THE WOUND AND NOT THE STORY OF THE WOUND

desert2National Writing Month DAY 28: THE WOUND AND NOT THE STORY OF THE WOUND
(Word Count: 1435)

From that high place it appeared a lake, pinkish-white and round with promise—a beautiful mark on the land walled in by red rock and a giant sky.

It asserted itself on me, drew me like a fish fishing the man thrashing.

You’d think a part of me would know about mirages in the desert.

But I needed to touch the wound and not the story of the wound.

So I began the descent. With no dragons or wizards, no wise old ones or magic amulets. Only lizards and a relentless voice that carried my heart ahead of my legs.

My sole companions: Death and all my loves. In our work it is called a Death Lodge, a self-ceremony created to have those final conversations as if you really were dying.

Mine took the form of a walking death lodge. We said the unspoken things that needed to find a purchase in the open air, so it could finally float on up and meet the sun.

“To far, too far.”

“No. Go the distance. This is what you came for.”

“This is foolish.”

“This is the end. This is the beginning.”

Which powers in me were having this debate?

I climbed down, sliding over sandstone, through shadows and old stories, found and gave forgiveness, empty of stomach but full of purpose.

It was too late to turn back now—I must touch the wound, not the story of the wound. I must find the gift inside its pain.

I arrived at noon, my thirst stretched out like dune devils as the sun hovered an inch from my forehead like a rune foretelling troubling things.

My feet found cracked mud—it was no lake. It was not pink, but white like a skeleton—dusty evidence of the gash.

The only water came from my face, forced by the startling realization: the stories, my god how much I’d wasted with stories of the wound, and not the wound itself.

I blessed it with the final tear. I blessed it!! Thank you sacred wound.

Dry and new, I turned towards the arduous ascent with a swollen tongue and a swollen heart.

And I ascended hand over fist with my companions: Death and all my loves, including myself.
(Vulnerable Mountain Heart)

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For #NaNoWriMo2018, we (Katie and Ryan @wildnatureheart) are each writing our memoirs, our Wild Nature Heart stories so-to-speak, sharing a glimpse of our progress throughout November. We really believe what the organization says: the world needs your story! Everyone has a story to tell—What’s your Wild Nature Heart? We look forward to sharing this journey of vulnerability and self-discovery.
Ryan and Katie
#mywildnatureheartstory

The Moon Is a Turtle

63441B71-BD40-4650-9DC1-061FD90EEC91The moon is a turtle—
how have you not known before?

How she carries her home across
the parched land one step at a time
a reservoir of soothing elixirs in her silver belly

For the people on the edge
for the people burning at both ends
for the people yearning for relief
for the people fearful of their own wholeness

For you—you who are on the cusp of tremendous things

For she has drunk deeply from the world
and knows how to survive the season—
how have you not understood this before?

How with her Moon-eye-point-of-view
and her pace with peace poured into it
she is not rattled
by the noise that reigns below—how have you not noticed before?

How she buries her song egg
in the sand of the sky
always hatching new songs
intoning the old prayers
of love and change
of light and dark—how have you not heard them like this before?

How she carves a bright life in you
always coming and going—
you can’t make of her a bride
to keep in your house
as an ornament

But you must be the bridemoon yourself
When the moment of cracking arrives
and the sound is a marvel
heard by all the lovers out there
who have their faces turned towards the big sky

You are one of them
You are one of the great lovers
one ear pitched on the horizon
the other turned within the deep well

And you discover the cracking never stops
That it is the cracking that draws the beautiful patterns all over your shell
that you buried in the sand of the sky

You discover that the moon
is a turtle
and you are the moon—how have you not known this before?

LEAVE EVERYTHING YOU KNOW BEHIND

8B0CE8D6-179F-46AC-AC7E-41F99EB9609ANational Writing Month DAY 7:

Then clouds appeard from every direction, merged, climbed, surrounded, hugged the crevices everywhere. I can see only maybe 25 yards in any direction—can’t even see the ridgeline, nor back down to camp or Heart Lake. I’m socked in here. It seems the mountain has plans that are not “mine”.

I lie on a chunk of mountaintop in between snow patches and recall the words of David White, in his poem Tilicho Lake, ‘In this high place, it is as simple as this, Leave everything you know behind, Step toward the cold surface, say the old prayer of rough love, and open both arms. Those who come with empty hands will stare into the lake astonished there, in the cold light reflecting pure snow, the true shape of your own face.’ And I start to cry. Some of the reasons I know why, but mostly I don’t know. And my tears keep falling and falling, until they are left like a lake on the mountain, along with everything I thought I knew.”

For #NaNoWriMo2018, we (Katie and Ryan @wildnatureheart) are writing our memoirs, our Wild Nature Heart stories, sharing a glimpse of our progress throughout November. We really believe what the organization says: the world needs your story! Everyone has a story to tell—each unlike anyone else’s story. What’s your Wild Nature Heart? We look forward to sharing this journey of vulnerability and self-discovery with you. #mywildnatureheartstory

(Word Count: 1670)

Not At Home

EBAE6DE5-97DE-4E48-BA11-974908711FB0This is an atypical poem for me, experimental and a vulnerable one. It describes part of a seminal event as a teenager, when I began forming a false identity out of pain of abandonment, one too much ruled by anger and smallness, and skewed towards intellect—thereby abandoning myself, beginning the habit of inhabiting false homes and stories. One that took me another 3 decades to understand and transform—so I could finally come home to true self.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

When you wake up in a locked room
with a red eye camera on you
on a chain-link window morning
you know you’re not at home

When the only mirrors are
strangers’ faces sterile
asking you what you did wrong
to “get in here”
you know you’re not at home

No, you can’t look in the bathroom mirror
for there are none
in which you might break
and use the shards
to tattoo graffiti
on your arm
or carve out slices
of your wrist
bleeding your life
onto the anti-septic floor
or stab a nurse in the neck
because…
you don’t know why

So you can’t look
in a mirror
to see if you still exist
so you have to take the word
from the eyes
of the Professionals
who know you are
a problem.

But problems
at least exist.

You wish it were…
…a swimming unit
a backwoods unit
an ice-skating unit
a Christmas unit
a grandma’s cake unit
a fishing unit
a cornfield unit
a tree house unit
a VCR with Star Wars unit… but it’s just a psychiatric unit
a goddamn it unit
a prison unit
a question mark unit
a kill me unit
a kill you unit
a break out unit
a breakdown unit

and you know you’re not at home.

 

Wild Basket of Her Heart

88031411-0A28-4426-AE61-B77BB844FA51She weaves a basket with healer’s hands
With ribbons from the swamp so green

She’s going to find that Sweet Spot and
Become the Wild Weaver Queen

Strong enough and plenty bold
All the things that need to hold

But flexible too in beauty bending
Around the shape of things and mending

Past and present sacred wounding
Scissors for what needs the Pruning

The matter of the Moisture Spell:
Too wet and the ribbons swell

Worse yet it grows a mold
But too dry it breaks, won’t hold

Gaps emerge when dry and shrinks
Things leaking from weakest links

There’s the matter of the Weaving Art:
Too many directions and it all falls apart

The old patterns won’t do, the heart
Needs a new design, so starts

A patience, and a fall and flow
A trimming and a letting go

When present with what is there
The perfect size and shape appears

Unfolding freely in her lap
Ribbons lacing without a gap

The sweet spot sweetly spelled
And all the right things sweetly held
In the wild basket of her heart so well

The Wound and Not the Story of the Wound

desert2From that high place
it appeared a lake

pinkish-white and round with promise
a beautiful mark on the land
walled in by red rock
and a giant sky

It asserted itself on me
drew me like a fish fishing
the man thrashing

You’d think a part of me
would know about mirages
in the desert

But I needed to touch
the wound
and not the story of the wound

So I began the descent
with no dragons or wizards
or helpers other than lizards

and my sole companions:
Death and all my loves

we said the unspoken things
that needed to find a purchase
in the open air
so it could float on up
and meet the sun

Too far, too far.
No, go the distance.

Which powers in me were having this debate?

I climbed down
sliding over sandstone
through shadows and stories
found and gave forgiveness
empty of stomach, full of purpose

Too late to turn back now
I must touch the wound
not the story of the wound

Arriving at noon
my thirst stretched out like dune devils

the sun hovered
an inch from my forehead
like a rune foretelling
troubling things

My feet found cracked mud.

It was no lake. It was not pink
but white like skeleton–
Dry evidence of the gash.

The only water came from my face
forced by the realization:

the stories, my god
how much I’d wasted with stories
of the wound
and not the wound itself.

I blessed it with the final tear.

Dry and new, I turned
towards the arduous ascent
with swollen tongue, swollen heart

with my companions:
Death and all my loves,
including myself

-Ryan Van Lenning

Note: The phrasing of the title of this poem is influenced by Wallace Stevens’s Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself and Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into the Wreck:
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth