Image credit: Deirdre Prins-Solani 2016
Plaiting. Not. The fast paced, finger racing kind in order to prepare for a rushed school morning but the plaiting, braiding, weaving which takes time. Bum cheeks flat on the ground head braced between two knees, wide forked comb stuck somewhere in between the seemingly endless brush of gorgeous hair. The three thick strands of hair held aloft by two hands on one person. The quiet, sometimes raucous chatter between age mates and an elder…that kind.
This image nudged my head for the longest time as three independent almost disparate stories crashed their way into my head and heart space. The first – witnessing the dispassionate story telling of a brutal killing, the second – experimenting with my camera during a photographic workshop and the third – practising the tree stance in yoga.
On witnessing the first, my body as facilitator went into survival mode; watching keenly the body and the eyes of the storyteller whilst carefully surveying the heaving heavy rasping sighing shoulders of all the listeners…simultaneously thinking carefully about the ways in which the story and its seismic waves could be contained and listening with care and presence to the storyteller. The telling and the listening far more gut wrenching with the knowledge that the one year old girl spoken of, who had been with her mom at the time of death, was now a young woman, someone I had worked with and appreciated for her incredible spirited being.
The second experience, of experimenting with my camera at dawn at Dalebrook Kalk Bay in Cape Town had me spending endless moments contemplating the effects on the body and mind of consciously slowing down the speed at which one “sees”. Playing with the shutter speed of the camera taught me an invaluable lesson about the perception of movement and change and how in order to adequately capture and communicate the immense power of the wave, one needed to slow down the “eye”.
The third experience, that of practising the tree stance in yoga, over and over again had me thinking about the necessity of earthing ones lower body in order to create the balance necessary to maintain the pose of calm and serenity. And how fundamental the breath is in sustaining this balance.
Listening to the ocean’s waves, watching them crash in slow motion, I caught myself synchronising my breath to its cadences. Listening to, for the story of deep heartache and searching, I found myself breathing deeply belly up. And whilst my eye flitted from shoulder to shoulder, observed how, eyes averted, sorrow escaped in rasps and gasps, recalling a grandie recount how learning to breath belly up has continued to help her through the waves of immeasurable grief which continued to beat at her.
Perhaps too many stories of loss? Perhaps too much pain? Have we become inured to each others’ story? How do we listen keenly, slow down our “seeing” so that the power of the story and the compassion asked of us by the storyteller does not lead to misunderstanding, callousness and hardened reactions?
Neither, for those of us who bear witness, become broken shells smashed on-shore…
Written to Paul Schwartz’ “Turning to Peace” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYSyy9LYxjA