Standing Still in the Storm.
This month, I went on holiday to the Greek Island of Skiathos. My father and his partner are fortunate enough to have recently retired and bought a house on the island they have been visiting since 1988 – this is the 30th anniversary of their visits, the first time I have joined them.
I went with a firm intention to take rest, the first proper holiday I have had in 3 years. The first week went swimmingly, sunshine and heat, we spent every day on the beach, I rested in joy, in paradise with some of my favourite people. In the second week, however, things took a turn. A “cyclone like” storm developed in the Mediterranean, and our little island received some of the fall out.
We were house bound for a couple of days, venturing out only for meals, and to experience the strength of the wind on the beaches. It was a test. I was frustrated. The wind whipped up emotions and caused internal unrest, the opposite of what I had been hoping for.
On day ten of fourteen, amidst the storm, I revisited the beach we had visited in the sunshine a few days before. On the second visit, the sky was a moody dark grey, what were calm lapping waves on the shore had transformed into giant white galloping monsters, rolling in and up the beach reaching the cliffs, decimating the parasols and sun beds that had been left out due to the storm’s unannounced approach. To see this place in a state of such deep unrest, an extreme contrast within such a short period of time, was a shock.
To relate to a space as one minute restful, peaceful and relaxing, and in the next in chaos and turmoil was an experience that made me ponder. I related it inwards to my tendency to be effected by the weather and external events, and to the human tendency to veer emotionally under little pressure and in very short spans of time.
In that moment I decided to take my hair down, allow it to take to the full force of the wind whipping up around me, I stood still amongst the turmoil as my hair flapped erratically in the storm. Then magic happened, the separation between myself and the storm dissolved, it was like my hair was transmitting the power of the wind straight into my scalp, then pulling, sucking, extracting negativity. It was enthralling, and it unearthed within me a similar moment of joy and peace I had felt a few days earlier sat upon the beach next to the calm sea in the bright sunshine.
I thought some more: Beauty can come from disaster, destruction is a chance to rebuild, the calm rest was washed away, but replaced by awe.
I decided to stand restful amongst the unabashed chaos. It was a juxtaposition of internal calm and external turmoil. It was a lesson in letting go of my expectations, my petty desires to rest in a sunshine paradise, and a challenge to re-find this paradise internally. I stood in gratitude for being able to witness the power of nature, to recognise how it effects my inner world, especially during the changing seasons, which in England are abrupt, and to gain control of my psychological mirroring of the external. If that’s at all possible.
A conclusion ensued: the depth of the matter of rest was unearthed not in a restful atmosphere, but from the roughness of the disturbed sea and sky. The lesson was to find stillness amongst the turmoil, rest the mind, be unwavering, find strength in disaster, stare ahead and be grateful for a changed experience, embrace the opportunity to move through it. Unrest and change can uncover new treasures, new approaches, and a refreshed inward focus.
After all of my dreaming of a beach retreat, a recuperation aided by a still warm sea, it appeared that the perfect place to consider rest, was not on the beach, in paradise, it was within the most unrestful meteorological unfolding. It was in the centre of destruction and turmoil, that I discovered how to properly rest and be with myself.
In this edition of Wake up screaming, 10 artists talk about their relationships and experience with rest, serial contributor, JEMontclair presents us a meditation on the hummingbird. Mita Solanky and Jodie Drinkwater offer us some thoughts on Autumn. Nathan lewis Williams offers wise words on death and Johanna considers how rest can heal relationships. Elli Lestas talks about how rest in nature informs her work and another serial contributor, Robert Caspary ensures us that rest is a luxury and despair is the optimum place to discover meaning. Laura Potts includes some poetry on the theme of loss. Finally I embark on an epic confession of a lifelong habit I have found the power to let go of, thanks to rest.