One year ago, almost to the day, I crossed the Pacific Ocean to begin a new life in a different land. shortly before I left my band Ironwood released an album called Storm Over Sea, a sonic exploration of oceanic voyages as a metaphor for psychic transformation. For a song entitled “Will to Live,” I penned the following:
Lonely, lashing through the swell
Blackened sky of seething blight
Driven from forgotten lands
Into the sea’s raging night!
Hail-struck with self-disdain
Need-fire set our lives aflame
Thorn piercing the veil of pain
Longing for new Odal to claim!
Laguz light the way!
Ocean lured us to depart
Fled Alfheim, embraced Midgard
Wove our wyrd to wrathful waves
Praying Logr will ward our path
Sang oaths on bright-shining gold
Honest fearlessness to hold
When at last our fleet finds land
We’ll burn our ships and make our stand!
The significance of these sentiments resonates throughout me as I read over them now. Though they were written years ago, their full meaning has only now come into resolution. And I will embrace the sentiment.
I was born on a day of the year when the walls between worlds are considered thin. And often I have felt like the proverbial changeling, an otherworldly child swapped for a human at birth, ill suited to the dare and challenge of being present in a terrestrial, human world. Being what I am, existence in this world has proved a difficult problem, and if I have had some success in bringing myself into material manifestation it has nevertheless been tempered by much pain and reversal.
The will to be present in the world does not come naturally to me by birth, and too many times I have chosen to avoid the struggles that forge depth of character. Yet I have also striven mightily to reach terms with incarnate life, and it is true that my victories are many. The difficulty remains though: when one is coming from a long way behind, a great slew of advances may nevertheless seem to produce little progress.
I say this not in an attempt to extract undeserved sympathy; I am more than conscious that there are others in the world who have overcome much harder biographies and genealogies than I. No: I say this to express my determination to fulfil the vow of the lyrics of “Will to Live.” For truly those words were a vow, though I did not know it when they were composed.
My first year in this new land has been difficult. Many of the structures I have built around myself to allow myself to function emotionally and spiritually were left behind; yet somehow I expected myself to meet a slew of new challenges without any replacement for those supports, and this absurd expectation caused much gratuitous pain. It is only now that I recognise the extent of my self-inflicted folly. I am fortunate to be loved and known in this new life.
Well: I have burned my ships, like the Tuatha de Danaan on the shores of Ireland. If Ireland is incarnate life, then here I am, declaring myself to be for life itself, to be willing to grasp and reach and risk and dare. There was reason in my decision to throw myself into a new life: to give myself no more opportunities to avoid committing to the fine art of being present, of occupying my life.
For it is true that mind and body are one; and too long have I indulged a schizoid fantasy. I recognise that. If for a year I have tangled myself between acceptance of my path and absurd denial, then my errors and confusions stand redeemed in the perspective that I have been given. The encroaching threat of meaninglessness and bewilderment comes into a new light, and the sense and beauty of my chaos and lostness stands in relief.
So: the formula for a full life. One: acceptance of what is, unconditionally. No more fruitless rage and despair that the world does not gratify my every small desire. No more denial of the self-evident. Two: Lust for life. The willingness to reach out, to dare, to risk, to struggle. To embrace the joy of personal power, to cease to cut myself down in the name of supposed enlightenment. To embrace struggle as the terrain of transformation, not as an impassable foe.
“Riding is in the hall easy,
but very hard for the one who sits
on a powerful horse, over miles of road.”
I call my ancestors, literally and figuratively. I imbibe the infinite concatenation of liquid memory from which I am spun.
777 times the Norns I call.