try as I might
to find a then and a when
in this ever-spinning cosmos
the needle of now
stays stuck in its groove
Art by Fiona Watson, Music of the Spheres
This confession was originally posted on my blog this unlit light in 2011. Recently I’ve been reminded about the little cache of my writing that quietly rests over on that blog and it’s been suggested that I share some snippets here for readers. I figured that when the time was ripe to do so, I’d get a prompt.
It came a few days ago, over lunch with a couple of dear friends. We were talking about the way humans seem compelled to “find their tribe.” To join forces with those of like mind, to feel a sense of belonging and validation. I had to admit that I’d never found a tribe or group that didn’t end up either disappointing me, or spitting me out for disappointing them. If I had a tribe it would be in the league of the Rank Outsiders, the Solo Fliers, the Holy Rejects.
The conversation got me reminiscing about my mid-life preoccupation with finding where I fit. It wasn’t so much about finding a tribe as finding my so-called niche. It went on for the first half of my life and only disappeared (taking the need for company with it) when the split between the niche-less one and her experience zipped itself up. It had a lot to do with acknowledging what she loved to do (play with colour, texture, visual language), because in that encounter she unfailingly disappeared into the unknowable: into her numinous niche.
I have no idea how it happened. Love has a mind of its own; it slowly seeped out of the studio and into the everyday encounter with all-that-shows up. The niche I had imagined to be my ‘place’ was none other than this numinous now.
About thirty years ago I confessed to a kindly iridologist that I felt I had failed to find my ‘niche’ in life. He peered into my bright blue eye-maps and remarked that it was strange, because everything he could read there indicated that I was a highly capable person who could find a niche in many avenues of expertise.
It worried me, that feeling of being niche-less. I was in awe of those who seemed, from a young age, to know exactly what they wished to do in the world and set about achieving it. And it wasn’t helped by those who knew the potential here and kept asking when I was going to fully explore (exploit?) it. I was in my mid 40s and still wondering what I would be when I grew up.
I had all the right tools: a reasonably sane brain, a good education, some skills as an educator as well as in the area of art and design, but my life-path seemed like a meandering groping from one neti-neti to the next.
I tried being a teacher, a broadcaster, a fashion designer, a wife, a lover, a wandering yogini, a ‘professional’ artist. All those niches ultimately failed to fit. The role that held the most promise was that of the artist, but the funny thing was that whenever the flow of genuine creating was going on in the studio, I wasn’t there. I mean, ‘artist-me’ was AWOL. In its place there was a spacious, ownerless activity unrelated to all my small ideas of what should be happening. And the moment the ‘artist-me’ tried to examine this mysterious activity it would vaporize. It was ungraspable and unknowable.
Later I would find a philosophy that made sense of this mystery – it is spoken about by sages and artists alike as the movement of pure nondual Awareness. But back then it was a total enigma to me; it put the fire under a lifetime’s exploration of creativity. And it eventually delivered me to the niche I had given up any hope of finding.
My niche turned out to be that ineffable intimate Awareness itself. And the amazing thing is that it always had been! It had been my preoccupation for decades, yet I had failed to recognize that it was a valid contender for the niche stakes. I had conceptualised the niche-notion, irrevocably keeping it at arm’s length and ensuring the survival of a niche-less seeker trapped in time. Truly, I can be quite slow …
When the penny dropped, a lifetime’s worth of seemingly incoherent bits of ridiculousness fell into place. I fell about laughing like a lunatic. The absurdity and awesomeness of it! The beauty and simplicity and grace of it!
Like … landing on a bed of rose petals … sinking into their silken perfume … resting, at last … knowing that this simple at-one-ment always runs below the surface of experience, ALL experience … knowing that you never have to leave … even if it were possible!
– miriam louisa
(With minor editing to accomodate a further seven years’ worth of lightbulb moments.)
Artwork: Lawrence Carroll Untitled, 2015
Artificial flowers, pigment, stain, housepaint, dust
7,5 x 218 x 185 cm
New Years Day, 2016 – according to the calendar. Three micro-poems which might or might not be haiku. I offer them as they landed. The first one is a selfie and makes me chuckle. The last – well, if you’ve experienced an Australian morning you’ll know about the predawn antics of the rowdy kookaburras… In between, a quiet reflection on – how it is.
the caged bird long flown
an old woman waters flowers
time forgets to tick
abandoned at last
by meaning and purpose
I sit with my tea
3am – seems they know
it’s the dawn of a New Year
Image: Gerrit Dou, Old Woman with a Jug at Window, c 1660 – 1665
Oil on Panel, 28.3 x 22.8
Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna
analyze and adapt
diagnose and dialogue
formulate and fix
trance, track, tap:
so many ways to place
patches on the pain
we call it healing
and invent new modalities by the minute
to ease the symptoms, which also
multiply by the minute, fattening the catalogue
of official psychological disorders
but until the trickster called time
is exposed and deposed
our little healings are just brief remissions
from the ache of incompleteness
to heal is to make whole
that’s why the true sages carry no band-aids
but go straight to the root of fragmentation
– time –
conjurer of the ‘me’-mirage
with its default sense of separation
and its insatiable appetite for union
they know that the ending of time
restores immeasurable wholeness
– no faith, no belief, no training required
only a willingness to disappear
into now and this and here
On a sun-drenched Easter Sunday nearly seven decades ago, two destiny maps – known as my Mum and Dad – came together in marriage and stayed together.
It happened in the remote Ida Valley, Central Otago – sheep-station country in New Zealand’s South Island. Think tussocks blanketing the dry landscape with shimmering liquid gold, huge rock outcrops and only a few scattered willows bordering the creeks; skies of unfathomable indigo with tiny skylarks soaring and diving and ceaselessly singing on the wing…
Time! How it creates this apparentness of be-ing! Creates the insistent illusion of individuals with identities and histories; creates the fabric on which Life embroiders a multitude of manifestations. Time is mind’s favourite toy.
This is my question:
What was never born
never entered into marriage
never had children or parents
never succeeded or failed at anything
never suffered injury or heartache
nor enjoyed a single moment’s pleasure
and yet ‘knows’ it all, intimately,
utterly unaffected and impartial?
Painting: Road West, Ida Valley by Grahame Sydney 1999
710mm x 1220mm
Oil on Linen