The air in my cave is cool, damp, clean. It reminds me of my grandmother’s basement. I enter and take my breath for granted, then catch its smell in my periphery and stop myself. Breathe deeply. Close my eyes and exist in the air.
The walls in my cave sparkle. Leave a light residue on my fingers that feels like powdered marble. I can hear water dripping leisurely down the walls. I want to cover my arms but I don’t want to lose the sensation of floating.
Clothing would anchor me to the earth.
From a safe distance, I hear my great-uncle’s voice in the quarries, carved deep into the sides of the Southern Illinois earth in Prairie du Rocher, reminding me to watch for sudden drops into nothingness.
I have yet to discover a cave in South Mississippi. Two blocks from my house is the bayou. Drive two minutes south and you are in the Gulf of Mexico. Nary a cave in sight.
My velveteen mind is covered in threadworn plush, resonating with noise and prodding questions, but deep in its center, toward the back, away from the vibrations of every day, is a cavern of quiet.
You ask me how I avoid becoming consumed by the static of social media. How the balance and juggle of mother, wife, writer, editor, procrastinator, friend doesn’t destroy my equilibrium. We all ask each other this question. We all compare the green through our fences.
I enter my cave. That’s how I do it.
I become overwhelmed and begin to feel a rumbling deep to my core. Something begins to shift, sending tremors to a part of my mind that signal a need to go dark. Go deep. Enter your cave.
A few weeks ago, I felt something shifting inside. I began spending my Saturday and Sunday mornings in my room, with Olive, focusing on the deep-water blue of my bedroom walls. My husband would ask if I was okay, why wasn’t I out in the noise factory of our living room. I grasped at thin air as I attempted to explain that I could feel a change coming and I needed to quiet down and make room. Clean up my edges so I wouldn’t miss it. I was fine, but I wanted to be ready.
Sounds mildly crazy. I swear I didn’t pronounce this while lounging in a flowing white dressing gown as I stared blindly out of our window. Picture me in four year old yoga pants, with a pile of laundry in front of me, Olive lolling about on the bed, and my saying this very much offhandedly as I watched Food Network or CBS Sunday Morning.
I have a patient husband. He’s learned to trust my instincts.
I’m only now beginning to trust my own instincts. Never have I regretted following my gut. Only not following it.
The other day, I dropped the boys off at school and wandered out to the Annunciation Church in Kiln. It’s the closest thing to a tangible cave that I’ve found, an old white washed building in the middle of what feels like nowhere, where every name on every mailbox is Favre.
After sharing a pleasant conversation with the last parishioner leaving for the morning, whose curiosity about my baby daughter and me got the best of her, I entered the church with Olive and delved deep into its quiet, cool solitude. She was mesmerized by the stained glass windows and sounds our voices made in the empty space, leaving me free to ask, “What am I looking for? What is shifting?”
This is not leading up to a big announcement today. But the answers did come to me. On the drive home that day, I began to identify a shift in direction. I began to recognize a growing desire to live boldly. Stop hesitating. Trust my instincts and step forward with a firm foot.
And encourage those around me to do the same.
On a phone call with Deb on the Rocks last week, I mentioned some changes that will culminate in some big announcements to share with you. She made an audible sigh of relief and admitted that she was wondering if I was getting fed up with social media or if I was simply stepping back. Reassessing. I told her a little about my feeling a shift coming and feeling a need to prepare myself so I could recognize it, at the same time admitting that I was a little burnt out online. She shared a reference to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I asked her to repeat herself via email so I could share it with you in this post. I was going to paraphrase her email, but she says it so well:
In Women Who Run, she tells the myth of Demeter and Persephone, about the need to go dark, sometimes literally to go to hell, to be regenerated. Especially as creative women, we must allow the creative cycles of our words, poetry and thoughts to have their dormant stage, or we will burnout, very literally, just like a brittle match.
Deb has a thread on the creative process unlike anyone I know. She makes me feel like an artist and I selfishly treasure her for that. I begrudgingly share her with you. Tell her I sent you, so I can remain selfish and still share.
Changes are coming. I can feel their independent momentum and I can also make them happen. If I only would.
It’s exhilarating, this feeling of anticipation and impetus.
You don’t have to know exactly what I’m talking about to understand this feeling. The details are irrelevant.
It’s our willingness to enter the cave that matters.
The air in my cave is cool and damp. I breathe deeply. The walls beg to be touched and hint at something rich and ancient. I soak it in. I look for myself in its elements.