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My alchemy group reunited this week after over 3 years. I’ve seen its members around, but this was the first time  in a long time we actually got together, all of us, consciously, for image making. There was no guiding archetype or principle for the work this time around, just a thought about what had changed for each of us since our last gathering. We shared stories about it to open the session.

For my part, everything has changed. Since I last met with these wonderful people, I started seeing clients for therapy in private practice. My three wonderful nieces were born. I got engaged. I lost my mother. Everything is different.

I thought back to an image I made when we explored the alchemical process of Calcinatio, heating a substance with fire in order to transform it. The Calcinatio piece consisted of a kindling bundle that was meant to be inside a frame. However, the frame I built was much to small for the bundle. It became apparent that the fire to be lit would  be much too large for the frame to hold it.

I thought of last weekend spent with family, going through Mom’s clothes, cleaning her old room and rearranging furniture. It felt like time to let the room be of use again. But there remains a feeling of having come through the other side of a fire, of a slow and difficult process of coming to understand what is gone and what isn’t, of trying to stand on bones that have been broken and testing how well they have healed.

For this alchemy gathering, it felt right to construct a new frame, one that will hopefully contain many future fires and weather them well. It wound up being a much larger frame, which feels right, as fire in its purifying aspect makes space for what’s to come. The first version I built fell apart as soon as I picked it up. I understood why. The broken corner was the one I did first, before I really understood how to make it hold fast. I tied up that corner again, strung feathers from the top of it, and two rings that reminded me of wedding rings to symbolize aspects of the life that this frame was being constructed for. Because of the initial break, the top is a little crooked and slopes downward. No matter. It held up on a walk to the car and the subsequent ride home. I suspect I have more strengthening to do before it will bear its own weight well enough to hang on a wall. But I have time. Perhaps the appropriate phrase for this new phase in my life is, “Maybe this will work….”

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