Thin Places, Big Questions

You can listen to this essay here (10 mins)

There is a special place not far from where I live. The road there, winding and twisting with grass down the middle, turns back on itself until the vista spans into the sea then falls off the edge, or so perspective would have you believe. This is a ‘thin place’, part ethereal, part earthy, which takes you to the thresholds of the big questions of life: who are we, were are we going, and what is beyond.

I’d gone down there on New Year’s Eve with a friend. It seemed like a fitting place to close one decade and enter another. ‘Could it bring us into the questions which would help define us, and refine us’, I had wondered. I hoped to leave feeling more certain, clearer of my next steps. So, I packed a flask and some emergency chocolate (one must always be prepared), and headed off, into the afternoon’s lingerings.

Climbing up to the cairn on the highest point, a 360 degree view of the peninsula, the castle ruins and a lake were cast in calm below, the cliff-faces looking velvet in the setting sun, the rocks with a hidden animacy felt like they were about to speak, until there came upon the wind-currents some rare, but familiar calls. Choughs. These black-winged, red-billed beauties, circling and swooping finding their roost in the castle turrets for the night. In their swooping, and the way the light was falling, time seemed to vanish. Up there was only this; no need for questions, no need for strategic plans, no need for clarity, because this was presence, this was a kind of prescience– a knowing that this is really everything: this sentience, this quality of being… and could I say it out loud, could this also be… love? The light you see had shifted. It was not light at all, but honey-hued, a golden filament, landing on our skin, our faces, threading us to the raw elemental around us. Then, across the hills, an arc of spectral light, separated into its constituent colours: otherwise known as a rainbow, reached into the great expanse. Even with a scientific lens, beauty is beauty. ‘I think this may be peak-life’, I said to my friend, ‘does it get any better than this’. And we laughed. We are also made of this.

We are also made of this. The line left an echo in my heart, or was it a clue. It also felt oddly, terrifying.

For the last few years I have chosen a ‘word for the year’ to give the months ahead some anchor. The word should plug into intentionality and focus, steering me back to course. Before going up that thin place hill on New Year’s Eve, I had some ambitious words ready to take the reign, but coming down from the hill, I knew there was only word I could choose. It is heavily loaded, often seen as the domain of the weak, the irrational, or the hopelessly romantic. To speak of it effulgently in the public realm is it is be labelled as naive, or overly-sentimental, or sensitive. To define yourself by it: a dreamer, an idealist. But, we also made of this. This being an intrinsic kind of love. An already worthy kind of love. A wild, connected love. A love which is already whole. This is not about falling in love, or finding love. This is love as a verb. This is to be love.

And so, down from the mountain, I declare: my word for the year is a verb. LOVE

But why is such a seemingly sentimental word so scary? Because, I already know, it will change things, deep things. Love as a verb is a practice, and with practice, we evolve over time. Thomas Merton writes, ‘Love affects more than our thinking and our behaviour towards those we love. It transforms our entire life. Genuine love is a personal revolution. Love takes your ideas, your desires and your actions and welds them together in one experience and one living reality which is a new you.’

To love as a verb then is a revolutionary, revelatory act. Feck. Am I willing to give myself fully to this? And what does it mean to really live my love? These are age old questions, of course, so I turn to some age old sages.

‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it’, says Rumi.

‘The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and do that which best stirs you to love’, said Teresa d’Avila

‘True love is born from understanding’, said the Buddha.

Mmm…. there is clearly much I need to understand. So I go to my bookshelves for more clues. There is already quite a collection on this topic: ‘When Love Meets Fear, ‘Loving Kindness’, ‘Radical Love, ‘World as Lover, World as Self’, ‘Meditation for the Love of it’, and even, ‘All about Love’. As I am flicking through the pages, moving from poet to priestess, I realise that part of me thought I knew love, that I understood its mechanisms, dimensions and power. But as I begin to interrogate love, move into into my hands so as to contemplate it deeper in my action, I realise how much I’ve still been subconsciously operating from a notional, received love; one that gets played out in our movies and scripts; the one where love is an external rather and an intrinsic force.

Yes- Love as a verb is a force of nature, and here am I calling myself to it.

So you can see why it can be scary. Those thin place questions of ‘Who are we, where are we going, and what is beyond’, have led to a singular infinite: love.

And that is when the voice of Rilke kicked in.

‘Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’

I feel a sense of ease arise. Maybe that is everything that is required: to be as proximate as possible to the questions and the intimations of love. To stay close to the essence of the power and presence of the this in the thin place, and try to live from that force.

In the end it always comes back to remembrance, and attempt.

So, I close my eyes, picture the light on my face and the golden filigree of infinite presence which binds us all, and I whisper into my heart, ‘Remember, we are also made of this’.

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Intentional Year 2020 Guidebook

 

 

As we stand on the threshold of one calendar year to the next, the threshold is both an invitation and a doorway. It offers us space to reflect, recalibrate and concentrate our attention and intention on the life we constantly choose to step into. This guidebook is designed to support you to listen inwards, tune in with your highest potential and articulate clear intentions and refined actions for the coming year. 

39 pages of journal prompts, audio meditations, visualisations, creative practices, reflections and planning tools. 

 

You can listen to the introduction letter from the guidebook here to get a sense of the contents… 

 

 

How this guidebook came about:

I enjoy the quiet, transitional time between Christmas and New Year. After the whirl of the seasonal rush and before entering January, I love to take some time and space to reflect on the year that was, and tune into my intuition and longings. It is a chance to dream, learn, grow, create, and visualise the future I am seeking to live into. In many ways it has become a ritual of mine. Sometimes I do the dreaming process alone, but mostly I invite a small circle of friends and we gather for a day to work through the materials together. We light candles, journal, go on walks, meditate and support each other to believe in the highest possibilities for one another. It is a glorious, enriching time. Throughout the year we then check-in with each other, usually around the rhythms of the Celtic seasons- the equinoxes and solstices-  to see how the year is unfolding and remind each other of the intentions we are holding. 

This method has been transformational for me. I have felt the effects hugely in my own life, from giving myself permission to trust my heart’s desires and intuition, to helping me zoom out and have a longer, deeper perspective on what is meaningful in my life. It has supported me to cultivate and appreciate more of what brings me alive, including developing the relationships and support structures to help me to stay on track and gently nudge me back when I feel I have wandered. 

This guidebook is a version of this visualisation and planning process. The techniques and tools take an approach based on intention setting rather than resolutions, and have been gathered over the years through a range of practices and disciplines from yoga and meditation, to design thinking, creative leadership, and cognitive science.

A two years ago I shared the first version of this guide, and have been iterating it each year, refining it based on my own learning, and feedback from people who have been using the guide too. It has been a beautiful, organic process, and I am grateful to continue to develop and expand it each year. 

What’s Included: 

 

You will be guided through three movements, or sections, to aid your reflections:

Grounding, Sensing, Becoming.

Each movement contains a combination of writing, meditation and creative practices, and includes a bonus practice.

 

Part One- Grounding: In which you will be invited to clear some space, externally and internally, find some stability within, and capture your learnings and insights from the past year. 

  • Welcome audio letter
  • Finding Stillness Audio Meditation
  • 2019 Review- journal prompts
  • The Enough Inventory and the Joy Inventory
  • Bonus Practice: A Note of Thanks (a gratitude writing practice)

Part Two- Sensing: This is all about tuning in with your highest future self, through creative visualisation and ‘future writing’. 

  • An Introduction to Future Writing
  • Accessing your Future Self- An Audio visualisation
  • Letter from the Near Future
  • Refining Core Intentions
  • Bonus Practice: Create your Imram (A Nature Quest)

Part Three- Becoming: This is where you will clarify your core intentions, articulate your priorities and think through the scaffold or support structure to help keep you close to your highest self for the year ahead. 

  • Priority Projects
  • Mapping the Year Ahead
  • Support Team & Accountability Partner
  • Blessing from your Future Self
  • Bonus Practice: Making your Intentions Visible.

How much time do you need? 

I have designed this guidebook so it can be completed in about four hours, or over the course of a couple of evenings. However, you may want to create your own home retreat, clearing a full day to dive deeply into the process. I suggest a sample day retreat schedule, including bonus creative practices. You may choose to do this alone, or invite a circle of friends to join you for the day (which can be such a treat!)

If you are short on time, at a minimum I recommend completing the ‘Sensing’ practices in part two, particularly the ‘future writing’ exercises.

 

How I’m offering the guidebook: 

One of the things I love about living in West Cork is the abundance of honesty boxes. People grow their own vegetables, then leave them in little shelters by the roadside, with a box beside them,  trusting that a payment will be made in exchange for the home-grown produce. There is no guarantee that this will always be honoured, but it is an invitation to trust.

I have decided to offer the guidebook this year on the same principle.

So this my invitation to you to make a contribution to honour the time, skill and experience I have put into creating this- my version of home-grown produce, while also honouring the time and energy you give to it. It is experiment in trust, reciprocity, generosity and relationship.

When you invest, you will also be investing your energy, and your investment helps me to continue to develop my work, making it available and accessible to others.

The materials I share have been refined and tested, and come from my own personal practice.

If you are unsure about what to offer, think of what you would pay for the equivalent of a yoga workshop, or a self-led home day retreat (which essentially this is)

If you are low on money at the moment, then offer a lower amount. If money is not such a challenge for you right now, then perhaps offer a little more.

If you’d like to share the guidebook with others, please direct them to this honesty box (PayPal Me link), asking them to make their own contribution and download directly.

 

Honesty Box Payment Process: 

Step One: 

Make a payment contribution via PayPal Me- the link below takes you there. Payment in multiple currencies accepted). When you have made the payment, return to this page for step two below.

https://paypal.me/ClareMulvany

 

Step Two: 

Once you have made a payment…

click on this link to download the guidebook

(5 files in total- a pdf of the guidebook, and 4 audio recordings, stored in dropbox)

Should you encounter any technical difficulties with the payment or download, please email: clare@claremulvany.ie

 

 

Thank you, and enjoy,

Onwards, with love,

Clare. xx

 

 

 

 

 


The Courage to Act: Poetry Salon

As we approach the turning point of the deep winter, snug to the fulcrum of the winter solstice, I invite you to listen inwards to find some stillness and pause in the coming days.

The final poetry salon of this Winter salon season, The Courage to Act,  is now available for you. You can listen here .

Across a spectrum of poets and readings, I share ideas of courage as belonging, we’ll cross the terrain of resistance poetry, we’ll broach the power of saying ‘No’, and I’ll bring you into the world of Kasala poetry, a Congolese form of praise poetry, with Maya Angelou at the helm. You’ll hear words from Padraig O’Tuama, Jackie Kay, Joy Harjo, Brendan Kennelley and Mary Oliver.

Since sharing these salons this month, I’ve had beautiful emails from listeners in far corners of the globe, some sending me poems which have passed their way, and turned them to new forms of comfort and delight. I’ve also had offers to host more poetry salons when I travel to California early next year, in peoples homes, with their own friends and community. I think that’s exactly poetry’s power- to build bridges, not walls, and to reach across oceans into hearts and homes.

Happy listening.

 

And some news… 

 

I have been in a creative warren all week, conjuring this year’s Intentional Year Guidebook, in an expanded and refined format. This is a guide to help you tune in with your highest self, and clarify your vision and intentions for the year to come… the start of a new decade and cycle of time.

Expect audio meditations, visualisations, an introduction to ‘future writing’, creative practices, journalling prompts, nature dialogues and planning tools.

I’m finalising details over the coming day, and will post information here.

 

 

Wishing you love and blessings for these solstice and Christmas days.

 

Clare. xx


The Turn of Hope Poetry Salon

 

What strange times.

Last night, as news of the UK exit polls broke, I was sitting in De Barra’s bar in Clonakilty, West Cork, with a room of people gathered to listen to poems by the poet Pádraig O’Tuama, in collaboration with The Velvetine Quintet. Into the space of the darkness and uncertainly, over the low and haunting notes of the cello, and as Pádraig began reading, there were tears shed, my own and others. His poems were speaking to the possible, to the human in us all, and to the common ground. There, as the notes and words came into resonance, I could feel us all holding fierce disappointment in one hand, and grace in the other. Then, as the poems continued to invite our deeper humanity into the room, there was this palpable sense too: that there are always other ways of seeing; that there there are always other ways to gather, and that there are always other ways to listen. It felt like a beautiful, timely moment of burgeoning awareness: that these spaces where we gather with these different ways of knowing, that these are essential for our time.

Poetry has always been a place where those other ways of knowing convene. It is a place to explore the big questions for our time while also speaking to into the nuances of mystery. It allows room for words which I think are so needed now, words like love, joy, beauty and dare I say, hope.

So, given the news of the last day, it feels timely that this next poetry salon I recorded for you is on that very theme of hope.

Hope- is that such an audacious thing, especially now? How can we have hope when things and times are so complex? And what does it mean to hope when we are feeling uncertain, at a loss to know what to do? 

I take these questions into this next salon, where I am interested in the thinking about hope as a robust, resilient promise, something we can give our hand to and which shows up as action. What, I ask, does it mean to live in the space of the possible, and can we give our hope to that?

‘The Turn of Hope’ brings you poems from W.S Merwin, Rilke, Denise Levertov, Barbara Ras, Rupi Kaur, Jeanne Lohmann.

My invitation is to carve 30 minutes for yourself, find a quiet spot, and let these words enter into the crevasses of your heart, perhaps as solace, perhaps as hope itself.

Happy Listening, and please feel free to pass along this salon to those you think could do with some words which speak to the possible too.

You can listen here

Onwards, with love

 

Clare. x

(You can listen to the first of these salons, ‘The Nature of Place’ over here.


The Nature of Place Poetry Salon

As we approach the winter solstice, and as an antidote to the busyness which this time of year can bring how about some words and poems, to listen inwards, to pause, to recalibrate, to renew…

Here, I bring you the first of three seasonal poetry salons which explore the intersecting themes ecology, activism, hope and restoration, with poetry as bridge and balm, bringing us close to the question, ‘What does it mean to be human right now’…

The first salon is on the theme of ‘Nature and Place’, with poems from Wendell Berry, Joy Harjo, Rachel Holstead and Jane Hirshfield, and one of my own.

I hope you enjoy, and if you care to share, I’d love to hear what the salon sparks for you, and what poems or words it makes you reach for too..

Happy listening,
Clare xx

You can listen here on soundcloud (26 mins)

 

 

 


The Robin and The Particular

Some December writing for you. You can listen on soundcloud too (5 mins)

 

December is upon us. The bare skeleton of the trees, showing what they are made of: strength, and endurance. In the pared back silhouettes, I watch the robins forage for berries in the remains of the harvest. A little one skits through the low brambles, seemingly giving flight to the hedge. Everything, even in its barest form, moves.

I have hung some bird seed on a feeder by my back window. Soon, with a little trepidation, more visitors arrive, in delight. More robins, and what I think may be a gold-crest. What we feed returns itself to us. The gift of my offering is given back in flight and red-breast. In the simple, eternal exchange of avian and human, something feels restored, if only for a few moments. Here on my backyard patch, where everything else is bare, wintering is commonage for this kind of love too.

We are nearing the end of a decade, a big chunk of time in a human life. Not even a blink in geological time. Just over a quarter of my own life. The years remind me of the gift of flight too: time flying and all that, so fast it is hard to reckon with linear time. The days move slowly, but the years? They seem to be wrapt in a magic cloak, transforming me through the questions they offer, and the ways they bring me deeper into the bare bones of life. My niece was three at the start of this decade, and is now going on young woman, who I barely recognise, such is the whole new cycle of life in her, in evolution. Ten years ago, there were people who I now call the dearest of friends, who I had never even met back then. And then there were the failures ahead, not even glimmers ten years ago, which I am only just beginning to realise have been, in fact, the greatest gifts of all. They have pared me back, and in the bare bones of my life, I can see, everything has been moving me, not from the external gauge of success, but from the inside out- my own barometer of being.

You see, when I scan the last ten years, in some ways, I don’t feel I have achieved much, except a collection of experiments and things which went pear shaped, and there were some very misshapen pears. I thought I’d have lots more books published by now, perhaps that PhD from Oxford, a house, a partner, and have set up something which has changed things, made a dent, internationally. But, this has not been the path of my particular, at least so far. Clearly the particular has things to teach me, mostly that I have been carrying a story which continually measures myself against a metric which is always just beyond me. Which is why checking in on the narratives I not only carry, but also perpetuate, is such a necessary thing.

Back on my patio, I watch those little robins on the branches inhabit the fullness of themselves, by virtue of being fully Robin. Not gold-crest. Not wren. But Robin. They are in the full expression of their particular. It is such a beautiful thing to witness.

And so, it makes me think, what is all our particulars. What is Clare’s particular? And what is your particular? Can we learn to live into that, and may that be enough.

That, I realise, always carries us back to our joy, and our gift: what is ours to offer.

And so, with that particular lens, I look back over these last ten year, and the story shifts. All those experiments, ‘failures’, have been expressions of my particular: the artist and writer in me, the experimenter, the learner, the friend, the do-er. The initiator has had a field day. The nature lover and sea-swimmer too. I’ve travelled, mentored, taught, written, painted, danced, laughed, wandered, questioned, pondered, tried things out, tried more things out, and learned, a lot, about what it is to be in relationship with what life is presenting: the simple act of living.

And so, with that lens, and with an indentured sense of gratitude, I think of all the ways life has taken me by the hand and drawn me closer to the essence of what I know to be a life well lived. I may not have all those books published, or reached these external things that I had set out for myself, but my goodness, isn’t there a robin only a few feet away, feeding on the seeds I have offered, looking like it is the bravest thing in the world: being its particular and glorious self.

..

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The Gift of Story

 

Give the Gift of Story this year.

Gift vouchers available to be redeemed against any of my 2020 workshops.

Most one day writing and story workshops in 2020 are €130. You can choose to cover the full fee, or a partial fee.

PURCHASE For full fee vouchers (€130)  you can book online here:





If you’d like to arrange for separate amount, please email: clare@claremulvany.ie

 

Once you book, I will create a digital voucher you can send to the recipient.

I have decided that in lieu of printing and postage costs for hard-copy vouchers, I will donating to kiva.org a microlending site, where I will be supporting a woman to get back into education.

 

*Please note that vouchers can only be redeemed against workshops (not redeemable against creative mentoring sessions). Vouchers are non-refundable.

 


On Stumbles with Patti Smith and The Fragments.

 

You can listen to this post here (6 mins)

I’ve started writing this piece to you many times. Each time the words begin to crumble, then fade. The words seem to be resisting the hold of an idea, and the form of what I hope may be useful to you right now- something tangible- is eluding. I have noticed my own frustration and confusion rising as a result. I’ve torn up pages and deleted many words.

It’s scary when the crumbling happens and the blanks seem to lengthen. For someone who hangs so much on words, it is frightening when the lines don’t seem to arrange themselves in coherent, cogent forms. I begin to question if they will ever come back. Then I begin to question everything. 

Instead of wholeness, I find fragments. Instead of coherency, I find tangents. It is a moment which tests, utterly. 

I’m grateful for the power of practice in these times. I’ve learned through the years that the only way through is to move with honesty into what is happening, what’s real and alive in front of me. When I don’t, I’m just resisting the resistance and everything calcifies. So I begin writing, sensing the fragmentary nature of the beginning. I start to write around those fragments- seeing what ideas want to gather. I give myself permission to write something, anything, even if it is scattered, for in the scattering I can at least feel motion. I read some poetry. I go for a walk.  I tear up some more pages. Then I watch a little clip of Patti Smith, and I exhale. I think I may have found the exact bit of humanity I needed, right in the nick of time. 

She is at the 2016 Nobel Laureate Prize giving. The auditorium is full of black tie and Kings and Queens. She is there to perform a song to honour Bob Dylan. She can feel the privilege, and the weight of it. She is wearing a tailored black jacket and a white shirt with a pristine, angular collar. I notice how contained she seems, how compact almost. There are thousands of formal eyes upon her. Then she begins, until she doesn’t. Around the second verse, her voice goes blank, and there is a freeze, then a stumble, and then, ‘I’m sorry.. I apologise, I’m so nervous’. The audience breaks into applause in what seems like an act of recognition. This is humanity and humility both at work. 

So she begins the second section again and I think I love her all the more now, all the deeper. Her insistence on continuance. She sings as best as she can, in that moment, with all her nerves, and she gives it everything, even if she feels that her everything is not quite enough. 

Patti wrote a piece in the New Yorker about her experience. She took her ‘public struggle’, and told us, ‘This strange phenomenon did not diminish or pass but stayed cruelly with me. I was obliged to stop and ask pardon and then attempt again while in this state and sang with all my being, yet still stumbling. It was not lost on me that the narrative of the song begins with the words “I stumbled alongside of twelve misty mountains,” and ends with the line “And I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” As I took my seat, I felt the humiliating sting of failure, but also the strange realisation that I had somehow entered and truly lived the world of the lyrics’.

I get it. Sometimes we feel we are giving our everything, but it feels like it is not quite enough, not as good as it can be. But, in that moment, it is what we have to offer. Even the imperfect fragments, even the stumbles.

So I stumble through my notebooks, gathering the fragments, the broken shells, the ill-formed and the unhatched, and I take a moment to look at what is there. As I zoom away, I begin to see something. It wasn’t an essay I was writing at all. Poetry happens in the most unlikely of places, and especially in the cracks. 

 

The Loam Woman

Stuck to a place of no traction, 

I am finally ready to fall. 

From the residue of rejections, 

the unknowns, looming large, 

ask me: 

What is the gift of this dire uncertainty? 

 

A woman with an old voice, 

and hair as white as loam

gallops into my eyes. 

 

She is evidence of continuance: 

 

Advance with an openness, 

to what is present, she says, 

let humility be your gait, 

You must sing yourself into the 

lyrics of your own song, 

to truly enter.

 

Later, as the moon is halved, 

and the stars are veiled in the sea-mist, 

I think of what is behind the real darkness

 

and can feel only 

the hand of this old woman, 

coaxing me out into the great night

saying, here, 

this is your stomping ground, 

now go, 

write yourself there. 

 

Now, as I raise my pen to the sky, 

I feel her hands on the cusp my head, 

as if she is stroking the back of a stunned mare, 

kicking and singing, 

rearing her hooves 

into the inky 

strands of the page

entering 

into the long long night 

both of us falling deeper into 

our great unknown song. 

..

 

 

May we write our ways into our own song, stumbles and fragments, half-moons and all. 

Until soon, with love 

Clare. x 

 


P R O X I M I T Y

 

All effort is only ever attempt. To live proximate may be to live close enough.
I live too in the essay- in the original sense- essayer- to try.

What if writing is only ever a road to carry us closer to what is possible to say? What if art is merely portal to something more nuanced or intriguing?

To try, to attempt, to remain in sight of beholding — isn’t this worthy of the effort. It’s what we learn by moving closer that brings us into contact with all that is essential after all.

In a world so focused on linear outcome (if I do X, I’ll gain y), and the metrics which measure success by virtue of the masculine demands of scale, reach and the guaranteed quantifiable; the value of the effort – the attempt- is so often overlooked.

I am interested in the circular attempt at returning to the questions which keeps haunting me;  the questions which only a dive into the unknowables (and therefore the unquantifiables) of creative force can round. They are prompt to bring into form the things that keep nudging; invitations to put words or paint or action around what is seeking form, to give music or voice to or to bring to attention to, as a gesture of life itself.

To attempt is to be in conversation with something much larger. And to stay proximate to that may be the best conversation going…


The Great Discontent

 

 

 

You can listen to a recording of this piece here (6 mins)

 

 

 

 

The Great Deconstruction

There is a turning in the air in what seems like more ways than one. Summer has begun to shed its coat, as September enters into us with the fall of leaf and berry. It brings to me the notion of abandonment, not the withdrawal definition of that word, but the act of engagement, of recklessness. With complete abandon.

As the back to school momentum pushes the busy dial, it is easy to fall back in with the uniform, the quotidian. It may be that we place expectations upon ourselves without questioning their origin or authority, and we may fall into routine out of habit rather than belief in valency.

I think, in general, I’ve become an advocate of pause. It is not a pause as in stopping fully, but a pause to make room for abandonment, and to figure out what is worthy of our attention and time; what is to fall into.

I’ve been reading a book back to front. It’s a copy of Nan Sheppard’s ‘The Living Mountain’ with a forward by Robert McFarlane and an afterward by Jeanette Winterson (with those as bookends it must be a treasure). The afterword appealed first. Winterson has always held a place in my own canon, and once again, I was blasted.

In a few brief pages she speaks of what she calls, ‘total time’, at odds with linear time; the chronological ticking. ‘Linear time is exhausting’, she says, ‘Life has never been more rushed. This present way of being is not a truth about life or a truth about time; it is propositional. We can disagree.

It may take ‘falling into’ to be convinced however.

Ever fallen in love and felt like time was stretched, until it reached the skin of your affection?
Ever been so absorbed in an act of making, that you felt an eternity knock on your sense of being?
You’ll know that the clock is malleable.

As I am writing these lines, Milly, my dog, is dropping her toy at my feet and insists on play.
I give myself over to her for a few minutes, finding myself on the floor and tugging on a rag. The game is in the chase. Once the object of the hunt is caught, she just wants to play again. It could go on for a very long time but I return to the page, knowing that art is antidote. Engagement is antidote. The game we choose to play can be our medicine. But we must choose to abandon ourselves to the pulse.

So back to Winterson. And books. And reading. And art making, in the broadest sense, and with particular emphasis on making.

‘Books work from the inside out’, she says, ‘They are private conversations happening somewhere in the soul. And later she adds, ‘You need not believe in the gods to believe in your own soul. It is that part of you that feels not obliged to materiality’.

Which takes us back to disagreement.

I believe we can disagree with the given notions of time and our demands on it. And I think it is also to do with deconstruction.

We build up stories of who we think we are, how we should spent our time. Some are cultural narratives, some are constructs. And many are destructive. Capitalism is a narrative. So too is patriarchy. So too the materiality which is keeping us from our soul. Equally there are built and carefully constructed narratives of what it means to be successful, worthy, beautiful, and winning at life. And I want to tell you, I think it time for mass disagreement.

We disagree by questioning the stories we are living by, and abandoning the ones which are not fit for purpose.
We disagree by falling in love with the multiplicities of enchantment.
We disagree by giving ourselves back our art, our words, our language, our poetry, our bodies, our pluralities
We disagree by not building businesses which places profit before the very earth which sustain us.
We disagree by not handing our antidote over to power which insists on making it smaller or less potent.
We disagree by building bridges rather than walls.
We disagree by attending mass protests or we disagree by moving into conversation with the stranger in ourselves; we get to choose our own scale
We disagree by pausing.

OK. Rant over. But I am tired of being nice girl, good girl, not speaking my mind girl. For what? Fear of being liked? Or fear of rejection?
We disagree by not running our lives by fear.

So, it is understandable that I find myself turning to writers who have always blended lines or refined the margins. Most recently I have been finding refuge in Virginia Woolf, Michael Cunningham, Maggie Nelson, Joy Harjo, and as of today, Ocean Vuong.
(We disagree by reading novels in the middle of the day, on a Monday, when one really ‘should’ be thinking about official business)
But it is because I want a literature of representation as much as a society of representation. And I think we can build new worlds with our words.

It starts with our inner language. What is the story we are telling of ourselves? What is the game we want to be in? What is our art? What our antidote?

Honestly, I’m tired of advice. I think we all need our own space to discover our paths. We need allies along the way, for sure, and mentors and mirrors, and tools, but to pause, to listen inwards, to trust in the deep currents of our souls, below the noise of materiality and obligation. Can we make room, if only for a few moments each morning, to listen. Inside us all is a story of infinity. Once we meet each other there, there is nothing but enchantment. And I think we could all use of dose of that.

So before you pace ahead into the busy dial of your day, may I invite you to write your own list of disagreements, and begin the great deconstruction, in your own reckless way.

 

Books mentioned or motioned to above:

The Living Mountain: Nan Sheppard (2011 Canongate edition)
How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems. Joy Harjo
To the Lighthouse: Virginia Woolf
The Hours: Michael Cunningham
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: Ocean Vuong
Bluets: Maggie Nelson
The Argonauts: Maggie Nelson

 

(lead photo taken my Mari Kennedy)