Margaret says there are daffodils under her lilac tree. And I saw snow drops a little over a week ago , also in Vancouver, when Sarah drove me to a follow-up appointment.

Snow drops are one of the symbols of the goddess Bridget (who became St. Brigid to Christians.) Her feast day was on February 2nd. The spring quarter of the year in the Celtic calendar, Imbolc, began February 1st. “Under the blanket of Winter we nestle, sleeping the sleep of the newborn, the sleep of the seed. All is contained within us – all future possibilities, all growth, all knowing,” my We’Moon calendar says.

I’ve always loved spring out here on the west coast when the garden centres open in February. Winter really was a season of rest for me and what was nurtured in the dark is now sprouting to life. I have no idea what life will be like when I’m walking on two feet again. (Physio will begin soon!) I could say – when I get back to my life. But of course I’m not getting back to life, this IS my life.

Perhaps there will be activities I’ll enjoy again but I like to think my life isn’t on hold. I think of my friend Sharron who continued living life to the full during her four-year cancer journey. (Sharron died on December 6, 2015.) And I remember the couple I called Armand and Reine-Marie at the Cancer Society lodge in Vancouver, continuing to live their lives despite Armand’s lousy prognosis.

Recently I got Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life off my bookshelf. It’s a book I’ve really appreciated. This time I re-read the chapter about Marion Woodman, the Jungian analyst who had cancer in the mid-nineties and wrote about it in Bone.

Her chapter in Stephen’s book is “When Difficulties Arise, See Them as Dharma.” As he says: “Your dharma is the work that is called for from you at this moment.”
Marion’s books on the relationship between the psyche and the body in titles such as Addiction to Perfection (about eating disorders) are known around the world. She has worked with Stephen Cope at Kripalu as well as with many others in offering “lively collaborations.” I remember attending an Ontario retreat centre in the early nineties for a weekend with Marion Woodman and Robert Bly. I’m now wondering about the timing as Marion was diagnosed with cancer of the endometrium in November 1993.

“When [God] is moving you toward a new consciousness, you need to recognize the winds of change at once, move with them instead of clinging to what is already gone,” Marion wrote in her journal.

Marion Woodman pared away everything that was not her new dharma. I suppose I did that too, with disappointment. I didn’t attend a couple of poetry retreats I had signed up for or offer writing circles in the fall as I usually do. Sarah and I didn’t travel to Ontario to see my grandchildren or to Kelowna to see my father’s widow.

I’m going to get a copy of Bone and read more of how Marion made the journey into parts of herself that had been “exiled to the basement and the attic of her body and soul.”

“The shadow may carry the best of the life we have not lived,” Marion wrote. “Go into the basement, the attic, the refuse bin. Find gold there. Find an animal who has not been fed or watered. It is you!! This neglected, exiled animal, hungry for attention, is a part of your self.”

Marion would spend hours each morning in bed with her dreams as Jung’s technique for discovering our exiled parts centred primarily around the analysis of dreams, Stephen Cope points out. “A dream not understood is like a letter unopened,” wrote Jung.

The turning point in Marion Woodman’s journey was her awareness that “cancer is an initiation — not an alien intruder.”

Marion Woodman teaches “that we cannot undergo initiation until we learn to live in paradox.” She says:” We learn to live in paradox, in a world where two apparently exclusive views are held at the same time. In this world, rhythms of paradox are circuitous, slow, born of feeling rising from the thinking heart. Many sense such a place exists. Few talk or walk from it.”

We tend to speed things up Marion says, to choose one side over the other. “As a result, we do not get the initiation.”

Daffodil-flowerI look forward to reading the whole of Bone.  And I open to the parts of myself that have been exiled to the basement. The fact that I have appreciated quiet time these several months could give me a clue. And the fact I chose “wander” as my word for this year, could be another. Words of Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet (Stephen Mitchell’s translation) come to mind: “What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours — that is what you must be able to attain.”

In the meantime, there are green shoots in our front garden, poking their way up through the soggy fall leaves. I have a scarf I left outside for the night of January 31st so I could bring it in on February 1st, the beginning of Imbolc, and have it infused with Brigid’s curative powers. Brigid’s mantel or cloth, brat Bride, can be used throughout the year as a healing from sickness and protection from harm. She is a goddess of fire: the fire of inspiration, smithcraft, poetry, healing and divination.