Øyvind Holmstad CC
There is a basic troubling truth that haunts me, I have both acknowledged and refused to acknowledge it at various points in my life, and it is this: art both saves us and fails to save us, time and again. The basic rhythm we tie into is a mad kind of faith that somehow we’re able to redeem a small bit of what we carry on the back of whatever it is we’re wrestling to the ground in the form of a poem, a prayer, a wounded child’s protest: this shit just ain’t right!
I’m an optimist when it comes to what art can do for us, in large part because I was born in hell. I’m talking about perpetual storm country. I am almost certain you too must know that place. Not a damn thing added up in the world we were brought up in. And in the time when it mattered most, we were too small to fend off all that dark for ourselves, worse: the people creating all that dark were “our” people. It got inside of us, that dark, played tricks on our hearts, our heads, our bodies.
“Wounds of childhood are wells on fire.” writes Michael Eigen, “We cap them as we can and harden around them. We may try to suffocate the fire and sometimes nearly succeed. The fire may become a shriek.” I don’t know about you, but when I found writing I didn’t find my voice in it so much as I found my scream. There’s a mute muscle of faith that runs deep in us, calls us back to the land of the living kicking and screaming. Eigen calls it “Embryonic trauma growth,” I call it “whatever is near to hand.” Sometimes it’s the things that nearly destroy you, sometimes it’s the things that nearly save you.
But the saving part too fails us more often than I’d like to admit. Why did I make it and so many others I knew and loved in storm country didn’t? Why was I spared? It’s a useless question but I keep asking it. I didn’t have a special talent for surviving, I just did somehow. I wonder about the unseen hand of that somehow, but it’s just a question mark in the center of my life. I used to think that it’s because I one day found that I could write creatively about my own pain, but we all know that writing failed to be enough for many writers.
I keep coming back to this, and I know it now as the truest thing: it’s people, people saved me. Many forms and types of community. Well, they didn’t save me per se, only we can do that in the end, but they showed me that it was worth trying to hang around long enough to see what else might happen in my life. Of course the poems helped. But art, without other people to share it with, and now I’m talking life, because it’s all art in the end, is meaningless. We come together in different ways to learn the words to the same song: how do I heal? How am I still here? What do I do with it all?
What I’m trying to say is it’s a wonderful thing to gather here with other survivors of storm country. It’s in the gathering together of that long dark night that we find our light. No one makes it out of hell alone. You’re not alone. Say it with me: we’re not alone. For but a moment we carry each other in this way, with our capped wells of childhood fires, the hell and dark we’ve seen, and we turn to each other to remind each other that without this, the words don’t mean a thing.
It’s other people, this life, this place. May you each find a song or two here that feels as if it was written just for you. Whatever it is you’re going through right now, I hope that you’ll stick around for the next chapter of the story. Take it from a fellow traveler, it gets better. We get better. And not ever alone. No. We get better, together. Healing is many places, many ways, many people. We came such a long way to get here, from the place where “there is nothing but pain,” to the place that talks about that pain and more. That something more, it keeps growing, glowing. It’s the “darklight” we each, somehow, are for each other.
Till next time, friends... keep on being that light.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.