16 Comments

All the synchronicities. For some context, I have been working with my own ancestral history and a grandmother of mine who was born 100 years before me. At the age of 17, she rode on horseback (on a horse named “Tormentor”) from Pennsylvania to Texas as one of the first Indo-Europeans to settle in Texas. And the only woman (we know of) as part of the Texas “First 300” to journal about her experience. She wrote: “Texas was a heaven for men and dogs, but hell for women and oxen.” She lost children—a babe at 3 months and a son at the age of 27. They traveled with a herd of cattle to help them find their way. She came to me in a dream, expressing the grief she experienced in losing her children. At the end of a ritual designed to honor her life and losses, I went to her gravesite and received a very clear message—you don’t have to carry my weight any longer. The pain of abandonment; the unexpressed grief; the fear of being left home alone with her children and intruders pacing around her cabin; all the pain our family inflicted on others, seated in good intentions; all the told and untold violence; etc. She told me to set her torment down, that I was free to live my life. And that I must live my life in service to feeling its fulness and making the world more beautiful; that I must tend to and carry and continue to cultivate and harmonize my voice with hers. She wants to care for and carry me in the same way I have carried her through ritual and remembrance. She no longer needs my body to grieve, but she now needs it to feel all the joy she longed to, but couldn’t, when she was alive. I feel that this particular chapter reflects such a similar message. It feels like Katherine has needed your body to bear witness and grieve her losses, and it sounds like, through your remembering, that she is no longer drowning in grief. And that she now needs your body to dance and breath beastly breaths, like the Mother cow; ready to feel and bring forward the light that needs rescuing.

As for your questions, re: 1: as someone who has not been called to become a mother in the literal sense, I feel that my journey has been to find the eternal mother, Nature, and She has been teaching me how to become a mother to Her. So I really liked presencing that mothering can be felt and expressed in both literal and non-literal ways. Katherine acknowledges that she has been learning how to mother her own gifts of expression as a way of keeping life churning and alive. I recently heard the term the “Placental Soul” as a way of describing that life force that calls to our heart and feeds our gifts.

Re 2: As for her dream, that little boy could also be symbolic of her own soul desire. He could represent her love for writing or some other very particular, beautiful, easy-to-hide, small thing of her heart’s longing that has been with her since she was a child. A desire that she may have had to keep secret or protect and now wants to more deliberately show and nurture.

Re 3: Yes, interesting move between expression through words and movement. Dancing offers another channel of poetic expression when the limitations of words are reached. Perhaps she got tired of talking about The Sacred and wanted to live it in a more personal, non verbal manner.

Re 4: I wonder if her decrease in writing is connected to learning the art of dance. Perhaps the conversation is moving in a different direction, where she is finding her voice through her limbs, torso and feet. Perhaps she feels more expressive through movement and posturing rather than writing. What is your sense of Katherine’s relational arch with the natural world?

Expand full comment

Beautiful, Holly. For the moment, I can only obliquely add my affirmation of the abounding synchronicities that appear to be weaving threads of ensoulment, indifferent to the border between life and death.

Thank you for sharing the presence of your ancestor, your interchange with her through remembrance, ritual, and more subtle forms of interchange.

This encourages me to audaciously lean in, with increasing earnestness, to the subtle communications that seem to be drifting beseechingly, across the mortal veil.

And thank you for all of this, Schuyler. Your excellent writing and the boldness of your process. Dancing diaphanous with mystery in public, in such an animating and catalytic way.

I don’t have any prosaic input on Katherine’s dream, but something about this whole endeavor sent me searching for lines from Kathleen Raine, despite not knowing specifically what I would find... These stanzas stood out:

“Of a kind, living and dead;

For as you are, or are not, all must be;

And if the dead be not,

How came you here, my child,

With wisdom in your heart, and crowned with joy?

. . .

The resurrection of the dead:

Into what strange land

Are you, beside whose empty grave I stand

New-born, my child?”

Expand full comment
author

Dear Sam and Holly, I am reading your weavings and feeling graced. There is so much beauty and wisdom here. Thank you both for the people you are and the deep reading that's happening here. I will start writing this week's chapter tomorrow and your comments are already working on me. I love this Sam:

"the abounding synchronicities that appear to be weaving threads of ensoulment, indifferent to the border between life and death." You have such a way with words!

And Holly....I cannot get the image of Mary on Tormentor out of my mind. I love her so much already.

I am also at capacity tonight on the eve of a snow day with a (very) grumpy teenager at home struggling with math homework. It's been like that over here and so I am experiencing exactly the conundrum the women in the story are confronted with - IRONIC? SYNCHRONICTIC? ALCHEMICAL? MY SHIT? You decide! :)

The triggered, traumatized voice in my head (which is assuredly at this point, not just mine) is telling me a story about how motherhood gets in the way of being an artist and writer and spiritual seeker--how if I could just remember how to do square roots and fractions and negative numbers (and why to do them), we could finish this damn worksheet and I could get back to what really matters to me. All the while, I feel inadequate and torn between both tasks: I help with the homework and I am too tired to write. I write and she is left helpless and confused by the worksheet.

Sam. you and I have talked about this rift/split before! I am just now remembering that. But, I can't recall how we resolved it before. Can you? How can these women (KM and Me) feel less torn and more present to the task? I'm going to sit with this right now. I know the answer some days when I am expansive and at full capacity. Right now, I feel squeezed like Tormentor between Mary's legs and I can't see straight. Just running across the country to a place that is a "hell for women and oxen." HAHA humor is something.

Expand full comment
Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023Liked by Schuyler Brown

Hey Schuyler,

I find it somewhat humorous that you asked how we "resolved" the tension you're adumbrating here, because in returning to the passage you're no doubt recalling, resolution is precisely what neither one of us achieved (yet). Nor had Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn—Phoebe's relative who founded the Eranos conferences and was a profound visionary artist—achieved resolution at the time Jung wrote his letter to her.

Here it is, presented by Rick Tarnas in "Cosmos and Psyche."

"When he was seventy years old, Jung movingly articulated just this archetypal drama and dynamic [of the tension of opposites] in a letter to a woman who experienced herself as trapped between conflicting demands of career and family:

Dear Frau Frobe,

…There can be no resolution, only patient endurance of the opposites which ultimately spring from your own nature. You yourself are a conflict that rages in itself and against itself, in order to melt its incompatible substances, the male and the female, in the fire of suffering, and thus create that fixed and unalterable form which is the goal of life. Everyone goes through this mill, consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or forcibly. We are crucified between the opposites and delivered up to the torture until the “reconciling third” takes shape. Do not doubt the rightness of the two sides within you, and let whatever may happen, happen. The apparently unendurable conflict is proof of the rightness of your life. A life without inner contradiction is either only half a life or else a life in the Beyond, which is destined only for angels. But God loves human beings more than the angels.

With kindest regards,

C.G. Jung”

Interesting as well that Jung is viewing this through the central idea of his psychology, which he recognized in the central problem of alchemy—the coincidentia oppositorum. The sacred marriage of opposites, which, if we indulge Jung's framing here, you seem to be trying to work out both inside and outside of the novel.

Expand full comment
author

YES, SAM. YES. Thank you. This is such an important piece. My heart bursts to receive it again. Hahahaha true--unresolved, surely. But it is the tension that we must be IN. Until we're not. If I am reading Jung correctly. And holy shit....maybe I'm just having a good day here...but, I can actually FEEL within myself how this alchemy can work and is working in me and through the story. We are cooking.

This: "Do not doubt the rightness of the two sides within you, and let whatever may happen, happen." Thank you, thank you, Uncle Carl (as John Churchill calls him)

This reminds me of a scene I want to write and include today. I'd nearly forgotten. Thank you - a teaser for Friday. In September of this very year of study with H (2009) the Red Book was revealed to the public for the first time and I went to the opening night reception and talk at the Rubin Museum.

Yes this is a key, for sure. And that it includes the ancestor of ANOTHER of our friends and community members, Phoebe, is just another layer of icing on this big cake. LOL

Expand full comment
author

I should say the other way around, too ... being an "artist" or "spiritual seeker" can get in the way of motherhood! That's the real deal.

Expand full comment
author

Holly, I just responded to you also below Sam's comment. I wanted to make a special note here, though, to answer your very very insightful question:

What is your sense of Katherine’s relational arch with the natural world?

She LOVED the natural world. This is something that gets mentioned in her biographies and by some critics, but it is largely overlooked I think by the academic establishment because they don't prize this. Katherine grew up in New Zealand and wrote a great deal about life as a child there. She loved the beach, nature, the sun, trees. Nature is a BIG presence in her work. Even when she moved to London, she often found a way to work in nature as a character. This is not something I feel I have been enough in touch with in writing so far and you asking the question makes me want to ask her, investigate further. She once--in a reverie--called herself a "child of the Sun." She was also reading a book before she went to the Gurdjieff Institute called Cosmic Anatomy. She was really getting interested in metaphysics, the cosmos, her place in it, etc. I love returning to this. Thank you.

Expand full comment

4. Re inability to write. That second energy centre must be locked or some type of transformation or grief is in operation. One needs to feel safe to explore, connect and be playful. Until that's achieved it does not surprise me that wonder does do get to express itself much.

My other hypothesis is that the surroundings and routine are so foreign that she doesn't find a place to call "home" and be there in a way that feels authentic to write, and the body is reacting to that.

Or maybe that writing muscle is also exhausted and this break from creating is long overdue and is now perceived as broken, while a rest is needed.

Or someone is doing secret voodoo cursing on her and we don't know yet.

Expand full comment
author

I like your bringing in the second energy center. YES. Because this is the home of the Kundalini which Gurdjieff/The Work is awakening in her. Those energies might be recalibrating. I also always sensed it was pretty dramatic for her the way he/The Work unmasked one. She was already playing the fame game in the literary world (as our chapter about Garsington is meant to show) and so being at the Prieure and having to confront/face herself for the first time in a long time is probably disarming and re-arranging of the sense of self, including the storyteller!

Expand full comment

3. Importance of Movement? Hell yeah. It's a bottom up approach. I think this was intuitively understood in rituals around the world. Re: Steiner's Eurhytmics... I don't know. My kids go to a Waldorf Steiner school and did go to learn that. I am not sure how much this is supposed to be effective vs simply letting kids do what they do best, which is precisely to be embodied by running around, climbing, roughhousing, any type of play. The more they play the more of an imprint it will leave them with and the wiser they will become to help them to either do serious play or simply not to take things and themselves too seriously. My 2 cents.

Expand full comment
author

My child goes to a Waldorf school, too. It's great.

Expand full comment

1. Regarding the two women discussing their existential question of pursuing a spiritual path or motherhood, I have to say that I feel not really qualified to comment. While trying to put myself in either, I do feel the question as none have guarantees but both hold the promise of deep meaning and endless disappointments. I am tempted to dismiss it from that reason. If you identify as a woman and choose to embrace the possibility of having children there is no reason that one could not see that as a spiritual practice on its own right. But I guess you have to be pretty advanced spiritually to do that. Both path provide multiple opportunities to deal with grief and learning to be humble as well as sublime and contemplative moments.

Expand full comment
author

I totally agree with you that motherhood IS a spiritual path, but I'm not sure they see it that way. The "me" in the book also is struggling with this dilemma - the seeming split/chasm between a traditional spiritual practice/path with all its discipline and motherhood. I was young and childless and then a young, overwhelmed mother. I feared that I was being pulled "off" my path. It took me years to figure out I never lost the path. Motherhood taught me what I needed and broke me in ways I needed (still does every day!). Now I say OF COURSE it's a path...but also it's a pathless path and also fuck the path. LOL.

Andredge, thank you so much for answering the questions. It was fun for me to read your responses and feel your engagement.

Expand full comment

Yes, I get that now in retrospective there is no wrong path and we take things far too seriously.

Your point on pathless, reminded me on that line from Machado. "There are no paths, as paths are made by walking..."

Expand full comment

Dear Schuyler ,

Thank you for this story, this space and the invitation to share reflections. This was my favorite chapter so far. I felt the themes of contemplating motherhood alongside career and a spiritual path so poignant. As you said, the cruelty that you have to choose. The way aspects of our society don’t include children and then also dismiss the mothers.

My heart sunk reading , “you are dying from grief.” Acknowledging the seeking soul. And the yearning to know oneself, the courage to seek it.

I also loved in your comment, the bringing more emphasis to Katherine’s love of nature. This feels very alive and a great way to feel her brilliance and insight through metaphors of nature’s teachings as well.

Loving you on this journey. And grateful to be a sacred witness!

Expand full comment
author

Rochelle you are such a teacher for me on the motherhood path. It’s true what you say and I hadn’t quite thought of it that way: “The way aspects of our society don’t include children and then also dismiss the mothers.” It feels like there is a solution in that diagnosis. Thank you.

Expand full comment