I started asking myself questions like, What is worth protecting, and from what? What do I truly have the power to protect?
I looked up the word "protect" in the dictionary, and was particularly caught by two concepts: guarding and covering. I thought of the verse from the biblical book of Proverbs: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
Since I was still musing over the "heart surgery" metaphor from my last post, this protection theme began to take on deeper significance, especially in connection with healing. When I looked up the word "heal," there was an emphasis on "closing," as in closing a wound. It occurred to me that one cannot heal until after the surgery is finished, because by its very nature, surgery is an opening, not a closing. To heal is to re-cover.
Then a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to this article and video about baby bats that have been orphaned in Australia due to flooding and were found on the ground covered in maggots. This post would get way too long if I went off on a tangent about the significance of bats for me, but I will just point out that they are pollinators, and I do hold a strong connection with them, which I may post about some time. Maybe it is because of this connection that I was so profoundly moved by these images:
Or maybe it's just because they're so darn cute. Regardless, this got me thinking that one protects what is weak that it may strengthen, what is young that it may grow mature, what is wounded that it may heal.
Then, a couple of days later at Abbey of the Arts, Christine posted the theme for her 49th Poetry Party and it was "Fierceness and Courage." She asked, "What are the things of your life you are called to protect fiercely?" I love the word fierce, and one of the best compliments I ever got was from someone who called me fierce. (The same person also told me I "look good disheveled" - another of my favorite compliments.)
With some of the issues I've been working through regarding a severed relationship in my life, I began to see how all of these things apply in a practical way.
I thought about St. Paul's definition of the armor of God. I realized that the only way to truly guard my heart is to bless from it. I saw that the thing worth protecting in me now is innocence, and the only way to protect it is to bless. This came out of a sudden understanding that my only choice in a situation that causes me great anger and pain is either to curse or to bless. And because the temptation to curse is so strong, so fierce, I realized I have to turn that into fierce blessing.
Did you ever see the scene in Tomb Raider when the villain has thrown a dagger toward someone, and, while time is stopped and the dagger is freeze-framed in midair, Lara Croft has to turn it around and point it back toward the villain? It takes an immense act of will, concentration, and strength; she has to use both hands, which she cuts in the process. That's what it's like turning cursing into blessing.
The sense of being unhinged that I spoke of in my last post, the image of a cut-up chicken, the metaphor of surgery - in contemplating protection and healing, I began to see what the next step was for me. Interestingly, around the same time as all the rest of this, I read in Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter:
In an old Sumerian myth, the Goddess Inanna, making a descent to the underworld, moves through seven gates. At each gate she must strip a piece of her clothing away until at last she is naked, arriving without any of her former trappings. At the depth of her descent she is turned into a piece of meat and hung on a meat hook for several days before being resurrected as a woman.All of a sudden I can see my journey over the past year or so as an integrated thing. Starting in October of 2009, I began posting around the theme of nakedness as a metaphor for what I was experiencing in my life. (If you click here, it will take you to those posts.) Now I've had the meat hook experience. Which is exactly why protection has come up, I now understand. I'm like those baby bats - I'm fresh and new (green!) and I've been through the wringer, and now I need a warm soft blanket around me.
The mistake I've made in the past is unconsciously believing my coldness and anger can protect me, but in thinking about what a blanket does, I'm coming to understand it a new way. A blanket protects you by keeping the warmth you already have within you from escaping.
Epiphany: Keeping one's warmth close to oneself is not the same thing as being cold toward others.
I'm not just the innocent that needs protecting, I'm the compassionate mother who weaves and wraps the blanket. I'm the child who is healing and the resurrected woman both.
Taking all these signs and insights that are coming to me from multiple directions is how the blanket is woven. Or maybe a quilt would be a better metaphor. A quilt is, after all, a kind of collage.
And speaking of collages, I haven't yet told you how all of this connects with my 2011 collage. I'll save that for next time.