It’s Winter over here. It’s a fireside time of reflection and dwelling within, whether you find your ‘within’ on top of a snowy mountain, deep in a cave at low tide, or in the company of true friends or your pillow and blankets.
We no longer live in our Summer huts. They are soaking and reworking themselves in the stormy sun while we find nourishment in a house above the bay. It’s that time of year for surrendering, considering, renewing and, later, emboldening. And it might be the right time, in that in between state of half-hearing the call of your Spring, to share this Summer piece.
A while ago, submitting my first thesis proposal, all my ideas were hinging on this need – this deep, physical need – to resist the march of sequential, linear time, to somehow disrupt it through poetry and through the discussion of poetry.
Past-present-future was something I felt very uncomfortable with. If poetry is how we position ourselves in the world and, to some extent, how we create our worlds, then I wondered if we might be able – through poetry – to slide around our rigid notions of temporality, which are embedded in our language systems. Not in order to live minute by naked, unhistoricised minute but to put a stop to past-based thinking such as regret and future-based projections such as anxiety – I guess to challenge both failure and expectation – whilst retaining a sense of who we are becoming within a fully textured present.
To elaborate, maybe, three glimpses:
The first is set in the luminous arch of the University Link building. A hurried chat with a friend. The planned activity that prompted our meeting cancelled because we are both too busy – we don’t have enough time. Perched, straight-spined on the edge of the seats, as soon as we honestly reveal our current life-states to each other, we relax, unravel, spend half an hour talking about our relationship to time in the goal-driven academic, professional and personal environments in which we find ourselves.
We talk about how we desire the fulfillment of our goals yet how we yearn to be present, to enjoy the spiraling process of being here but also there, of folding into the present our pasts and possible futures, to divert from these rigid time lines we feel chained to. She gives me a book; we have given each other the time to step outside; this time.
My parents are arriving in to Dunedin airport in half an hour and our homemade huts are not finished. Neither of us has had a rest day in six months. We are tired, wired and anxious. I am desperate for my parents to be happy and comfortable here and to see what I have achieved, how I have grown, how I have marched along my timeline ticking off accomplishments as I advance into adulthood. They arrive and they are delighted.
The shower needs adjusting and the oven still doesn’t work. They join me on my errands to Mitre 10 Mega; they help cook and collect bags of ice for the weekend of partying. They learn to wake and sleep earlier as we have one gas lantern and some candles between us. In fact, they sleep excellently; they love walking on the beach. A week later they are the happiest I have ever seen them.
Rather than a perfect yet barely held together stage-set home ready for a performance of a life, they have been given a glimpse into our temporary and happy lives. I see now it was such a gift to run out of time, for instead whole vistas of open relationship space have opened up for us to be in together. Off the linear track, they can honestly see who we are and who we are becoming and join their incomplete selves with ours.
After a wonderful 30th birthday weekend, I reflect with a friend on the year past. ‘What have you learnt about yourself?’ he asks. I surprise myself with the answer: ‘That I am physically strong.’
I had long ago changed my physical health karma but this was the first time I registered that change and therefore the first time I changed my psychic karma surrounding issues of my own perceived weakness. I no longer fear I am on a linear temporal path that threatens to turn into a repetitive loop, that I may get ill again or that I will repeat certain behavior patterns ad infinitum. I no longer fear my karmic tendencies. I want to hold on to this idea of life as improvisatory, and of time as multi-layered and dynamic.
The shack is in a constant state of dismantling and regeneration: it allows us to continually evolve our lived behaviours, our spaces and our times, to constantly redirect our karma. Our current shack was built with the hands and hearts of friends and family. It now temporarily houses my parents and gently provides us space in which to address old tendencies.
We might be able to see our lives as the shack, holding the past and the future in a vivid and expansive present. And we might be able to see our selves as the shack – incomplete, honest, rebuildable, inviting collective construction.