The Art of Longing

It’s been 3 months since we moved into our new home.  We’ve been painting, decorating, having it rewired and generally settling in.  It feels good to sink our roots a little deeper into this rich soil, and it has been a lot of fun to explore a new part of the village.  Although Tortorella is small, I’ve been meeting people that in nearly 3 years of being here, I have never met before.

One of my new neighbours has some beautiful fig trees in her garden.  I have been watching the fruit grow as I head out for my morning walk with my dogs, wondering when they will be heavy and ripe on the trees.  Anticipating and longing for the caramelly lusciousness of fig season.

I have learned a lot about longing since coming to Italy.  I think like many people, when you move to a new place, you reach for the familiar to help you settle until you find your bearings.  In my case that is usually my trusty ‘go to’ recipes, that’s what I did in Australia, and Canada and in the U.S.A.  The flaw in that plan I quickly realised was that several of the recipe ingredients are not actually in season together.  Not an issue when you live somewhere that vegetables are grown out of season, all year around in polytunnels or shipped in from exotic locations around the world, but that’s not how it’s done here.  

If a vegetable is not in season here, or in Sicily which is a couple of hours down the road, then you have to go without.  It was really interesting to witness the frustration that rose up in my body when I couldn’t cook a recipe because the ingredients weren’t available. A culinary tantrum if you like, but the symptom of something much deeper that concerned me a whole lot more.

I had to take ownership of the fact that I had slipped out of harmony with nature.  I had despite my best intentions, gotten used to the ‘convenience’ of our instant access, always available, on demand world.  Do you remember when you were young and ordering something involved waiting 28 days for delivery?  Do you remember the waiting, and the longing for the post to arrive?

Life in southern Italy has brought me back into harmony with the seasons and the cycles of things, not just in the world in which I live but within myself. And as a result I have reconnected deeply to my sense of longing.  

Longing for me is a deep magnetic pull from within the core of my body.  It is different to a need or a want.  Those bedfellows live much closer to the surface, just beneath my skin.  They are much more transitory in nature, and are more likely to be looking for a quick fix.  Longing is in it, for the long haul.

So I have been exploring my longing.  Taking my cue from nature and watching and learning from my neighbours.  It has become my daily practice, a sensorial martial art.

It starts with a spark of aliveness that ignites something in the dark fallow ground of my being. 

There is a curiosity, an invitation to expand, coupled with concern, an equal but opposing invitation to contract.

Will I answer the longing?

Saying no is choosing stagnation, turning my back on what lies ahead.

Saying yes is a willingness to expand and move through the growing pains of new life.

Longing pulls us through the uncomfortable places, where if left to our own devices, we may not go.

Two years into my first marriage, I had a longing for our relationship of 13 years to evolve.  I didn’t realise that this longing would pull me through a briary hedge of separation and divorce.

Longing stretches us up and out beyond our preconceived limits of ourselves.

And then it sweeps us into its slipstream and we begin to feel energised.

This is the tricky bit, you now have a tank of fuel, but can you stay on course, can you go the distance?  Or will you get distracted and give in to the temptation of a half ripe fig?

Being a container for longing can be excruciating and blissful all at the same time.

But this is where the rewiring can happen.

This is our opportunity to step out of alignment with our quick fix, instant access, life hack world and step into alignment with our own inner rhythm and the pulsating flow of life.

And this is where we … wait.

Sometimes for years.

Can you feel that in your body?  The longing, the holding and the waiting?

This is the martial art part, this is why mastery is required.

So why do it, why bother?

Because longing is a call to life.

And to aliveness and expansion, to discovering and exploring the next version of ourself.

It does not require ‘stuff’, but it does require patience and inquiry and a sense of humour really helps.

Longing is an invitation from the depths of our being to meet ourselves in our entirety, one unfolding layer at a time.  

Longing is what pulls us through the darkness of winter with the promise of light and new growth in the spring.  Longing is what reconnects us to our monthly cycle, which is part of a seasonal cycle, which is part of an annual cycle, which is part of our stages of life cycle, which is part of our birth and death cycle.  It connects us to our place in the grand design of all things. 

Longing can be a quest where we uncover and rediscover some of the most precious parts of ourselves and longing can be a giddy love affair with life.

Longing is medicine. 

And longing if we choose it, can be a road home.

In love and longing, 

Catherine xo

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