Pipi’s In A Pot

When I was little we used to spend our summer holidays with family up north on the east coast of Queensland. I loved these trips to the ocean, they hold a special happy place in the my mind. I remember standing by the waters edge letting the waves lick at my feet, sinking my toes into the wet sand and searching for pipi’s. 

One year my brothers and I collected so many pipi’s that the adults decided to take the huge bucket home and cook them up for dinner, it was super exciting. Mum found this large pot in the back of the cupboard, filled it with water, popped it on the stove, and we all waited for it to start boiling. Once the pipi’s were cleaned and the water was salted Mum and dad dumped half of the pipi’s into the pot. The very second the poor shell fish hit that boiling water, there came a high pitched squeal, almost a scream, it was so loud that it filled the entire holiday flat. The screaming was so intense that Mum quickly took the pot off the stove and rushed it outside and shut the door. As a result of this sudden event everyone in the flat immediately lost their appetites for pipi’s, and my Dad and oldest brother rushed the rest of the shell fish back to the ocean and came back with fish and chips for dinner instead. 

You see, what we should have done, is put the pipi’s in the pot cold, then slowly brought the water up to boil. The shell fish would have fallen asleep at the bottom of the pot and then opened their shells for us without making a sound, no screaming, no distress, no grief.

This concept of grief has always intrigued me. What is grief? How do you know you are experiencing it? Of course it was pretty obvious for the pipi’s. Just like being thrown into hot water, grieving is when you experience a deep trauma that suddenly blindsides you, a loss of a loved one or an end to a significant relationship and many other types of events, can be the cause of trauma. But can you have a grief that slowly turns inside of you, just like the shell fish going to sleep at the bottom of a slow boiling pot. Can you have grief without the land mark event? Can prolonged sadness (cool water) boil itself into unidentified grief (hot water)? 

The “popular” belief is, that grief occurs when something extreme externally happens to you. When something you are not in control of affects you in such away that your life alters completely. But I believe that grief can also be an internal force. Twisting your mind and thoughts into situations, reactions and decisions that are sometimes more than regrettable.

The other day I was listening to a lecture series on grief, I found this particular talk really interesting. However half way through the speeches I had this strange feeling that I did not belong in the in the course at all. Some of the grief that the lectures had experienced and were talking about was so emense that I found myself not being able to relate to what was being talked about. You see, I have had the wonderful blessing in life to have never been touched by any massive trauma. Like a lot of a middle class, suburban white people, in the “developed world”, I have moved through life relatively safely and with minimal stress or fear. So while I was watching this series I asked myself, do you have to qualify for grief? Are there prerequisite that you need, to allow you to identify with this concept?  

I am beginning to think you don’t. You see as I have bumbled through this life’s’ journey, tripping over, getting back up and moving forward. I feel, over the years I have been collecting pipi’s of sorrow. With each sadness that I have tripped over, friendship break ups, boyfriend break ups, fights with family, boundaries not acknowledged and violated. Each pipi that has been dropped into the cool pot makes the water get warmer and warmer, until I have found that the pot has all of a sudden become raging hot, turning sadness into boiling hot trauma. The danger is that just like the pipi’s at the bottom of the pot there is no loud squealing, just a quiet scream that only you can hear inside you own heart. So yes, even the seemingly unaffected white girl from the quiet suburbs, can belong in a conversation about grief and trauma, as I feel this slow boiling sorrow if not acknowledged can end up being just as large and as difficult to carry as one single big traumatic event. 

These thoughts have inspired my latest illustration called a “Block of pebbles” just like the pipi’s in the pot, unmet sorrow no matter how old it is, if not dealt with can be just as heavy as one solid rock. 

Block of Pebbles – Water colour and felt pen on paper

The question now is how to put down this rock? Or get out of the pot? I am still working on that one. Maybe the trick is not to get out of the pot, we just need to stop the water from getting warmer.   

I hope everyone is having a peaceful start to February. Stay safe and and sit with love. 

Published by allihoward123

Allison Howard main passion has always been story telling works predominantly with illustration and completed her MFA at Monash University, Melbourne 2012. Graduating with the Chancellors award for best Thesis. Allison Has worked and collaborated with many artists and exhibitions, in both Australia and New Zealand. To be kept up to date with Allison's latest activity and to view her current and archived works please visit Instagram @alli.howard123 and hit the follow button.

2 thoughts on “Pipi’s In A Pot

  1. Wise words, beautifully written and illustrated. I read long ago that all of life’s changes are deaths – the old dies, replaced by the new – and require grieving so we can move forward. 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

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