The Guardians at the Gates
In the Hero’s Journey, as well as other myths and legends, there is always that place in the story where the Hero must make a commitment to move forward, past the place of indecision, past the place of refusal to engage fully in whatever journey presents itself. There are some who call this the place of testing.
In myth, it is usually symbolized by some sort of threshold or doorway. And there is always a being of some sort waiting in front of that threshold. A dragon, or some other winged creature, or simply another human being, but whatever the figure, he/she is the Guardian of The Gate, there to make sure that any who enter have the right stuff to proceed. Sometimes she will ask questions: why do you wish to pass here? Other times he might just blow a bit of smoke, or show the sharpness of tooth and talon.
The Guardian is not there to prevent passage, so much as to make sure the individual has some idea of what he/she is getting into. The Guardian is a piece of our own subconscious mind, there to remind us of why we haven’t yet crossed this particular threshold. Maybe we’ve been hanging around just outside that gate for years, unsure of our ability to handle what lies beyond it.
Are we really ready to make that commitment? That’s what the Guardian is really asking and as soon as we find it in ourselves to say, “Yes,” the Guardian steps aside and lets us pass. That in no way means we will not encounter more of the same. The Guardian represents a piece of our own sense of self-preservation, our desire to hang on to what we know, already have, what is familiar (comfortable), what we are sure we can handle. The Guardian is there to ask us if we are really sure this is what we want to do, to try. Responding in the affirmative, is actually stepping across that threshold.
Picking back up with my own story, I went home with shoulders bent, sad because of that carrot that had been dangled in front of me. The one, I was sure, wasn’t really meant for me at all. How could I write about something I might never participate in? My poetry had always been personal, about my own experiences. It was my attempt to explore, as honestly as possible, my own person and reality. I was staring at the Guardian to the Gate of the world I wanted to enter. To me, he was a very large, very determined dragon.
That evening is encased in fog for me. I probably made and ate dinner, talked to my daughters, and the young woman who lived with us, watched television and/or read some mystery novel about murder and mayhem. Then went to bed, still confused and a bit wounded. I’d get over it eventually. Sure I would.
The next morning, as was my habit, I wrote my morning pages in what I had finally come to call my journal. It was a three ringed binder filled with cheap loose leaf lined paper. There I began to pour out my disappointment and what had happened the day before. As I look back now, I realize that I must have spent the night struggling with that dragon. Trying to find a way to say yes to whatever questions he had posed.
I spent some time writing out my arguments for not responding to the call for submissions, but as I wrote there were images dancing through my head. Memories of my parents growing old together, pictures of my many aunts and uncles who had married and stayed in those relationships for life.
Yes, my marriage had ended, but because it had not been a place where I could grow and become whatever my potential might hold. It was an unhealthy place for me and for my children and I knew that because I had all those other examples to compare it to. They were a deeply imbedded part of my experience and my reality.
My father had died a few years before. I had nursed him through his final days, been privy to the love and anguish my parents had exhibited through that experience they had traveled through together. I had first hand knowledge about men and women growing old together.
I started making notes. And those notes became the first stanza of the poem I would write and submit for that Paper Mache Press anthology. A poem built on a blending of all those images and memories, not just of my parents, but of all those rich and loving relationships that had helped me to finally accept that my own was not the same. That I deserved and wanted more of what I had seen and known while growing up in the midst of all that richness.
This is that first stanza:
They suit one another, rocking
together, she in polished oak
spindles, he in overstuffed
maple covered by blue afghan
crocheted in years past.
(to be continued…)