Dappled light

I stop and take a breath
In the cool dappled light of the trees

The darkness has enveloped me for so long
Sucking at the joy
Creeping into the light spaces
Reminding me
‘I am here’
‘I will not leave you’

And then the brightness arrived
The lightness
The light

Strong
Clear
Shining hope into the dark spaces
Joy
The right to be
The light to be
The ease of being
Without question
Pain
Self doubt

But the light is strong
It hurts my eyes
Burns my skin

I stop and take a breath in the dappled light
The coolness of the air
The song of the birds
The gentle hum of the bees
Light dances through the trees
Bright but gentle
Kind
Undemanding

And the darkness sits between
It cannot vanish
Be banished to another place
Without darkness there is no light

And so I sit in the dappled light
Take a breath
Breathe

This piece was written at the beginning of June 2020 as we moved into Phase 3 of the Italian lockdown. My memories of this time are as strong as they were at the beginning of the lockdown when I wrote ‘Stop’, a rising sense of panic that the time and space enforced by the pandemic, the opportunity to stake stock, to reflect, to breathe, would somehow be taken away, would once again become out of reach as the expectations of work and travel forced their way back in. Throughout the lockdown the woods surrounding my home have provided a place of sanctuary and reflection and as I walked left the bright Italian sunshine and entered the dappled light of the trees it struck me that it’s impossible to have one without the other. You cannot appreciate the coolness and tranquillity of the dappled light without the brightness of the sunshine. Indeed without the sunshine there would be no dappled light, just the grey dampness of the undergrowth. The challenge for me in these post-lockdown days is finding the balance between the sunshine that feeds me, gives me energy and joy, lifts my spirits and helps me to thrive and the cool, quiet spaces in which to reflect and be. I need to find the dappled light and when necessary go looking for it. Light and shade. The spaces of the in-between.

Even as I write this I realise that the spaces of the in-between are what interest me most.

There is very little that is straightforward about the world in which we live and most especially about the social relationships in which we are all embedded. And yet, somehow, the organisation of our social world into categories which aim to make sense of what we see around us, are becoming increasingly rigid and fixed, harnessed by different groups to exclude and marginalise those who do not ‘belong’. Problematising these categories and the uses to which they are put has been a recurrent theme in my own research over the past 30 years…from the differentiation of social space into ‘public’ and ‘private’ sphere excluding the experiences of asylum seeking women from the purview of international refugee law to the idea that the experiences of ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ are somehow mutually exclusive. Most recently I’ve written an article with my colleague Katharine Jones entitled ‘Beyond here and there: (re)conceptualising migrant journeys and the ‘in-between’ drawing on our MEDMIG research with those crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in 2015. The main point we try to make in this article – and which I feel I have been making repeatedly in my previous work – is not that we can get rid of categories but that what I call ‘the politics of bounding’ is constantly at work in determining who can and cannot access the rights and justice to which, as human beings, they are both deserving and entitled. These categories box us all in, leading to expectations and assumptions about how we should behave and be – and consequences (sometimes severe) if we are unable or refuse to comply.

In this context it is perhaps not surprising that the challenges of being ‘boxed’ is a recurrent theme of my collaboration with Laura.

Wordsmith: Heaven Crawley

Designer maker: Heaven Crawley

Photographer: Heaven Crawley

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