from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 6 October 2014

harvest and dark harvests

It's apple time, and our orchard is abundant this year again. Last night's storm will have cast another few hundred to the ground, and we'll need to find more ways to dry and conserve what we can for the winter (there's been a good libation of windfalls to the harvest gods this year already, to the delight of badgers, wasps and birds, and a few tons of slugs, but we rely heavily on the food we grow through the year).

There's much to say about the apple, and I've said some of it elsewhere on this blog. (Blogger is currently doing its idiosyncratic thing and not letting me search for apple posts, so I can't link.) This is not where I'm going, though.

Autumn. Each season can offer us an opportunity, in its mirror, to look at where we have come since the last transition, what we have sown and tended, what we have reaped – or not. 

 Over the last few days I've been thinking about how, psychologically speaking, in addition to what 'good' crops we know we've harvested metaphorically, there is always a shadow harvest, too: the psyche seems to be ordered in pairs of opposites, one of which is usually an unconscious compensation.

You remember the tale of Sleeping Beauty? The 'wicked godmother' or 'wicked fairy' who ensured that Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on the poisoned tip of the spinning wheel can be taken to represent an energy, a complex, in our psyche which, if not given full entry into our conscious life, will subvert and poison from the shadows.

The 'poison' is neutralised by its being brought into consciousness: once we become aware of a complex, or a pattern, that is tugging our strings from our unconscious we are in a position to do something about it.

I have been thinking about the meaning, too, of taking a bite from the poisoned apple, a central motif in Snow White.

This has an echo in another fairy story, that of The Red Shoes. There's much to say about this one, too (and see Clarissa Pinkola Estes for more on how this plays out in a woman's psyche), but what's relevant to what I've been reflecting on is how we sometimes sacrifice a path that we know to be ours, 'hand made' and true, for something that looks appealing, or looks as if it will offer us an easier ride.

In the case of Snow White, despite her initial hesitation, she takes a bite of the poisoned apple held out to her by a farmer's wife, who is, of course, the jealous stepmother in disguise. Her hesitancy is the voice of intuition, which she ignores in favour of the sight of the juicy apple. Here, her 'weakness', if you like, is her appetite (though looked at through the lens of archetypal psychology, what happens is what's necessary as a wake-up call to the psyche), which overrides what she knows deep down is the right thing to do (or not).

In the Red Shoes, I see a similarity in the motif of the old woman in the gilded carriage, who offers the little orphan girl respite from her life of hunger and poverty. She holds out a 'poisoned apple' in the form of what looks like an easy ride; and as Estes points out, there's no reason why one shouldn't choose an easier ride.

The issue is the cost; the sacrifice of one's own passionate authentic life, hard though it might be at times, in favour of someone else's path, someone else's needs, or someone else's ideas and suggestions about how you might or should live.

I have done that a few times in my own life – thrown over a tough, financially-impoverished but soul-rich, fulfilling and rewarding path when someone or something has presented me with a facsimile, if you like, an opportunity, with the promise of more money, or a bit of security, or an easier time, or an opportunity to do something 'big', and failed to see the cost to myself and the occasionally darker motivations of the person offering (as well, of course, as my own neediness that is driving me).

Sometimes, this person is, for reasons of their own poverty, needing to siphon off a bit of your light and vitality. We could say that about the old woman in her gilded carriage. (And it's useful to remember too that these dark aspects that we meet 'out there' are also likely to be split-off aspects of ourselves: ones that we haven't integrated into consciousness.)

The last significant juicy apple held out to me that I bit into against my better judgement I was badly burned; or rather, it turned out later to be poisoned – a toxic experience for me, despite initial rewards. And I learned something from it. I could have listened to my intuition and remembered that our motives are so often mixed, under the surface, both others' and our own; and been willing to look at the undercurrents ahead of time. 

I have come back, as always, to knowing that my path is to reap my own harvest, and to be aware in advance that all that glitters is not gold, and of course its converse is true. 

We have much to thank our temptations and our 'opponents' for: not least the fact that they make us face our own demons and weaknesses, the way that we can be bribed off our true path, the way that we can ignore intuition because we're blinded by the look of a 'reward', the way that we can be naïve, trusting, foolish, inflated, egotistical. 

And so we can also turn around and collect in and neutralise our own dark crops, by making more conscious our own demands on others, our own less-than-selfless motivations, the way we might also play on another's weaknesses, the way our own needs show up.


  1. Couldn't be more apposite, Roselle, to what I think about constantly and will eventually end up in my novel, I hope. Today I've been thinking (in relation to Tom and others in TWR, and me of course!) about self-deception: how using the term itself is self-deceiving, in that I don't think I've ever been unaware of deceiving myself and know full well that instinct says – don't do this, no further – and I still say: I know, what the hell, I'll do it anyway, it might just work out in my favour (knowing full well it's not likely to, through this might be with hindsight). That's another thing: hindsight and self-knowledge.

    Anyway, I particularly recognised this: One's antagonist 'needing to siphon off a bit of your light and vitality.' I fell into that one too with my first marriage and several subsequent so-called 'lovely friendships' which turned out to be poisoned goodies. But then they've been necessary experiences with much learned – the first marriage making the second possible, as you know.

    On more glittering every-day things, my greed for fresh fruit picked from our own trees, planted and reared by us (though as you know, they demand little rearing, usually) does not always sit well in a sensitive gut like mine! They mean well and tut when I turn up like a greedy child dwarfed by their greater height and wisdom than mine and my wandering hand stays still.

    I'm writing again – hooray.Tiny steps but it feels good. You'll have something by mid-Nov unless something unforeseen happens. Funny how when writing feels good I wonder – am I deceiving myself? But it doesn't matter, does it.
    Thanks for communicating all that and providing me with some sense of sharing, community etc.
    Much love, Miriam.

  2. Miriam, thank you for being so willing to share openly your thoughts here, and it's always good to imagine others' nods of recognition!

    I'm sorry not to have been able to respond to your previous email, and was also sad to hear about your health issues.

    BUT what great news that you're writing again, Miriam, and in the swing - and what writer doesn't think now and then 'I'm fooling myself; I'm sure it's no good'?? Par for the course.

    With love to you both - Rxx


Blog Archive