Silence, Depth, and Desire: Noticing the Contrasts in Things.
“Our visions begin with our desires.” ~ Audre Lorde
Lately, I’ve been feeling into all the things that get kicked up this time of year. Sometimes I can’t help but go there, even though I want to ignore it — tuning into the slight but definite heaviness which has been playing in the background like something undiscovered all week.
Sometimes this heavy seems to teeter right on the edge of the lightness, seems to play off of all the things in plain sight, taps into all these shapes and silhouettes that are both tucked away and oh-so-present right now. I don’t know what it is about the winter that shines a light on all of it so vividly.
Like just in the moment you want to pack it up and start anew, there it is — the shadow making its way into the room, and wanting to be known. Wanting to be brought forth in some way.
I kept writing, and writing, but I couldn’t really make anything of it. You know how it is, like Rumi puts it. You start off in one direction, and something takes you to another. But I wanted to keep going with it, and tried to force what I was feeling to the surface. Force it into words, a story, something I could really contend with, sink my teeth into. Throw my weight at. Something to make it all make sense.
Which sometimes I am really good at — making it make sense. Putting words to it. Making meaning of the situation. Can we just get it out in the damn open already? Can we just name it and move on? But not this time. There was too much feeling, or not enough known yet, too much pressure, and the whole essay sort of fell apart. Sometimes this happens when I try to write. I can’t find it easily. I can’t name it yet.
I know there’s something there, but I need more information first. More clarity. More lightening, perhaps. More dust to settle first.
Then for a while I got really hard on myself, something else I can do. You know how it is: one thing isn’t working right, so we pile everything else on top of it. It all becomes very, very serious, and probably my whole life feels like it is falling apart. Or maybe it’s just after the holidays, and it’s strange and in-between, and hard to name.
But still. I knew there was something churning, and in a vivid way. Had to get something down, and soon. This morning I texted my brother who is town to see if he could watch my daughter for a little while while I wrote. Another thing I’ve learned so far about being a mom: just ask someone to watch the kid, just ask for help, take it when you can, and do your best in the time that you have.
I started writing about grief, and motherhood, and how the two sometimes are so woven together, even in all the beauty of it, that it sometimes becomes hard to see it clearly. Hard to know who we are becoming. But it still didn’t feel right, even though I knew I was on to something. I want to finish that piece, but it’s not all there yet.
But what is there? I knew whatever I was experiencing was about finding the deeper connection in myself, to myself, and to others. I think the things we really want this time of year are very real, and potent, but don’t really have much to do with the holidays. But they are real wants and needs.
Audre Lorde is speaking to me today: “The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.”
So I’ll start there. I know I’ve been craving: sugar, glitter, silver linings on everything, words, sweet and dry vermouth, bitters, orange liqueur, tinsel, bone-broth and ginger, black lingerie and big gold hoop earrings, patterned tights and leggings, boots with zippers, smoke and embers, grilled cheeses, poems tattooed on a forearm, calligraphy, eye shadow, unspoken conversations that are exactly what I’ve meaning to say, saying the things I actually mean, therapy, pupusas from the food truck, ruby red popsicles, hot tubs, fresh cream, oat-colored sheets and comforters fluffed just right, another baby, Mexico, religion, Mary, the tribe, the forest, the sea, the city, clementines undone and in your mouth, taking off my blouse while you tuck me in, silence and depth, cracked light, cookies, marmalade, goose down, feathers, sleigh bells, wool socks, slippers, language, my grandmother, my mother, my other grandmother, some lover that I never really had and still doesn’t make sense, light shows, Chinese food, pine wood and sparkling ales, mulled cider, visions, ice skates, skis, Canada, the shore, the open road, a window, overalls, wraps and shawls, hoodies, tears just because, snow falling, and making everything both known and unknown.
All of that, you know? I want all the layers. I want the things in the middle, and the outside too.
In the process of writing about grief, and motherhood and cravings, and how so much of becoming a mom is giving up parts of yourself, and finding yourself anew and in another way again, my daughter brought me those roses in the picture above. Well, okay, it might have been my partner who bought them, but she sure did look proud of herself when she walked them over to me.
I wish I had a picture of her, walking towards me, bouquet of red roses, a half-smile, knowingly looking at me. “I’ve got you, mama,” it said, “right where I want you.”
She did have me. I melted. I didn’t want anything else. I had it all. The answer to all my cravings: red roses, a beautiful girl, the winter day, some cracked light getting in me at just the right time.
There is grief in motherhood, in holidays, in December, but at that moment, it shifted, and I realized this is what I love most: just noticing the contrasts in things, bringing forth the way things brush up against each other, tuning into the tucked-away things that are actually often the most real things in the room.
Sometimes I think we feel so much this time of year because we miss people who are no longer with us. We used to go to my mother’s parents a lot for the holidays while in Indiana, and it always seemed to me the middle of nowhere, and sometimes nowhere I really wanted to be. But, there were things to be found, even if it was heartache and what to make of it.
My grandmother wasn’t the warmest person in some ways, though her love was made clear for me. She had her way of making me feel like this was real, and in the real was the special: to be together during the holidays, to appreciate what we had, that beauty wasn’t a permanent thing, that life could be harsh, but it could be equally — if not permanently — lovely.
She would read me Greek mythology while we both wore nightgowns the night before Christmas, and we would listen to classical music on the radio, which bored me but I got something about it . How it was telling some truth, and that Bach had probably saved her a time or two. We watched Murder She Wrote in the basement, on a plaid sofa, ate butterscotch cookies and peppermint bark.
For breakfast the next morning, she would drink black Folgers coffee, grapefruit, and read The New York Times. She was always reading and reading, or doing batik.
She was an amazing artist, and it would take me years to get that: how that must have been trying as all hell to be a mother to three little girls, to be an artist, to be a a whole person in some ways, how hard that still is, how some of these lessons are embedded in the gene pool.
It was Indiana and it was cold as it could be. Those frozen wheat fields are no joke. The gray skies so bold and lasting like forever, they would nearly make you cry. I remember her talking about her first husband who died in World War II, and she said she cried so much after he died, cried so much and for so long that she didn’t have any more tears to cry, ever again. Come to think of it, I never did see her cry.
I could tell even then she had learned to savor the things that did sparkle. She would brush my hair until it glimmered blonde and bright, and tuck me into flannel sheets, and kiss the space right in between my forehead. She didn’t believe in any God at all, and told us she wanted to become a tree when she died. Matter of fact, just like that. A tree.
Funnily enough though, she said more than once that she hoped I grew up to be someone who worked with words. “Maybe a linguist?” she suggested a couple of times. I’m still not sure what a linguist actually is, but I think she knew I loved language too, and would want words, want them all, crave them as much as anything else.
And the roses. They are opening up fully on my kitchen table, and we lit candles around them tonight.
Sometimes I think they might literally be the color of everything right now: blood, beauty, love and lust, grief and longing, bloodshot eyes, cherries, hot coals and Christmas, my grandmother’s scarves that matched her lipstick, wine and fruit, cheeks and mouths, strawberries in the summertime, give-my-love-to rose, little red Corvette, wagons, hearts and taillights, meat, salsa picante, Valentine’s and flashing neon, raspberry zinger tea, red light district, zinnias, peppers, Bloody Mary’s on New Year’s day, Mardi Gras parades, that bikini you wore mamita I couldn’t take my eyes off you, rain boots, desire, apples, forbidden things, the red sea, high heels, wax from a sugar beet candle, cardinals, the sunset I never forgot, ruby red popsicles, earrings, stained glass, sea glass, stop lights, all of it.
May you bring all that you really desire, your real cravings, into life in this new year.
Moriah Norris-Hale is a writer, mama, and a teacher who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. She’s in a constant process of discovery, and trying to understand this adventure called Life we are on. She loves helping people, especially women, discover more of who they are, what their deepest gifts and desires are, and how to bring more of those gifts into the world. These days, she spends a lot of time with her two-year-old daughter, playing and fostering a lot of play, curiosity, and wonder. You can read more of her writing at her website, or connect with her on Instagram.