CANARY IN A COALMINE

TWO SPIRIT

I think I am two people. Well, maybe more. They—we—all have voices. I look out through eyes at what I think of as world, but I see only streets and cars and walls, and yet I think I am an aspect, a mote, of earth’s hugeness. I think of fjords, and desert and gorillas and wide sky but then I realise this is me thinking.

ME

An invisible person’s imaging. From what? Books? Opinions? Social media image postings? I think I know Cuzco and Hippopotamus and mange on dog’s back, and the ways of love and raiding of ancestors, but is that true? Except boats. I have lived experience of ship and boat, and I am called Captain by a bank.

Images are made from books, unless I stand, one day, before the weight of Lascaux, within cave of Binomil, upon the sand around Uluru where lizards watch like old people, or under green lights, called Wawatay by some, and Guovssahas (the light you can hear) by ancestors of this flesh and bone and blood body. But I have not seen.

I have to see or else I am full of deception.

DUPLICITY

From the tellings of a school room that had four walls, and desks to divide us and keep us from sitting in long grass or beside Mother River, and brainfry bells, and rigid standards of behaviour. And uniforms. And god save some queen who didn’t do the same for what Gondwana has become, or India or Africa, or America, or—oh stop this mind from ranging like a satellite, recoding digital frames of reference that are made of ones and zeros. Is the I of us mere interface? Perhaps. Different schoolroom to the one around the corner, or catholic one, or Steiner one, king’s college, mission school. Or the many ones that sit around a fire with elders who tell stories that sound real but might not be.

ALWAYS QUESTION

One person is deep-voiced. Rich in root wisdom. Not afraid. The other lives in that person’s shadow. Hears and sees the past, the reality that a past thinks it has created, or that created us from a pierced cell. But is it real? Was it real? Do we remember what we are told to remember? Do we ask questions of people of authority who have learned wrong things and yet now are bowed to, called expert, as though what taught them was important because of a thought? That importance is a box? Expert is a box. Knowledge is information and so is persecution and loss? And grief and howling and the groan of giant tree as she breaks from her growing at the axe who was invented by thought. Who became expert. Who is killing, when killing is what brings life? Or so it is said.

MIRRORS? CONFUSED BY CEASELESSNESS

There’s this cube. And there is light in here. And cube is made of mirrors and I sit in a centre and observe infinity. Which person—amongst that countless terror of an overpopulated me—is sitting in a centre? What is a centre? When Mind leads me, like I am a clan and a population of perspectives and images, to think of me as me, can I have got it upside down? This body.

THIS BODY

How is it that I was convinced? Was I convinced? I don’t remember. That there is one of me. And there is also the question of who that is? Is it the name I am called by? That seems way too limited, when thoughts come from unknown directions to colonise consciousness with importances that are dust, really, when the whim of flesh is misdirected. When that dust rises and chokes. When the mold inhabits joints and lungs. When the Hidden, that causes diseases and despair, refuses to show self. Themselves, itself, self?

I live in a tragedy. And I live a life that is heroic. And none of it is real. Except this room and these words that somebody else is writing. How do I know the writer is somebody else? Because she is braver than I. I am beaten by memories that highlight wonder but hide bruises and humiliation because they might mark me. Might lay a scent on me that attracts daemons.

DAEMONS

A word misused, about some ghost (someone thinks), some fright, some visitation like succubus or incubus, or whisperer that might just be the truth. Daemon that once meant god. We’re attacked by them. I call them colonizers because they changed sometime. Got greedy. Don’t ask permission to storm a gentle morning with headlines. Someone’s conniving words.

Words are all we are. And meat. And a mess of conflicting realities all overlapping to produce some kind of relativity that seems like self. Oh, the stories we have convinced ourselves to be.

I am not one person. So “I” is a misnomer. I have to choose one to present to others. I have to wear a thought-form that represents a series of strung-together concepts that cannot all be real but feel as though they are.

I know this to be true because I don’t know anyone outside me—not really—because I think… I think… I really sometimes fool myself and think I know them, only. But that is them doing that, and the I of us make up a collection of observations and listenings, and I call that “you”. But that can be such a lost way of thinking.

THINKING

That’s what is done. Then action based on thinking. Especially if we connect with a construct that has an equi-distinct construct: thinking that seems like same. We then think, Ah! So thinking has mate. Has threads that seem like others who think. Has companionship. So war is made.

This morning I read a friend’s question: what is freedom?

TRIGGERS

Freedom is such a within-thing. It is terrible, because do I even know what this word means? Is it a word that emerged from Mind to cause a memory? Yes. But we are back at the beginning of the circle, because memory is one way, or another way, depending on who does the thinking.

I’m sitting on a chair. In a small room. With light from a window. And two people talk as me. Two people. One is wild and untamed and courageous and intelligent. What a baseless sense of self is that? An amalgam of words that indicate a ‘ness’. I have created her to enable functioning in a world that I only think I know. The other cowers behind her and darts, like a squirrel, from memories of worthlessness and invisibility, to remembering a newborn at my breast. Which is real? Or is cube real and we are impossibly all that ever could be, hiding in the seeming-smallness of a single body. But that’s not true either. Because someone told me that human animals are bacteria and viruses and atoms of vastness and electrical storms of synaptic relationship.

And we all wear skin, as though separation is the reason for thinking and doing being different, eventually. But who is in skin? Who is this I?

THE LIE

Is this what modern texts term “mental illness” as though mind and thought and brain and consciousness and conceptualisation are somehow separate to self? Separate to body? Is that what the pills (called medication) are for? I—this person who is courageous and intelligent—hides from those who would label her. Who would pill her and say, there, we were right. We are always right. While squirrel says please give me the pills.

But I keep her silent.

How dare I? Think. It’s a god-thing. A complex of importance in consciousness that has no validity to mountain and river and fjord and forest and desert. Or is that all imagination because of this little room? And people like Jane Goodall are stories? Of species encountering species that should not, could not, dare not be in communication anyway. That that is all made up and Jane is dust in a tomorrow that never comes because none of this is real and someone else, who also thinks they’re me, has agreed to the deception. No, not deception, imagined ness?

TWO SPIRIT

I agree. Not that there is necessarily a choice. That’s also a stream of consciousness. But I know I am more than one of anything. I think that if I sit and really listen, others will come forward, like whales breaching in an Antarctic night, silenced because of how deep I imagine is ocean. I have never been to that depths, you understand, so I am conceptualising. Is conceptualising a lie?

NESTING AND SHINY BITS

Conceptualising is the gathering of twigs and dried leaves. Bits of string and sparkly things that I have agreed with ourselves to be words. Important words. Like love. An abstract unlike mud and blood and sweat and mucous and thunder. Those last bits—I/we have experienced those last bits—so there is that, to break down mind from vastness to something else.

DISTANCE

Is a concept. Like hours and minutes. Like age. Like yesterday. Like memory that may or maybe doesn’t have existence, except as pieces that can be snapped up by squirrel; that can be for the last moment of what life has been when we think life as “self” is over.

COVE

How can a body harbour so many people? So many words that get cobbled together to sometimes form things like Frankenstein’s creation. Nameless and misappropriated as a cobbled together life:

“The name of the creator—Frankenstein—soon came to be used to name the creation.”

AND

“Mary Shelley’s original novel never gives the monster a name, although when speaking to his creator, Victor Frankenstein, the monster does say “I ought to be thy Adam ” (in reference to the first man created in the bible). Frankenstein refers to his creation as creature, fiend, spectre, the dæmon, wretch, devil, thing, being, and ogre.

Sort of like civilisation.

I am inside and yet I see skin. I see as I write. Inked skin. Conceptually beautiful. But this skin is not befriended by the uninked. By the flesh and blood body who thinks in a way I do not. This is a flesh and blood and sinew and neuron and muscle and gut and hair and vein and capillaried expression of… probably all of us.

A SIGN

Yes, that also. To beggars and what people of other ways of thinking call “homeless” and “addicts” and “dropouts” and (funny one) “reprobates”. But we are acknowledged by them. They know us. Nods. Shy smiles. Even an occasional bow. Fisher King in ragged lands. Clans of madness in somebody’s or some bodies’ thinking.

MADNESS

What did she know? That woman, yesterday, in the thunder, on the street, soaked and angry old woman with fag stuck to wet fingers, stained with brown. Her mouth yelling at the dusk, at anyone. Scaring them when it is she who is fragile. I saw. I walked a way away and saw the people pass her by, cringing. And pretending they can’t hear. I don’t hear. It’s pissing down rain and her trolly is full of black plastic bags. But I walk past her, and she stops calling for a second. And she looks. And she knows I know what she has gone through. Who has abandoned her. Why she was lied to. How hard it is to stay alive. How much she wants to stay alive but cannot do more than rage, because she was beautiful. Is that it?

No one sees. No one asks. No one holds her. Promises cannot sustain her.

AVALON

That we build up images? And we are told stories that promise nothing, because there never was a fact to any of it?

As I write, it is like wild white water falling over a cliff. The division wilts. The separation cannot be maintained. I reach for squirrel, but he is gone. I know he is still busy and how sad he is that his forest is now concrete, and his mate never happened. But did. Then didn’t. And all this storing away of food that might one day be necessary is just an excuse to not stop.

I am the canary in the coalmine. We all are. Whether in one body or the body of earth. And I am terrified.

My yellow Canary – Amirou Diallo (Romania)

My thanks to Sharyn White, of ARA, for the inspiration of the title, and Alison Mavroudis Ingram for breaking my heart.

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