Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Three Percent Girl: The Chrysalis and the Coffin

artwork by Jaime Zollars
In its first moments out of the chrysalis, the butterfly voids a drop of excreta that has been accumulating during pupation.  This drop is frequently red and sometimes voided during first flight….A shower of butterflies may produce a shower of blood. The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation by Marion Woodman

 I’ve missed blogging from my heart. I’ve been quiet, observing, waiting until I could say what I need to say with equanimity, taking the advice I give my women blogging students.

 And so, here goes. I’m recovering recently from marital tension (particulars best left undisclosed, but entirely understandable after two, going on three years of two-city living). And so, my body has been the 3% host of my presence, with 97% of my awareness drifting in search of viable ground in an attempt to anchor my family again to the homestead where I try to restore the joint heart of the entity my husband and I created thirteen years ago when we said I do.

I do wonder what happens next. I do wonder why I’m at this juncture. Except it must be exactly where I need to be to grow, even if arriving at first flight involves the red rain Woodman refers to in the quote above. You can focus on the rain, or you can focus on the view from above, the wet, so newly unfurled wings.

But more likely, I need to position myself in the middle, neither observing the wings from an aerial perspective nor observing the fallout, but resting calmly, blindly, in the long black root of the thorax, where I do nothing but sense where wings begin and the rush of air on the downbeat and the up.

I see women’s fragility everywhere I go. In the locker room at the gym, a beautiful graying blonde in her sixties shyly tells me she loves my green dress, the thin black sandals I’m wearing. She used to wear sandals, she says. “But I can’t wear them, now,” she confides… “you know, varicose veins…” I watch her from the mirror where I’m Nefertiti-ing my eyes so I exist a little more, eye-liner for the self-esteem, her pale blue eyes darting away from mine.  On my way out I touch her shoulder, say to her, “You enjoy those strong legs of yours.” She laughs, and I hope she thinks about all the places they’ve carried her.

A female poet friend of mine, in response to my confusion, suggests burying something or a version of someone (metaphorically, of course) in response, to plant something new, to start over in order to restore trust. Her words drive me down to my writing cabin, where I stand in front of a piece of artwork my brother gave me three years ago by Jaime Zollars.

It used to hang in my bedroom, until a friend said to me, “I would never hang that image where I sleep.” I suppose for its graphic underworld content, how it might invite one’s dreamer to soak in the image, lead one into strange forests. But I am in a strange forest, and I find the image comforting.

I had some assumptions backwards when I first saw it, a little afraid, I was, just like my friend: why the red coffin beneath the little girl, the pale pink flower on the earth’s surface losing a petal in the wind, why does the child float innocently towards the flower, totally unaware that mere yards beneath her bare feet, the white spider of rootlets siphon a shade of pink from the coffin’s red for each pale petal above.

This time, I don’t fear some force swallowing the girl child from beneath, but marvel instead how the umbilical root cord releases her out of the blood coffin to the sky, ever a flower, primally, eternally in bloom, meeting a mirror image of herself on the earth’s surface.

There’s little left to do for now. Wait it out. Observe the heart mending. No seeing yet where the path leads from here. I can walk it alone but I would rather not. But is that either/or opposition accurate anymore, or useful? Time to grow up, again. Differentiate, but not fear it means the end, signals instead a beginning.

Which, in the course of a healthy marriage, I imagine you do—differentiate, take stock, take responsibility for power you may have relinquished, revisit the ground rules--over and over again. When you are both willing to grow.

 Hello underworld, hello fairytale perfectly suited to us both in this marriage. Classical music, to and from, everywhere I drive--the silver serenade of violins--traces the tiny fractures where adrenaline courses. I sleep with curtains open, the slight night wind pushing aside the tree branches just enough to give me a trio of stars, dual physical and astral anchor points, destinations from which I draw strength.

 Further Reading/Image Hunting:

The talent of Jaime Zollars moves me across selves, if that makes sense—the images, for me, bypass the rational, right to the soul, and accurately depict an array of emotional states we’ve inhabited as human beings, are inhabiting, fear inhabiting, love inhabiting, wish we could shift, and/or wish we could more fully inhabit. Whimsical and archetypal (fairytale meets totem meets high desert meets inner city), settings are often crowned with childlike folk, fragile but sturdy, the promise of resilience barely masked by their beautiful and deceptively innocent faces. See more of Jaime's work: Jaime Zollars.


Jeannette said...

I read this last night and didn't know if I could-should touch such a tender precious post by commenting...but it's not a comment so much that I want to make, but an outreach...a hello over the canyon over which you feel you are traversing on new wings.

Many times marriage doesn't get fully entered into for years. People "get married" but aren't yet, in their heart of hearts, in their inner identifies, truly married, that is of one flesh.

Sometimes a crisis becomes a door to entering in. When one faces the capacity that's in our hands to hurt one's mate and the precious potential of living in joint heart...some have the strength and character and hope to step back from that precipice and eschew the temptations that will leave ones mate dangling by neglected or damaged bonds.

Rather than burying something, while I understand the symbolic made physical...perhaps there will come a time where there can be an open public renewal of intentions and vows ... I love the image that when God forgives us, our wrongs are set as far from us as the west is from the east.

Another scripture of which I am particularily fond is that he who is forgiven much, loves much...

I am sincerely wishing the best for you and yours. Your heart writing is very potent in imagery and cogency, and that's a precious gift.

July 5, 2012 11:53 AM

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


Thank you for the hello and the more that comes with it--your kind and sage advice. I've come to be grateful for all that's transpired, and see the passing crisis absolutely as a gift helping me enter my own life more fully, as well as the life of the marriage (though I'm grateful to be out of the emotional storm). The unexpected turns are the ones that make us grow the most, aren't they?

And I love the idea of renewal of vows as well as the metaphors of forgiveness and distance (compass points), the scope of joy backlit by pain.

Something else I hear you saying, and admire, is the fostering of that impulse to withstand and stay rooted, to grow one's borders large enough to explore the joint heart despite adversities and unexpected trials. One can have a narrow expectation or version of both oneself and one's mate without realizing it. Thanks for your comment, Jeannette.

Christina Morley said...

Dear Tania,

I've read your post and the comments below. I like both comments very much and feel that there is nothing to add other than that I will pray for you and agreeing with both of you ladies that through the pain your marriage can go deeper and grow and blossom into more than what it's been over the past 13 years.

Also, I think my favorite paragraph was on women's fragility. You put this truth across so well. Thank you for being sensitive to people around you, even strangers.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


Thank you so much for your comment, and for your prayers. I know all of it matters, empathy, kindness, patience, prayers, and love from friends and strangers alike. Here's to blossoming.