So I’m reading Woman and Nature and it was very weird reading this particular section. I started writing something about two years ago that I intended to be a novella but never finished it. It was tentatively called Caves. And this section of Woman and Nature is just so, so similar to this piece of writing it is freaky.
The following is from Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature:
Through the Labyrinth
to the Cave Where
She Has Her Vision
The shape of a cave, we say, or the shape of a labyrinth. The way we came here was dark. Space seemed to close in on us. We thought we could not move forward. We had to shed our clothes. We had to leave all that we brought with us. And when finally we moved through the narrow opening, our feet reached for ledges, under was an abyss, a cavern stretching farther than we could see. Our voices echoed off the walls. We were afraid to speak. This darkness led to more darkness, until darkness leading to darkness was all we knew.
The shape of this cave, our bodies, this darkness. This darkness which sits so close to us we cannot see, so close that we move away in fear. We turn into ourselves. But here we find the same darkness, we find we are shaped around emptiness, that we are a void we do not know.
The shape of a cave, this emptiness we seek out like water. The void that we are. That we wash into as sleep washes over us, and we are blanketed in darkness. We see nothing. We are in the centre of our ignorance. Nothingness spreads around us. But in this nothing we find what we did not know existed. With our hands, we begin to trace faint images etched into the walls. And now beneath those images we can see the gleam of older images. And these peel back to reveal the older still. The past, the dead, once breathing, the forgotten, the secret, the buried, the once blood and bone, the vanished, shimmering now like an answer from these walls, bright an red. Drawn by the one who came before. An before her. And before. Back to the beginning. To the one who first swam from the mouth of this cave. And now we know all that she knew, see the newness of her vision. What we did not know existed but saw as children, our whole lives drawn here, image over image, past time, beyond space.
The shape of a cave, the bud, the chrysalis, the shell, what new form we seek in this darkness, our hands feeling these walls, here wet, here damp, here crumbling away; our hands searching for signs in this rock, certain now in this darkness, what we seek is here, warm and covered with water, we sweat in this effort, piercing the darkness, laying our skin on the cool stone, tracing the new image over the old, etching these lines which become clear to us now, as what we have drawn here gleams back at us from the walls of the cave, telling us what is, now, and who we have become.
This round cavern, motion turned back on itself, the follower becomes the followed, moon in the sky, the edge becoming the centre, what is buried emerges, light dying over the water, what is unearthed is stunning, the one we are seeking, turning with the ways of the earth, is ourselves.
This cave, the shape to which each returns, where image after image will be revealed, and painted over, painted over and revealed, until we are bone. Where we touch the ones who came before and see their visions, where we leave our mark, where, terrified, we give up ourselves and weep, and taken over by this darkness, are overwhelmed by what we feel: where we are pushed to the edge of existence, to the source which sounds like a wave inside us, to the path of the water which feeds us all.
The way of the water we follow, which has made this space, and hollowed the earth here, because the shape of this cave is a history.
My piece of writing. Keep in mind that it is unfinished.
This cave could not abide by linear time; being cyclical in existence, existing in circular realities. The cave had no voice, no hands, no corporeal presence. This cave which is more than memory or myth; both less and more than real. Formed by the infinite power of story and will.
Of course, she is fenced off by their borders and their notions of nation. Territorial pissings. She both is and is not terra. She defies their nullius; she is the land that claims them. What fool is man.
Because she can exist outside their power. Because she has her own power and it stretches on, out of control. Wilder than the wilderness that she calls home. In raw and unbridled passion, in the wilderness of our minds.
She calls us. In the day and in the night, there are those of us that find her. Hidden in the deepest depths, those of our minds. And quietly, quietly she is seeking.
In the mist the last one arrived. Draped in the underwater clouds of fog. Beguiling sense. And in confusion. This was the last of her. She had no strength, she had much strength. She sank into the fog.
A densely coded oblivion.
These were the landscapes in her imagination. Here. In this silence. She couldn’t exist within the depthlessness of their space. She took the dive. She had faith that time existed further from their borders and their safety edges. If there was a fence, man-made or god invoked, she would climb it. Over and beyond. So far she had not stopped existing.
Only to their eyes. Only to theirs. But they couldn’t help noticing.
She pissed on their consecrated ground. She believed this was a spiritual act.
And this was a type of resistance. She didn’t break or crash, she passed through. A type of energy, greater than any kind of force that she alone was capable of.
Deep in the intimate regions. They call this regional because they have not yet destroyed it. She walked. She had discovered what it was that they called depth. It wasn’t enough. How could it be when she was walking underneath into a world that was older than their oldest thought? These trees held all the answers.
Deep in the intimate regions. She could forgive their transgressions, she would forget. For it was beauty that she sought. Here. It was her own beauty that she sought. Here.
Once they could have taught her to forget. Forget herself. Lose, lost, dizzy from they way they spun and spun and spun. A beautiful network of lies. They had trapped her once. Into this. And Oh Yes It Hurt. Like fuck. Like fuck.
She had heard all of their stories, she had listened to their wisdom. And she had known she was mad. Right from the beginning. Because the harder she studied their words. The harder she focused on hearing, seeing, living the way they told her to, and there was no other way. And in a sense they were right. There is no other way for them. But for her?
Sure. She could see through them. Straight through them. They were nothing in the end. And so she reached out and stretched out. Finding her madness. Another world. And it had always existed. Right in front of them. Right behind them. Right all around them. And they knew. And they didn’t know. Who was it that they were fighting?
She realised. We are shadows to them. Negative space. But the truth of our existence lies within this hidden cave. Dangerous to enter. Dangerous to whom?
She was once a great believer in Chaos but now she could listen and discern harmony, now she could look and see tapestry. And these were patterns of her making, held in her own hands. Their Chaos was petty in comparison. Their Chaos was nothing. Not even negative space. For it does not serve to shape.
And so she passed into the cave. Through the ages, through the years, and down, down into unconditional depths. No return from this.
It was easy. To flip a leg over the railing. To pause a second on the edge. To fall, with sense, onto her feet.
Because she did not own this land. The land owned her. And she could breathe and live and love with it. Like everything the attachment was cyclical and circular. Loving, as she did. This land that held her existed in the same space as the land that held her mothers, existed in the same space that held her daughters. This land that held her existed in the same space as the land that held her sisters and their arms stretched out and their arms reached out. This land; earth, sky and water. Arms that reached, and encircled.
Because this was the depth she had been looking for.
The cavern opened before her; she was pulled before its mysterious depth, drawn in by the fullness of the vacuity. Tapestry, harmony. Silk and salt, earth and rock, patterning palms. She could believe in this. She paused before the entrance, touching her fingers to the lips of the cave, turning her eyes to the darkness accentuated in the midst of the fog.
Red rock shot through with lines of coal and lime streaks, moisture dripping coolly down its sides making the floors slippery with moss.
She was sure of her imagination as the rock pulsed like blood-life beneath her palm. She was sure of her imagination as the moss layered the cave in skin softness as she pressed it to her cheek.
Again, she turned her eyes towards the cave; her eyes creating shapes, images of women forming and crowding the edges of her vision.
Deep and dark, different hues of black and midnight blue, taking the shape of stories long forgotten. And songs of ancient peoples, pulsating rhythmically through the stone and ore. Forward, like the pull of a river, like the pull of a storm, forward until she had no sense of time or space and there was only darkness.
Without fear, without conscious thought, she expanded her arms, pulling the cave into herself, filling herself with its memory. And she was dancing, dancing in the cave with magics all around, undulating with the tide of distant pasts and wary futures, bleeding with the blood of many women.
As she surrendered or was taken up by the passion of place, sensation on the edge of reason, belief on the edge of doubt. There were many rooms of the cave and as she passed by they awakened, brought to life by the presence of a soul who could hear them.
Each room sang its own song, kept its own time and she danced her way into story until she was overtaken by dream. She slept as she danced, danced as she slept, breathing the life of the rock, breathing in rhythm and rhyme, sleeping to the memory and wakening to song.
Here she comes.
Weird how similar they are. Woman and Nature was published in 1978, but I only read it recently.