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Personal Volcanoes

Silver Lining by Carol Ann Duffy

Five miles up, the hush and shoosh of ash,

yet the sky is as clean as a wiped slate-

I could write my childhood there. Selfish

to sit in this garden, listening to the past-

a gentleman bee wooing its flower, a lawnmower-

when grounded planes mean ruined plans, holidays

on hold, sore absences from weddings, funerals,

wingless commerce.

But Britain’s birds

sing in this spring, from Inverness to Liverpool,

from Crieff to Cardiff, Oxford, London Town,

Land’s End to John O’Groats; the music silence summons,

that Shakespeare heard, Burns, Edward Thomas; briefly, us.

From April 15 to April 19 of 2010, airspace over much of Europe was closed. Planes were grounded by the Icelandic volcano that no newsreader could pronounce (Eyjafjallajokull). As Carol Ann Duffy wrote in her poem, this ecological disaster meant that plans were ruined, businesses dependant on air freight went under, people were stopped by a force beyond their control.

And the silver lining to this tragedy? Silence over London and decreased air pollution - not a big thing, I know, but there was something. It is just a small and very light illustration that from every dramatic upheaval comes peace - somewhere. When we are in our own personal volcanic eruption be it physical, mental or psychological this is impossible to see. Enforced grounding can give us a new creative perspective, focus and appreciation for what we take for granted.

The illustration for this blog is a cropped (to make it PG - Thanks Maria) illustration from Maria Carroll’s left handed ‘wobbly series’. This series is an experimentation in line drawing necessitated by an injury to her right hand. Maria is a visual and tattoo artist and her right hand is her livelihood. Right now she is grounded yet she is driven to create and is having to do this with her non dominant (submissive doesn’t sound right?) hand. Through constraint she is developing and creating new work and a new style. Her pause from work is hopefully giving her some headspace to think about the direction she wants her art to follow once she gets back to East Wellinkton Tattoos.

Lenin McClure is a second year student at National Centre for Circus Arts who had nine weeks off training due to a brain injury/concussion. Over this period not only was he not allowed to train but he also couldn't look at screens. Without a tv, laptop, iPad or phone to distract him in quiet times he was stuck with only himself and his imagination for company. He couldn’t watch other people’s routines or training online and so spent some of his time having to imagine tricks and sequences. The space also “gave me the chance to to work on my idea for my devised piece and really work out the meaning behind the piece and think outside the box” (Lennin McClure 7/2/17). On his return to training his body was fully rested, he had new focus and so many ideas! Despite the long break, he could still do the tricks he was working on before his injury. Over his break he had time to think about each of his tricks as he imagined his routine over and over in his head. This had enabled him to really understand the technique of each part of his routine. Usually when we are first learning physical things we rely on external cues; a coach’s words, how we look in the mirror or on video. When we have only our head to retreat to we come to understand things from the inside. This is a deeper understanding that usually comes with years of training. Lenin’s literal grounding forced a very physical person to step into his head. Hopefully the insights he gained in his enforced head space will carry on with him throughout his training and career.

I have wonderful mothers in my circle, those I teach, work with and are friends with know not to wonder aloud in my hearing “when will I get my body back?” Our personal grounding has been the exchange of our paid working lives into maternity leave. We have also had to accept our rounder post baby bodies that need to hold onto fat stores to provide exclusive nutrition for a whole other life. We have the volcano of sleep deprivation and incredible loneliness in adjusting to a new life with a darling (but not the best conversationalist) and incredibly needy new life. Our silver lining is obvious - the love we feel for our children is unsurpassed by anything we feel for anyone else, we love parents and spouses but it is so different to the glad sacrifices we would make for our babies. The result of maternity leave is often a shift in work focus - which is often demoted down our list of priorities. It is a clarification of our values and it is letting go of our old bodies. Wonderful women, your bodies have carried and supported and fed a whole separate being - you can’t give that back, do you want to?

When overwhelmed by “the hush and shoosh of ash” know that somewhere “music silence summons” plays.

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