dancing with wolves

Today I want to write about my favourite book. There are many which have touched or fascinated me with their ideas but only one which seems to be written about me. That’s Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Actually, it’s not exactly my favourite book that I want to write about. It’s about me. Through it.

The first time I’d heard about the book was from my friend R. at the Beglika Festival. At that same festival another friend of mine had told me he couldn’t recognize me. That something had changed in me. I didn’t know what to answer him but I somehow suspected the reason I wasn’t smiling wasn’t only because one of my front teeth was missing in half. (It was filed down in preparation for a future crown.)

I lent it to me and I began to read it while selling second-hand school books at a Sofia used book market at the end of the summer. I read it in the Czech Republic, in our small flat on Thomayerova Street in Usti. Inspired by it, I suppose, I started writing a story about a different version of me who was leaving her lover and starting traveling. The beginning of that story is still in my computer in a folder called “Eat Pray Love Wannabe”.

Then Dad passed away.

I forgot about the story.

We moved to Bulgaria.

We got married.

I got pregnant.

We moved to the Czech Republic.

I gave birth.

I became a mother.

It was hard at first.

Then it got less hard.

Then it got easier.

And while becoming increasingly better at understanding my son, at cleaning the flat and thinking up what to cook after he also joined the family meals… I was sinking deeper and deeper into a bog. First I only blamed Lukas, then only myself and finally both of us.

I don’t mean the mild form of postpartum depression that I went through and that was most probably just a combination of exhaustion, a few mistakes of mine and not especially generous circumstances as a whole.

I mean something else. Something I had forgotten about during pregnancy and the first, intense months of motherhood. But when things settled down, when my life acquired a rhythm and my body became cyclical again, I remembered. Right, I was the woman who had stopped smiling.

And it turned out I still am.

“Why?” I asked myself. And, searching for an answer, I set off on a painful journey inside of me. A labyrinth of roads. That was in me. And it still is, actually. Becoming aware of the “right path” is nothing more than becoming aware many paths are right (it can also be that a few different paths are right at the same time). That’s cool. That gives you the right to choose.

It’s possible that, if I had reached for a different book in this turning point of my life, another path would have seemed the right one to me. But I reached for Women Who Run With The Wolves. I wanted to read from it so bad that, without thinking too much, I ordered it. And pretty soon it came to me. Smaller in size, sweeter smelling, with a better cover (I firmly believe book covers in Bulgaria, excluding those from Janet publishing house, are tasteless at best) and smaller font and, most importantly, in its original language.

(I remember, when I was first reading it, it took me a hundred pages to get used to its language. Now it took a paragraph! If you’re planning to read the book, please do yourself a favour and read it in English. So much is lost in the Bulgarian translation – it might have happened in other translations as well.)

I was reading those lines:

(After the author has enumerated various ways we can touch upon our true nature: )

“Yet, it is these fleeting tastes which come both through beauty as well as loss, that cause us to become so bereft, so agitated, so longing that we eventually must pursue the wildish nature. Then we leap into the forest or into the desert or into the snow and run hard, our eyes scanning the ground, our hearing sharply tuned, searching under, searching over, searching for a clue, a remnant, a sign that she still lives, that we have not lost our chance. And when we pick up her trail, it is typical of women to ride hard to catch up, to clear off the desk, clear off the relationship, clear out one’s mind, turn to a new page, insist on a break, break the rules, stop the world, for we are not going on without her any longer.”

And while reading, I caught a scent of the woods in autumn. My steps upon the dry leaves were soft; they thudded lightly as I ran, didn’t hit the earth hard like human steps do. I was free. I was senses. I was a wolf. Then I was filled with the distant, darkening blue of the sky which is at that distance and with this colour only in autumn. In September – my time for beginnings, for new adventures.

I hadn’t felt anything like this for so long! To Estes, that’s clear – it’s the voice of the Wild Woman.

And to me? Before she gave it a name (or before I read that name in her book anyway), to me that was something inexplicable but familiar. The scent of wild thyme. That’s what I called it informally. The thyme was the key, unlocking the doors to the River Beneath the River, the wild world, the spiritual, the creative. Not another type of flower. Only the thyme, which covers the bare hills surrounding the village I grew up in.

Right there, behind the football stadium, near the big hole in the ground which would get full of snow in the winter and which we’d jump into. I was right there in one of my most powerful dreams. A dream where nothing happened but everything that is was. It smelled like thyme. The light penetrated everything; it was warm, near sunset-like but without a particular source. I was just there. Happy. That universal kind of happiness described by people who meditate or those who’ve come back from death; the type I thought I didn’t know.

I do know it.

Jean Liedloff, the author of The Continuum Concept, describes a similar moment from her childhood, albeit a real one. A trunk covered in moss which she sees in a clearing in the woods and which gives her that same feeling of absolute peace and happiness. I thought she had been blessed. But hey, it’s not only she that’s blessed. I had just forgotten about that dream.

I have not always needed the key to the other world. There was a period in my life when ideas and images were simply flowing out from that world. I only had to reach and catch them, announcing them mine. They most often came while I was writing stupid low-paid news and articles. They came with some sort of a smirk. “Enough with that junk already, here’s something better for you.” So I opened my journal, or Word, or a new WordPress post and I wrote.

What happened with that world?

Why did the Wild Woman stop speaking?

Without knowing the exact answer, I’m sure that question is identical to the question “Why don’t I smile anymore?”

I haven’t finished my journey yet, not at all, so I’m not sure the moment I lost the Wild Woman in me is the moment of my first requited love for a man. But so far the traces have been leading me right there.

Because no matter how lost I was, at least I could trace my way back.

Here something in me – some woman in me – starts laughing, both triumphantly and generously. I can trace my way back because the Wild Woman in me has never left. Despite her increasingly weaker voice, she’s been leaving trace after trace. Dates and years included.

I don’t mean anything abstract here. I mean my journals. I only need to look at my notes from February to see the traces clearly:

1 February – wandering

12 February – the abovementioned vivid vision of me running on fallen autumn leaves with my four paws, catching a slight smell of smoke in the air. I’ve entitled the note “glimpses of wild” – I can’t say it any better.

19 February – falling, reaching the bottom

24 February – awareness

On 24 February I realized this entire pursuit of happiness had been in vain. The right way had always been close to me. In some magical way, no matter which path I had been heading on, parallel to it there’d always ran another, a wilder one, darker and more overgrown. My path.

What kind of a path is it? The funny thing is some of you, the readers of that blog, can see the path better than I used to see it. The path is writing, of course. Writing is my way. The wild path I’d been dropping by on for thirty years of my life already but which I’ve never managed to turn into my main route ahead.

Writing is my passion. Writing is what I’m best at. Not news or article writing, not writing things for someone else. The writing of writers. I tremble at those words because I’m not a writer. I’m not, right? I just write in my free time and so far haven’t earned a cent with it. This means I’m not a writer, doesn’t it?

„No,” that woman in me says, annoyed, rolls her eyes and stirs her coffee. “Darling, when you acquire a bit more self-awareness, call me.”

Anyway, you all get what I mean by saying I’m not a writer. And why am I not one?

On that same 24 February I went back through the years to find an answer to that question: “Why am I not a writer?”

I see myself at about 8-9 years of age, when I sit next to my younger sister and we both turn empty notebooks into novels about animals.

I see myself in the village library where I’m the most regular visitor and where the librarian grabs books away from my hands because I read them one after the other, without selecting them, thirsty for words. “Don’t read that, it’s about partisans; choose something else,” she says.

I hear my elder sister worry there’s something wrong with me because I read too many books.

I remember how, as little kids, we sit on top of a Kamaz truck bodywork which has been parked in front of the house for months, and I read to my girlfriends love songs that I’ve written. One of the older girls from the neighbourhood tells me: “It’s weird that you can write in such an authentic way about things you don’t know a thing about.”

I can.

And there, I get to a very important moment. I see myself in G.’s room. He’s a poet and artist from Burgas who my younger sister went to drawing lessons to. I’m there with a poem of mine that I like pretty much. He reads it and says it’s worth nothing. More than twenty years have passed since but I still remember that feeling.

On 24 February I asked myself: would it have been different if, in that moment, my mother had told me: “Don’t worry, Tonte (the way she calls me), there will always be people who won’t like your works. That mustn’t stop you.” She didn’t say it to me though. I just stopped going to G.

I. told me it’s stupid when someone makes excuses with the fact he wasn’t supported by his parents. It’s stupid to make excuses and do nothing else, yes. But come on, all of you who, unlike me, have the courage to call yourself writers, artists, musicians; tell me (tell me! There’s a comment field under the post.) – did your parents support you? Did they take you to courses? Did they look at your works? Were they proud of them? Did they invest their money in you? Did they buy you materials/tools?

I’m especially interested in the answers of those who’ll say “No.”

Anyway. Parents are important. But making excuses is stupid, indeed. After all, I can always imagine I’m an orphan, right? There are orphan writers, aren’t there?

Then why am I not a writer? Procrastination? Not enough self-confidence (where do orphan kids get their self-confidence from?)? A subconscious belief that one cannot support himself financially with that (which is true, of course, but usually writers works something else in their free time and not the other way round – write in the time that’s free from work)? What? What?

It’s quite hard for me, so, if I decide not to make excuses with my parents, the only answer that seems clear and right is procrastination. And so, I’m not a writer because I’ve been lazy.

I’m not a writer but I’ve always written. More or less. My journals impartially note the periods where no ideas have come to me. So does my blog. In the last few years, when the ideas stopped coming altogether, I turned it into a chronology of the events in my life. A predominantly particular one, although anyone who knows about this blog and reads it also knows that I can write even the most particular stories in an abstract way. I stopped sharing poems and mediations, photographs and songs that inspired me and I simply told stories about what was happening to me.

The main reason, of course, is that I moved to the Czech Republic and I had to tell stories in order for my friends to know what was going on with me. The stories about travels and adventures and the fact we see each other only once a year, and in the summer when everyone’s his most sparkling self, must have left them with the impression everything is all right. That I am happy.

But I’m not. I’m the girl who doesn’t smile.

(Author’s note: is it weird that I’m 30 but still calling myself a girl? :))

At a particular point, I was sure my unhappiness was due to my emigration. But it’s not. My happiness is Home and my Home is not in Bulgaria. It’s neither in the Czech Republic. It’s nowhere. It’s everywhere. Or at least has the potential to be everywhere.

My Home is writing.

On Arts Street.

In the town of Abstract Thought.

In the state governed by the right hemisphere of the brain (which is located anywhere in the world where there are brains :)).

And I lost it. And, tracing my way back, I can see I’ve known this for a long time. I’d known it when I wrote a post on losing your soul in the process of falling in love (available only in Bulgarian here). I’d known it while I was writing my wedding speech. I’d known it as a person who voluntarily leaves home in order to go to somebody else’s. And now I know it as a person who’s attempted to go back home but hasn’t found the way. I know it much more painfully now.

No smile, no ideas, no laughter, no direction. All this because of too much happiness. (Estes talks about the too much and too little of things in her book.) Because of a few months spent in a state of flying after which I lost the ground I was supposed to land onto.

Anyway. I’m somewhere else now. I don’t even entertain the notion of looking upward to the sky. My work goes under, goes deep. There’s just a thin layer of earth between me and the abyss. “I walk on wafer sheets,” as I have written in the very first note of my very first journal. Each step is light and measured. Because I have no intention to lose again what I recently found.

I know something important from a book on permaculture I read some time ago: earth – soil – is a living thing. If we take good care of it, it grows. Year after year there’s more of it. If we don’t fertilize it with the right things, if we treat it with harmful substances, we destroy it. Year after year there’s less of it.

“Hey,” I turn to that woman in me.

“What is it? You’re self-aware now?” she looks at her nails, concealing her interest.

“Never mind that. Can you lend me a pair of gardening gloves?”

“Darling,” that’s the smile I need, “there will be enough time for your manicure. First, though, there’s a lot of dirt that has to get under your nails.”

“I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do.”

“You’re not?”

I answer with a smile.

She is pleased.

*

What I’m supposed to do, of course, is to write. Letter after letter, seed after seed, little rows with white space between them. If you look at them from above you’ll see a garden.

*

It’s not easy to make a garden when in the physical world there is a child, a man, a flat, and pretty soon a house and a job waiting for you. It’s not easy to explain to your closest people that you’re not one but two. That sometimes you’re a mother, wife, a working woman but other times you’re a she-wolf. That, when you’re a she-wolf, you forget about them. That you have to forget about them because your path leads you into the woods and there you need all your senses. You cannot be distracted.

It’s not easy to change worlds all the time. To be somewhere else when your child is asking for attention. It’s not easy at all.

Mad people are good at jumping from world to world. But there’s a huge difference between mad and creative people. The former can’t control the process. And the latter learn to do so. Two legs in one world, then two legs in the other, hop, now a leg in each world – it’s hard, keep your balance, keep your balance. If you can’t hold it any longer, just enter one of the worlds for a while.

A dance which is never the same but which we invent as we go. A dance that exhausts us but we can’t do without. A dance that I believe can bring that balance in life that we call happiness – as long as we spend enough time in both worlds.

I am still going to write to you about the things that happen to me.

But also about the ones I make happen.

And if you ask me how I am, what I’ve been doing, that’s the answer:

Dancing. With kids. And wolves.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. mysterious girl says:

    Antonia, you are my favourite writer.

    I´ve never been big on reading. I was the kid who read zero books during summer holiday, while my friends managed to read 5 and note it in their journals.
    Names rarely stay in my head. Im the worst person to ask “Can you name some of your favourite writers… or film directors?”
    Nooo…not really.

    Its such a vague excuse, but I live in the moment when reading, watching or listening. I enjoy, realize new links, grow internally. Im often so lost in my own thoughts, that I forget searching for the creator´s details.

    Just because you asked for it: My parents have provided me with the tools, payed for my lessons. But they almost never showed interest in what I have created. They almost never came to see me play in concerts, to see my exhibition. It still makes me sad. It probably has to do with the fact Im also not able to call myself an artist, all myself a musician.

    Im also just the silent witness. I maybe write one comment in two years.
    Im not married, not a mother yet. I don´t enjoy any stories from mothers, stories about perfect relationship, stories about complicated relationships. Can I name any of my favourite blogs? Noooo….but actually – your blog.

    I come back to this blog just to check if you have a new story posted here. If you have – I read it immediately, not waiting for anything. I understand everything you are writing about, truly feel it and it brings me joy.
    It is for sure given by the fact I have met you and every person you are mentioning in you stories before. However, we have not met or been in contact in many years at this point.

    I just want to let you know that I appreciate your writing very much. I feel like people are not giving you enough credit for it.

    Thank you for doing this and don´t feel bad when life gets in the way and you are not writing for some time, it´s okay.

    Like

    1. Агамоница says:

      Hey, thank you so much! I cannot tell you how I long for some feedback or comments on the stories I tell. They come so rarely. Well, quite a few people have commented in person which I should definitely aknowledge. I am very happy that you can relate to what I tell. I know the feeling because I myself have favourite writers whose stories I anticipate and stop everything I’m doing to read.
      And you ARE a mysterious girl! I guess you’d like to stay private, otherwise you’d sign with your name but I’m just so so curious… I’ll leave this sentence like that. 🙂

      Like

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