I sit quietly at my table...
Updated: Jun 14
Sitting here at the table with tired, dry eyes. I let my lids fall, washing them with moisture into cool darkness. As I settle in to my inner landscape the music softens, the hum of the furnace falls away. I smell the clean freshness of my studio, with the slightest undertone of paint from the freshly gessoed panels. I feel the seat under my buttocks and long for a softer chair. As my attention drifts down my legs I notice that my feet wish that they had a pair of soft, warm slippers to comfort them. The sweater I am wearing scratches lightly on my neck, not enough of an irritation to remove it. There is still a chill in the air, the furnace yet to warm the space.
I tip my head to one side and hear my neck gently crack. I shift in my seat, vowing that I will get myself a good chair once the stores are open again. The creaky relic I am sitting on began as my teenage son’s desk chair when I originally brought it home from IKEA. 20 years later, many of them in my studio, the chair is ragged, paint splattered and in serious need of some new cushioning. It complains loudly as I lean back, stretching to relieve the tightness in my shoulder blades.
I have noticed as I lay in bed each night, waiting to drift off to sleep, that I am holding a formidable tension in my body. As I lie there, I have to remind myself that it is okay to relax, that for the moment I am safe. My bed can support me. I am holding this tension just as I hold my breath, waiting for the jolt of having my world snatched out from below my feet.
Just like the magician pulling the tablecloth out from under the table setting. The dishes are all still in place but something fundamental is absent. In an instant the foundation of the table setting has been whisked away. The table remains, the dishes remain, missing is the covering that hides the table from view. A bare table set for a meal.
My gaze lifts and I scan the stack of books in front of me, silently reading the titles. Sacred Geometry, The Idiot’s Guide to the Gnostic Gospels, The Book of Symbols and the Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
My eyes drop and settle on the bare table. Scarred from years of use, some of it neglectful. I can see the imprints of my children’s sessions on the smooth surface, the indents almost legible 20 years later. Scars inflicted by careless knives, unremovable stains from paint missing paper. And yet when I see the table, I am grateful for its stability. Despite the surface revealing the tales of its use, it stands stalwart, faithful and unassuming. What is a table a sign of?
I pull The Book of Symbols from the stack and flip to the index. The photo shows a painting of a barren round table covered with a delicately embroidered pale beige tablecloth, sitting in front of a plain beige wall. Not a lot going on here. Without Still Life is the title of the painting by Domenico Gnoli, painted in 1966. The table is empty, inviting setting. This empty table invites life to set it, with harmony or discord, company or isolation. The table… tableaux… alter… around which we gather for a meal. I hear echoes of a previous conversation with Gary Dillon about the sacred nature of a table.
The circular table represents alchemy. That’s the third time this week the word alchemy has arisen in front of me, a call to transformation. The circle, around which the four elements or directions are contained, the solar table of the orphic mysteries pointing symbolically to the perfection of the rotundum, the bringing together of things in an integrated whole.
Well you’ve got my attention now.
I glance over to the painting I have just begun, and the poem I wrote to inspire it:
Solar wheel of light
The cardinal contained
As above, so below
Raven’s sent before dawn
Return to whisper their secrets
For Odin’s ear
The wolves are in pursuit!
I love synchronicity, finding meaning in the echoes. To me they are visible reverberations of our energy, spreading out like ripples on still water, disturbed by raindrops. Watching the circles expanding out to meet each other, gently impacting each other as they intersect.
A square table on the other hand represents the tension of oppositional, competitive and hierarchical seating. Every board meeting table ever, every family table I ever sat at. I ‘draw up a chair’ looking to be included. I ‘bring to the table’ my contribution, my offering.
Today the table I sit at is empty, I sit alone. I find myself disappearing again into the carvings on its surface, illegible hieroglyphics from a previous era. I cannot decipher them, and I feel a warm rush of love for the hands that held the pens and the knives that left their mark. I feel a surge of tears towards my dry eyes as I remember their pudgy little hands struggling to learn to write, to create, to prove what they were learning each day, absent at school.
I think of the closed schools, learning indefinitely postponed. My niece’s grad year finishing with a vague suspension of daily life. Till when? An important transitional celebration gone, just like the table cloth. I imagine Anna standing, holding her grad dress in front of her. What the fuck has just happened?
My phone dings. I ignore it. The tightness in my throat doesn’t feel like trying to talk right now.
What does the tablecloth represent? A clean table cloth represents feasting, harmony, prosperity, smooth sailing in business and domestic affairs. A dirty tablecloth represents conflict. Hiding under a table cloth denotes the need to focus on your life and stop hiding away according to www.auntyflo.com and The Dreamer’s Dictionary.
Ha! Not many other options at the moment.
If the tablecloth has been whisked away, what lies beneath has been unexpectedly exposed. Am I willing to look? The dishes are still settling back to silence, their setting ever so slightly disturbed.
Everything looks alright - ish…same but oh so not the same. I think again of my poem, as above, so below, reflected within. Perhaps the tablecloth is the veil, separating above from below, and now that it is removed I can all the more clearly see the reflection within.
I sit quietly at my table.