Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 5

Sheltered and exposed at the same time, Arielle perched on her chair like a swami at the dinner table, both legs folded under her. A friend had told her once about a postural diagnosis technique based on observing the way that a person sat down in a chair. The friend had gone on to point out that, based on observation of her sideways, four-legged approach to the chair, her diagnosis would be “patient is in fact a cat”.

The rain pattered light-heartedly all around, for the air was warm and still and this was not a storm, just a freshen up. She could see and sense the sunshine behind the rain clouds, watching on with care and encouragement as they showered their life-sustaining gifts on the world below. The wide open sides of the kitchen welcomed in all weathers, all seasons and all comers – offering always the shelter of a warm hearth.

Mrs Pepperpot purred determinedly in her lap, pulling rank for the warmest spot whilst several of the other cats were perched about the place in variously soggy states, waiting it out. Arielle was not waiting it out, she was inviting it in. There were spaces in her heart that felt dusty and dank. The sparkling freshness of the raindrops permeated her rusting armour and leaked in cool rivers down to those forgotten places. She sat and opened and felt the rain. Loved it, imbibed it into her soul, remembered it.

Her heart was like a busy railway hub with constant arrivals and departures. There were multitudes forever passing through: trailing chocolate wrappers and cigarette butts, moving too fast and too early in the day, charged on coffee, arriving late, lingering over leaving, making connections, missing them. It never closed, though in the quiet moments she could clearly see the muddy footprints and forgotten baggage left behind and set to work sweeping out the space.


…to be continued


Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 4

As the daylight danced away over the hill and deep purple night descended, something stirred and woke in the pit of her stomach. Arielle had been a skillful repressor in her time and the mechanism still moved. The trapdoor no longer sprang shut on the cellars of her self at the first movement of monsters, these days it would creak and strain and the muscles clenched around her heart only slowly, giving time for her to notice and looking her in the eye as they locked down her somatic experience.

Legs weary from a long, lumbering ascent of the land with Hagrid, and with one eye on the tiny smoke rings puffing from the lid of the log burner, she rose stiffly and began pacing around the rug. Inviting the living grief to rise up inside her, to animate her limbs and stretch itself out through her shoulders, she hit play and let the music tell her stories. The first ripples began to rise from her belly, undulating up her back and pouring out of her throat, her heart and her solar plexus. Like a cat choking down grass she had swallowed enough blades to draw out the old poisons that lurked in her gut from lifetimes of learning to love.

As the waves broke she whirled like a puppet hung out on a porch in the wind, arms flying loose and the coiled spring in her spine whipping her head around her neck like a whirlwind. The storm rages wilder and she let go into its flailing ferocity, aware outside of her own walls of a rising drum chorus of rain, driving her on. She whirled and wept and the storm rocked her fragile vessel til her anchor broke its moorings and she overturned onto the sofa bed in a strung out heap of humanity.

Convulsing deeply as the darkness drew in around her, Arielle’s world became an invisible point of light that she could feel but could not see through the storm clouds. Still knowing it was there, she could let the tunnel take her. Let this living story die in her, let herself be reborn with the force of its labouring.

Finally her breath deepened and slowed and her body fell open. Released from the strictures that bound, Arielle felt the soft, warm silence return. She could feel again the solidity of the sofa, the stone floor, the standing structures of the farmhouse, the bedrock of the valley and the unconditionally present curves of her mother the Earth.

The agony of solitude and tearing need to be held subsided in the sweet peace of stillness. Another storm weathered, another cavern cleared out of its subterranean sludge, ready and open for her soul to venture in and reveal the treasures to her in time. She sighed deep and felt his hand arrive softly on the side of her face, stroking a finger down from her tear-stained temple to the soft curve of her jaw. She raised her head a little to look for his sparkling eyes and felt again the firm and loving pressure of his palm on the side of her head. Relax, let go, lie still. Yes. Chema. His unrelenting warm presence and the touch that melted through her resistance like a laser beam of love.

That first night with Chema was the first time she could recall that she wasn’t left aching and raw. The first time that sex did not feel like a battle. The first time her body truly softened and her belly made way to be met. No bracing, no pushing back, off, away. No fighting to take control. She could feel a deep reverence and the intention to give pleasure, rather than simply to take it, in his every approach. He waited for her without a whisper of impatience, held her face and kissed it kindly when tears came. She felt deeply safe, only then, for perhaps the second time in her life, in the arms of a man.

She let go into black velvet slumber, lulled by the warm weight of his body at her back and the soft sway of his breath against hers. As she slept he took her hand and led her through rooms filled with unknown faces. Bewildered and shrinking from the mass of humanity she trailed behind, leaning her weight against his steady grasp. Now and again a reflexive jerk tried to yank her hand from his but he held it firm and squeezed love and reassurance from his palm to hers.

They came finally to a table of people that she knew. There were two places laid for them. She moved to sit and he turned and looked back at her, eyes asking a question she could not read and offering an apology she did not want to receive. She stood still. He let go, fingers trailing goodbye across her palm. His eyes promised his return, but she sensed the wave that carried him, the presence of something he could not yet see but felt propelled by. She sat down. A smiling someone took his place and began to animate soundlessly at her as she watched his beautiful, strong back disappear into the crowd that awaited him.

Chema had a spectacular life to live, and a whole universe inside to give. He carried a pure fire, a warrior for the earth and all who loved her. Every child was his, every parent. Every breeze carried him, every wave welcomed him. Chema belonged to the world and not to anyone and she loved him for it.

As the dawn broke, Hagrid’s rising, throaty rumbles penetrated the cosy bliss of a morning snuggle in the arms that held her soul safe, bringing Arielle tumbling into another day. The arms around her melted in the morning sun, a dream that could not survive the light. She stretched out like a starfish in the too-big bed and let him go again with a deep sigh.

“Another day in the hall of mirrors. What will I see?” she murmured sleepily as she stumbled down the stairs. The fire had gone out, Hagrid had not, and in this way the valley called her back to tend the wild heart of it.


Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 3

A ragged bass line pumped and throbbed throughout the old farmhouse and Arielle’s bare feet slapped the warm flagstones in the afternoon sun, returning the beat. “This is love. This is me.” The mantra ran through her mind, just out of view of her thoughts. The vacant mist of wide open acceptance still hung thickly about her and she fought to ground with every foot stomp. “This is me, this is me.”

Staying anchored in her ego seemed crucial in the absence of any reflecting other. “I’ve only got myself to see me, so I must” she thought. Dancing grounded her, smoking grounded her. Cats on her lap held her down and balanced her energy through their own alternately spinning systems. Walking the land grounded her, dust to dust.

In the weeks and months since coming to the island Arielle had grown strong in her body. Climbing hills and carrying logs each day built a high base line fitness that fuelled a fierce hunger for protein, and so she ate like an athlete. With the relatively pure living and good sleep, she was a filly in fine fettle. Her body had never felt so good to her. Lithe and lightly muscled, skin soft and clear from soap-free simplicity, hair shining of its own accord, and a gentle rosy tan from the Mediterranean winter sun.

Some days she felt her own vitality and beauty so intensely she would weep with frustration. She wanted to share her body, use her body to give and receive pleasure, to communicate with gestures and touch, converse through dance. She wanted to mesmerise and catalyse with her body, to tangle and twine and test with her body. She felt like a circuit board that didn’t quite connect, unable to light up its full potential. She endeavoured daily to be enough for herself, to listen deeply and respond with loving presence, but she knew that it’s not how we are wired.

We humans are wired for connection. We are one with all and every cell in the great urban sprawl of our bodies knows it. We feel the whole world and hold it within us. She knew that all of humanity was there, throbbing with life. Complex systems bumping uglies and replicating wildly, all just out of view, just behind the veil that had descended when she arrived here.

At some point she must have sat down because in that moment she snapped into the experience of tiny needles in her fleshy thighs and a soft, furry cheek vibrating against her own. Tzatziki. Zazzle cat. Zazou. Her mitten soft little body shimmered black and amber in the late afternoon sun and she began to knead determinedly at the camel cashmere beneath her.

“Zazou, my love. Gah! My flesh! Please. I love you, but ow… Enough!” She scooped the elegantly sprawling bundle of hot kitty love into her arms like a baby and sauntered into the cool of the kitchen. One hand deftly lit the gas hob and the kettle groaned at being woken from its slumber, then began slowly to bubble and whine. “Time for tea again, must be” she muttered to the cat. Tzatziki only blinked her pistachio eyes slowly, upside down, and stretched out a languorous paw to Arielle’s lips.

Here was connection. Here was a perfect little being seeking warmth and sensual delight. This one also remembered her ancestor’s lifetimes in the desert. The relentless battering blaze of the sun that burned through bullshit in a flash. In the desert life is a gift and precious water is God, the giver of life. She knew water and fire lived side by side in her soul, sunshine weaving rainbows out of the rain. The one carrying oxygen that breathes life into the other, but only the flame can partner to release this precious cargo into the air and so they thrive interdependently in an eternal elemental dance…

This world of wild wondering and space-time wandering draped itself like a low-hanging mist over the pragmatic earthy mass of her daily routine at the farm. Chop wood, carry water. Walk dog, make soup. Feed cats, sweep floor, wash clothes. All punctuated weekly by a great big intake of sea air and mountain views, and the stark solids of earthly forms laid out for consumption in the minuscule Saturday market. Here everything was ordered like with like, and set out in rows to be clearly seen and unmistakably known for what it was. Even though she could read but a few of them, the labels felt good to her. “We all agree what these things are” she thought, fingering fruits and fronded beetroots, “and thats’s nice.”


Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“What today needs…” muttered Arielle into the mirror as she fixed the back of her too heavy earring into place and flicked it lightly so that the turquoise glass shimmered enticingly in its copper casing. “What today needs is a kick up the arse, a change of gear… a little hint of danger…a visit to the edge…”

There had been a vibrato bass drum resonating in her root chakra for 24 hours now. She was fully charged and flashing and utterly awake. The energy writhed and rippled in her lower back, hissing seductively with an iron edge of bloodlust. Her body needed to dance – fierce, outrageous, stompy grindy dancing. Or to fuck, or ideally both, one after the other again and again. The Shakti force flowing through her made her furious with lust for life. She needed to consume the flesh of life and let its juices drip down her naked torso and pool between her legs, glistening in the sun.

Gah! She shook her head, scowling and growling at herself in the mirror. Containing the wildness within with no walls to bounce off was an edgy ride.

She strode across the room, jangling and swaying, her skirt slung low across her hips and sweeping, with each step, across the soft, sensitive surface of her foot. She paced, hand on hip, brandishing her mobile phone and fixing it with flashing eyes. Pietro had called in the night, drunk on a Caribbean island and rambling about the moon in that way that he thought hippy girls liked, forgetting in the fog of his alternate reality that she knew that she was the only moon in his sky, and that he had called -as he seldom did- to drink in her light.

Sometimes the sound of his voice stopped her in her tracks. Stopped everything, broke her open, filled her head with white noise, blocked out the sun and roared like the inside of an ocean wave pulsing in her brain. Not today. She needed earth to ground her, and a real warm presence. She needed hands and hair to tangle and tug, and some body who could really touch her, even if they couldn’t taste her soul.

Yusuf. As she slurped hard, pursuing the last drops of orange juice in her glass and squinting at the sun darkened screen, she chewed over that man in her mind.

There were simply two sides to that coin, pleasure and regret. He could inspire in her┬áthe depths of self-love and self-loathing. He would worship and woo her and lead her to the core of her sexual power and then leave her – cuddled, soothed. Confused and wanting more. She was learning over time that he just plugged her in to her own potential as a powerhouse of pleasure. He held no treasure for her, only a map, which he read through her open ribcage.

She could take this fire to him and he would pour petrol on it and dance through the flames, whooping with joy. He would swallow it deep and breathe it out in her face laughing wildly. He would slow roast her in the own heat, marinated in her own juices and leave her meltingly tender and falling apart.

Leaving Hagrid snoring in a sunbeam, tethered and watered, she trekked up the hill in the gathering heat to the car and slung her old tan leather rucksack across to the passenger seat, entering by the one door that opened.

As the iron gates clanged shut behind her, Arielle gave herself a stern maternal look in the rear view mirror. Driving around these parts required both hands on the wheel, especially when traveling in such chic retro style as she. As the elderly Passat wound round the olive trees and rode the soft edges of the landscape, she felt herself begin to unwind. The gentle ripple of the roads and the expansive ever-presence of the sea spoke to her soul like a whisper to a horse. “Hey…hey…hey…hello”

She punched on the radio and exhaled through pursed lips. Ha…joy. Lionel Richie. Is it me you’re looking for? She slapped both hands on the steering wheel and then grabbed at a fistful of hair, dropping her elbow to the sill of the opening window briefly, before straightening up and taking both reins for a sharp bend. Perpetually looking for, and only ever finding, herself. Arielle existed in a hall of mirrors and some days it felt more like a cosmic joke than a profound cosmic truth.

As the Tarmac unraveled beneath her and the olive groves unfolded all around, climbing higher toward the open horizon, she softened inside and opened herself to the breeze that came dancing through the windows. She sighed and let her head fall back on the headrest, straightening her arms and her spine. She slowed down, glancing in the rear view at the empty road behind and flicked on the indicator – just because- as she swept into a gravelly layby.

She rested her forehead on the warm plastic leather of the large steering wheel and let out a long sigh. From deep in her belly, salty sobs began to rise. Yusuf’s taverna was just a few bends further on down the road, and she knew that she was not going to reach there. She did not want to go there. The flames had burned out by their own intensity and she just wanted to hunker down and rest in the soft bed of ash that remained.

Sobbing into the steering wheel, Arielle slowly became aware once more of where she was. She remembered that this was life, now, happening right before her and inside of her. Not purgatory, nor heaven, nor hell – but life here on earth. Not a dream, not a story, not a nightmare – but stone cold living, happening now.

“This is now” she muttered to herself, lifting her messy head with its shining eyes and bleary Crimson cheeks. “This is now and I am here. It’s still now. It’s still just me. Where do I go?”

If there had ever been an onlooker, this was a crazy person to behold. Arielle, however, knew that it was only in these moments that she was truly sane. Looking life in the face, in total acceptance of the unrelenting is-ness of it all, and knowing that she was powerless to do anything but surrender and let go into its vast embrace.

All the tangles and the tumult, all the psychodrama and soliloquys, they were butterflies in a storm, fluttering with futility against the force of nature.

Trance-like in her wakefulness, deliberate in her movements and silent in her mind, she turned the key in the ignition, span the car around, and headed back down the mountain to the nook of the valley.


Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

She lifted her head from the pillow, neck strained and eyes squinting – past 8 a.m. Tolerable. Fair enough. She sank back for a moment to sweet surrender then heaved herself upright. Tutu was right there under her chin in a flash, purring hard. “Yes, I’m here, I’m with you, it’s another day! Hello, I’m right here!”

She scooped the soft insistence away with a breast stroke and swam to the edge of the bed. Lingering over leaving. Bumping. Heavily. Down the spiral stairs and mumbling a greeting to Hagrid. She patted and petted in his general direction and made the morning sounds with as much gusto as she could muster. “Hello, hello, yes, it’s morning. Great isn’t it. Yes, good boy, thanks. Out you go.”

Hagrid bounded out the door and off, scattering small furries and dead leaves all about as he ricocheted down the path to the woodland brush.

“This is still beautiful, be present to it, be fucking grateful” she admonished herself bitterly. Wincing, pausing and remembering water. On a Friday night in the wild, with only the moon and the owls to sing along, shit goes down. Last night it has been the rustic, almost fortified red wine from the first grape harvest – of unknown potency and a gritty demeanour.

She lit the gas and sat down on the spiral stairs – gazing blankly into space, swimming in unfinished dreams and half-formed figuring outs. Once again she had dreamed of missing her flight, her connection, back to here. She was already here. Was she really here? Ouch. More water. Got to walk the dog.

The kettle shrieked pointlessly until she turned off the gas, pulled on her boots and jacket, and left it sitting there – steaming away, full of potential cups of tea.

Outside it was really trying to be day. The air was doing well at being warmer, and the birds and animals were all on cue and giving it plenty. The sun was still being hoisted from behind the hill, but had sent word ahead and so the landscape was lightening.

Hagrid boogied and bounced and flapped his ears about grinning wildly. So much joy without fail. What a gift. He simply thrived on the routines and rituals of their eday. The exact spot and the perfect moment for him to graze like a goat, just as she wanted to clip his lead on and set off. The precise minute that pools of sunlight migrated from the kitchen to the front patio, when he would summon Arielle to move his blanket. The stumbly night time piss and a good look and listen for wild boar when Orion topped the Persimmon tree. Groundhog Day is pure heaven for dogs.

Arielle could see how it was comforting, could understand that it was secure, but some deep nature in her longed to melt entirely and slip between the bars of time and space. How many days like this? How many more? In this lost paradise, this cul-de-sac. This bit on the side. This haven. This room inside her soul. This gateway to eternity. This unyielding moment. This eternal now. This everlong.

She recalled – as they huffed their way up the sandy, serpentine track that circumnavigated the farmhouse – a somnambulance of another kind. Seven years of soft, sweet and half-asleep love. Of real, kind, true and nurturing love. The way that decent people with good hearts and a sense of propriety love each other in their twenties. They had gone to farmers markets and on two week holidays, had a cat and enjoyed watching box sets together. The stage was set for a lifetime of loving each other kindly and doing the done things.

There’s nothing wrong with the done things, she mused, and there are reasons people do them, but not to ever question… Not to ever branch out… Arielle could not fit herself back into the box however she tried. Her spangly limbs and sticking up hair spilled out over the edges, and her blazing heart beat right through them. Still – out of one box and into another? Not this girl. Every job description, every relationship, every tick box and form to be filled simply enraged her.

Living outside the box. Living an edgeless and unboundaried life was no cakewalk either. She found herself perpetually face to face with a void or an abyss, or a flowing river of humanity, an amorphous field of feeling, a sea of souls. Everything was just part of it, and trying to sort one bit from another and explain how the two relate – the fundamental formats of human dialogue – had become very hard indeed at times.

She used her body and her brush to form the formless, voice the voiceless, show it how it was, touch hearts and souls with her own. “Just feel it… Just feel this… J just listen… Just watch me…” She would whisper in the ears of her lovers, trying to reach them in the dark.

Arielle arrived back in her body with a jolt just as Hagrid made a dive for a crystal clear pool of rainwater in the rocky gully alongside the path, yanking her arm at the socket and sending a ripple through her consciousness. “wha!…cchh… Hagrid. God. Go easy would you?”

She was grateful though, always grateful for the presence of this guy. Hagrid held a crucial structure of time and space, when her soul was trying to sneak out the side door of it. His bodily needs and his sense of rhythm and ritual grounded her in so many ways. He woke her each day, took her for a brisk walk, reminder her about food at least twice a day and water quite a few times. He would “check in” verbally with a single deep woof at various points during the day, bringing her present and alert to the moment and the life all around.

When she was too lost inside herself, he would sit before her and lay his head in her lap, or beat his tail playfully against her back, calling her out. When she broke down at the kitchen table feeling terribly alone and wondering if there was anyone out there holding space for her to fall apart like this, she looked across the room and there he stood. Solid, eyes focussed on her, alert, tail wagging slowly.” I’m here, I’m holding this space for you right now.” A wise angel in furs.

Arielle had a mind to eat breakfast that morning, but her body just smoked and juiced a half dozen of Spyro’s mandarins – lovingly hand picked and packaged prettily in blue plastic. “Surely the both of them balance out” she thought. She had not smoked a cigarette for some time, but yesterday – when she had stayed too long at the beach drinking in the dance of the sunlight on the sea – it had accidentally become half past four and Mama’s mini market had flung open its doors, arising from an afternoon slumber, and beckoned her in for tahini and tobacco.

That first sunset cigarette sealed the deal on her foray into Film Noir as a personal portrait. The lure of Lana Del Rey and long-lost lovers hung in the air with the smoke from her roll-up. All the unglamorous dramas and amorous yearnings of years gone by drenched her mind like the colours of the setting sun. A seductive ambience she couldn’t help but savour. “It’s alright” she said aloud to the night creatures “I’ll just paddle in it”.

Do mermaids paddle Arielle? And what goes well with a starlit cigarette? Is it green tea? Or is it blood red wine and peaty whisky? “Beware the thrills of the helter skelter” she mused. Smoking socially is one thing but smoking alone leads only to introspection and boozing, if not carefully watched. She knew herself and her habits, and watched them like a hawk watches baby rabbits, waiting to pounce if they get a bit bold and stray too far from the den.


Hermit in the Hall of Mirrors: Synopsis


“Every journey offers numerous opportunities for new awareness and also exposes us to the risk of disorientation. To be alone in a strange land with no support from family, neighbours or friends creates a certain time of truth, when the hero can discover who he really is, or be destroyed by the experience.”
– Sallie Nichols, Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey

Sitting on a rock by the sea in the sunshine. Thankfully the mini market is closed for another hour so I probably won’t buy cigarettes. The film noir aspects of my personality are itching for some smoky drama, some long intense sits with held breath, some late night straight spirits and dark love songs.

She’s dark and bitter, like good coffee or chocolate, and she has a voice and her beauty too. Her name is Arielle. She’s living on a Greek island. Has complex and ultimately unfulfilling liaisons with a Dutch ex-shipping, ex-military older lost boy living on the cliff edge. The son of a local farmer loves her and brings her fruit, she wishes she could let his simple and sincere love in and settle down to wifely life. The one who rocks her soul is at sea, on the run, on a mission. Surrounding himself with singing and play. Drowning out his heart’s wailing with raucous drums. An artist of life must have many muses… Here is a story of a young woman’s encounters with her animus in numerous forms, as she releases illusions about what love is and reclaims lost parts of herself.

She feels suspended, in a heavenly interlude like the most beautiful dream, but all alone. She craves and abhors the presence of other people. Anyone will do and no-one. She doesn’t remember how or when she came to the island or when she will leave. She knows she will be sent for. All else is mist. She fluctuates between struggle and surrender. Days roll into each other one moment and stretch interminably the next. It is a dance with not knowing. She tries to run from it, through it, towards it, but it holds strong and will not be moved. She batters her fists against it, begging and wailing for a crack in the intense flatness of nothing to be known. It stands firm. Eternal and reassuring nothingness, which she can count on for always.