Wednesday, 10 May 2017

On May Flowers, Sea Monsters, and What Moves Beneath the Skin

Hawthorn in St Martin's Churcyard, Folkestone, 9th May 2017
Today is Full Moon in Scorpio, and so also Lunar Beltane; the most blessed of days, dripping with the diamond-sweet nectar of the hawthorn, lucent with honey. Beltane is, on the surface which is as real and important as the depths, the brightest and most joyous day of grace celebrating as it does the edge of summer, the beauty of bluebells and wild garlic, the flowering of the May, the warming of the earth, and our warming with it. It is a time to unfurl and stretch, to breathe and bask, to engage fully with life after the long slow days of dark. For many of us, the cells of our bodies will have been calling for it since Imbolc at the beginning of February when first we sensed the light returning. It has been a long time coming. There have been days when I thought that I would never be warm again. And yet today, as the Full Moon begins her wild prayer, the sun is shining, our rowan tree is full of frothy blossom, and there are tiny blue butterflies blessing the garden. This is the best of times indeed.

And yet it is also Scorpio Full Moon. Scorpio with its insatiable desire for depth, for deep diving, for seeking out the sea monsters that move beneath our skin, and beneath the skin of the world around us. This is the wild edge, of the shallow and the deep, that we must learn to dance with if we are ever to heal the dualism which is so much a part of patriarchy; the way of thinking that refuses nuance or compromise, that sets good against bad, light against dark, masculine against feminine, mind against body, rationalism against creativity, and on and on. And this way of being isn't just in the world around us. It is in us too. We all walk with the not-beautiful within and we enjoy our certainties, even we secretly know that they are not so certain at all and our clinging to them means crushing someone else's.

The American Franciscan friar and writer, Richard Rohr in 'Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality' talks of how we must accept our own complicity and co-operation with what is ugly in our world and in ourselves, of how we stand frozen between our belief in goodness and the realisation of our own role in working against that goodness; through apathy, through greed, through fear, through despair, through just being so, so overwhelmed, and so many other ways in which we stumble and fall. He believes that we must learn to hold this contradiction; that everything is held within the perfect body of Godde, including us, and yet somehow everything is not perfect. That we must learn to “forgive reality for being what it is” before we can truly participate in changing anything. It is a deep, deep grief and yet perhaps there is some empowerment in knowing that we have a role to play in forgiving life for not being what we need it to be. Can we look into the eyes of the Sea Monster and love her? Can we acknowledge the monster within and still celebrate the blissfulness of the bluebell sea? If we are ever to mend the poison that seemingly seeps through much of our society then I believe that we must learn to do so, and in that we will also liberate ourselves. It takes so much energy to keep the Sea Monster down and we need that energy for other, and better, things.

Some years ago I did something that I was not proud of, through love, through hope, and through vulnerability, but also through weakness and lack of responsibility. It was then that my own sea monster showed herself to me. At that time she revealed herself as Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea, whose story of dismemberment is so shocking to those of us who live in a less harsh environment and who have little understanding of the day to day struggle to survive, at least materially. Sedna, who loved so wildly and so wilfully and yet ended her story at the bottom of the sea, her flesh being devoured by bitterness and regret and yet with no way to make herself beautiful again. We must all pray that that is not what becomes of us. This is what she taught me about my own 'sea monster', who I am finding my own way to love.

Sea Hag Sedna

I am gasping in the shallows, floundering,

the seal song of my intuition calling, calling,
calling out into the steel grey sea,
the waters of shifting reality,
to a million, million teardrops falling.
And though I find myself in the wrong shape of me,
though I remember the ancient kiss of salt on skin,
I will not dive, will not surrender the safety of this suffocation.
My shadow is selkie shaped and I am drowning in this air of reason.

She comes quietly, moving slowly beneath the ice floes of my history,

seeking out the secret places where I hide my deformity.
She is monstrous in Her beauty, I am monstrous in my needing.
Could swallow the whole ocean with the greed of my wanting,
She is rising from the Mother Place of a million women screaming,
She is breaking through the barriers of my wilful non-seeing.
And She is sea breathing, licking the wounds of Her own ragged journeying...

I slam the doors, nail up the windows,

shore up the cracks with all my tired excuses,
fool myself She will not sense my longing for the ocean...

But She comes seeping in like dreams, beautiful in Her simplicity.

Her spiral being, deep shell knowing, a labyrinth of possibility.
She drags me down, Her fingers bloody stumps caressing,
My lover's deep brown eyes receding, and I am reeling,
the chains that hold me land-bound breaking.
Leaving the world of maps and signposts,
seeking what is old and wild, my whale knowing.
And I am flowing, dissolving my own boundaries,
have become unborn in this amniotic world of soundless seascapes.
I sift through the silt of all my self-betrayals,
Am powerless against the pulls and tides of my revealing.
And She stays with me, crooning, Her sea creatures' sharp teeth tearing,
until I am stripped white like bone and empty as a moonbeam.
So deep beneath the tide we rest in seaweed stillness,
and we are Sea Monster sisters, unreachable...

I surrender to this journey,

have let go all that anchored me,
am iridescent in my lunacy,
my shadow is selkie shaped and she swims with me.

I have tasted the wild seas of me...

I don't know when I will return.

(Jacqueline Durban, 2011)

She was frightening. She dragged me down, and it has taken me a long, long time to return, but I know that I desperately needed to dive. And so on May morning I woke early and watched the dawn. It had been a difficult time for all manner of reasons and yet I had hopes of reclaiming the day. It was not to be, or at least not in the way that I expected. My partner's sleep moves in cycles and often he is up all night. So it was on May Eve and, on Beltane morning whilst I was soft from sleep, he began to show me videos he'd been watching of 'Social Justice Warriors' in an attempt to understand what is happening to his world. On this occasion it was students, and others, who wished to prevent a speaker that they didn't agree with from speaking on their campus; demanding that the speaker's right to 'free speech' was curtailed in the interests of their own 'right' not to be offended. They seemed not to understand the irony, or the unsustainable nature, of such a position. There was a protest where those from both sides began to accuse the other of being 'fascists', with seemingly very little understanding of what that word truly means, to pepper spray the opposition, throw bricks, and eventually what appeared to be home made bombs. They seemed not to care that others were bleeding, and yet it was clear that they did care, and care very deeply and with much passion. Both sides believed that they were in the right and refused to back down, seeming to almost celebrate and glory in every injury that their side sustained as proof that the others were in the wrong, rather than accepting that it was more likely that both sides held a spark of truth. It was insanity, literally. And it just made me sad. It seemed to me that the people in those videos, no matter which side they happened to be on, were mad with grief at a world that seems so deeply broken and were clinging to any life raft that they could find in the sea of chaos; the sea where the monsters hide just beneath the surface. I wanted to hug them all, to go towards them rather than running away, to tell them that the world is not so broken, that hawthorn is flowering, that they would feel better after a nice cup of tea, and did they know that the leader of the Labour Party makes his own jam and believes in the worth and dignity of everyone? It is changing, slowly. It will be alright.

And this is a dramatic example but there are so many others; of people set against one another unable to find a way to compromise, or seemingly unaware that such a thing even exists; Republican vs, Democrat and the election of Donald Trump, Remainers vs. Brexiters, Left vs. Right, and nowhere in the middle just to sit down and talk, to remember that we are all humans together in a world that we find so hard to understand. And, for me, this is what moves beneath the skin, the 'sea monster' that we must have the courage to look in the face. We are all so attached to our life rafts that we refuse to dive. We are too afraid to let go, to admit that we are lost, to cry out to whatever we call sacred, “Please, please help me. I don't know what to do!” Can we let ourselves be so vulnerable? Can we trust to the unknowing, rather than taking up a position and hanging onto it for dear life no matter what the cost? Can we look at someone we don't agree with, who we can never agree with; someone who is un-beautiful, just like us, who is lost, just like us, and complicit, just like us, and know that they too are beloved and are meant to be here, that Life wants them to live, just like us?
Can we have the courage to believe that we can breathe underwater?

Soon, we will have a General Election. I fear the worst of outcomes, and yet I hope and hope and hope for the best. After the last one I couldn't speak for two days and I couldn't look at anyone. I was so, so angry and anger is good and gives us fuel to work for change. But what change can there be when we have forgotten that we are all humans together doing our best in a world that feels so overwhelmingly broken? My most favourite recent conversation was with someone online who, in response to a link that I posted on tactical voting informed me, as he always does when I post such things, that he will be voting very much in the opposite way than I would choose. And I replied that I was glad that he cared enough to vote, that I wished him luck, and that although I could not support his choices I celebrated his belief in the good and his hope for the future, and I meant it. And I will still mean it on June 9th, whatever the result may be. And it was utterly liberating. I have had enough of brokenness and hate. And I know that not one of us knows everything. Not one of us has the answer, if there even is an answer, to a broken world. And I wonder whether humility can find a place in this world any more. But there is love; that most misused and belittled word and way of wild power and mending. Can we love enough to believe that we are right, to work passionately for change, and yet not allow our rightness to need someone else to be wrong? Perhaps we can look at someone who we truly don't agree with, someone whose way of thinking makes us feel so much more lost and broken, and love them? Really love them. Then perhaps we truly can find a way to change the world and our sea monsters might not seem so monstrous after all. The hawthorn will bloom no matter what but we have deeper work to attend to.


  1. Oh Jacqueline,
    This is beautiful, and resonates so strongly with me.
    Thank you dear one, xx

    1. Thank you so much, Annie. I struggled to express what I wanted to say but it feels good to have tried. I am so glad that you understand. Much, much love xx

  2. Oh wow Jacquie - that was an absolute mover and shaker!!!!An amazingly heartfelt piece of writing - thank you darlin xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    1. Thank you so much! What a compliment! xxxxxxxxxxx

  3. Indeed a best thing I have gone through today, loved it. Going to bookmark your blog to read more such articles, thank you for sharing it with us

    1. Oh, thank you so much! I'm so pleased that you enjoyed this. It was a challenge to write it. I hope that you find other things to enjoy! xx


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