Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A One Year Old's Wisdom

Birthday Cake. Copyright Andrea Paterson. Amaranth Road Studio. 2013.

If he is young, then I am old. If he is one then I should be wise beyond measure, but the wisdom promised with age is a unicorn thing. Perhaps extinct, perhaps a creature that only existed in wildest imagination. The glimmering horn of knowledge protruding from the third eye is the stuff of myth, something out of reach.

I am beginning to think that we have it all backwards. That we are born with stores of wisdom locked up inside pre-verbal minds. Our knowledge is all feeling. Just raw emotion that pours fourth and a perceptiveness that we will never recover once we are ruined by too much talking, too much television, too much stimulus from every side.

We each began our lives in the stillness of water, in the darkness of Mother,  in the forever rocking world that was all warmth and being held forever. Being born into the light it seems we carry with us a bit of that first silence and an ability to feel everything without the barrier of carefully constructed defenses. I have never seen such pure joy as on the face of my small son, nor have I seen such unmasked sorrow. He flies between emotional extremes, and yet takes it in stride. He is capable of feeling the depths of despair and the most soaring happiness in the space of minutes. He lives for the moment because moments are all he has.

There is a story that says that the gap in a baby's skull connects them to the spirit world, to the place from which they came. As it slowly closes during their first year they become more deeply rooted  in the physical world and their grasp on the other plane becomes more tenuous. I find it interesting that children begin to speak right around the time their skulls fuse. It's as if they were speaking in a different way, to invisible beings, in another world for awhile, and only when they are completely rooted here do they begin to take up our own modes of communication.

My one year old has yet to utter his first word and when I run my hand over his head I can still feel a slight depression, a softness that still pulses quietly. Perhaps he still belongs partly to another place and so I think he is wise and that I have forgotten more than I will ever know. I don't know what it is to trust the world implicitly as he does. I have forgotten how to wake up each morning smiling and expecting all good things. I repress my tears and repress my exuberance and repress my voice, but he lives with absolute freedom.

To my son, at the end of your first year, I hope that you will carry forth just a tiny portion of your confident nature, that you will allow yourself to feel deeply even when the world says that you should shut yourself down. I hope that you will remember that its okay to cry because our tears can heal us. I hope that you will hold on to your capacity for joy and your deep curiosity. How quickly we forget what it is like to be a child. You won't remember these early years but I will remember them for you and carry forward your spirit of exploration, intensity, and excitement.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Night Terror

Spiderweb Composite cropped
Night Terror. Photo copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013*

Since I was 16 I have occasionally suffered from night terrors. This is a sleep disorder most common in 5-7 year old boys and generally in children aged 3-7. The fact that mine didn't start until I was a teenager and have continued to plague me into adulthood is rare. My brain is a special kind of screwed up I guess.

No one knows what causes episodes of night terror though stress and alcohol can be contributing factors. My initial experience with them coincided with a period of intense anxiety, but episodes since then seem random.

What happens is this: about an hour after I fall asleep I suddenly wake up in a state of extraordinary panic. This is often accompanied by disorientation and the experience of terrifying dreams while partially awake. Waking up to find myself covered in spiders, bugs, or snakes has been common. I will then thrash around violently trying to get rid of the insects in my bed, while screaming. This is not a nice thing for people around me and can leave me in a state of confusion and panic for hours.

I hadn't suffered from a night terror in years until last night. I fell asleep around midnight only to wake up at 1:15 a.m. to the sound of a bloodcurdling scream that turned out to be me. My poor husband was also wrenched awake in a complete panic wondering what was wrong. I had no idea what was going on. I vaguely remember having a nightmare but can't recall the details. That might be a good thing given the intensity of my terror and the extent of my scream. I have inklings of something/someone coming to kill me and a vision of glowing red, maybe eyes. All I really know is that I woke screaming in absolute terror at some imagined monster that followed me briefly into the waking world.

After experiencing a night terror my conscious and sub-conscious worlds become tangled. I am left with a sense of dread that can't be attached to anything tangible. My mind convinces me that something awful beyond words lurks in the midnight shadows and might emerge into moonlight at any moment. While I have never feared monsters under my bed I certainly fear the ones locked up in my mind. It's scary when I spontaneously tap into a mental darkness that mostly remains tucked away.

I have often wondered where these night terrors originate. What is it in my psyche that conjures them? At the moment of their occurrence they are as real as anything in the concrete world. For all intents and purposes, and in relation to my physical response, the snakes and murders and spiders and monsters exist. I want to know what the brain is doing when it unleashes these powerful illusions. What purpose is being served in letting them come to get me?

To some extent they can be warnings of stress levels becoming too high, but I can't say that I've been particularly stressed out recently. But there it is--my mind flayed and shredded, revealing the darkest and most terrifying thoughts that it has ever held. I am frequently shocked at the complexity of the human brain and my own provides lots of opportunities for wonder at its oddity.

* The photo is my own but the elements used to build the composite belong to others. This artwork was built using a tutorial. Details and attributions can be found on the associated Flickr photo page. Click on the photo to head over to flickr for further details.

Friday, February 1, 2013


In ancient seasonal calendars February 1st is Imbolc which celebrates the mid point of the dark half of the year. It's a time for welcoming the returning light and searching for signs of spring. Here in Richmond we're having a very spring-like Imbolc. The day has been warm and fresh, with the sun even sneaking through the clouds occasionally. I went out for a walk to search for signs of the coming spring and found that the daffodils are sending up their new shoots already.

Spring Arrives. Copyright Andrea Paterson. Amaranth Road Studio. 2013.

I want to set an intention this year to live more seasonally--to engage with wheel of the year and really appreciate the shifts that come internally and externally with changing seasons. It's easy to miss the thrill of early spring if you're not looking for it. It's a subtle time, especially in Vancouver when spring sometimes seems like an endless extension of our rainy winter. I hope to pay closer attention and truly feel the slight warmth being carried in on the breeze, truly see the slow emergence of flowers.

I find that when I pay attention in this way my mind begins to mirror my natural surroundings--I experience a sense of promise, new growth, and a vague excitement that comes from surviving yet another dark winter.

In many cultures the new year is celebrated in February, coinciding with the first indications of winter's end. It makes symbolic sense and I'm happy to celebrate more than one new beginning this year! So go ahead--step outside today, congratulate yourself on emerging from the darkest months, and greet the small green tendrils that announce the arrival of brighter days. I would love to see any images that you have from your ramblings.