There was sliver of wood caught near my knuckle on my ring finger, close to the surface, the splinter was clearly visible under the translucent skin. I was able to remove in one single complete, gentle, deliberate tug with my old pink tweezers. No blood was drawn. It was a simple act of acquisition in the garden on a tomato stake and a precision act of removal. Another example of my body being a vessel for this never ending song of call and response. Something coming in – an inhale, and something going out – an exhale. The splinter took a nano second to go in and about ten times longer to pull out, a familiar ratio of life’s lessons!
I didn’t realise the stake would be the source of a gardening injury, the danger of the decomposing untreated wood completely invisible to me. I didn’t even bother to have gloves on, no prophylactic seemed necessary, another reminder, that not all dangers are visible and taking routine precautions are good preventative strategies.
My default is trust, and I have an expectation that trust will be understood, even rewarded, yet managing broken trust, seems to be a lesson I have learn and re-learn over and over. I do not readily take the hints, the minor splinter experiences offer me. I hope I never do. I hope I continue to take the risks of going into the garden of life, not always fully protected, to stay open to the splinters and the subtle, almost perverse, pleasure in their extraction. There is the cautionary tale of death by a thousand cuts and I’ve found my way to deep griefs more than once for failure to learn from the little injuries along the way, Trust being immovable despite evidence to the contrary. Trust has it’s costs when the splinters are bigger, wider, deeper.
The invisible injuries build our resilience, our courage, our hope, our aspirations, feed our drive, hold us steady when the seas get rough, insist on leaving a scar to remind us of their place in our story. They make themselves visible as butterflies in the stomach, teardrops on a cheek, gasps and sighs, sweating hands and clearing throats. They might even turn up as a cackle. They do arrive though, and make themselves visible to our deepest selves.
I worked through relatively quickly, one such experience this week. I moved from shock to acceptance, and the moved on, with the aid of a Crunchie bar followed by a gin and tonic. I laughed when I realised what I was doing and actively tried to reduce the incident, to splinter size. I felt encouraged that I had noticed what I was doing, even though not quite soon enough, as the bar was well gone and the glass half empty, before I arrived at that realisation. Yet another reminder of how the visible and invisible interplay works in my life, and the ratio of splinter arrival and removal continues to remain constant.
Following the grain in the wood, is one way to reduce splinters, yet maybe it is going against the grain we find the edges and connect with something greater inside and beyond ourselves. Hans Christian Anderson wrote about the splinters of wood that had turned into matches and were exceedingly proud of their single dignified origin from a great pine tree, deep in the dark forest. Perhaps the little splinter moments are a prompt to remember our deep rooted origins so we can draw up all we need from the ancient land and into ourselves? The humble splinter connecting me to the forest and the tree.