NIGHTBLOOMING IN THE DEEP DARK WOODS

by angeliska on July 9, 2015

I started writing this almost a year ago:
Take a picture of a dark room at 4am, slap a filter on it, capture a ghost. Take a picture of your insomniac, restless spirit, up tossing and turning, getting up to lead through old journals at the kitchen table, naked & wild-eyed, wrapped in a shawl. Tak
Take a picture of a dark room at 4am, slap a filter on it, capture a ghost. Take a picture of your insomniac, restless spirit, up tossing and turning way past midnight. Take a picture of a tree that falls in the woods and no one hears it, of fragments of dreams, of memories of past travels, old loves, friends you haven’t talked to in years, time rushing too fast to write all the letters, make all the calls, say all the words, see all the things, read all the books, sing all the songs, learn every language, play every instrument, master every skill. Sand running in the glass & gritty in my bed but not in my eyes from Mr. Sandman. This is the time of night when I’m wide awake and thinking of all the dear ones I love, and I’d call to tell you do but everyone else in the world is sleeping soundly now. Maybe now that I’ve transcribed that from my brainpan, I can finally get some rest.
I couldn’t sleep. Something made me rise naked and wild-eyed from my bed, leaving the warmth of my companion, who was sleeping soundly. I went into my studio almost in a trance, and walked straight over to a stack of my old journals. I grabbed them up, wrapped myself in a shawl, sat at the kitchen table with one lamp on, and started to read. The restlessness in me woke something else up, too. A lot of unanswerable questions that I’m still grappling with about time, and memory, and why we write. This is the pinhole, the aperture. A starting place that has been opening back up very, very slowly.
There is a space that exists, in the interim of a long period of silence. It is a black hole that has a force, a velocity to it. It sucks many things into its centre, into that place of nothingness, of no words. It is like what happens between two friends who go a long time without speaking. You mean to pick up the phone, to write that letter – in fact, you think of it every day. It nags at you with an insistence, and yet – the silence, the space it takes up, begins to take on a shape of its own. Intentions, excuses, memories, resentments, fragments of your last interaction all fall into it, and congeal into a bogeyman made up of all these disparate thoughts. It takes a certain kind of will, a bravery – to stand at the lip of that void and boldly shout a long overdue HEY! Or whisper a tentative hello.
So. Hello.
Hello Monday night. I have a date with my book (Year of the Flood, the sequel to Oryx & Crake, so good!) The windows are open, the AC is off (for nearly July in Texas - this part marvelous miracle, part horrifying climate change harbinger), and this is wh
It’s me, around the time when I first started trying to write this.
Barefaced, messy haired, in the old t-shirt I sleep in. But real, and alive.
I’ve been quiet in this space I keep for writing, for sharing, for a lot of reasons. Until this moment, all those reasons kept me from being able to break the seal on that silence. There was just too much. What do you say to the friend who you think of every day, but for whatever reason, just can’t or don’t talk to for a while? Those weeks stretch into months, and then it just becomes more and more awkward to explain where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing instead of getting in touch, reaching out. How do you begin? Perhaps like this:
Soooo… The reason I didn’t write for so long is because I’ve just had a lot going on – too much to really explain or get into here, and also, well… To be honest, I’ve really been thinking about our friendship, and questioning a lot of things in myself, and making up a lot things that I decided you were probably thinking, and then questioning the reality of your existence at all. I know it’s been six months. I’m sorry if you missed me. I thought about you a lot.
How do you say all of that to the invisible friend, the reader, whoever you are? The reader is not a who – and though right at this moment, you are the reader. Though, you specifically are not who I refer to when I try to write about this idea of friendship. I dearly want to come back to that idea, but I have to address it with this construct that I can’t really have an actual dialogue with. I mean, this whole thing started in a way, as so many people just whistling in the dark. That’s how I’ve always seen it: tossing things out in the void, into the ether. A golden record sent out into space, a love letter to distant civilizations, intelligent lifeforms. The echo of the Bulgarian folk singing that stirs my soul so profoundly potentially catching the ear of some errant alien searching for signs of life. It began as a way to connect with friends. There were other people out there, in the night, staring at their own computers. People you knew and people you didn’t, but suddenly, there was this sense of caring. It felt like more than just endless scrolling, scanning, reading, clicking, commenting, engaging, interacting. A community formed. Many of the people I met through this medium during that time have become true friends. Real life friends. I’ve been grateful for the way this technology gives us a window into each other’s lives, helps us stay close – even when we’re physically distant. So, this has place where I keep my friends (even those I have never met) abreast of my doings, thinkings, musings. Only connect! That has been my motto in all of this. I remember, in a time before email – I had penpals. I loved receiving letters from people all over the world – feeling like time and space were traversable, foldable, insignificant. This has been a way of doing that, too.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.
― E.M. Forster, Howards End
But then, I stopped connecting. Stopped really wanting to. I wasn’t reading blogs much, anymore – even my those written by dear friends, who I loved reading about. If I didn’t have the energy to engage in that way, why assume that anyone else did, anymore? We are just mirrors in the dark. I had to really sit with and examine this assumption that I have, or had, a wide readership, who somehow cared whether I wrote about my dead mom every August the 8th, or about my trip to Colombia last summer, or the adventure that I had with my Grandfather in Serbia in 2005, right before Katrina. I mean, I want to write about these things for me, for myself – as a document, a testament, a processing. I’ve always thought that if anyone else gets something out of the the things I share here, well – what a terrific bonus that is…! It’s that tree falls in the woods thing, though. Wanting what you do to make a sound. Have some kind of effect. And yet I know that somehow, this thing that I come here to do sometimes does matter – every once in awhile. It’s knowing that my solipsistic wonderings and wanderings do help people out there, from time to time. Friends, and friends I haven’t yet met. Who do we write for? An unseen audience, the mysterious reader, or even just my friends and family who I know like to keep up with me. That idea, though. I think you have to have it, in some way, if you are going to write. You have to start pouring the words out as if it doesn’t matter who sees it. Dance like no one’s watching. But the voice crying in the wilderness does want to be heard, to be read. And so. But where does it all go? Into the little leather and brocade diary you keep in your handbag and carry around with you everywhere? Sometimes, yes. I used to have a secret wish, combing through antique stores when I was a kid (and still do, even now) that I would come across someone’s diary. A dusty testament of life from another time. I think the phenomenon of journaling online felt like that to me, a little bit. Stumbling upon a portal into another world.
I inherited a dark wood to which I seldom go. But a day will come when the dead and the living change places. Then the wood will begin to stir. We are not without hope. The most serious crimes remain unsolved despite the efforts of many policeman. In the same way there exists, somewhere in our lives, a great love, unsolved. I inherited a dark wood but today I am going into another wood, the bright one. Every living thing that sings, wriggles, oscillates, and crawls! It is spring and the air is very strong. I have a degree from oblivion’s university and am empty-handed as the shirt on the clothesline.
— Madrigal, by Tomas Tranströmer 
Nightblooming wonders, gorgeous & brilliant marvels my amazing and talented friends all are. There are just not enough adjectives to really do justice to the glory that I feel lucky enough to witness on a regular basis (particularly tonight, ladies!) but,
Nightblooming Cereus. If it blooms only once a year, and you sleep through it – what then?
This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.” – D. H. Lawrence
This is the very first thing, the only thing I’ve written here, in this space, so far this entire year. It’s July. You know what’s interesting to me? That not one person has asked, (directly or indirectly) about why I stopped writing here for more than half a year – and in a way that’s been totally liberating. To not feel a responsibility to write. To anyone. No deadlines, no readers. To let go of this ridiculous and egotistic idea that I had some vast and far-flung readership who sit clicking the refresh button on their browser with baited breath in hopes that I’ll finally get my head out my my ass and just write something again. I mean, there are scores of dead and abandoned blogs out there, to be sure. There are people whose writing I adored reading online, who one day just winked out of existence. Not that they died, necessarily – but that they no longer shared themselves with the world at large in that way. The portal closed. Maybe another portal in their lives opened up that made that urge unnecessary, or impossible. A child, a relationship, a job, travel, illness. A Russian conglomerate that buys your journaling platform and turns it into a sinking ship that everyone eventually bails off of. Other platforms for sharing that rise up like mushrooms to take the place of those communities. Now we can stay connected in 140 characters, in newsfeeds populated with nonsense, in small square images, photographs only ever viewed on hand held devices.
I think it was this thought, this analogy – about connection and disconnection – about that heavy friend silence that I know so well, that’s even making it possible for me to type out these words right now. I mean – this same thing has been happening in other corners of my life as well: so, so many emails and letters and phone calls all gone unanswered. How to explain that it’s just not personal, that it is occurring across the board – because in some other long neglected area of my life, something strange and undefinable has been happening. It has been a somewhat conscious (if not wholly strategic) withdrawal. Into the cocoon. Away from certain kinds of obligation to external energy, to people, to organizations, to all the places where for a very long time, I’ve been expending my vital juice. Sometimes, you have to just unplug from everything. Shut down the system – identify the sources of the drain, investigate how to tap into a more sustainable source of energy, and REBOOT. This has been taking some time. I suppose that there’s some irony in this computer metaphor – because that’s been part of the problem, really. I haven’t had much desire to spend a lot of time sitting on the computer, staring at a screen, typing on a keyboard. It stopped feeling real to me – it stopped feeling like living. The truth is, though – I haven’t actually stopped writing at all. In fact, I have been writing more, or more consistently then ever, maybe. This hasn’t been a case of writer’s block. I have a writing group I go to once a week where I hammer out a lot of the stories and truths that don’t necessarily belong here. Yet. Or ever. I started taking some amazing writing workshops, and returning to writing by hand, to journaling, to writing things that are only for me, at least for now. Maybe they will exist only on paper, in books. Books that you can buy, and take home with you. Sit with over tea. I’m working hard on something write now – a big dream that I’ve wanted to make real for most of my life. It’s going to take a lot of focus and hard work, real dedication and discipline to make it happen. If I can find time to squeeze in something here and there in this place, I will. I want to. I have been also deeply questioning my desire and intention to share my thoughts and writing online, in a public space – here. I’ve just wanted to live in the moment, without documenting it. To be in my body and the present moment more completely than I’ve ever been able to before.
It has taken a long time for me to feel ready to try to crystallize any of what I’ve had floating around in my head into some kind of honey I feel might be worth sharing. But a few little signs have appeared to me here and there that indicate it might be a good moment to dip my toe in. A swirl of black ink, making arabesques in the water before it dissipates, disappears. The thing is, I’m ready to say hello now, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to write about all the things I’d like to write about here. So many things I’d like to share! For months and months, I haven’t known what to say. I haven’t wanted to sit alone in front of the computer. I’ve been thinking so much though, about this solitary work we do together. I’ve come back to my hands, to blank books made of paper, to writing on the page with ink. I had to re-think. About why I needed to come here, in the night. Why you might. Why anyone comes here, to read these words. Writing sometimes flows out of me like water. Other times it feels like an old mule turning a rusty wheel. The wheel that turns time. For a long time, I only wrote to honor the turning of the seasons. Solstices, Equinoxes. Happenings, and travels. Deaths and the anniversaries of deaths. I only felt moved to write to mark the passage of time. Everything else fell away. The quotidian. My urge to share links, information, pretty things. I’ve always been the archivist. The truth is that for most of my life, I’ve felt very lonely. I think that’s true for a lot of people, even if we might be loath to admit it. We live in such an isolated way, these days. It’s not surprising that we find ways like this, to try and bridge that gap. Shouting to one another from opposite sides of the abyss. Helllooooo! Is anybody out there? The big thing is that I’m learning out to hang out with the echoes. To be okay with my own company. To be alone, and for once – not feel so lonesome on my own. This is big work, and it’s changing me. It’s changing the way I write, and why I write. Where I write. How I share. This feels like a such a jumble of fragmentary thoughts and ideas that I’ve honestly been wrestling with for way too long. Will anyone actually read it, or particularly care? I guess you know, if that’s what you’re doing now – and I’m grateful to you for reading this far. I can’t worry about that part anymore though. I’m just glad I have a place to put these thoughts – so I can stop spinning in circles about it, and hopefully feel free to share something else, anything else. Who knows what, or when. But the seal is broken, and the door is open again. Let’s see what comes through, yes?
I can be alone,
I know how to be alone.
There is a tacit understanding between my pencils
and the trees outside;
between the rain
and my luminous hair.
The tea is boiling:
my golden zone,
my pure burning amber.
I can be alone,
I know how to be alone.
By tea-light
I write.

– Nina Cassian
Starheart Jesus. This was a happy accident. Forgot I had the flash on, turned it off and took a few others. Only later realized that it illuminated his sacred heart perfectly.
Star-heart Jesus in Brooklyn. A little sidewalk grotto in front of a brownstone, on a pretty quiet street. I was coming back from seeing Nick Cave play in the park. This was a happy accident. Forgot I had the flash on, turned it off and took a few others. Only later realized that it illuminated his sacred heart perfectly.
The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake a night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” – T. H. White
p.s. This post is dedicated to Minty, in Liverpool. I didn’t know you that you existed, until a few days ago. Chance, the synchronicity of connection, and very magical circumstance brought the fact that you do to my attention – and it was this that gave me the kick in the pants I so needed to come back and write here again. Thank you so much for reading. It means more to me than you know.

14 comments

Beautiful. I’m so glad you’re back!

by Leila Henley on July 9, 2015 at 9:52 pm. Reply #

It’s hard for me to express how important this piece of writing is to me. Bravo, hello, and thank you.

by Bethany on July 9, 2015 at 11:51 pm. Reply #

I love reading your posts, don’t stop! Xoxoxo

by Dana on July 10, 2015 at 3:27 am. Reply #

I am the worst, most inconstant commenter, but your blog is my very favorite. Truly. I am so, so happy you’re back.

by trina on July 10, 2015 at 11:42 am. Reply #

Thank you, Angel, for articulating the sound of the silence of 4 a.m. Writing may not flow as easily as breath, but I for one am grateful to you for taking a pause after a long slow inhalation. I hope it refreshes, renews and reinvigorates you. I look forward to hearing more… Love always.

by Andrea on July 10, 2015 at 6:42 pm. Reply #

I missed you.

by Misha on July 10, 2015 at 7:52 pm. Reply #

I missed you too. What a beautiful, heartfelt return. Thank you for sharing an intimate 4am moment xxxxx

by Beth on July 11, 2015 at 5:24 am. Reply #

Hellooooo!

by Christina on July 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm. Reply #

i’ve missed you in this place too <3

by lau on July 13, 2015 at 8:59 am. Reply #

I am overjoyed to read this. Go with your own flow, but also do trust that readers like me who adore your writing will be here whenever you are ready to be further revelatory. Blessings and XOs.

by Pam on July 13, 2015 at 11:50 am. Reply #

I keep coming back regularly for your journal. its the only one that i follow now for years 🙂 thank you for coming back, and if its only for this one post. hello from far away vienna/europe.

by Katja on July 15, 2015 at 5:34 am. Reply #

that person clicking and refreshing.. that was me. it’s been like a drought these last 6 months. i’ve known things have been happening. things are always happening in your life. i’ve been here at least twice a month. hoping. mostly hoping that you hadn’t completely lost the use of this format.
as one of those, in the city, but not in your world readers. i felt a bit adrift without your voice. without your voice, i felt even more like i was losing you, of course without having really known you for so long in person should sadden me more if i were well enough to get out. every moment of your silence made a sound for me. does not spending proper time with someone currently truly dissolve the former friendship? in some ways, your work here has allowed me the belief that we are still friends. it may be a delusion i prefer, but i wept one night about three months ago when i loaded your page again to see nothing new. when i feel this way about you, i rummage through your archives to feel you again. sometimes i find little gems missed or forgotten and for that reason alone i do encourage you to continue in a way that suits you here. for the little people like me who learn from you. of course, you have always been on a course to publication. i’d like to remind you of our “zine” pages from high school. so juvenile, so raw, so concerning to our parents yet we were both loved by the creative writing teacher. i can’t wait to buy the first of your books. i really can’t wait.
i know that i said i had something i desperately wanted to send you… i am ashamed that i was not able to follow through then. i can’t explain why. i’d rather get over my embarrassment and just send you a gift of love through the post now. each month it became harder to remember.. the post isn’t open after midnight when my mind starts it’s own opus either.
to say i’m glad to hear from you doesn’t cut it angel. i’m relieved, i’m personally gratified, i’m selfishly satisfied. although missing your words was a testament to how much i’ve always wanted and needed them. i thought about invading your privacy. i thought about begging you for a post. i was too prideful to act so selfishly towards someone i mostly only admire from afar. i knew you would be back when you would be back and that you know what is best for you and my pining for a connection with you in this way was weak and stunted.
i have cherished you from afar. i was so lucky to be cooped up in the pen (at school) with you. will you please send me your current address so that i may give you a summer gift now. there’s more collected than i was to send before. i think of you often and i want you to have a few material love letters as a thank you. just a thank you for being you.
please do take the time to give me a postal address, and when you feel like it, pay homage to this writing space. some of us do feel dependent on it at times. i would always want it to be in the order of your benefit before others and if it ceases to be that for you, do retire. just please don’t erase these wonderful posts, pictures, spells and tales. that would be a personal tragedy for me, far greater than the disuse of this space.
with love, respect and only the very best of wishes,
jen

by jen on July 21, 2015 at 12:01 am. Reply #

I was so hoping you would come back but everything happens in its own time. I have been truly inspired by your blog over the years. Thank for the sharing.

by Korri on July 25, 2015 at 12:56 am. Reply #

Oh, hallelujah. You are back. It’s been a drought. Now I understand, and more beauty and healing is nigh. Thank you.

by Lena on November 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm. Reply #

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