the minds
of ancestors—
passed on through their bodies
and through
and through
until i am formed and born
in a present day world

and in
bearing children
I am pushing thought through
dragging those prehistoric impressions
and through
and through
those doorways of flesh
to burble forth into
some future
time and place

those things
not resolved
in one lifetime

will never be
at the grave

(c) Joanne Arnott
Taipei 1992

an impressive array

our bodies are our selves, only
the feints of culture can obscure it
our bodies are the repositories of
every sense impression gathered
through a lifetime, or perhaps
many lifetimes, our bodies
are ourselves, rising up
from potential to real, our bodies
are the mark of our passing, our bodies
are the soft earth of self and the panoply
of thought streams and disruptions, the
culture-tangled nots and knots and naughts
our bodies are the ground of our beings, and
the playing fields of our minds, our bodies
are what we are good at, and unconscious of,
and what we are excited with, and thoughtful
through, our bodies arrived in the world
in order for us to drink beauty through every pore
and in order for us to express beauty
as an expression of the world itself, we are
a song the world enjoys singing to itself
we do not have our bodies
anymore than the world has us
a moment of self-possession passes
in the same way as does everything else

(c) Joanne Arnott
Richmond 2010

Whatever the state of your bodymind, and however the seasons are expressing themselves in your world, and whatever lifestage you are in and whatever version of the world expressing itself you may be-- as an individual or as part of a collective-- caught up in, on this long and beautiful day, i am wishing you well. 

For myself, I have come to believe that body tension = stories i am holding, and the route to relaxation is to share stories, and more stories, and more. Storytelling does need to be balanced with housework, gardening, laundry, etc., all of which are essentially ways of saying, "i honour the world."

Thanks to Alastair, Eric, my mother, Renee, and Grace, for conversations that fed into these thoughts of the philosophies of springtime. Thanks to my son Stuart (Slave Labour), for sharing an interesting documentary on water, and his thoughts about "how to be" that came out of it: the importance of (as my elders put it) "thinking good thoughts while you make things," and giving thanks to and for the world on a regular basis, cannot be under-estimated. We are creating and influencing the world in a much wider way than we have been told, or can from some mindsets, easily conceive of.

The first of the three poems  i shared on storytellersplayspace and riverspine, web-based play places for poets, and is included in a forthcoming book halfling spring

the second was published in Mother Time (Ronsdale). 

The last is including in a forthcoming book, a night for the lady.

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