Monday, April 13, 2009

The violence of metamorphosis

For Caroline, and every other soul who might not recognize the person she used to be.

I'm making my way through Rebecca Solnit's book "A Field Guide to Getting Lost." This particular passage stands out to me. I've read my journals from high school and college and have a hard time connecting with or even recognizing who I was back then. Thankful for the metamorphosis. And for the pact with my sister to burn all journals upon death.

In her essay "The Blue of Distance," Solnit describes captives in the early settlement of North America, who not only adjusted to captivity, but chose to assimilate, to accept it as her home, language and persona.

"But the real difficulties, the real arts of survival, seem to lie in more subtle realms. There, what's called for is a kind of resilience of the psyche, a readiness to deal with what comes next. These captives lay out in a stark and dramatic way what goes on in every life: the transitions whereby you cease to be who you were. Seldom is it as dramatic, but nevertheless, something of this journey between the near and the far goes on in every life. Sometimes an old photograph, an old friend, an old letter will remind you that you are not who you once were, for the person who dwelt among them valued this, chose that, wrote thus, no longer exists. Without noticing it you have traversed a great distance; the strange has become familiar and the familiar if not strange at least awkward or uncomfortable, an outgrown garment. ... Some people inherit values and practices as a house they inhabit; some of us have to burn down that house, find our own ground, build from scratch, even as a psychological metamorphosis.

... But the butterfly is so fit an emblem of the human soul that its name in Greek is psyche, the word for soul. We have not much language to appreciate this phase of decay, this withdrawal, this era ending that must precede beginning. Nor of the violence of metamorphosis."

~ Rebecca Solnit
excerpted from "The Blue of Distance"

(Butterfly courtesy


Dionne Sincire said...

sounds like a lonely existence.., and sadly i resonate all too well with this.

Rebecca Snavely said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Snavely said...

That's an interesting take Dionne -- I actually find it not lonely but so freeing, to find out who I really am, and to surround myself with people who understand even just a bit of who that is.

Dionne Sincire said...

well..., i guess because metamorphosis involves some type of death prior to the rebirth. dying in any context, when life seems to be teeming all around you can be disenchanting.