poetry

Coincidences Are Not Coincidences: My Shadow and I. {poetry}

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Coincidences are not coincidences. They’re signs, signals, GPS directions for the heart, manifestos, Miracle-Gro for the soul. I suspect most creatively maladjusted people feel the same.

Who sent the prompt — a muse, the Divine, the Universe, my inner editor? Who cares? The point is to act, whether it involves washing the car, phoning my mother, or sitting down at the computer and writing that damn poem.

Writing has never come easily for me. My inclinations and instincts send me to the garden, not the keyboard. Yet when I play hooky for too long, I grow unsettled. I’m settling for less — for sitting on the sidelines and daydreaming rather than living the dream I can’t remember not dreaming — and I know it.

It’s time to sit down at your laptop, girlfriend. Time to bleed.

Two coincidences opened the vein of the poem below:

  • I stumbled across a literal prompt, requesting poems beginning with the first line We went as far as the car would take us.
  • I discovered the Enneagram.

{Photo credit: Jenine Baines, a year-round gift}

 

There are nine personality types within the Enneagram. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses, light and dark side, graces and choke chains. This explanation is beyond oversimplified. Visit How the Enneagram System Works to learn more information. The  Enneagram fascinates me because it echoes much of what I’ve read in Christian/Sufi mysticism and Buddhism (yin/yang).

I must face my shadow side, what author/poet/Trappist monk Thomas Merton calls false self, if I am to evolve into what the Bodhisattva poet-warrior of loving kindness 7th-century Buddhist monk Shantideva describes below.

“May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.”

Who would not want to be such a guard? Hence the we in the first line of my poem, Filling Up, is me. The false self that trips me up on my journey and the true self that yearns to pour herself out like a “vase of plenty,” with love.

{Photo credit: Jenine Baines}

 

The two of us have gone as far as we can go; I’ve run out of gas. Thanks to my studies, I’ve no more fuel for denial or rationalization. I must enter the forest and confront the things about myself that go bump in the night.

Predictably, my shadow side balks. As a classic 4 on the Enneagram, I must swallow hard and calm the terrified drama queen who’s surfaced.

Calming does not equal vanquishing, however.  My drama queen is with me for the ride. Yet at the same time, if I ruthlessly remove all blinders, I can see past her, through the darkness.

How tempting it’d be to lose my shadow self by hiding behind a thicket of excuses, explanations, justifications. Of course, then, ironically, I’d wind up the lost one, stuck in the forest forever.

Only by accepting the darkness with compassion and empathy does moonlight — an ancient symbol of enlightenment — break through. As the University of Michigan’s Symbolism Project explains, the moon “is the middle ground between the light of the sun and the darkness of night, and thus often represents the realm between the conscious and the unconscious… The moon is a symbol of the soul.”

We can even dance, my moonlit shadow-soul and I. On our best days, we reach for the stars.

 

Filling Up

We went as far as the car would take us.
Five miles beyond empty to the next exit,
where we sputtered to a clearing
opening into a wood.

“No, not the forest!” my passenger cried
as the car doors locked behind us.
“The moon’s but a sliver.
We’ll lose one another in the dark.”

My fellow traveler — she’s such a drama queen.
She may melt among the trees, but we both know
we won’t lose sight of one another for long.
It’s through patience and compassion with the darkness
that I see her best.

Maybe, one New Moon, we’ll no longer run out of gas.
The silence, rather than our spatting, will fuel us.
We’ll rediscover how to walk.
We may even lock arms and dance —
a constellation and night sky swirling,
my shadow self and I.

***

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Jenine Baines

Jenine Baines

Jenine Baines is a retired publicist who’s replaced press releases with poetry and plants. Eventually, it dawned on her that a book of essays -- An Archaeologist in the Garden: Excavating Lessons on Blooming from the Dirt -- was germinating as she weeded, amended soil, and planted to terraform the blight called a back garden at the funky little rental house in LA she shares with her partner.
Jenine Baines