When was the beginning?
At times, in recovery, it seems important to pinpoint the exact moment when things began to change. I texted my therapist two days ago, asking her whether she remembered the date of our first meeting, but she hasn’t responded. She could have no record of it, even though it was only approximately a year and a half ago… It became important to me to remember, to mark the exact day when the old wound, that memory of fear and pain, began to stir inside me, but I knew deep down that it wasn’t then; it was earlier.
It was in the spring of 2015 and I was walking down the only road of a remote Mediterranean island just before dawn. I was thinking of the line in Dylan’s song, ‘they say the darkest hour, is right before the dawn’. It was totally dark and silent when I heard a sound that was soft, but primeval, as though a night cloud had sighed. I looked over my shoulder and there it was, spectral and radiantly pale, its wings spread wide, its heart-shaped face illuminating the blackness it silently broke as it flew: the barn owl I’d heard every morning, but had not seen until that moment. It slowed down, rising ever so slightly, as though gently tugged by invisible strings, and flew into one, two loops directly ahead of where I stood. And then it was off, gathering speed from its helicoid flight, gliding intently towards the low ground that lay at the centre of the island.
I stood in the dark stillness for a few moments, searching the sky for traces of the owl, a trail of silver dust, an incandescent flight line I knew wouldn’t be there, desperate to hold on to the moment, but there was nothing. Overcome by a sudden feeling of deliverance, I crouched down and lay on the road surface, feeling, for the first time in my life, completely safe. There would be no car, no other person; just me, the night sky and the ground I lay on.
For those few moments, the tiny island and its sky felt like an infinite universe and I like the Little Prince, brought to life, again, by a few strokes of colour and the magical flight of an owl. I began to sob, deep, guttural sobs of relief, of anger and grief. That is when it began. That was when the ball of pain burst deep inside me. That was when I began to heal, though I didn’t know it at the time.