Alchemical Speculative Placemaking

Solutio ♋︎

[Qualities of solutio: element of water 🜄, dissolving, disappearing, water as womb or the return to the womb for rebirth, dissolution of the ego or of limits]

“The water of life flows between the opposites: the masculine (sun consciousness, here represented as sulphur) and the feminine (moon consciousness, symbolised by Mercurius, spirit of the unconscious).” – Marie-Louise von Franz. Image from Johann Conrad Barchusen’s Elementa chemiae, 1718.

“Until all be made water, perform no operation.” – Unknown

Discovery of the Footprints
Along the riverbank under the trees,
I discover footprints.
Even under the fragrant grass,
I see his prints.
Deep in remote mountains they are found.
These traces can no more be hidden
than one’s nose, looking heavenward.
(Part 2 of the Ten Ox Herding Pictures of Zen Buddhism, 12th century, China)

A story: For years, especially in moments asking for deep encounter with myself, I’ve had the sensation of being underwater. Holding my breath, I was afraid. Something told me I could breathe there if I just tried. That no harm would come to me. That I could breathe underwater if I was willing. I was always too scared.

A year or so ago, during meditations, I repeatedly ended up on the shores of an alpine lake. Lined with evergreen trees, framed by distant mountains against a bright afternoon sky, I stood on its rocky shore. Placid, reflecting its surroundings, the lake seemed to exude sadness, a sadness that echoed in my heart. A beautiful sadness. I knew I was meant to go in, but I was again afraid.

On one visit, I was determined. I asked for tools to help me. Upon looking at my feet appeared a thick rope and a heavy gold key. Behind me was a post. Tying one end of the rope around the post and the other end around my waist, I picked up the key and walked into the water. Soon I was in over my head. But I could breathe. Or rather, breathing was not required.

Walking along the bottom of the lake, I encountered an old chest, padlocked shut. Using the key, I unlocked the chest with trepidation and lifted its lid. Amidst its red velvet lining lay a baby. Cradling him in my arms, I followed the rope back to the shore. A towel was on the post, and I dried the baby off. Lifting him to the sky, I told him I would take care of him. Upon bringing him back to my chest, he hugged me. I cried.


Mother, Great Mother, controller of tides, silver of the moon, granter of life.

Mothers who keep generations moving, who transmit the fibers of the ancestors who form us. Ancestors of our past, those lost and those who survived into their future, to bring us into this present.

“Breathing in unbreathable circumstances is what we do every day in the chokehold of racial gendered ableist capitalism. We are still undrowning. And by we, I don’t only mean people like myself whose ancestors specifically survived the middle passage, because the scale of our breathing is planetary, at the very least.”


– Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Isis, Egyptian mother goddess, whose tears for her husband Osiris flood the Nile.

In solutio, labels wash off, doubts dissipate. You who is you, not you who they say is you, is all that is here. Is all that matters. Is more than enough.

Wept tears form the bodies we are immersed in, channel the rivers for our travels. To be made whole we must first dissolve, into and out of ourselves. Let me hold you as you bathe in this flux. You do not have to do it alone. Don’t be afraid to let go. The pieces you don’t need will be left behind. The rest will come back to you. We can breathe here. Our bodies beat with water. We are filled with it. Let’s melt into it.

What do you carry that can be let go of?
What do we carry that can be let go of?
Trust the water to take it for us.

There is uncertainty in this vulnerability, in dissolving. Trust in the water, in our mothers, to hold it for us, to guide us to the next step.

Your whole life is an interlude.
Between what your ancestors put into you,
And how your descendants depend on you.
But through them you’ll live forever and ever.
So if you’re ever only into you, then that’s the end of you.

Amir Sulaiman
I Ching hexagram 59 indicating dispersion and dissolution

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s