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Tholos Body House : A love letter to the womb

I am currently on a residency with The Museum of Loss and Renewal in Collemacchia, Molise, Italy. Last week I spent one night "alone" in this Tholos (ancient stone building) in the Mountains of the Abruzzo National Park. It was amazing and I am still finding words with which to process this experience. What I found was that I was absolutely not alone this night. I shared the space with so many creatures I lost count. Below is a draft love letter to the the womb & a selection of my drawings from in and around my night in this beautiful and wild space, all bar one were drawn on location. 

Tholos: Collemacchia, Molise, Italy

Experiential drawing from inside the Tholos, Collemacchia

Roaming. Ritual. I offer my body. I lift my roof to let the light in. I present myself and my intentions. I give you time to process. It feels like you were expecting me inside your sacred niche. A pause. Pregnant with possibility. Friend or foe.  I find a beautiful stone. It fits my hand but its edges are sharp. It could be a weapon. I don’t want to enter this space armed or alarmed. I wait. What now? What was I expecting? Is this crazy? Yes. But why not? I am prepared. For what? I draw. I watch the sun go down. Lines and marks are fast and present. Shadows in the trees retreat to the centre. Hiding in the middle, present in the core. The edges are glowing like anxious halos. Beautiful but weird. Zigzag. This is a big zigzag, yet I am meant to be here. I’ve been here before. I’ll be here again. The cows have been here too, I can smell them. I could put my foot in them if I’m not careful. My body lies with their faeces. My grief is spread with their dung. I have shed my skin, I have lifted my roof, I am in and of this place. Do I wish to colonise? No. I wish to be present in the fabric of time. Folded into the spirit of place. To be welcome, to be safe.

I find another stone. Smooth. This one has been in my hands before, walked a lifetime in a hand. Hand in hand. Palm shaped. Fingers fit the grooves. The stone knows my moves. If I take it with me will I be safe. There is a torch in my left and the smooth stone in my right. I am layered in the skin of another, native to this place. Like an animal that rubs in the scent of the excrement of another, will this act as a disguise? Do I wish to be disguised? No. I want to be known. I want to be safe. I want to know this womb. Room.

The niche contains me. It contains my light, my love and my laughter. My candle, my heart and my banana. I offer these things to you Madonna of the womb, for one night only then we shall see. As the light fades I watch it dance around this dome. It slithers out the opening like a silvery tongue on wet cobblestones. I trace around the niche, half blind, flickering light illuminating the roof of you. You watch me. I watch you. We are encountering one another with caution. I project my love in your direction. What do you make of it? Will I know? I’ll know if I wake and you have been watching over me. You are of this place. You are of this stone. This womb is wrapped around you and contains me for one night only.

As I lay my body down, stone pressing into my spine, I am rigid yet infinitely soft. I clutch my earthly objects ready. Waiting. Light continues to pierce the sky with one sharp point. My body is made of zigzags I dare not move. I want you to know me. I want to know you. I can see you now, multiplied, nestled into every crevice. Patiently clinging to every platform, dark so as to swallow me whole. Yet you don’t. You just watch. You just wait. Like me, we are both waiting here together. For what? We can’t know.

Calm descends, like a soft cloud. Shrouded in a patchwork of love and loss that I have shed. Dread. I don’t dread you but I am on edge. My edges are alert even if my mind is calm. I dare not move. If I do not move I may shatter. My bones are cramped and crisp, the wind on my back tells me I must move. You are still watching and I am animal. If I am animal you can predict my moves. Like an insect that bounces up and down to warn of the coming storm I must-make-a-move. My movements are repetitive, from foetal to front and centre. I want you to predict me. Track me. Down.

Black. I have never really seen black before.  There was always colour in the dark until now. You wrap me in your infinite nothingness. Nothing is everything and everything is nothing. My limits extend to yours and the space between us is ours. Wings enter you and dance like a golden thread, twisting in an exquisite spiral that etches into the front of my mind. Layers of black and gold, this room that now knows me.

You are solid as stone yet as porous skin, paper-thin. You are perfect. I want to be you, but for now I am happy to be in you.

The needle pierces my eye as I wake, still clutching the remnants of yesterday. Soft light enters your opening and I am alive. Madonna you have kept me safe and I thank you. This amphitheatre of arachnids is the mother of all mothers. A place of birth and rebirth that has let me lay my head.

As I exit, all I can see is traces of you. The homes you’ve made to keep your kin safe. Skin. Everything is at your disposal. I am. I give myself to you, mother. 

Anxious landscape before I enter the Tholos for the night, Collemacchia Molise, Italy 

Niche Rock Opera, Tholos, Collemacchia

Morning in the Tholos, blind drawing as the light enters the space: Collemacchia

Morning mist outside the Tholos, food sac dangles from a spiderweb like magic, CollemacchiaMorning drawing outside the Tholos, CollemacchiaThe mothers of this region now know me & they are showing me their beauty.

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