One of the things we’re consistently interested in is the intersection between individual and universal fears. And one of the images that has been percolating through our consciousness recently is that of a bubbling maelstrom. For those who don’t know, a maelstrom is a powerful whirlpool that occurs at sea or sometimes in rivers. Titled “A Descent into the Maelstrom,” it’s also one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most underrated short stories and one of our personal favorites. Driven into the maelstrom by a powerful hurricane, the narrator has been made prematurely old by the experience, even as he was also awe-struck by the phenomenon.
We’ve been thinking about this image and story in light of this year’s particularly destructive hurricane season as well as the larger picture that is global warming. It’s not just a maelstrom, it’s a bubbling maelstrom, a heated whirlpool in which the jets burn and tear at our flesh. It’s a race to our own destruction, the slow boil of the lobster and the final flash of Mother Nature breaking off our tail as she ingests and digests our journey’s end.
The image of the maelstrom also reminds of a conversation we had with a therapist. She told us that one of the things she likes to do is to ask clients to imagine their emotions as a body of water. What does it look like? Is it an ocean with huge rolling waves, rushing river rapids, a pond with ripples on it from a stone? Or is it a huge lake, calm on the surface for the most part, but dotted with a series of violent maelstroms? The goal, then, is to know where these emotional maelstroms, these moments of tremendous personal upheaval, are located on your lake. You know them by their location, but you also know how to avoid falling all the way into their swallowing vortex. You know where the doors are to your Nightmare Rooms.