Prologue to an Explosion by Titika Røtkjær

Prologue to an Explosion by Titika Røtkjær

I looked at the rays of sun on the walls in my living room. They were beautiful, golden and warm even though it was late September. I ought to go out and make some pictures in the city, I thought, grabbed my phone and jacket, ran down the stairs and started to walk around in the streets. 

It was Saturday and Copenhagen was full of people enjoying the sun. The atmosphere was lovely. Because the sun is such a rare guest in Copenhagen, people make sure to appreciate it when it’s there. I walked among the pictures of my mind as a double exposure landscape between the houses when I was captured.

Darkness instantly poured over me. I was lifted some inches above the ground.

“Be still. Listen and remember: you have work to do.”

Eventually everything around me became brighter and glittered strangely with a soft cloudy quality. What was going on? I couldn’t touch the ground and at the same time I was in the middle of Copenhagen. People passed by and buildings were clear to me, but it was as if I had become invisible. Was I going to die now?

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

“No, but it may seem so for a short time while you experience the explosion. You need to be transformed to fulfil your mission here on Earth. Don’t worry, we will provide the advice needed.”

An explosion? No, no, no, I don’t want an explosion. I like peace. I’m not the explosive kind of person.

“Much on this planet can be confusing. Not everything makes sense. Accept that. Don’t try to add meaning to the meaningless.”

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

Standing in front of the old University building in the center of Copenhagen, the shadows still shone with an enchanted light when the voice disappeared. I sat down at one of the stone steps in front of the main entrance. Across the square two men in suits talked and pointed at the church. A small girl and a woman walked hand in hand eating ice creams. A young woman sunbathed on a bench. Other people sat on the steps behind me, smoking, drinking coffee and reading in the late summer sun. The atmosphere was lazy and calm. I tried to understand what had just taken place…

I couldn’t.

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

In the following days I started to doubt my experience. It seemed more and more unreal. At the same time I felt scared of being transformed and sometimes lost as if the world was too big for me. When that happened I walked. Walked and walked for hours, and focused on details so as not to become overwhelmed. Beauty for sure was in the detail: the sound of waves by the sea, the smell of rain, for example, and the way the sunlight changed colors in the late afternoon.

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

A week after the voice contacted me, a map appeared on the palms of my hands. It was early in the morning and I was in the process of deciding which of my almost identical black skirts to wear when it became visible.

I folded my fingers and saw how a pattern developed. The pattern turned into a picture, and the picture into a movie. I recognised myself walking around unaware in my own hands. I was hypnotized. Looking closely I understood that I was protected and shouldn’t fear.

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

I grabbed a random skirt, put it on, held my breath and listened in order to hear if the voice from the other day had any additional comments…

Nothing! 

Kind of disappointed, I began vacuuming my apartment. 

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

After that I paid extra attention to my hands, but of course there was nothing to see out of the ordinary. 

Was it my imagination? The experiences with the voice and the pictures in my hands were both very surreal, yes, but at the same time persuasive. I was confused and ambivalent. I feared them, and I was attracted. Even though it might seem weird: they had implemented a certain feeling in me. A feeling I couldn’t get rid of. I felt sure I was going to be transformed along with my life. It would be a dangerous process, but I would be protected. 

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

I was in a constant nearly-nervous state no matter how much I walked or met with friends or tried to calm myself down. Despite the nervousness, my energy was upbeat. I did a lot of work and that was good. And meeting with friends in the lovely weather was a true joy. 

An evening drinking wine and talking with my best friend after a movie I considered telling her. We sat outside on a café by one of the ponds. It was dark and I really felt like sharing my experiences as if I could make them either vanish or become more ordinary by talking about them. 

I didn’t tell her. I started to, but stopped in the middle of a sentence when I saw the expression on her face. Big mistake, I instantly realized. The whole thing was too mysterious. And moreover, I wasn’t able to explain, nor to describe, in a way that was as compelling as I had sensed it.

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

On my way home later the same evening it started to rain. Wonderful, relieving drops blurred my sight. I ran, jumped, danced. 

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

As if the rain was still there I couldn’t see far for many days. That didn’t scare me, I was convinced my sight eventually would be back. I knew it was a sign: the day of the explosion was approaching. I tried to be patient, do what was necessary, and what I considered normal. 

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

When the day came I prepared myself: up early, shower, coffee, soft shoes, warm clothes. At six o’clock I walked out. The morning was freezing dark and the city sleeping. The winter arrived early from one day to the next that year. A thin layer of ice covered the big ponds in Copenhagen. The city council kept one end of one pond open for the ducks. They were asleep when I passed them. From time to time a car engine split the silence, then it closed again. Here and there I saw lights in windows, but most of them were covered by darkness. 

I walked fast to stay warm and to make any reminiscence of nervousness subside. As usual, it helped to walk fast. At one point I felt totally calm – and overwhelmingly scared. 

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

And then it happened: the explosion.

It’s kind of complicated to describe. I was thrown through space and it was beautiful: pure melting light and dancing colors in all directions. Transparent forms changed shapes continuously. I also heard a sharp metallic sound that felt soothing and mild. It stayed with me for a long time. I was flying. I remember smiling, stretching and reaching before I blacked out.

I woke up a second later in a hospital. Or to be exact: seven hours and thirteen minuts later. I was dizzy, but I instantly knew I was blessed: my level of energy and joy was way too high for a smashed person. Of course I was in pain. But what can you expect? It didn’t worry me. 

The next morning I tried to stand up. After a while I gained balance. As soon as I could walk without holding on to anything, I thanked the doctors and said goodbye. They looked at me with a mixture of concern and amazement… Subsequently, they agreed to send me home. 

Strangely transformed but recognizable, the world felt confusing and different. So did my body. I started to navigate. I found the right door, put my hand on the handle and saw how it opened. I stood still for a moment. Then I went through. I had work to do.

A Copenhagen Tale @titika.ink

To read more by Titika Røtkjær, see “Tango”, “Newcastle Noir” and “Concerning Life and Light…”

Or visit Titika on Instagram.

 

Concerning life and light, death and miracles

Concerning life and light, death and miracles

I woke up in a dimly lit room.
I was amazed
to be alive!

M was there. He touched my face and kissed me. “She’s awake,” a nurse said, and added, “she’s too cold.” Another nurse placed a pre-heated blanket on my stomach under the quilt. A little later the first nurse took my temperature again. “She is still too cold.” The second nurse replaced the first pre-heated blanket with another. I felt uplifted, blessed and surprised.

I was standing in front of the large mirror in my bedroom in Copenhagen. It was winter outside, and freezing. I made an effort to let what had happened to me during the past three weeks sink in: I was with M in the UK where he worked. It had been this lovely long summer, with mesmerizing light every day. I was occupied with plans and pictures and poems, so entirely happy and inspired. I felt healthy and fit. Maybe a bit tired now and then…but who cares? I had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, and struggled with the condition for the last eight years. That spring this frozen darkness which had taken over my whole existence was melting away. Since I was a child I have suffered from anxiety and depression, but never as massive as in those eight years. In September 2016, I had been well for six months. Then I began to feel sick in a more physical way. It was diffuse, but always in combination with fatigue and stomach pain. I went to the doctors.

Everything happened fast: tests, scans, examinations. For two and a half weeks the diagnosis was uncertain and I was hoping that it might “just” be precursors to cancer, because the doctors couldn’t see any tumor on the scans. But late one afternoon a surgeon called with the final results: “You’ve got cancer, and a rather large tumor.” Silence. Then she added: “I checked the results from your four-year-old tests; they showed precursors to cancer. Something should have been done back then. You should file a complaint when all of this is over.” And then she told me exactly how much she and her colleague had to remove from my body. I was shocked.

One and a half days later: the surgery.

Standing in front of the large mirror: grief, vulnerability and sadness about what had happened were in a chaotic fight with relief, strength and joy to be alive. I have always had problems accepting my own body, and now I really looked worse than ever, way beyond miserable. My abdomen was swollen, my chest flatter than usual, my arms were skinny and my cheeks hollow. I need to see a psychologist, a psychoanalyst, a healer or maybe a priest? I need help!!! I thought. I can’t handle this alone.

Instead of crying, a profound calm and clarity suddenly overwhelmed me.
At that point I made peace with my body.
For the first time in my whole life I didn’t criticize it.

I was grateful. My body was working on my survival, to heal, to get back into balance. I accepted it completely. A totally new and surprising experience. I decided to heal myself without help from any therapist. Mixed feelings would wave over me in the times to come. Sometimes I nearly drowned in helplessness, vulnerability, sadness and confusion, but that would subside, and the mood from when I woke up after surgery took over and saved me from sliding into a long-term depressive state. A sense of being uplifted and miraculously protected carried me through the following months.

During the surgery all lymph nodes in my abdomen were removed, along with the cancer and anything else doctors feared the cancer could have spread to. I was afraid of developing lymphedema. Removed lymph nodes are lost. They don’t come back. But the system can make new vessels for the lymph fluid to circulate in the body. The lymph system is important for keeping the body healthy. Lymph fluid protects against infections, and the lymph nodes cleanse the lymph fluid before it enters the blood vessels. I did research. I consulted websites from experts, medical centers and hospitals all over the English speaking world. I found the right food to eat, and how to perform lymph massage, and when I could touch my stomach again I started to do this massage every day. And I meditated. I also did a mild exercise program until I – slowly, little by little – could do bits and pieces from my Ashtanga yoga routine. Exercise should not be exaggerated in the beginning. It can make the condition worse. The most effective thing was lying on my yoga mat, stretching, moving and trying to tune in to my body’s needs – what kind of movement, what kind of food, how much rest – and follow its signals. As a mild start, I walked. Walking stimulates the lymph system. So the third day after surgery, I went out. It was a Nordic dark-all-day day, and freezing. It was raining a little bit too, and the air was sharp and fresh. I usually hate that kind of weather, but that day:

I was floating.
I hardly felt any pain.
A strange light filled me with joy, energy, gratitude.

A year before I received the cancer diagnosis, I discovered that my hairdresser, D, was a psychic and a healer. Since I was a small child, I have felt a spirit, an angel – or maybe God – was watching over me. In difficult times I would talk and listen to that…energy? Ask it for help or protection, or advice. But during my depression I lost the contact. So when D gave a course in “Connecting with your spirit guide”, I attended the course and re-established my connection to this protective, guiding, healing, knowing-it-all energy. It was incredibly easy! As if it had been waiting for me to make contact again. I call this energy: Divine. I had always kept my religious or spiritual life to myself, but I needed someone to talk to about these matters on my way out of the depression and anxiety, and especially during the three weeks from my first test to the diagnosis. D was my constant support and help.

When I received the cancer diagnosis, I consulted Divine. Divine told me I was about to be transformed. I interpreted the words through my worst perspectives, and thought I was going to die: that something would go terrible wrong during surgery, and that I wouldn’t wake up again. I was scared. I was sad. There was so much I wanted to do in this dimension, and now there was no time. Divine tried to calm me down. One day when I was resting, I suddenly felt I was being healed by some light-spirits. It was wonderful and strange and very real. Like they were making me ready for surgery. Later l told D about it. We were sitting in her salon, talking for ten minutes before the next customer arrived. D smiled. “Yes I know,” she said. “They are still with you. I can see them.” It didn’t convince me, and I prepared for parting with this world. Which is why I felt such surprise and joy when I woke up after the anesthesia. From then on, I listened to Divine with trust and no fear. I can say much about that, but in short:

All areas of my life have been deeply affected
and changed.

As I said earlier, I have experienced recurrent depression and anxiety since childhood. Even on “good days”, I still tend to be a little nervous, often in combination with low self-esteem. I have built up a way of forcing, fighting and pushing myself to do a lot of things, no matter how frightening, exhausting, painful they might be, just to appear normal, or not to disappoint anyone. That underwent a change. A transformation. A greater sense of purpose is permeating my life. And that provides me with the feeling that I – just like anybody else – have my own right to be in this world. I’m still nervous, and tend to sense everything without filter, but at the same time I feel protected and secure.

Every third month I go back to the hospital to be scanned and examined for precursors to cancer. In October 2017, all results had been fine for one year!

To see more pictures by Titika Røtkjær, go to Instagram.

Newcastle Noir by Titika Røtkjær

Newcastle Noir by Titika Røtkjær

It was the dark season.
Days melted into nights:
We had to shine for each other.
Walking around late, I wanted to go home, when I saw him:
Reading a book under a street lamp.

Did he see me?
He closed the book and walked away.
The light followed him.
I followed him too.
And as he passed a bench, he dropped the book onto it.

Gifts and messages may arrive in unexpected forms, I thought,
and snatched the book, put it in my bag,
and went after him.

I nearly lost him. I ran. I stopped. I turned a corner.
There he was: heading for the river.
The River Tyne glistened and whispered with a cold breath.
I listened and stared into the surface.
It moved patiently.

He suddenly slowed down.
I looked up. I felt dizzy.
The earth tilted.
Secret songs from the universe
drowned the night in silence.

The light he radiated cracked the shadows, and expelled the darkness.
Sometimes far, sometimes close, he played with distance,
as if he was showing me that it was not real.

He stopped and stared directly at me,
everything around us became bright and peaceful.
Then: he disappeared!
I may have blinked? But I cannot explain.

The night overwhelmed me with clear sharp silence and frozen beauty.
No one in sight, no loneliness either:
A soft, yet intense energy lifted me.
All the past was gone
– except its beauty.
Nothing was left
– except a blessing.

I went home. The book.
My hands were shaking, and a letter fell from under its cover:

“Dear T.
Of course you would notice the man with the strange light.
And, my love, even though it was late and the town was empty
on your way back, you must have felt it:
We do not walk alone.
Yours, M.”

Tango

Tango

One two three four
Cross
Six seven eight.

Balance, lean, follow,
Be aware,
Corazón y alma,
Relax, and keep the tension.

Open the door,
Walk, walk, walk,
It’s all coming back;
Two three four;
In a new way;
A new way;
Listen to the rhythm,
Sense the beauty,
Feel the strength,
Heart and soul,
Cross six seven.

Stop!
My world has changed:
It is a total secret,
That no one should know of.
It is awful private,
But far to heavy
To carry alone.

So I might just dream it,
And leave you the pictures
Frame by frame?
But then again:
I don’t want to re-
experience it all.

Two three four.
I still have to balance;
I still want to dance;
I still feel the tango.
Cross
Six seven eight.
I’ll bring the dark times to light;
I won’t fear them,
Although they know me,
And how to catch me,
And how to blind me.
I dare to touch them;
I dare to stay,
And reach for light.

I take off my shoes,
Walk past the curtains
(Like in a vision),
Open the window,
And breathe deeply.

I can feel a beginning,
It’s coming closer;
Almost like peace,
A vow transformed:
vision to matter.

Flexible body, flexible mind,
It derives from the soul,
Practice and effort,
Two three four.

I open my heart;
I drink the light;
I know it’s time
To leave soon.
Five six seven eight.

I move to the silence;
I count the beats;
It’s all in my soul;
It knows the direction;
It owns the music.
I sense the beginning,
It’s lifting me up
On wings of intention.
Cross
Six seven eight.

I watch the dawn behind the trees;
It’s glowing like trust.
The sky is burning
With light and answers
It’s time to leave.
The night is over
And time readjusted.

Two three four
Cross.
From an uncertain point
Between worlds
I touched the shadows,
Felt them in my eyes,
Felt them in my body,
Their density and cold
As I reached for the light.

Through a shimmering corner
Of my awareness
The light flows
Through chaos and joy,
Bones and soul,
Mind and muscles,
Heart and will,
And much more.
Six seven eight.
It flows through
From All that is.

 

Background:

I am a visual artist working with photography, based in Copenhagen DK and Norwich UK.

I was a dedicated dancer of Argentine tango for 13 years, when I was diagnosed with cancer.

In September 2016, I went through some tests at the hospital, just to make sure nothing was wrong. But, something was wrong.

Late one Monday afternoon, a surgeon called me. She explained that I was diagnosed with cancer located in my lower abdomen and that I was scheduled for surgery Wednesday morning 7.30. She gave me one day to get used to the thought. The operation would be performed by two surgeons, and it would take six hours. It was going to be a large operation. She advised me not to postpone the operation.

I was shocked.
I thought I would die.
Or at least be transformed.

I spent Tuesday trying to get used to the thought of leaving this planet.

The good thing was, when I thought of the people I loved – and still love – I had already told them they were in my heart. That was the most important thing for me.

Maybe it was the surprise of surviving the surgery that gave me tremendous energy and will power? Maybe it was just a miracle? Anyway, I tried to get out of bed the day after the surgery. I succeeded and felt that the healing process was in progress, and insisted on going home.

I soon discovered that my life had changed, and my perspectives too.

Not all of the changes were pleasant: four months after the surgery, I started to dance tango again. It was wonderful and easy and a total joy, with all the renewed energy. BUT, after one hour of dancing, my legs and lower abdomen looked like something that legally belonged to an elephant. They were swollen because of damages on my lymph system. It was terrible. I couldn’t stand the look of myself.

Even though tango is about heart and soul, it’s also an art form that is very much expressed through beauty, grace and elegance. I felt that these important aspects were out of reach.

I don’t want to bore you with long explanations about all the kind of therapeutic stuff I did every day (and still do) to dance again, and to prevent the lymphedema from becoming chronic (and the cancer from coming back); just tell you that I made this series for two reasons:

  1. To express important matters through art. By transforming something private into something generally human, it hopefully becomes meaningful to other people – and it might even make them feel uplifted?
  2. To convince myself that I don’t look like an elephant. Anymore.

To see more pictures by Titika Røtkjær, go to Instagram.


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