A coal-dark night of the soul

There appeared a thin sheet of ice, overnight, on the lake.  The limbs of the trees are naked, their cold arms reaching, sagging, isolated one from the other.  They no longer face the cold sun, nor touch each other with billowing leaves.   They are dormant, a kind of stagnation exists that suggest they are not breathing, and they are not dead.

They look dead.  They are brittle and hard and cold to the touch.  The sun is too far removed to warm their sap.  They lie in wait for a new spring, without knowing for what they wait.  I am a winter tree perched by a frozen pond, naked and sagging, only a hint of curiosity accompanies my mind this cold december morning.

I did not ‘decide’ to not go to church this morning. Instead,  I slowly waited until it was too late and pushed my catholic guilt aside and brewed a cup of coffee.  Usually Unitarians do not mind.  This morning I do mind.

My ego has taken charge of me. I found it very hard to fall into sleep last night.  I watched the fire glow, orange and blue flames until it was only embers forming a warm bed of dis-inter-grated carbon.  A tree had grown, blossomed, flowered, withered, fell and on the third day descended in hell and I was witnessing the funeral fire; and it warmed my body while chilling my soul.  It was 3:00 a.m. when I came down to my studio and scribbled a pen & ink village nestled in some obscure corner of the world. The canvas took the walnut oil-ink and shapes emerged on their way to a large grey cathedral with a huge burgundy stained glass window centered below the two spires and a towering steeple.

It took me a long time to decide if the steeple ought to support a weather-vane or a cross.  Finally, I decided that I knew very little about protestant, weather-vaned churches, so I carefully drew a catholic cross atop the steeple.  It was a bold cross and the perspective was wrong, well maybe not so much wrong as childish.  The cathedral was set askew and facing a south west angle, but my child like perspective could only draw the cross facing me head on.  So there I was, it was now past 3:00 a.m. and I was facing a boldly fixed crucifix, set askew; and with the wrong perspective, I stood in a european village in the center of my mind unable to emerge from a deeply rooted ego that was determined to have its way with me.

It was child-abuse.   Yes, looking back it was child abuse.  And, it was still child abuse, except now–I was both the perpetrator and the victim.   Funny, because this house of mirrors that I live in, always has me facing myself no matter how honestly I believe that i am facing another, I am always and only facing myself.  I am always and only cursing and hurling stunningly accurate  words of painful wisdom at myself–even if the mirror reflects a disturbingly, damaged child, I aim my wisdom straight for the heart and like an arrow that knows its mark, it pierces, and we both bleed.

The statue points one finger at the Sacred Heart, broken, and  bleeding of Precious Blood.  The Holy Family church crumbles like a basilica in an Italian earth quake.  Then I quake at the power of the universe and at how I can harness that energy to kill or to create.

Yesterday, I killed.  I confess that as simply as if  I were a vampire in an Anne Rice novel.  And like the protagonist in an Anne Rice novel, these are real people, real men and real children bitten in the neck and poisoned forever.  There is no Lazarus coming back from the dead to tell us all…no one to squeeze the universe into a ball. There is no overwhelming question.  “No” that was not what was meant at all.

Today I sit, alone, meditating the pile of crumbled blood stained stones.  The reason I can not let it go is simply this:  I can not let it go because it IS my sin.  The harnessed energy  channeled itself through me and the symbols of a catholic childhood are as awake in me today as they were when I was twelve and when she was ten.  The source of my pain is me and source of her pain is she.  That will never excuse my sin.  An ancient definition of sin, is from a word that means to miss the mark.  But in my mind, once the arrow has left the bow the sin begins at that point to sail through the universe and the mark is not what we aimed for, the mark is what we hit.

I am sorry, reader.  I know it is December and the warmth of the Christ’s birth is suppose to warm the naked branches hardly swaying in the blustering wind.  I know that is how it should be, in one corner of my mind.  But, it is just not how it is this morning.  And, if you read me, then it is me that you get.  And you know that I am no longer a card-board cut-out of an as-if persona, but a flesh and bleeding human being whose spirit can soar as rapidly to the pits of hell as it can soar through the bliss that is heaven on earth..  To the extent of your sorrow, so too, to the extent of your joy.

So, it may not be a happy read, but today it is a catholic read, a universal sentiment established in the deep recesses of the darkest nights of the year.  It is what I mean by a coal-dark night of the soul.  ‘Twas in the winter cold when earth was desolate and wild, that angels welcomed at the birth the everlasting child.  Even birthing a King is labor.  And there is no turning back.

In war and in peace, when the blood flows think upon the battlefield it is hard to distinguish the enemy from the the dead. We often can be each other’s pain, even in joy–though in a perfect world we would like for it to not be that way, what we have is what we have–“a second chance, there never was meant to be but one. We work in the dark, we give what we can, and the rest is the madness of art.” (h. james)


10 comments on “A coal-dark night of the soul

  1. Wow. That was powerful. What is the figure of the naked man holding in is hands?

  2. aldussault says:

    i am not sure–maybe a fish or a cell phone

  3. bernard butler says:

    Excellent, Very strong. Goes really well with your art work…

  4. Collette Williams says:

    I read twice and then wondered about what remained unspoken between the lines that only you can know in your own skin. You said “everything” – analyst now become the analysand, the muse, the writer, the artist … and the exposed. Thanks for entrusting your soul-self – the whole of it – the darkness and the light. … apprecaite the gift of “getting you”

  5. Kim says:

    Let’s walk soon!

    XO Kim

  6. phebs says:

    Al, these are dark nights of the soul. There never is a just war. Blood is not shed for good. And we walk out under the lowering sky to weep.

  7. Amber says:

    This was so great and really resonated with me. I especially like this part: “It was child-abuse. Yes, looking back it was child abuse. And, it was still child abuse, except now–I was both the perpetrator and the victim.” It’s very easy to look outside of ourselves to find blame for our stresses but we (or at least I) often have trouble looking inside and don’t necessarily think to do so most of the time. I did have to read it twice to understand it, but it was worth it!

  8. MAGGIE says:

    Being so willing to share such honesty about your feelings that night was scarey to me…it seemed so dark and I don’t like to express myself that way to anyone (except you)…but maybe if I had the ability to use words the way you do, I might like to share…although, most of the people I know would run and hide from me! or maybe they’d call 911! I guess they don’t really, really know me…nor would they welcome that part of me…so for now IT’S YOU! I often wonder if they go there…I think I’ll paint a palm tree!…I’m so happy it’s daylight! ha ha ha….

  9. al dussault says:

    thank you all for the comments. i would just like to add that for me the dark side
    of love is equally important, and is analytic study has taught me anything it is that the acceptance of ALL the feelings is what generates vitality and a willingness to
    fuse aggression with desire so that we may accomplish in the ways most suited to
    who we are….

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