How to bring together blossom, liberal spaces and biting dogs


Let’s talk about … oh, you’ll see.

“Beautiful things need a liberal space in which to come to life.”

Laura Gauthier Petit
Elle Decoration, April 2018

[as a blossom lands on his nose]
 “I still bite sometimes.”
Nutmeg: “That’s okay, I don’t like tame animals.”

From Isle of Dogs

Sometimes a bunch of things arrive in my head, in my life, at the same time and seem to ‘do something’. To try and feel more scientific, I call them data points.

All of the data points get dropped into my experience and then, using string and a big white wall, I pin them all together. A lot of the time, what I do when I write this post or write poetry or have conversations is try to explain that to someone. To say: can you see this? Can you really see it? Or is it just me?

So at the moment there’s Laura Gauthier Petit, Isle of Dogs, and the blossoming trees outside as my data points.

This post will be the string.

In the last few months – let’s say six to nine – I’ve known several of my friends go through deep, hurtful, relationship trauma. I include myself in that group. All of us have been in pain, felt wretched, acknowledged guilt, been angry, and travelled through that grief cycle at different speeds.

All of us are also experiencing strange, other feelings: Relief. Joy. Excitement. Happiness. Love. Feelings which seemed very distant yesterday, two weeks, or eight months ago (even though we’re all old enough and ugly enough to realise they will always return. Always).

We’re experiencing them because we had the luck and did the work to be in a liberal space, with all the benefits that brings.

My friend who is hurting said to me yesterday,

“People keep telling me to remember to ‘be me’ and not forget to do that.”

“Huh,” I said, “but whatever you do – it’ll be you. Because … you’re doing it.”

Whatever it is she needs to do next, it will be her. The idea she would behave in a way which wasn’t ‘her’ doesn’t make sense; it will always be her, will always be exactly who she needs to be right then.

But similarly, this weekend I had a wobble. I freaked out when I thought about how I was living my life, what I was attempting, where I would be going. I thought:

“What the fuck am I doing?”

(But louder and with more emphasis. And sat in the car park of Lidl.)

Yet that’s the point: I am doing me, doing who I need to be right now, in this moment, at this unique point in my life.

If you have that feeling of what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-but-bloody-hell-this-is-exciting-what-the-hell-is-going on …

… it is highly likely you are doing exactly as you should be doing for this moment in your life.

The blossom on the tree doesn’t think “Holy shit I’m blooming! I used to be a little green thing and now I’m doing what?!”. It just does it.

And then it folds back and becomes the fruit. And then the seed. And then the shoot. And again and again and again

in a series of moments of life
doing exactly what it should be doing
right then.

For the tree to blossom over and over
For the friends to experience joy, happiness, love again
For you to feel as if what you’re doing is right for this moment

We need to be in a liberal space.

A liberal space, to me, doesn’t mean a space in which you can just do whatever the fuck you like with no consequences. We are all accountable to ourselves and to others.

A liberal space means a place where you can

  • do what you should be doing, moment to moment,
  • knowing that you will do something which has consequences,
  • knowing that those consequences may be painful / difficult / dangerous / challenging / earth-shaking, and
  • knowing it will be okay.

A space in which you know you will still be loved. You will still be part of the pack. You will not be cast out. 

A space in which you can bite sometimes, and the pack will turn round and say, “That’s okay, we don’t like tame animals.”

Inhabiting a liberal space requires luck (if only because hey, the universe is bloody massive and everything is pretty much random) but also work. You can’t just rock up to a group of friends or relatives or soul family and expect that space to be liberal.

Everyone in that pack has to work at making it a liberal space. That works best, in my experience, if everyone in that pack has empathy. Has been through the pain. Has recovered. Has learnt something, anything. Has dealt with this shit before. Is tactful, honest. If everyone in that pack is committed to lifting you up.

Through creating that liberal space, your pack will

allow you to bite
love you the same
lift you up to blossom
bring you, the beautiful thing, to life

and moment to moment you will be doing the exact same thing for them.

And what a good thing that is. To have this life, this experience, this pack. To have this moment of living.

Here are my data points. Here is the string.
Can you see this? Can you really see it? Or is it just me?


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