It was rhododendron time when I moved here. There’s a large plantation in the local park. And it seems to come around and around again so fast. My life measured out in rhododendron seasons. If it must be measured out in something, this is easy on the eye, better than coffee spoons.
Scared and gloomy as I am, though, about stagnating here, finding the rhododendrons in glorious full flower this weekend just underlined the feeling. Lush, damp, cloying pinks of worry. Soft, mauve, fragile clusters of self-pity. Thick, white, drooping hollows of disgust. The dullness in my heart, in my down-turned eyes, confronted by these bright, bright colours near the ground, bathed in the low late-afternoon sun. Gazing, gazing and taking photos, I feel better. But only superficially, like popping a painkiller. I go home and crouch, depressed, in corners, remember my only bout with serious depression, forever linked with a view of the Auvergne mountains, pierced all too wide, wide open by their sharp beauty.
I’m grateful for the comments people left me over the weekend while my home internet browser blew up in a cloud of ‘fatal exceptions’(!). Grateful for the thoughtful words and useful references, and most of all for the sense of recognition, that confusion and uncertainty and moving forward in jerks and stops are normal, that smoother progress may be at a cost of richness ignored along the way.
It does seem to be time for me to confront some hard stuff and I think I got a glimpse this weekend of what some of it looks like - ugly. I filled my eyes with big, bright flowers and saw in the heart of them something harsh and grey. The truth, one truth anyway, I think, is that were I to step off my hamster-wheel, push aside the daily effort and boredom and frustration that so wears me down in commuting to a London office job, I’d have to confront the things that really stop me… living – my own scarred, awkward, selfish cowardice and ineptitude and neediness. Not alone there, but I don’t know if I’m up to it. And I fear that even if I am, it may prove to be too late and I couldn’t live with the regret that I left it so long.
Have I the guts to hold this thought and be with it, gaze into it’s heart and watch it change from white to pink to purple, gaze until it dissolves and I can see what’s behind and beside and around it, and I’m no longer separate from it?
Lest this feel like more pain than I can stand, David St Lawrence reminds me that the alternative is not less painful, just more ridiculous: ‘The slow death that comes from endless safe decisions. That is like being bitten to death by ducks’.
¶ 1:50 pm
What is indisputable, Jean, is that you are at present, right now, before our eyes, creating something worthwhile and even beautiful out of your confusion, in posts like this one and the previous. (And you're leading us to other people doing the same, too.) This tells me that you do have "the guts to hold this thought and be with it." There are no guarantees, but this can only be a hopeful thing.
I worry that we tend to hold onto the pain we know, out of fear of not knowing the pleasure that could be. And that tendency stifles us. You, at least, are willing to pick up the rug and peek under it; you are willing to entertain the question "What if?" That is how revolutions start, isn't it? Hang in there: the answer is searching for you and if you wait patiently I'm sure it will find you.
Oh Jean, I've been in some miserable stuck places and when you're in them it seems like you've been there forever and things will never change. But eventually something happens - a forced leap, a chosen leap, some grace of the heavens descending, it just happens and then there's a breakthrough. Funny thing is, after the breakthrough it's hard to remember clearly the misery. You'll get to the other side.
Oh gosh David, I find MUCH more in your blog than the vividly humorous phrase I chose to quote. But sometimes that pertinently funny phrase that shifts one's focus is worth almost as much as whole volumes of wisdom and experience, don't you think?
Jean, I feel like I've been away too long. By now you must have shifted out of that sad and lonely place you were over the weekend. I have found that the most painful (what you call "ugly")hours that I experience inevitably lead me to another side that is richer by far because I know more about who I am. The trick for me has been learning how to hold still and just feel it - get to know it.
Thanks for your comment on my site. Am going there right now to reply...I am holding you in my thoughts through this time.
I thought of your beautiful rhododendrons today when I heard on the radio that a blight found in California has migrated to the Eastern US, and causes death of rhododendrons as well as oak trees. I hope it doesn't get across the ocean to yours!