behind the veil: conversation with a waterfall

one day, while at los encuentros, we go on an excursion to a waterfall called “el velo de la ninfa” (the nymphs veil). after a long and bumpy ride in the back of the 4WD we arrive at the start of the track that will lead us to where she is. gum boots on, we tramp upwards, a light, cool rain softly caressing us as we step through the mud, squelch…. squelch…. squelch…..we follow the sounds of rushing water until we reach the source. she takes my breath away when i first see her. at the very top, water bursts furiously out over rocks, falling, crashing downwards in a snake formation until it reaches the bottom where it explodes into pure sound, pure air. i undress quickly, eager to get down there so i can stand beneath the force of this pulsing flow of water and take her magnificent energy into my body.

what message does she have for me? sitting under the pounding water, i take her in, i begin to listen, and underneath the pummelling whoooooooosh-craaaaaaashhhhhhhh-aaaaaaahhhhhhh, i hear her whispering….she speaks to me of sensuality and transformation, a shedding of old ways, connecting with the mother through primal sexual energy. she speaks to me of the snake….. sister, she says, what is this indecision in your life? what exactly are you afraid of? she lifts her veil so i can see what lays behind…..

…it is sometime around 1980, i am in mount isa, aged about 10 or 11 (swirling fog memories mean that i can’t be sure about the exact age) and a boy from school calls my house to speak to me. for the first time, the sudden gaze of this “almost-man” brings me into contact with an awareness of myself as an “almost-woman”. experiencing a deep and uncomfortable cringe, i immediately fold into myself, becoming a spineless porcupine, a prickly cocoon of shyness and embarrassment ~unable to receive, open, connect. paralysed. a rejection of the masculine. for the first time, the almost-man’s gaze has made my femininity visible, exposed ~frighteningly so~ resulting in a hasty retreat into the private place where i was already learning to hide the most beautiful parts of myself. where did that fear of being seen come from?

taking my hand, she leads me gently back to the painful clumsiness of that phone call, and it is clear that the shame that washed over that girl in that moment, never really washed away with time and experience as it should have. instead, it became jammed somewhere deep inside, appearing and reappearing ~bitter shame-fragments from the past endlessly triggered and spat up. at many moments throughout my life, this re-emerging shame has pushed me into passive ways of being where i desperately retreat into the shadows. from behind her veil she softly whispers that this is no way to be. the beauty of nature is profoundly perfect because of the countless forms of life that effortlessly and instinctively share their essence and light, connecting and intertwining to form an endlessly evolving one. upwards. together. perfect. as i stand under that crashing force, she speaks to me of standing in my power with an attitude of openness. she whispers of sharing, receiving. i need to join the party. she explains that somewhere along the line i learned that stepping into the void of connection was too risky, too frightening…….the water comes and goes, rushing over my skin, washing me clean, revealing an underlying understanding that was there all along ~ there is nothing to lose in life, there is only connection. a sharp pang of painful sadness manifests, born from the awareness of lost opportunities, but she quickly washes that away too. don’t hold on ~there’s no point. connecting is a two way street. just step out of the shadows and move actively towards the other. into the void where there are no guarantees.

it is september, 1992,  and i am in seville, spain. i’ve been working at the world expo ~ pulling beers at the “kangaroo pub”. one day some friends propose that we do a bungee jump, so that night we decide to do it. for the occasion i wear a morrissey t-shirt that features a screaming face. the time comes to jump, and as i ride up to the top, and the potential reality of what i am about to do hits home, i feel fear begin to dig its’ sharp claws into my stomach. i get to the top and a guy starts to attach an elaborately engineered rubber band to my ankles while engaging me in meaningless conversation. a distraction? despite his best efforts, his voice and words melt into a meaningless hum as i stare at a point over his shoulder and i begin to wonder why i have suddenly felt the need to throw myself from the top of a crane. i really want to chicken out, but it’s too late for that. rubber band attached, i step to the edge and look down. it is fucking high. my friends are below, watching. it is a simple decision, jump or don’t jump. it is a metaphor for the infinite possibilities contained in each second of life. without thinking and beyond all expectation, i jump. i don’t think. a space opens up in front of me, the space of no thought, no past, no future, only now. the ground rushes up in a split second, faster than my brain can process. the rubber band snaps back, all is well…….

behind the veil i see that my desire for connection through abandon is blossoming with every day that passes. how do i take the step beyond the dance of silent observation towards action, participation? i feel desire, but at the same time something continues to pull me back, holding me firmly in my place, in the shadows. stop it, i love it !!!!!  what are the ingredients to this indecision? how do i tease it apart so that i can savour it, understand it, and then let it go? the veil lifts, revealing the face of this unwelcome passenger from the past ~the fear of being seen and loved, the fear of the unknown. the only answer is to just jump.

finally, she whispers to me of the man i silently desire. unlike me, he makes no secret of his desire. yet i cannot jump. he is an echo from the past, his gaze turning me once again to face myself, but this time through the eyes of a woman, my own eyes. behind the veil lies an invitation to consider the delicious abandon that exists in the spaces between my curiosity and my fear. the choice before me, before all of us, at every second, of every day: step into what you don’t know or stay comfortable where you are. either way is fine, but why continue to swim in the illusion of safety? looking up to the source of the waterfall, water is pouring forth non-stop, symbolising a never ending abundance of energy, knowledge, movement….love~why deny myself the pleasure of connecting with what i desire when there is such abundance? in that moment, like a snake, i step out of the strange rigid skin that i had allowed to grow around myself and into the sweetness of emptiness and abandonment, falling mindfully into no-thought, no-analysis, naturally, like the water cascading down the rocks before me.

One thought

  1. Gorgeous Cate (both you and the blog), I have spent an overcast afternoon, snuggled under a blanket with the flu, deliciously indulging in your writing. I can relate so much to la ninfa’s messages to you; another beautiful example of the intertextuality of life that they should also speak so loudly to me… Thank you for sharing and I can’t wait to see you, sometime, somewhere! xxoo


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