In the Midst of it All….

Words & Photography by Frederique Peckelsen in NL2 magazine

As I have tried to figure out how life works, I noticed that happiness and sadness are not something I can control. They come and go like waves and I need to learn how to keep my peace within those storms. It has been like this all my life. Whereas the women around me always seemed to be calm, I had this intense whirlwind of emotions, feelings and thoughts. The landscape surrounding me whilst growing up was more like the feelings of my kin: stable and predictable. Quiet and easy. Soft and straight. 

But then there was me. This dark haired and dark eyed girl, with feelings as deep as the black swirling sea. I have tried to control and tame this intensity within me, but it never truly seemed to calm me down. I have always felt like my head and my heart were at war with each other. One day I could feel this intense happiness and love for everything surrounding me, but the other day I could cry because the rain and the dark sky unleashed a deep feeling of sadness and melancholia within me. And as hard as it has always been for me to admit, it is not the happiness I always go back to, but it is that somber state that remains a constant in my life. I have tried to ignore it. For years I hoped it was a passing phase, and that my dark waters would calm down one day and that I would be more like the women and landscapes I grew up with.

For as long as I can remember, I have been looking for places that equal my inside. Intense and high, dark and deep, rugged and harsh. Maybe this is why I always feel drawn to the roughness of mountains. The lands surrounding mountains are the most inspiring places in the world to me. But these are also the loneliest places, as mountains work as natural barriers for all things alive. But this is exactly why I feel drawn to them. Because these are places we can’t easily reach. Places where both nature and the weather are beyond our control and there is no hiding from it, no pausing it or getting away from it.

Mountains, rain, fog and snow storms are all soothing to me. These natural phenomena awe me, and silence my inside as they make me stand in awe. They make me feel safe and protected, as they bring me back to myself, my own thoughts and feelings, with no distraction of any sort. The intenser the setting gets, the calmer I start to feel on the inside. I need to be there, just stand there, in the midst of it all, and be part of it. It is when my surroundings match my feelings and my emotions, that I am at my lightest.

In this way, nature has taught me to accept and above all value the dark sea within me. Because, if it is this majestic and dramatic scenery that calms me and leaves me in awe, then why would this intensity within me not be just as valuable? This swirling dark waters of my inner world bring so much inspiration and insights, that I learned to appreciate my emotions and longing for solitude. It taught me that this intensity within me is not just sadness, but it is a way for me to see nature and hear its sounds. It is a way to truly sense and understand it and to connect with it. It shapes the way I see things, it shapes the way I translate thoughts and sights into words and images. These dark moods are also an essential way of withdrawing from the world, and thinking things over. And instead of focussing on happiness and the effort to make all the other go away, I just let it be part of the cycle within me.

In the end, my dark waters have never settled down, but I do know these waters and their depths. And staying afloat in familiar waters is not half as hard as it was when I was fighting against the waves.

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