Grief, Desire, and the Holy Womb of Dark
All of the best lives, I think, have a little sorrow in them.
Grief has a way of sculpting you. Of clawing at your insides, tearing you to shreds, hollowing you out. It transforms you—thins you, reduces you to bare, grinds, pounds, pulverizes; makes you both transparent and obscure, reshapes every holographic cell of you. Sometimes your eyes turn the color of shadows and your bones themselves weep, even when you grieve without the comforting relief of tears.
Louise Erdrich writes of journey and of loss,
Whenever you leave cleared land, or a path, or a road, when you step from someplace carved out, plowed, or traced by a human and pass into the woods, you must leave something of yourself behind. It is that sudden loss, I think, even more than the difficulty of walking through undergrowth that keeps people firmly fixed to paths. In the woods, there is no right way to go, of course, no trail to follow but the law of growth. You must leave behind the notion that things are right. Just look around you. Here is the way things are. Twisted, fallen, split at the root. What grows best does so at the expense of what's beneath. —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
What grows best, she says. No trail to follow but the law of growth. That's life, you know? That is LIFE. Twisted, fallen, split at the root, but alive. Sometimes loss presses us into it. The thinning work of grief slips us under whatever barrier we've built to hold the pain of life at bay, and we are thrust right into the heart of it.
Like being reborn.
What do you desire?
I have a feeling Erdrich would understand these words by Alberto Villodo:
When the first chakra is disconnected from the feminine Earth, we can feel orphaned and motherless. The masculine principle predominates, and we look for security from material things. Individuality prevails over relationship, and selfish drives triumph over family, social and global responsibility. The more separated we become from the Earth, the more hostile we become to the feminine. We disown our passion, our creativity, and our sexuality. Eventually the Earth itself becomes a baneful place. I remember being told by a medicine woman in the Amazon, “Do you know why they are really cutting down the rain forest? Because it is wet and dark and tangled and feminine.”
Tangled and feminine. The whole beautiful mess of life, dark and voluptuous with her raging fires of passion, hunger, grief, wanting, fear, creativity, freedom, and desire, all begging to be alive with one terrifying demand:
If you want to be alive, you must feel.
I formed a question of my own in my mind and without ceasing my direct stare I spoke to the wolf, asking my own question: “Wolf,” I said, “your people are hunted from the air and poisoned from the earth and killed on sight and you are outbred and stuffed in cages and almost wiped out. How is it that you go on living with such sorrow? How do you go on without turning around and destroying yourselves, as so many of us Anishinaabeg have done under similar circumstances?”
And the wolf answered, not in words, but with a continuation of that stare. “We live because we live.” He did not ask questions. He did not give reasons. And I understood him then. The wolves accept the life they are given. They do not look around them and wish for a different life, or shorten their lives resenting the humans, or even fear them any more than is appropriate, They are efficient. They deal with what they encounter and then go on. Minute by minute. One day to the next. —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
If you want to be alive, you must not fear feeling your sorrow. Sorrow knows what she must do the way your body knows how to heal. Grief stirs your primal waters. Deep calls to deep, and all the primordial waters of you become a raging torrent, unstoppable and unbearably strong.
You must rise brave. Rest brave. Breathe, walk, crawl, stumble, and quake with bravery. Wanting something so much it hurts will kill you, first, then make you come alive. It is your sorrow and your salvation. It is the way.
For the secret of grief? It hollows you, then hallows you. What else is a hollow chamber full of holy dark other than a womb? A cocoon, a holding space for life, fertile soil waiting for the seed of desire.
All life begins in the dark.
What is it you desire?
What is your deepest wanting, your fiercest hunger? Is it so you won't feel so much, perhaps? That the pain will go away? What weeps in your cells, the atoms of you? If you could ask anything, what would you ask? What do you wish to grow in your dark?
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum