There is a form of therapy called “Family of Origin”. It’s fascinating. Please goto:
if you want to read more about it.
A common exercise in a “family of origin” class is to describe of a place of safety or a refuge – a construct of one’s mind that is a mirror of who we are, or think we are, and I suppose who we want to be in our heart of hearts. What do we protect? Who do we invite in?
Are you a fortress, hidden by stone walls? In diametrical opposition, are you standing watching a sunset, surrounded by loved ones – free and easy, inviting? There are as many images as people.
I chewed a lot on this concept for a couple of weeks, and this is the outcome.
This post isn’t so much a story as, well … close your eyes and listen to the person next to you describe …
I stand beneath a canopy of palm trees with cool sand beneath my feet. Salty warm air ruffles my hair in a steady breeze. The windswept beach before me is bleached white by a sun so large it dominates the deep blue sky. Shallow blue-green water touches the sky on the distant horizon, a transition so smooth both seem to be two parts of a single canvas.
In the distance I hear the familiar roar of a waterfall, a lifeblood I cannot do with out.
I walk from the shadows, the sand warm at first, then hotter and hotter until I run to relieve my feet in the waves that lap upon the shore.
I feel a thrum in my heart. Nagging thoughts begin to intrude. Have I always been here?
The island’s presence reaches out and touches my mind, soothes my worry.
I see many footprints in the sand and the remains of a fire. The charred wood is in stark contrast to the alabaster sand. The blackened ring of the fire pit comforts me, as does a nearby finger of rock that stretches far into the ocean.
I walk the beach, kicking the surf, watching the glint of the sun through drops of water that rise and fall. My heart rate increases when I come upon the wreckage of a skiff. I know this means something. I don’t want to remember it.
I keep walking and look toward the coral reef in the distance. My stomach growls and hunger gnaws at me. I don’t want to leave. I know it’s dangerous.
A spear appears in my hand. I swim and dive into deeper waters. I feel my heart thumping in my chest, yet swallow the fear and anxiety. Silvery fish dart to and fro, sensing danger, which heightens my own. The sun casts hazy pillars of light and dark into the deeper blue that fades to an opaque black. The contrasts much the same as my thoughts have become.
I impale a fish and quickly turn and head back. A dark shape rushes from below. I race away in a cloud of bubbles, arms pinwheeling in a frenetic dash toward the safety of shore, to the safety of my island.
I feel the stinging pain of a bite and push faster toward a narrow hole in a wall of corral that separates the deep water from the shallows. Another molten stab of pain lances along my leg as I squeeze through the opening.
The water becomes dark. Rumbling booms, like the report of thousands of cannons, shake the water.
When I emerge onto the beach, I find my island has disappeared – replaced by a stretch of sand, bereft and forlorn, with stunted trees bent in a maelstrom of rain and wind. My spear has disappeared. I hold nothing. Hungry. Confused.
In the distance I see a ship tossed in the whipping wind, lashed by lightening that strikes the snapped main mast. The sails flap, torn and useless. I see my skiff on its side, held precariously by a single length of rope. Dark shapes run about. I see myself on deck?
I am on the boat. I am rushing to the skiff. There are people about me that strain to remain standing on the heaving deck. People I care about, that I love – shouting to be heard, their voices ripped away and lost in the howling wind. The boat strikes the reef with a groaning crack of wood. I am thrown to the deck with a painful thud and scramble toward the lifeboat on my hands and knees. I gesture and shout for the others to join me. To hurry. To escape the danger, but they disappear. Their thin hollow cries are lost when they become nothing more than mist blown away into the storm.
Danger, anger, and malice emanates from a demon that leers at me from the wheelhouse, a wicked gleam in its eye. Terrified, I climb into the skiff, grab a knife, and cut the rope. The skiff falls, my stomach lurches.
I don’t strike the water. I fall into a dark tunnel. An infinite well that has no end. Faster and faster until my heart can bear no more.
I awake, my mouth parched. I’m among the wreckage of the skiff, scratched and torn. I am on the island, a few palm trees sprinkled helter-skelter. In the distance I hear the waterfall and seek it out. There is no life, no green, only a sandy path that leads to a barren cliff over which water rushes.
After slacking my thirst I return to the beach, happy to be alive. My memory returns of what my island had been like. Or was it what it would become? My sense of time feels scrambled.
The island has no thoughts, like I remember. I am truly alone. There is only the beating sun and scorching sand. I am no longer in danger, but a crushing sadness at the loss of my loved ones pushes me to the edge of the water.
I cannot bear the loneliness, and I curse the demon for stranding me here. Without love, without hope. Without … anyone. I sit and write in the sand. Complex pictures, arranging shells in geometric patterns. I think, imagine and learn in an attempt to block the hurt and pain. I do this again and again, living within my mind that has become a surrogate for my island.
The sun wheels and the stars spin.
The feeling of isolation fades with the renewed caress my island’s presence. Its gentle touch soothes my rapid cycles of despair and anger. I can see my familiar blue sky and the sparkling turquoise waters.
I am changed. Not the innocent that I remember being; kicking the surf before I found the wrecked skiff. I cannot throw away my thoughts of terror at the shark attack, or being on the storm tossed boat, unable to do anything but flee, and to loose my friends in the hurricane.
And I remember the demon who did this to me, to us.
I hate the demon, but I also hate myself for being weak.
The despair becomes anger. I remember my pictures in the sand. I puff out my chest and I feel euphoria at my creativity. I go to admire it, but the sea has washed away my work. My thoughts come crashing down, and despair returns.
So I travel through my island. The island has many more trees, but still lacks the vibrancy it once had. There are creeping shadows and dark caves. The birds sing, but their song is forlorn. I wander until I find the heart of my island: the waterfall that gives my mind peace.
I find a garden growing about a deep pool at the base of the waterfall. Something new and wonderful to tend. Something other than myself. I build a shelter and settle. I tend the garden, and the past fades. I am safe. Day after day, the island returns, green and full of life.
Yet, within my heart I fight fear and hollow pain. The island’s confusion at my tumult is deflected by the many masks I wear.
I sleep. I awake and begin again.
One night a flash of lightening hits a nearby tree, the crack of thunder awakening me in a cold sweat. I feel danger, anxiety – panic.
The demon crouches nearby. So long since I’ve seen this loathsome creature. It bellows and jumps at me. Fear grips my heart. I freeze in panic. I do not want to be here, do not want these feelings to be so visceral and real once again.
A primal scream erupts from deep within me and pierces the serenity of the island. I rush at the demon, which runs from me. Taunting me. I chase it to a cliff where it stops, turns. I cannot stop. It folds its gruesome arms about me in a crushing, unbreakable grip. We fall over the cliff, locked together.
In a blast of panic, the island tries to soften my descent, but cannot. A part of me doesn’t want it to. I want to kill the demon – I am obsessed with it.
We land in a tangle, bones snapping. Paralyzed by pain, I cannot move. All I can do is stare at the demon standing above me. I spit and snarl, like a large animal confined within a small cage. Defiant of its captivity. Defiant of its fate.
The last thing I hear is the demons grating laugh, like a high-pitched scream. It wags a clawed finger. Its rasping voice says in my mind, “Never chase your demons. You may catch one, and then what?”
I descend into darkness so complete I feel like a shard of midnight, stolen from a moonless sky.
I awake strapped to a stone table, floundering like a fish on dry land, being flayed alive, desperate for cool water. The demon stabs my head again and again with its bloody clawed hand. It heals me. Then stabs anew into my mind with searing pain. Again and again, like Prometheus, cursed by the gods.
The cyclic torture and the subsequent release of pain is all I know. It seems an eternity. When the sun beats down, I feel like a block of ice, melting, yet without the ability to feel its warmth.
I endure. I fight. I scream my invincibility, my anger; I cry and cry for mercy.
Unable to go on, unable to endure, I open my heart and mind and call to my island for help. I cannot defeat the demon on my own.
The demon screams in anger. I feel the bitter taste of a liquid poured down my throat. It eases the turmoil and the pain.
The demon’s cries of anger become a wicked laugh as it begins to fade, “I will always be here. Waiting. Come for my embrace again, if you dare.”
At my release, I know what I must do. I must return to the beach. The island understands my need. Wishes me to return to the falls soon. As I know I must, for I miss my garden.
I stand beneath a canopy of palm trees with cool sand beneath my feet. Salty warm air ruffles my hair in a steady breeze.
The wheel has turned – I remember being here, standing in this very spot. Looking out to the turquoise sea.
But I am not who I was. I must invite others, so I raise my arms and wish for them to come.
Those lost to me on the boat appear; their ethereal forms taking shape.
When the sun begins to set, I make a fire and we sit about the crackle of orange flames that gutter in the constant breeze.
I recall seeing this fire pit. The blackened ring that keeps the flames at bay. It means so much more to me, now that I share it with others.
Unlike many others, those that sit by the fire with me share an immutable truth. A truth that is hard fought to recognize, a truth that must continually be remembered by those like us. Like a never ending chant, like a cry to the heavens.
“Look within your heart, and tend your soul much as you tend your garden. It is the same. A broken wing does not mean you cannot fly again. Together as we talk, laugh and cry we can bear our scars.”
I leave them with a smile and a wave. I walk out onto the finger of rock and sit at its end, as if the sea were a seat to rest upon. In the morning I return to my garden, to the rumble of misty falls and luxuriate in the safety and love of that place.
The new ritual does not heal me, but it gives me comfort, soothes my heart when it’s troubled.
Each night when I walk to the end of the jetty, I see the demon pacing in the glint of the moonlight far out on the rolling waves. It beckons me. Always there, always looking. Always taunting, but I have the courage to simply watch.
No matter how much I cry or how hard I grip the jagged rocks which bloody my hands, I will fight despite the pain. I fold my arms about my knees and howl at the moon.
I am in the dark, insane but not alone. I hold on, my scars a souvenir.
Like the sun that burns the sky and fades at night, we live and die.
With the passing of each night I, like the sun, live to rise and ignite once again.
I will always be here. On my island.