Monthly Archives: July 2011

My latest blog-entry did not appear on my home page, where planned. Then again – muddles make us see all sorts of things (Bateson said so, I think.)

You’ll find the report of an inspirational weekend with young people if you click in the top bar here – on the page called … inspiration … or use the link below.

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update on the drama in my garden …

If you read my June 3d entry here you will remember my crime.

The grey and fluffy young blackbird I toppled from her nest and managed to bring home again, is now out and about. The little one is so-so at locating worms but not a great flyer, yet.  And she comes very close to my door, peeking in from time to time, remembering, not doubt, my pitiful attempts to feed it grubs. And here is why I think I traumatised the little one. She is now capricious about food.

Shiny, black dad does his utter best to introduce Morello cherries to his offspring. An acquired taste, a little tart, I admit, but considered a great delicacy among blackbirds. The tree provides me with wonderful jam each year and I always leave plenty of fruit for birds.

Picture the teen fluffing about on the head of my little stone Buddha waiting for her dad. There he comes, with a bright-red cherry in his beak, already de-stoned. The young one takes one taste and spits it out. Dad picks up the morsel and tries again, repeat. This goes on for several rounds until the cycle is broken by the firm consistency of dad and the cherry is swallowed.

Watching the scene every morning on top of my stone Buddha’s head cracks me up; it’s so entertaining I keep forgetting to fetch my camera – maybe next time.

Later addition …

Just got this delightful drawing as an early birthday present from my son’s partner, Tasha. It encapsulates my little friend’s bliss, which is worms after all.


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coffee – crocodiles and snakes

Occasion: St Martin’s graduation ceremony at London’s Southbank Festival Hall. Tasha, my son’s girlfriend, received merits for her post-grad animation course, an event sprinkled with celebrities and a few rousing speeches. With no rain for once, we went on to roam in Covent Garden.

Delicious Thai food at Busaba in Floral Street, eye-bright tincture for my computer-stressed eyes from Neil’s Yard, and – I can’t just keep this for myself – the best coffee in London is to be had at the Monmouth Coffee Company in Monmouth Street. All in all a memorable day.

Tasha grew up in Darwin. Her adventurous mum satisfied my curiosity about Western Australia’s wildlife today. Here’s what sticks in my mind. Crocodiles are happiest in rivers where they find plenty of delicate morsels, including humans -such tragic accidents can happen after torrential rains when crocs stray to places where people don’t expect them. An occasional old croc appears in salt water at the coast. It would be a pensioned-off one, chased away by younger males. Crocs found in wrong places are put into croc-sanctuaries. They are also eaten, crocodile meat tastes like a cross between chicken and duck meat.

I wanted to know about snakes, too. The black ones are fatal, the brown ones less so, and then there are the beautiful ones, sparkling and colourful, that live in trees. They’re harmless.

On reflection, Darwin’s wildlife is no different to the wildlife found in the underbelly of UK’s cities. Common sense and well-tuned intuition apply. And Western Australia has a few advantages, vast open spaces, and no fragile Euro currency.

On-line again, befriending my new laptop and getting back into the swing of writing and editing. A heavenly scent ascends from a cup of freshly ground Guatemalan coffee brought home from the Monmouth Coffee Company.


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brain re-wiring in progress

Laptop crashed – and now – from XP to horrid, horrid window 7

I’m in the process of re-wiring my brain. Why can’t they keep things simple. I know the madness will pass, and I’m beginning to appreciate some of the new features of the software. Programmers, the unsung hero’s, eh?

Here’s a little how things feel for now … sample from chapter 3 …

Click on the excerpt page in the bar above.

*    *    *    *

…. Into the calm of night burst the incoherent chatter of voices. From the dark glared countless pairs of bright saucer eyes. The stone in my hand gave off a light, and in its radiance I made out dwarf-like shapes. They jiggled between trees like entangled marionettes, awkwardly limbed, clad in distasteful rags …



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the trance of rhythm

I tend to wake with a keyword or an image, nothing new, just reshuffled ideas that emerge, as it were, from the darkroom. Today the keyword was ‘rhythm.’

I hope it makes you wonder.

*    *    *    *

Order unfolds from chaos through rhythm in all dimensions.

Stick your fingers in your ears and hear the blood-river …

Press your fingers on your wrist and feel the rhythm of your pulse …

Hold your hand to your face, and know what travels on the breath returns …


The beat and rhythm of the heart begins within weeks of conception in the womb, and invites the spirit into a trance-dance. Why would spirit otherwise get itself trapped in the constraining form of a body, with limited access to the universal mind, attracting only certain frequencies, all depending on the contents of the available gene bank, the energy of the planet constellations at the time, and the quality of stimulation the environment happens to provide.

Repetition is the trance. We learn by repetition, we relax into its familiar beat, habits of belief, feeling, thought and behaviour. The quickly established repetitive patterns comprise the cards we are dealt to play with.

The deck of cards is universal, and the game has laws, physical laws, psychological laws, spiritual laws, and random laws. When we make an effort to learn the blueprint of our cards and acknowledge the player in us who holds the hand, the game has meaning, whether we win this round or not.

He who cannot see himself within the context of at least 2000 years expanse of history is all his life shackled to days and weeks.


… anyone noticed how irrational our rational culture behaves?

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reflections on loss

Yesterday, on Face Book, in a moment of daring madness, I invited a challenge – to write on my blog on any theme proposed. The challenge arrived – OK Ashen! How about the theme of loss, and how to come to terms with it? –  this from a friend who experienced severe losses in her life, one that cost her the full use of her legs, and another that took her only child, a teenager who died in the belief that a cheesecake did not contain nuts. Wrong. As it turned out, the death of my friend’s daughter saved innumerable lives since, in that rules for exact food ingredients were introduced. Yet bereavement remains. and it is immensely personal, as well as universal.

Life itself is conditioned by loss, which brings change, often traumatic change, of which death is the most final. It reminds us that our body and personalities are mortal. When I was a child, death seemed fascinating, and unreal. What most affected me were the reactions of people around me. As a young woman, I witnessed the violent death of a friend at a party. What helped at the time was a hallucinatory dialogue with that person. They were dreamlike meetings, enabling my farewell. Frequently, the stress of a sudden change produces prolonged suffering. Studies are being done of brain activities during grief, and certain neuron connections are blocked in people who cannot accept the loss. There is evidence that physical exercise, and touch, eases stress, shown in the cyclically stuck neural pathways in the brain being loosened. Coming to terms with loss is in the end about accepting life, the whole of life.

It is said in every loss there is a gain and in every gain there is a loss … wisdom difficult to fathom when something we have been attached to is taken from us. Metaphorically speaking, the loss could be the cornerstone we had built our future on, or the pole that held our tent upright. It could be the loss of status, home, a relative, our health, a life-time job, the loss of a loved pet, a belief that kept us sane, coherence, freedom, a promise, or simply a handbag.

Once, I remember the sharp jerk in my stomach when I turned round in a supermarket and saw my trolley empty of my handbag. In a flash, the full consequences overwhelmed. My bag is my survival kit, something my grandmother impressed on me, another story. Moreover, I carry every required proof of my identity with me whenever I leave the house. Heart beating wildly, I looked for a store person, when I realised my mistake. In a short moment of absence I had mistaken the trolley. The poignant questions this shock sparked, and the relief, was my gain then. When a handbag serves as container of one’s identity it can symbolise the archetypal mother.

I had a dream the year before my mother fell ill and died shortly after. In the dream she was an image in a mirror. I walked through the mirror to find her, and stepped into her bedroom, sorting her wardrobe, while my father looked on. Soon I was a motherless, which was the beginning of more losses, the death of people very dear to me, and each time it seemed as if a part of me died along. Each time emotions wrecked havoc, from guilt and anger, to melancholy. The most truly debilitating reaction, which I tend to witness in my work, is denial, because what is denied is life itself.

In essence, my losses were qualities I had projected onto a person, a place, an object. Qualities I then had to find inside myself. When this developmental process is engaged with, it could be considered a gain. If I accept change, I can never be the same again. Each loss changed me.

There is simply nothing we can depend on in life  And there continue to be new mirrors that reflect yet another bit of us, another object we desire, be it in this life or the next … where your treasure is, there will you heart be also …

Opening to the theme of loss, I could go on – it is also the most pervasive theme in literature, and the most spiritual. Writing has helped me to accept loss in the past. Here is a poem I wrote after miscarrying a child:

To my Unborn Daughter

All is well my child,

when you come next time

transport will be provided,

you’ll be elevated,

and your light touch alone

will make things happen.

Remember –

there are many ways towards the One,

not all seekers have tender feelings

or sit cross-legged;

some do the sword-dance

or hold a scrap of ice in their hearts.

Like sugar and salt they seem,

different, yet each yearns to dissolve

into the flavour of divine breath.

Love is the message,

but reckon with the power

of fear that hides under love’s habit.

Best imagine the future

whilst you’re off-stage,

but also fully participate,

embody your play, and delight

with your presence.

Learn from fools to be unpredictable,

and move as often as you can

from the middle of each moment.

Empty your heart – nothing matters,

not what you carry, nor what you leave.

Know what this means – you are free,

free to make everything matter.



“Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak

Whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” 

—William Shakespeare, Macbeth


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major drama in my garden – all my fault

After the usual procrastination I cut my grass today, and for good measure decided to thin the ivy smothering my shed. This was ill conceived – an ear piercing screech and rattle made me grab a branch or I would have toppled from my ladder. Two blackbirds shot from the thick of the ivy, and the racket didn’t stop there. I had disturbed their nest. Crushed, I left the crime scene to watch the birds through the window from my desk. There was no end to the palaver, something was seriously amiss.

Illustration by Natasha Tonkin

Illustration by Natasha Tonkin

I found a plump fledgling on the ground giving me angry tweets and an accusing stare. What now? Feeling properly guilty, my mind started spinning. The teen must get back to its nest or … the last time I had nursed a bird was in Somerset. We were a family then, and it wasn’t me digging holes for worms, a full-time job, I recalled.

Somewhat unsure, I took a step towards the fledgling. Frantic attack – the parent blackbirds swished over my head like missiles. All right, all right, back to my desk. The birds kept cruising and complaining, and I kept a nervous lookout for cats. My garden is a highway for cats. The fledgling disappeared from my view, though its tweet, tweet was steady, quite loud, I thought, and near, I thought … very near … the little one had hopped through my door … ‘All your fault, your sort it’ … I swear that’s what I heard. And more … ‘Feed me!’ … its beak snapped open so wide I saw only orange.

Donning soft garden gloves, I picked up the bird, got tweezers and started looking for morsels under flowerpots. No worms, only grubs rolled into balls or twirling their tiny legs. Three of wriggly things were eagerly gobbled up, after that, outright refusal. Maybe they tickle in the belly. By that time the whole garden was in uproar. More birds had gathered to protest, some on the roof. The parents zigzagged between trees and shed, even wood pigeons zoomed in to see what was going on.

Up the ladder then, to find the nest in the jungle of ivy, and there was something in the dark that looked like a nest. I shoved the fledgling forward. Flatter, flatter, flop, and the silly bird was back on the ground. Oh my, the protest from my growing bird-audience was deafening. The teen seemed fine, a little dazed, but fine.

Back to my desk, to calm down, to think … tweet, tweet … the fledgling was back on the doormat … ‘Now do something right’ … The cage, I had a decorative cage. Some ivy, some dry grass and leaves, ready, only for protection dear, while I go worm-hunting. So much for ornamental cages, birds sure have an inbuilt dread of cages; this one squeezed its way out in no time. What a spirit.

No doubt the rebel would wander back to my door. I got a torch, mind you, the sun was shining. The birds had chosen a perfect hiding place in the depth of the ivy, until I came along with my shears, convinced breeding time was done. To my relief the nest was there, empty, unharmed, just within my reach. I fetched my little friend, who was indeed waiting for me in the door, and I brought him home. The peace is divine.


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how we dream … how we wake …

No matter whether I remember my dreams or not, they sure influence the mood I wake with …


On dull mornings I want to stay in bed and drift from one dream to another …







Another morning a space opens the instant I wake. I see a colour, a movement, a view, I understand something, I have clarity, and my heart jumps in recognition … fully alive. And the days rolls on with optimum achievements … effortlessly …










I’m not suggesting I can control my mood a day ahead, but certain disciplines do affect how I wake. Calming and opening my mind, a prayer or a mantra before I close my eyes seem to bring me more intelligible dreams. Asking a question of my unconscious psyche, writing it on a scrap of paper and putting it under my pillow, works well. It’s like tuning into a radio station. I attempt my choice of programme (though only a fraction of our psyche functions consciously). I even can, with some dedication become conscious (lucid) in a dream and influence its outcome.







Trouble is – I have phases of anarchy when I say, ‘to hell with discipline, to hell with my pesky will.’ Phases when I prefer to wander randomly into the surreal dark … and roam the collective …

It’s embarrassing. I’m supposed to be an expert, having facilitated monthly dream groups for fifteen years. From this experience, and from working with psychotherapy clients, I know a dream explored can spark psychological growth and change a person’s life for the better.


Carl Gustav Jung had the thought – a dream unexplored is like a letter unopened.

I’m suspicious of quotes. They can float like fluffy clouds, or annoy with carved certainty while having no relevance to an actual situation. And we all get the occasional crap letter. Then again, I sorted old papers recently, and I found even the rare crap letter contained something worth reflecting upon. It all comes down to attitude, perception and application.

So what am I saying?

Given there are endless variables … the weather, the global mood, the state of mind of your friends and opponents and their attitude towards you, the dinner you had, the TV or radio programme you fall asleep over, the worry-loops and idle chatter in your head you habitually give energy to … aim for a balance between self-discipline and anarchy.










Be kind to yourself, experiment, and if something works, remember it but don’t invest in the outcome. Slowly by slowly you learn to trust your intuition. Slowly by slowly you begin to realise that you really know very little about the psyche of the universe you are part of, slowly by slowly you have to accept that you ARE … that the wavelength you tune into carries you along until you find a pitch that chimes in your heart. It can take a while …







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