“My dreams are going through their death flurries,” she wrote that June. “I thought they were all safely buried, but sometimes they stir in their grave, making my heartstrings twinge. I mean no particular dream, you understand, but the whole radiant flock of them together—with their rainbow wings, iridescent, bright, soaring, glorious, sublime. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money.”*
Herein lies the rub: dying.
Not yet dead.
I have long held a fascination with the fabled Phoenix, although I confess I relate more closely to the poor shriveled creature on the verge of self-combustion rather than the freshly minted chick shaking the ashes off its feathered back with new-born zest for life.
Last year I had one of those ‘reduced to ashes’ experiences. Unfairly and unjustly, I lost a job upon which I had placed so many hopes like those carefully layered stone piled Cairns that function as path markers, shrines or memorials, on some mountain top or pilgrims way.
My arrow-stricken rainbow flock of dreams dispersed in a wild flutter while I lay buried and confused under the weight of the collapsed rocks and stones. Markers showing the ‘way ahead’ crumbled into a suffocating dust that settled upon me.
Innate in humans is a need to find meaning and reason for/in the events of our lives. Many months on from this particular event I think I have only just begun to manufacture some small ‘reason’. I say manufacture because I am no longer one who believes the meaning is inherent. Oh, I believe in cause and effect, but for most people talk about meaning in this context is defined as purpose, or some sort of ‘greater plan’.
If you and I were ever in conversation, and you happened to look me in the eye with concern writ on your brow, and solemnly declare ‘Everything happens for a reason’ you will probably be met with a sucker-punch to the jaw. And afterward, while nursing your bruiser, you may at least be assured that your point is proved: Something happened, for the very good reason that you pissed me off. Big time.
No, I believe that meaning, or purpose must be made up, not found, for there are plenty of perfectly devastating things that occur in this life whose reach stretches far beyond the realm of pointless.
And so, through a feat of unimaginable alchemy,
After months of toil,
stirring and sifting and sorting,
reducing and redacting,
extracting and evaporating
in the laboratory of my mind,
I believe I may have managed, to distill one minuscule nugget of bright shiny meaning from the great sludgy pile of rank disappointment and failure.
After recovering from the initial shock of my lost job, I decided to write to my previous employer explaining my side of things. Wary of writing a nasty letter hastily dashed off in the heat of the moment I decided to bide my time. I wrote the letter in a mere matter of hours, but took a day and a night to mull it over, re-edit and then sent it to three trusted friends for revision.
All three commented on how powerful and moving it was and passionate, but with no trace of bitter vitriol.
And so the letter was sent. I felt relieved. I felt proud. I fact I think I am still more proud of having written that letter than anything else accomplished last year.
After this fleeting moment of satisfaction abated I didn’t think much else of it, just tried to slowly pick my way out of the bloodstained rubble of grief and sorrow.
Now, I wonder if that letter was the beginning of something. Oh, believe me, it was also a death rattle. One last squawk before the flash of fire, and smoke.
But see there, out of the ashes rises a rainbow coloured Phoenix, bewildered and straggly. And look, out of it’s wing, a saffron coloured quill has been plucked, and dipped. Dipped into an ink pot of salty tears. And something that ended with a letter provided a flash of inspiration to participate in this new form of writing.
I hope it does mean something.
* I discovered an article about forgotten author Barbara Follet. This extract of her writing describes my own feelings with excruciating accuracy.
The lengthy but fascinating article about her life and mysterious disappearance can be read in its entirety here at http://bit.ly/fZPK1d.