Rising from the Riverbed

Ada, rising from the depths in “The Piano” written and directed by Jane Campion, 1993

Ada, rising from the depths in “The Piano” written and directed by Jane Campion, 1993

Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post, your empathy is deeply appreciated. But I didn’t quite say what I meant to say about my story “Glass Houses Glass Doors”. I wanted to speak to the creative process, and how here in Seeing Red we’re all learning to access the energy of our personal riverbeds of trauma, and redirect that energy into more generative art.

Although I finished that story for almost 15 years ago, I never did anything with it. I never expanded the piece. I now believe it’s because I took my SELF out of the story. Although I made myself an insightful observer, my feelings were missing. The way the story stands now, it’s not a conversation starter, instead it shuts the door. The only response the reader can have is “I’m sorry”.

Now, because of the work we do here, I’m seeing how to use the truth of sorrow to inform something more actionable. Because in order for there to be hope, there needs to be action. I believe we all have a Glass House story in our riverbed, and it takes time (sometimes a lifetime) to realize that some of our stories are just heavy rocks at the bottom, not part of the waters that flow.

I’m thinking now of Sandra Salzillo’s presentation on Jane Campion’s film “The Piano”. Specifically of the scene where Ada tries to end her life by tying herself to her piano as it’s thrown off a boat and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Ada hits bottom too, but then she chooses life over death. Sandy showed us that the piano is a symbol of the shadow part of us all, and she asked, “How do we survive that which almost destroys us?” And her answer, “By making it part of us.”

But integrating our piano does not mean sinking with it. It means honoring it in the best way possible, and sometimes that means moving on without our piano, by allowing ourselves to rise to a new place, a place where ‘our piano’ could never float. Sandy showed us that in her release, Ada was moving “from the threshold of the piano to the threshold of relationship.” This is what we all need to do with our creative art. We need to make it relatable.

I’m working on a new piece, something I hope to share with you someday, and I’m struggling to write with faith in the generative aspects of anger. If I allow my characters to lean into their anger, will they get stuck? I’m referring to the inevitable anger that follows from sorrow. What are the words for these complicated feelings? I’m leaving the sorrow at the bottom of the riverbed and daring to float in the waters. It’s not easy, and I’m splurting and spluttering and censoring myself, but I’m also delightfully surprised on occasion, when something generative and hopeful emerges from something so sorrowful and old.

I would love to know if others have trouble putting their feelings into their art too. Is there a blockage or does it come easily to you? In my case, the role of insightful observer is my safe place, but it’s also dissociated from my broken heart. And there can be no integration of the two until we acknowledge that our hearts are broken, for only then can we begin to fill the cracks with gold.