"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprises of its own unfolding."
Rivers have been flowing through my dreams and conversations. They always seem to call to me, and in their powerful and mystical way, they always seem to be calling me home to myself. There is no definitive thought or tidy conclusion in the writing that follows. Perhaps, as you proceed, you could think of these words as a winding river. There is no end destination that you or I need to be aware of. Rather, we will move, flowing together. I suspect that we may still be in mid-current by the time the words cease to move across the page.
I once had a teacher who spoke to me of rivers. Pointing down to the flowing river and then pointing up to the sky she told me how, "as above, so below" is a truth revealed by watching and knowing the movement of the river and its sister river flowing in the sky - the air stream. They move along the same currents. Did you know this? A body with circulatory systems in the ground and in the sky.
I used to believe that I fell in love with rivers when I lived in New Mexico, however. I have come to understand that I have always been drawn to these winding fluid bodies. Perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the time I spent in the desert illuminated my love and longing. Interesting how time spent in a desert was the inception of my actively seeking the footpaths that follow their movements, always on my way to or in search of spots along the bank where I could rest myself and wait. Wait until I could begin to hear the song and sit in moments when time is intersected by eternity.
Each river has her own language and each river sings her own song. Movement over the rocks, the formation of the riverbed, the direction in which the waters run , the creatures who move within her waters, along the banks, all in relation to one another, all contributing a thread of the melody of each river's song. If you sit still and listen she will sing her song for you. If you ask, she can assist in carrying away heaviness and the worries which tug at the corners of your heart and soul. If you are patient, curious and respectful, she will reveal herself and her nature. When her movements are just so, and you see the light jumping across the surface of her skin and her shimmering scales, do you feel wonder? I do.
The Banks of My River
Will you sit by the banks of my River?
If I welcome you to my shores
Will you wait until you can hear the rhythm of my blood?
If my heart begins to beat in the knowing of you
Do you know your presence can change the banks of my River?
If I swell, if I recede, If I rise to meet you, If I quench your thirst
Do you wonder where I am moving to or where I am moving from?
If you look into me and see your own reflection
If you leave will you return?
When I am tired and the rains do not come
If you learn my song will you remember it?
When I no longer remember my name
Rivers have been flowing through my thoughts and through my body. I have been practicing noticing, becoming aware. Aware of the sensations that arise within me. Aware of where I have constricted the flow. Aware of where I have built dams and diversions. In much the same way as I have sought out the banks of rivers to listen and come to know their song. I am attempting to tune in and listen to my own.
You see, if it should be that there comes a time when I am called to your banks, to your river, I wish to know how to be in your presence. I wish to know how to hear your unique and beautiful song. This means that I must come to know my own. If I am welcome and you offer me a seat at the bank of your river and I look into the surface of your waters I want to have befriended the stillness that would allow me to see my reflection in you.
When I rest my head on the pillow tonight I wonder if I will again dream of rivers. I wonder if I will dream of you, waiting with me by the river. I wonder of we will be waiting for the rains to come.
I Am Carried by the River, The Saxtons River, VT,
The Language of Rivers Collection, Vision Shift Gallery
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
In Love, Beauty & Hope,
I have been thinking a lot about what is required to grow beyond who we have been in order to become who we need to be. What parts of our identities and how we have previously known ourselves do we need to acknowledge, relinquish, expand and what parts are in need of tending and care in order to experience the fullness of our humanity?
On a cold night in February of 2005, I walked into the tattoo studio and sat down to wait for my appointment to begin. “Are you sure that you want to do this? This is your last chance.” “I am sure.”, I replied.
I sat on that stool for two hours as the word WARRIOR was engraved across the top of my back. Upon my arrival home, I went into the bathroom and turned to look in the mirror. All of a sudden it was very hard to breathe. The knowledge of the commitment that I had just made to myself and to all that I believed in felt very large. Too big for my lungs to breath in and exhale out. That night as I slept, I dreamt of wild horses running free through the streets.
In September of 2018, I would once again step into a tattoo studio in order to refresh the ink in the WARRIOR tattoo. At the time, I believed I was recommitting to my original idea and understanding of what this word means and what it means to have this intention permanently marked into and upon your skin and body.
Speaking of words, how about the word "strong". What does it mean to truly be strong? Throughout my adult life, strong is a word that has been attached as a descriptor for me with a certain amount of regularity. Strong for being a single mother. Strong for standing up for what I believe in. Strong for being an activist. Strong for not giving up on my vision of being an artist. Strong for surviving abusive relationships. Strong for putting myself through undergraduate and graduate school while being a single mom. Strong for raising a child whose skin color is not the same shade as mine. Strong for directing organizations. Strong for having an identity other than straight. Having a strong constitution. Having a strong will. The list can go on.
At the beginning of this then unimaginable year of 2020, something shifted deep inside me. I cannot say that it was the result of any one particular experience or event. I actually believe it was the culmination of many. The culmination of many "strongs" so to speak. Strong had lodged itself inside my identity and I believed it to be such an established component of my makeup that whatever the other side of strong was or is...well...it terrified me. I was terrified to admit that I did not always want to be strong. I was even more terrified to admit that I wanted to experience the other side of the coin. I wanted to experience vulnerability. I wanted to be open. I wanted to learn to soften.
This shift did not look like what you may expect. In fact, the only way that I was able to continue to see and honor it for myself was through the acquisition of a pink, fuzzy, luxuriously soft sweater. I needed a way to signal to the world and to myself that there were times that I needed and wanted to be treated with care and with gentleness. A way to signal that I was more complex and layered than perhaps even I had been wiling to admit in this regard. I needed a way for me to physically feel my willingness to embrace vulnerability and the softening that I longed to experience.
When I was a little girl, I boycotted the color pink. I believed it was the color that had been invented to ensure that girls could not do what boys could do. I believed that pink was a signal to the world that you were anything but strong. Enter the pink fuzzy sweater. The first time that I wore my emblem of vulnerability it was quite a surprise to the people who knew me. Every time that a comment was made, I explained that I was embracing my softer side and enlisted them in shifting the way that they had grown accustomed to seeing me. I am still a warrior. I will always be, however my definition of what that means and how it feels to wear it has expanded.
Often while I was painting Warrior I burned sage and incense. The smoke trails that resulted often played tricks with me, revealing faces that would be visible only out of the corner of my eyes. On one occasion I was certain that someone was standing slightly to the right hand side of where I was painting. When I turned to speak I realized that no solid, human form was there at all. The canvas itself continually revealed faces or images that I did not intentionally place there. These faces emerged, transformed and shifted as the painting progressed. The faces are still there, watching and looking. I sense the majority of them reside in the background, the colors of the red earth holding the spirit of those gone before me and those yet to come. Profiles are also evident in the middle division line of the canvas. These are closer to the surface, closer to this world. Their energy and spirit are closer to the line of crossing over.
The gratitude, peace, and love that I feel as a result of this creation are immense. It is a humble prayer. I ask to be a warrior. I ask to be constantly aware of the connection between all life and all that is. I ask that my life reflect the wisdom that each thought, decision, and action has an impact on the entire web. I ask that I have the courage to face my fears in a way that will create true strength. I ask for the courage of a warrior to do what is right and not what is easy.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor,
Welcome all and entertain them all!...
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in,
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond
In Love, Art & Spirit,
There is a Wind Horse that runs through my Soul.
I am learning to recognize the sound of its approaching hooves
by listening to the thundering echo that remains when yours passes by.
First, thank you for taking a moment, pausing your day and being willing to stop and step into mine.
I am blessed. Every morning I wake between 4 and 4:30am. I make my way downstairs, fill the kettle with water and go about the early morning business of feeding Pebble the cat and Sadie the golden retriever. If there are dishes that have waited overnight in the strainer I will often pad around the kitchen and the pantry returning cups, bowls, plates, pots and pans to their various locations. Next, I pour the steaming water over the waiting coffee and chicory and as it makes its way through the grounds, I prepare the morning meal for Disco Kitten who is patiently waiting in the studio, staring up from behind the most beautiful blind eyes that see more than most.
Once the coffee is ready, I make my way back upstairs and enter the studio. I sit at the old desk that was once my great grandmothers, I turn the light on next to the desk, light a candle and then I begin. There is always 3 pages of stream of conscious writing in the journal. Dreams, thoughts that are caught in corners and refuse to let go. Questions that continue to be asked. Cycles and rhythms. Stories of love, joy, grief and the everyday. Next is the writing that is done as reflection and self examination. This is the writing that allows me to examine my character and keeps me in touch with what I know to be my truth and, to the best of the ability, live a life of integrity. As I engage in this process, I ask that God continue to hover over me.
This time before the sun rises, and while the world is between sleeping and waking is my favorite time of day. The magical pause before the rest of the world comes to life. Sometimes as I am writing I can hear the squeak of the bedframe down the hall as my beloved rolls over and sinks deeper into sleep. Sometimes, the gentle snoring of Sadie who has followed me in and lays next to my feet on the floor keeps time to the rhythm of my moving pen. Sometimes Disco Kitten rolls between my feet and playfully sinks her tiny razor teeth into my toes and ankles. My extra fine point pen continues carving the lines that form the words that comprise my life across the page as I sip coffee. To me, this is a truly delicious life and I am poignantly aware that I am blessed.
This morning as I moved through my morning routine, I was both grateful and comforted by the ritual; the tending to the seemingly simple nuances of my everyday life. I also moved slower, feeling into the surrounding sadness and beyond. I, like many of of us in this country, slept tenuously last evening. We are such a deeply polarized and divided people. I sat at the writing desk that was my great grandmother's and I wondered what my ancestors would say...what they are saying. I wrote about children in cages separated from their parents. I wondered what my ancestors (only a very few of which came from this land and the majority of whom immigrated to these shores) faced upon their arrivals. I wondered about families and friends whose lives and configurations have been altered by a pandemic and who turn to face empty space where loved ones once stood. I wondered about many things (pepper spray, confederate flags, boarded windows and storefronts, climate change). I opened my most recently completed journal and reread the poet's words that have continued to remain with me throughout the last month.
I want to love more than death can harm.
and I want to tell you this often
that despite being so human and so terrified
here standing on this unfinished
staircase to nowhere and everywhere
on this night
we can live forever and we will.
Among the list of things that I thought about this morning is love. Truth be told, I actually think about love a lot. What does it mean to love your neighbor? What does it mean to love your fellow citizens? What does it mean to love those who are less fortunate? What does it mean to love this beautiful planet, our home? What does it mean to actively practice choosing love?
I wonder, what is the sound that remains after our lives touch another, once we pass by?
I will end this blog post in the same way that I ended my writing and prayers this morning.
God, please, hover over all of us.
Yours in love, creativity and art,
Heather J Geoffrey