Before the Zoom-video even appears, I can hear birds chirping – throughout our call they kept being the soundtrack to our conversation. Indigo Sparke is sitting in a blooming garden and the first thing she shows me are her freshly planted poppies – this is exactly the tone and energy an unknown journalist wishes to be welcomed with, peering through a screen into another human’s life. She has moved to an island in the pacific north-west near Seattle only a few weeks ago: “It’s strange because I just finished summer in Australia and I’m about to start that season again here.”
She tells me that it hasn’t been an easy decision. Unfortunately, or maybe it is quite fortunate, people have not yet developed the ability to foresee their own future so trying to make the right choice for one’s self can feel overwhelming.
“For me in the last month, I’ve been making the decision of whether I was going to move or stay in Australia and I was like: ‘Is it fear that doesn’t want me to move cause I’m scared of Covid or I’m scared of failing or is it intuition telling me to go because I know that’s the next best step for me in my life’s journey or is it fear telling me that I should go cause I don’t feel fulfilled being in Australia?’ – it was such a headfuck, so confusing for me and I could not figure out which it was! I was just living by myself for the last year too and you get into a flow and it feels comfortable and you know yourself and you’re on your own timeline and to change that I think sometimes is really positive and also sometimes it’s not so it’s hard to know.
There was this thing I watched the other day, it’s this amazing queer astrologer (QueerCosmos – Colin Bedell) and he was talking about how as adults and as children, you start to learn that you can’t build trust with yourself or in partnerships, any kind of relationship or with the universe, without having a relationship to the unknown. You have to have a relationship to the unknown and step into it to build a foundation or have an understanding of what trust really is.”
Going to hell and back
By practising to listen to our intuition, we gain the power to understand ourselves and attain an easier access to our creativity but to interpret what the different parts of our being tell us is easier said than done. Often, we have to be confronted with situations that we are not comfortable with or which we could not expect to really see how we can change our lives for the better. I asked Indigo Sparke what her own journey to intuitive understanding looked like:
“Oh wow well, it feels like I’ve been to hell and back, honestly! Truly in the last ten years, I feel like I died so many times so I think that informs it, I mean how can it not. We go through so many hurdles as human beings and every time you fall over, you get a little bit closer to who you are, knowing who you are. I definitely went through a long period of time where I was just distracting myself from myself or from listening to my intuition and I was distracting myself in so many different ways cause I think it’s more painful and vulnerable to be deeply in-tune with yourself in the society that we live in. It’s kind of easier to walk through the world and be avoidant and shut down and have a really thick suit of armour on to protect yourself cause it’s like the wild, wild west out there. It’s really hard to show up in vulnerability. I find that it’s quite terrifying most of the time.
But the result is so much more rewarding and fulfilling. I recently read this Brené Brown book, it’s called ‘Braving the Wilderness’ and she says: ‘People are hard to hate close up. Move in’ and I love that so much. You have a natural reaction when you’re hurt or scared,v protect and withdraw and then you create this othering, this separation from you and this other thing. It feels counter-intuitive to move closer to it but that’s what I’ve been practising, I think that’s the space where I’ve been learning myself the most.”
On Echo, the listener is invited to see the musician’s moments of hurt and love through an unfiltered lens. On Undone, she sings ‘The desert’s got my psyche, these bruises on my arms / And God, I feel like hell today /Thought I could find my own way’”– which is a reminder that even on a bad day, it is striving for a greater comprehension that keeps us moving forward. But where did the self-reflection start in her life?
Indigo Sparke has talked before about her upbringing and her primary education at a Steiner school. Since I’ve never met a non-German person who has grown up with this form of teaching (both of my brothers went to a Steiner school) and there are certain cliches about it (my brothers and me used to have pins that said ‘Yes, I can dance my name!’), I wanted to know what she considers as the advantages and disadvantages of it.
“I really struggled when I was going to one actually. I was the problem child but I think that’s really because I can’t stand institutions. I struggle with those kinds of boundaries that seem incongruent in my mind. They don’t make sense as to why you would educate with so many limitations. Obviously more so in state schools or public or private schools that have this way of teaching. And as much as it’s way more in-tune with the child’s timing and process of learning, it’s still an institution, it still has its own construct in the way that it educated children.
However, looking back at it now, I’m super grateful that that was woven into the foundations of who I was. It hasn’t been until like these later years of my 20s that I’ve almost settled in myself and now it’s like reaping all the benefits of having done the Steiner education when I was much younger. You know like I’m planting my seeds and I’m knitting jumpers and want to build things out of wood and ceramics and just being in that communicational reciprocity or exchange with nature and the seasons and the land and the seasons in myself, in my internal world. I do think it was a beautiful thing and if I had to choose some sort of education system for my children, if I choose to do that, then I’d probably send them to a Steiner school.”
How do you think can we encourage children to listen more to their intuition if they don’t get that from their primary education? What do you think?
“I’m living on a farm right now, there’s three children here and I’ve been watching them a lot and they’re all very sensitive in their different ways and what I’m noticing about that is that it really comes down to the exchange and the relationship that they have with their parents or their caregivers. And it’s a lot about curiosity and the way that you ask questions. […] Asking them questions about how they’re feeling, why they are feeling the way they are, what they want, what they need, why they do the things they do. Watching the kids this morning and they’re having problems sharing, they both want the wand and they may resolve in violence sometimes and that stuff can so often go unchecked or parents just let it slide but I’m finding it very beautiful to watch the interaction of the parents stepping in and asking questions like ‘Why did you feel like you needed to express it in that way?’ I think that that helps them find that relationship with their own internal intuition and their power like giving them the power and the strength to be able to articulate what feels true inside of them and then navigating that with them in the river of whatever they’re in.”
Addressing the child inside you
The first people that should hold us responsible for our actions are our parents or caregivers but at a certain point we have to do that for ourselves. Almost every person notices that we may age and are called adults at a certain moment but the child inside of us never really leaves. It might show up in the flavour of our favourite ice cream, a sudden urge to climb a wall and walk on top of it or in the way we talk to animals. Some people prefer to keep this side of themselves hidden but others build a stronger connection to it so how does Indigo Sparke take care of little Indigo in her everyday life?
“Well, I have a great therapist so she helps me to stay on top of it. Truly that has been an amazing support system for me to remind me to keep checking in with all those different parts of myself and that truly revolutionised the way that I cope in the world. I think we live in a society that actually champions disconnection. But honestly, I feel like it’s changing. I feel the scales are tipping now and more and more people being in this state of self-inquiry, that’s not deemed as like this hyper-spiritual hippie space anymore.
As I’ve gotten older, I struggle more talking about spirituality because it just feels kind of cringy. I’ve realised the people who talk about it the most are actually sometimes the least spiritual people. The people that I witness in deep spiritual practice are often the people who work at the grocery store or the single mother who is caring for her son day in day out, that to me is so much more spiritual than some shaman who is doing an ayahuasca ceremony. Not that I judge that, each to their own I think there is beauty and lessons in all of it, truly.
Anyway, to talk about myself, it’s been a very helpful way for me to accept myself on a day level and in turn I find that the more I’m able to be present with myself and all the different, young, child-like versions of myself, the easier it is for me to be present with other people in the world and to be more compassionate. Some days, when I’m in a good state of mind, I can be in the world and remind myself with a lot of joy to see everyone that I’m interacting with as like a five-year old. And then it just makes me smile even when people are being fucking assholes, I’m like ‘I get it, that’s really sweet, of course you feel that way, of course.’”
Perhaps letting the multitudes run freely is a step closer to peace with the self and with our surroundings, be it the people or the environment. Nature in her many remarkable variations is another prominent theme on the album. An animal that stands out in particular is the wolf so I was curious why it’s so significant in the artist’s life.
“I felt like I had a real connection with the wild, roving, solitary nature of that creature in the last few years of my life. I felt like I could identify with it in some way but I was also, I mean constantly for the last 6 or 7 years on and off, reading ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’ and the mythology of that was very alive inside of me. And they just kept popping up too. There were times being in different canyons in LA where you could hear the coyotes and times out in the desert, even times when I was in Tuscany that I would hear these dog cries that were echoing through the mountains so it was just a recurring thing for me, my connection with them. I think it was just more of the symbology like this external representation of what I was feeling. The lone wolf, being in the shadows or in the darkness or lost in the wilderness or lost some days and not lost on other days, knowing exactly where it was going or where I was going.”
In several interviews, Indigo Sparke has talked about her yearning for open spaces like the desert or the ocean. As a nature person myself I often wonder how it would be to one day live at the edge of a forest and be in total harmony with the earth but it is often followed by the question of how long it would take me to shift from solitude to loneliness
“That’s a really interesting thought – I guess that’s something else that I’ve been navigating too. What you said, there’s a difference between feeling lonely and being alone. But there are times where I’ve isolated myself so much and I’ve realised – Oh ok, it’s been a while that I’ve been interacting with other people or I’ve been in nature and it’s beautiful and I gained a lot being in a deep reflection state but then it clicks over and I’m like Oh no this isn’t healthy anymore, I feel like I’m going a bit crazy or something.
But maybe it comes back to that question-stuff and your other question talking to the parts and the child inside of you – talking to yourself like a child, like you would talk to another child and asking questions: ‘Why is it that you wanna be alone? What are you searching for right now? Why are you needing to feel safe? Is it that you feel safer being alone because the world doesn’t feel safe outside of you?’, and then actually actioning that as well through having relationships and asking how can I create relationships with people where I feel safe, it’s interesting to navigate.”
Since the conversation was flowing very naturally, we talked 20min longer than our timeslot but the thing I decided to close with was death. On Everything Everything, the closing song of the record, Sparke prompts the listener to consider their own mortality but it is generally a theme that is never far away when talking about nature – everything eats and is eaten.
What you’d say to people who are afraid of death?
“Honestly? Nothing! I don’t think you can force people to look at stuff that they are not ready to look at. I’ve resigned to unresolve the fact that everybody’s here on a different journey and people are at different levels of consciousness. It’s not right or wrong or better or worse than another person, it’s just ‘What are you going to do?’ I feel like I’ve spent years smashing my head against a brick wall trying to get different people in my life to look at things through a lens that I see things through and you’re just wasting energy and time. If I’m having a conversation with someone who is not really looking at death but I can feel an opening in them or I feel like there is some kind of curiosity, I wouldn’t walk away from that conversation.
I would step into it for sure because it’s a beautiful thing that is so taboo in our Western culture. There’s so much terror around it, there’s no ritual around it and we live separately and we put our grandparents and our old folk into homes so that other people can take care of them, away from the house, you know, there’s just a lack of connection to it. Western society is so disgusted by aging. We’re a society that is so repulsed by aging so of course when death is coming for you, for us, and we’ve spent our lives thinking that it’s something that is never gonna happen to us … I don’t know why people feel like, even me, like I’m not othering myself from these generalisations. I’m included in it but I can go for months and I will catch myself realising that I feel I’m immune from death and then it’s like ‘No, I’m not’.”
There is a wonderful quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estés from Women Who Run With Wolves which encapsulates our conversation and touches, in a way, on each concept we discussed. Despite our best efforts to keep a constant balance, being alive is always an alternation of new beginnings and endings.
“Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings – all in the same relationship.”