Exploring animism, embodiment, deep ecology, vulnerability, and imagination . . .
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state…in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.” —David Whyte
I stand in a field of bluebells. Something has shifted, something in me has opened, and I am so grateful just to be, to taste the wind, to feel the sudden expanse of sky. I want to create something from this feeling, from this rush of pleasure filling me and erasing me with the distilling wind…I set up my camera to face the bluebells and walk into the frame.
There is a certain softness in living from vulnerability—a “weakness” we shy away from, fearing the jabs of “that’s not important,” “that’s frivilous,” “that’s lazy.” But surely it is just these jabs, this desire to wound our generous fragility, that signals how much pain our culture is in right now.
I stand with the bluebells, inside this vast expanse of embodied longing, and find myself completely empty, no wonderful ideas appear, no lyrics come to mind, only silence. I want to express something but fear that anything I do will seem limiting, imposed.
I could try to track back the trauma, to find the memories about the reasons that I held tension, that I severed parts of myself from the world. But surely that search for cause is less important than the hunger for accepting the release.
Something beautiful must come from this moment, I think, something magic as I feel the emptiness to be a vessel—“not I but the wind that blows through me”— as I spread my arms and turn my face into the air, cheek roughened and caressed by the wind that blows back my scarf and my shirt and my hair.
For why would we would push away beauty if we lived in a world that respected the aliveness of all beings? I feel like I’m repeating the words of other authors I’ve read, but that’s ok, because there’s an intuition underneath it that can be spoken in a myriad different, unique ways. Because stories are about the truth that resonates between you and the world, not about information alone.
My breath is taken by the wind, I am bent as the bluebells. I find myself breathing doubly as I finally surrender to the impulse of the earth breathing me. Big gulps of air, myself an extended organ of the world, taking in and releasing the breath that continues, traveling through me and onward over the fields into the wind.
When an animal is in deep fear, it goes into an immobility response—this is how living beings respond to trauma, to the helplessness of being without community, the powerlessness of being without a voice. At a certain point, when it becomes impossible to fight or run away, we become numb, we freeze the “tidal, elemental forces” of our identity and condemn ourselves to silence.
I surrender to this fierce gift of breath dissolving the edges between myself and the world. I listen, allowing the presences of bluebells and wind and trees and fields to travel through me and express what they need to express. From deep in my belly, a sound rises—ugly and raw, coming just as much from the wind as from me.
This immobility works as a survival mechanism, as a state of self protection, but it cannot be how we live our lives. Because, in this state of freeze, in this state of disconnection, we are incapable of experiencing beauty.
I reach inside, moving deeply into that sound, inhaling and releasing as the wind travels through me. I lean in to my discomfort—people pass on the other side of the hedge, cars go by, beyond me the fields.
What if a flower became ashamed to dance, if it started to believe the other flowers were judging its movement? What if that day the flower tensed tightly up through its stem and folded its petals around its face, looking away from the sun? That is the day it would surely snap at the next gust of wind, or wilt into dryness without nourishment from sunlight. To survive, a flower has no choice but to remain vulnerable.
I sing this note, moving into that break in my range, that wound connected to shame and the tightness of my jaw, the holding of my chest. And suddenly, breathing the wind so fully, something in me releases and I sing more fully than I have ever sung before—or rather, I am sung, my inner voice carried across the fields on the wind.
We used to live from this place of vulnerability, embedded within communities, nourished by the natural gifts around us and danced by the winds of ancestors and imagination. Why did we stop? What parts of ourselves did we tense, close away, refusing the nutrients of sun and water and wind, attempting to manufacture our individuality, uprooting ourselves from the fine networks of roots, immobilizing ourselves from the dance of breath?
I stand in the empty field, feeling my back open, my chest relax. My throat moves the air in thick vibrations, giving sound to the encounter between bluebells and wind. And I’m sure, also in some range I can’t hear with these human ears, each bluebell is also singing.
Vulnerability is a betweeness. No one can be vulnerable out of context. The “state” of vulnerability is in fact a process—the vibration between breath and vocal chords, bluebells and wind, the the tender, ephemeral parts of our humanity that have no purpose beyond the joyful singing of themselves.
I feel lightheaded afterwards. Cleansed. I go to collect the camera from its perch in the tree and it is only later that I realize it ran out of battery and the only part of the experience preserved is the uncertainty before the song, the expectant spreading of arms to be cast through more fully by wind.
My curiousities entwine around the concept of “mythopoiesis" — literally "myth-making" — the creation of mythologies that nourish our interbeing with the earth.
My writing explores the betweenesses of different fields—deep ecology, indigenous wisdom, trauma resilience, living process, cultural transformation, sacred activism, grief rituals, play . . .
I am learning how to become a connoisseur of the felt sense, a savorer of the moments that create meaning and nourishment in the world.
I am apprenticing to traditions that practice compassionate witnessing, creating containers in which it is safe to release into the depths of emotion, to traverse the grief and holdings that must necessarily be released before healing can begin to take place.