Dear Anam Cara

A letter by Ashley-Louise McNaughton

Ashley-Louise McNaughton, Anam Cara – Dwelling Body, Venice International Performance Art Week 2018. Image © Guido Mencari. 

Ashley-Louise McNaughton, Anam Cara – Dwelling Body, Venice International Performance Art Week 2018. Image © Guido Mencari.



Anam Cara,

your warmth, love, generosity, and sensitivity, is something that I cherish deeply


the memories, moments, and experiences that have been shared

empower me when I feel fragile,

inspire bravery when I feel the pangs of uncertainty,

and bring a welcome release when I feel myself trapped.


I breathe them in,                they fill my lungs,                  nourish my spirit.


But over these past months,                       I dwell in-between.


I dread the despair


the overwhelming enormity of it can render me stagnant

   in the urge to take action,               be,                       do

     a complex depth between frustration and numbness can shut me down

I fear of losing myself to it.


The looming sense of hopelessness, an underbelly fear,

a stifled anger under the weight of a suffocating swarm of confusion

breaks the surface of my subconscious

vividly visits my dreams

and yet, amidst the terror,                                   

comforting offerings appear.


I am grateful for your presence, your light, and gentleness

grateful for the power of Anam Cara

for the restoration of faith in the sacredness of interconnectedness 

the reminder that through these connections, and experiences,

in sharing our openness, support, empathy, understanding and compassion   

there is love,                                             beauty,                                          hope.                            


There are possibilities.


It is strange to be here.       The mystery never leaves you alone.

behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts,

the silence of another world waits.                   A world lives within you. (1)


I continue to give my trust.


fascinated in the mystery

holding courage

allowing the journey to transpire

without force

with trust                 


but at times,                         the silence can be deafening

the inner world can be dissociating and cruel.



I find myself tethered,          

          on the brink,             peering over the edge,

tensioned rope fraying behind me  


roots askew                          flailing for an anchor            searching for the source


staring blankly out into a misty layered abyss before me


even with eyes shut tight,                                      my internal sight will not let me go blindly.


folding            and unfolding

the essentiality of change  

Its continuous process,       a metamorphosis,                encouraged,              needed.



I keep trusting

holding courage.



Glowing embers find me lost in the turmoil

caught in a loop in the bewilderness,

a presence brings peace, support, and hope

alone,                 yet,                                 not alone

the tender grip of a hand                            solace in the weight of a head        

smiling eyes that gleam                               a warm mouth

radiating a delicate light


offering reassurance


when I am witness to a young girl running off the side of a cliff,

under a deep dark sky holding a triangular moon


when I am searching for a lost fish in the many rooms of an empty shell


when I have resurrected a dead mouse and watch as it transforms into a winged lion


like the sparks that glitter in the vast black void


there is an offering

there is promise

there is more



faced with my own reflection                       


     there is but one visible body

                                        still a constellation pulsates within me                     surrounds me

                                        the pull of their threads travel far beyond the sight could ever reach

                                        alone,                                   yet,                                       not alone.




(1) John O'Donoghue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. New York: Harper Collins, 1998.