I’m very pleased with the cover art of ‘Shapers’ and have been hugging it like a baby, though it’s time to share it with you. The process started with a few imaginative designs done by Rachel, a designer colleague of my son. One early sample was based on the image of an ammonite fossil, which I photographed some years ago at the house of a friend. The image, while relevant to the time-travelling aspect of the novel, turned out too heavy, overpowering the text of the title. My son sourced a paler fossil and photographed it in high resolution. Rachel’s new design has now a mythical quality. I love the subtle and delicate details.
The design resonates well with the cover of ‘Course of Mirrors’ the prequel to ‘Shapers.’ Both novels can stand alone, as immersive adventures with a timeless psychological theme depicting the journey of individuation. Once the sequel is published, I hope readers will be curious enough to explore the prequel (see book page,) which sparked this odyssey through time.
I’ve previously shared small excerpts of ‘Shapers,’ but here a short description …
* * *
Shapers – an underground community of scientists and mystics – must take subtle action in a time of political tyranny in Rhonda.
Continuing her search for the Real, the rebellious young Ana recasts as Mesa, centuries ahead to Rhonda, AD 2450, where Governors uphold a law that inhibits emotions as the solution to crime. As anarchy looms, Mesa navigates her soul bond with Ana and Cara.
Mesa, an agent of the Ypocs, a genetically enhanced species, is re-called by Cassia, the Shaper oracle, from a future timeline to alleviate the crisis in Rhonda. As Mesa aids the survival of Rhondeans and Shapers, she must also explore the origin and myth of her being and her tribe of Ypocs to find clues as to why time is slowing in her utopian world.
Time is a bridge that Ana, Mesa and Cara traverse towards the realisation that they are a triple soul, existing in different places at once. Each bears the urgent task to mend relationships across parallel epochs.
As they encounter each other, they must explore the myth of past, present and future …
* * *
The text of ‘Shapers’ is presently going through a last proof check, helped by my faithful editors, who seem to never tire reading the story – a most precious gift to my confidence.
I’ll update my readers here as to the publishing date. Thank you for maintaining interest in my projects and thoughts.
I feel excited, because a first cover design idea for ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors’ has arrived. I like it a lot, though more ideas are worked on. My son found a wonderful designer, Rachel, who also likes my writing … a bonus. Not yet, but sometime soon I’ll post a cover reveal. The manuscript is presently being formatted by Matador/Troubador, a high-quality self-publishing imprint. I’m too old to wait months on end for agents or publishers to respond to queries. It’s their loss.
In Shapers, time is a bridge that Ana, Mesa and Cara traverse towards the realisation they are a triple soul existing in different places. They each have an urgent task to mend relationships across parallel epochs. As they gradually come to encounter each other so they must explore the myth of past, present, future.
From the prologue … The underground community of Shapers – scientists with a mystical bent – take subtle actions in a time of political tyranny. Their shape-shifting Oracle, Cassia, can call earthlings from any time or space into the present when a catalyst is needed …
In AD 2450, Cassia calls back Mesa from a future time to alleviate a crisis in Rhonda. Mesa is an agent of the Ypocs, a genetically-enhanced species. Answering the call, Mesa uses her intuitive powers for a double task of assisting the survival of Rhondeans and Shapers and of exploring the origins of her tribe of Ypocs to find clues about why time slows down in her tribe’s utopian world.
I thought I treat my readers to a segment from the first chapter of Shapers …
“Wake up.” I nudged Luke, alerting him to the pale mist pouring over the rim of the sea, like the kind that swirls up when warm milk hits a cold pail.
Luke rubbed his eyes and frowned. “I don’t like the silence,” he said, peeling himself from the sailcloth covers of the small lifeboat Captain Jacko Ponto had granted us as sleeping quarters, since all cabins were taken at the time of our late booking.
We were sailing under three square-rigged masts towards the Western Isles. For weeks, since leaving Itaka, our journey on board the impressive Engrail had been favoured by lively currents. This morning, water stretched deadly calm like liquid silver, a novel and beautiful surprise which also struck me as ominous. The stifling air mystified everyone on board. Sails hung slack. Sailors assembled and stared vacantly across the waters that lay flat and deceptively serene. Luke joined them.
The sailors had tolerated Luke’s interest in their acrobatic feats, but they did not permit him to climb the riggings, to trim or adjust sails. He kept fit by practising martial arts, while I became the ship’s mascot. Elevated on coils of rope, with paper and charcoal in my lap, I drafted impressions of Luke, which were blurred with recollected gestures of his twin, Rufus, who burdened my conscience. I churned out sketch after sketch of fellow travellers, men perched on masts pencilled into the sky, and glittering currents and blustering sails.
Luke and I counted time by the ascending sounds from the ship’s bell, until eight rings called for the watch to change. Last night, as every night, we had cuddled together in our snug lifeboat under the gleaming fabric of stars, into which we wove our dreams. Salty breezes flavoured stories we shared, secrets that troubled our lives.
Today I pondered our reckless exit from Rusk towards open horizons, spurned by the mysterious quest proposed by Cassia, the prophetess, as Luke called her now, and, as it turned out, the Oracle of the Shapers, a secret organisation that endured across time. Cassia once told me: You are the bridge, Ana.
My musings were broken by the noisy splutter of an emergency engine, which promptly ceased to function. Luke returned. “Sailors grumble, they’re called below deck and use oars,” he said. The monotonous creaking of oars did nothing to lift our mood. Passengers wandered aimlessly, gaping in vain to distinguish sea from sky, which had blended together into grey mist. Soon people congregated in groups where plenty of rum was shared. Cheering each other with rude songs, shrill enough to chase ghosts away, some people tumbled into each other’s arms as if a puppeteer had tangled up the strings.
I escaped to our lifeboat, to re-read my latest journal entries of Cara, my soul companion. Luke stayed nearby, keeping watch. He thought Cara, whose messages I transcribed into my journal, was a reverie. I had omitted to mention that she lived in a time alien to ours, centuries ahead. When I grew up lonely at Katun Court and sensed the deep wrong in my family, Cara spoke frequently as a voice moving through my head. But once the world unravelled during my river journey between Nimrich and Katun provinces, her presence became sporadic. A few days ago I chose to initiate contact by addressing a message to her. To my delight, she responded. Sentences appeared as if written on air, fragments of events, which I recorded in my journal. Cara’s journey had assumed an uncanny resonance with my own:
I thought I had lost you, Ana. Like you, I accompany a lover on a quest. Let me tell you about us. Your Luke is my Dillon. We are crossing the Atlantic by plane to America. Four weeks from now they’ll elect a new president. From my window seat I watch Canada’s lakes far below – pink mirrors strewn among purple damask. We have been chasing the sunset for hours, bound for Washington D.C., with a stopover in New York to change planes.
An icy wind greets us. I wear a coat sewn by hand from a charcoal-coloured blanket, trimmed with blue velvet. I could be a successful designer instead of a poor seeker with expedient philosophies, such as money obstructs the spiritual quest. My coat has rustic elegance but scarcely keeps out the fierce cold of Capitol Hill. Our charming escort delivers us to one of our hosts. My limbs quiver like frosted leaves. It is Christmas Eve.
We have a festive lunch with students who share this spacious house beyond George Town. Our host’s mother is old and ailing. The door to her room beyond the hall of the dining room is permanently open. From her bed she listens to our table talk. Imagine – all of a sudden she sits bolt upright and points a finger at us. ‘You don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to do anything. They were the first words God yelled out loud when he made the universe.’ With that she slumps back into her pillows. Some of our party smile, knowingly, others gaze absentmindedly at the white turkey slices on their plates, adorned with glaringly red cranberry sauce and green sprouts. While our chatter about spiritual matters resumes, I ponder whether the ultimate clue to our search has possibly just come from the ancient woman across the hall. But it can’t be that simple.
The scenes and places Cara described felt alien, but the incident with the old woman made me laugh and lifted my spirits over conditions on the Engrail:
Dillon avoids talking about his quest. Yet our eccentric status, partial to the arcane path of the fool, and our credentials, arouse curiosity. As Dillon elegantly steers the table conversation away from us, we end up listening with growing amazement to a rapid succession of expositions – on Crazy Wisdom versions of Buddhism, Gurdjieff, Tantra, Zen, Kundalini, Agni Yoga, Theosophy and various Sufi paths. Everyone in this house follows a different teaching. America has supermarkets for everything, including exotic tastes of the divine.
But let’s assume you know deep inside something that does not correspond to what is accepted as possible. Should you express your truth it would be ridiculed. On Boxing Day we meet the main host we came to see. Imagine someone of high standing in society who radiates authenticity and talks with natural ease about experiences you tend to doubt you ever had; imagine that someone drops the end of his cigar into your half-empty coffee cup to jolt you from one dream into another. This someone is our host.
Here’s some feedback re: ‘Course of Mirrors,’ the prequel, on my website:
You and I have secrets so well hidden in dark corners of our psyche; the only chance of discovery is us bumping into them through some synchronistic event. Angels may be involved. Secrets keep us under a spell, just like we get needy for the absent puzzle pieces that prevent a scene from completion, which nags on our sense of cohesion. Depending on the temperament of any given day this can result in restlessness, procrastination, or apathy. The pieces exist, we know that much. But in our lives the missing pieces represent holes, patches of nothingness that beg to be filled. And some will never be filled, unless imagination enters like a grace, and offers fresh possibilities.
Beneath this yearning for cohesion chimes a faint drone. From that drone a vague theme, image or a melody we can’t place may arrive from nowhere, persisting in teasing us.
I sum this sensation up as ‘waiting.’ Waiting for the fog to clear, waiting for a connection, a response to a question, waiting for a birth, waiting for a death, waiting for the heart’s eye to light up, waiting for inspiration, waiting for a door to open, a hint … like in Samuel Beckett’s absurd play, ‘Waiting for Godot,’ where the passive Estragon and the impatient Vladimir are adrift in their minds, hoping for a meaningful sign. Some early viewers angrily left the theater. Maybe it annoyed them that the play exposes the absurd inner dialogues everyone experiences at times. Critics have voiced fascinating interpretations. For me, the philosophical variance between Aristotle and Plato comes to mind.
Years ago, my dear Sufi friend/teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, introduced the term ‘psychogenic secret’ during a workshop he instigated. The term could be understood as the distorted or buried memory of an incident that compels our behaviour in ways we cannot fathom. Consequently, shadowy aspects of our personality may appear in relationships, when others see us in ways we cannot comprehend. Consistency upholds our mental habits until their significance wears down. But once we discover and acknowledge a twist in our interpretation of relational events, a thread will untangle and jingle the famed ‘aha moment.’
It is tricky to share a personal experience, though an example of twisted psychology is in order here. Far back, at primary school, a triangle of girls was jealous of me for having as friend and neighbour the favourite boy in our class. He had train sets and lots of Enid Blyton books. They alleged I had been stealing stuff from their and other pupils’ desks. Their concerted accusation required me to empty my schoolbag in front of the head teacher and the whole class. The crafty girls had planted a fancy pencil, a sharpener, a metal ruler and a pop-star image between my notebooks. The items were quickly claimed by their owners. Disputing the abhorrent deed was hopeless. I felt deeply humiliated. And my parents were unable to refute the evidence. The insult sunk deep and festered.
Much later, during student years, I casually stole a chunk of butter from a shop to round up a meal for friends. Observing my lack of conscience, and the ease, even pleasure, with which I stole the butter mortified and shamed me. It took a while to process my turmoil until I drew the connection which stopped me in my track towards becoming a bank robber with supernatural powers … I realised it was my irrational comeuppance, a kind of revenge for being once wrongly blamed and shamed.
My example might spark your imagination. Intricacies as to how psychogenic secrets can operate, be they based on humiliation, small or big traumas and betrayals, frequently appear in fairy tales, stories, novels, including mine, notably in the forthcoming sequel to Course of Mirrors, ‘Shapers,’ to be released in spring.
I’ve learned to tolerate psychogenic secrets I’m ignorant of, the holes in my life, by allowing my dreamer to use the empty patches as frames for stories that humour the unknown.
We endow obvious practical functions to clothes tools, furniture and any number of items we use daily and which therefore become intimates, like I have a favourite knife, cup, spoon, breakfast bowl and so on. I remember a T-shirt, apricot-coloured, with the iconic Snoopy character on it. Over the years the fabric of the shirt faded and softened beautifully. Finally I was wearing it in bed, for comfort, until, after various fixes, it fell apart. A sad day!
We also endow objects with symbolic, creative, guiding, protective and blessing potencies. Beyond reason – be it by a kind of enchantment – we grant them magical qualities through sustained affection. For me these are stones, shells, driftwood, feathers, or small ornaments given to me by friends.
Starting as children, we’ll adopt what Donald Winnicott called transitional objects, meant to restore the lost closeness to mother. Also early on we may express interests that foreshadow an inborn zeal. So beyond toys, teddy bears, blanket, pets, books, and so on, we bond with anything that fascinates us, initiating a passion that could encapsulate the myth of our lives. In my case this became the bridging of divides. My first novel started with the image of a bridge.
I wrote elsewhere … a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.
Objects and interests we seek or meet, may relate to a particular element, earth, water, fire, air, aether. Quite often our vocational and professional activities relate to an element. Also, one or the other of our senses may take hold of us, the love of light, shapes and colours, a fondness of sound, touch, smell, taste, or a love of metaphysics. Attachments drive our interests throughout life.
Strong affinity with an element may bring the challenge of dealing with another element we feel less in resonance with. The psyche plays at balancing extremes. For example, my astrological birth chart confirms a predominance of fire and air signs, fast energies, fierce, intense; even obsessional. I can still hear my mother saying, with a touch of exhaustion, ‘You’ve got a vivid imagination.’ My authority defying associations caused the odd trouble with teachers. In compensation I had need of grounding, befriending earth, literally digging and planting, which taught me patience. And I’m calmed by the vicinity of water. My childhood was spent around lakes, rivers and ponds.
We hold our loved ones and friends dear. We give significance to certain animals, trees, plants, prominent landmarks. We cherish gadgets, periods of history, art styles, places, habitual rituals and ideas. Each bonding adds to the creation of a strong net. To lose a strand precious to us, requires a child-like faith that our relational energy net can be mended and re-aligned to our guiding light. This net is all about relationships, inner and outer, informing the purpose of our extended self.
Over recent years, efforts to dis-endow some of my attachments, among them endless folders with notes on projects and visions I’ve slim chances to achieve in this round, left me melancholic, but through the more malleable net sneaked fresh insights and mysteries. It also helped me to focus on writing my novels. ‘Course of Mirrors’ will have its sequel, ‘Shapers,’ published next spring.
Day and night we receive and tie up new thoughts, mostly subliminal. By keeping track of this neuron dance we find fresh associations that expand the architecture of our imagination. Sudden insights lift our spirit. Frequently practical innovations arrive, novel ways of doing things. But with thoughts adrift, we often fail to be present to our bodies, and this neuron dance turns mechanical. We may be hampered by depression, presently a global dis-ease, but life perks up a little when we listen to our body.
‘Remember me,’ it implores. ‘Love me, give me attention.’
Stretching limbs calms the stress in fascia tissues and muscles, stirs the senses, and deepens breathing. Food tastes better, small things delight, movement gives pleasure.
‘We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.’ … Einstein
The unconscious collective psyche continuously churns up vital signals through the body, but has long been denigrated by wrong-footed ideologies … the greatest crime against humanity, since the neglect of nature’s voice led to the abuse that threatens the balance of life on this planet, and our health.
Nature – the wild, matter, psyche breath, being, anima, the feminine principle – contains all life. The term has acquired many slants of meaning during previous centuries. We have now established frames through which nature is perceived … the scientific, economic, political, apocalyptic, holistic, visionary, philosophical, romantic, and the spiritual frame, for example. Each outlook influences the relationship we have with nature, as a person, group or nation.
Since all human innovations are inspired by nature, every manmade thing is natural, yet by lengthening the duration-span of too many products, nature’s cyclic process of decay is disrupted, often with dire consequences. It’s like stuffing ourselves with food the body can neither absorb nor digest. Controlling nature’s rhythm does not work. The best we can attempt is to seek rapport, fall into step, attune and harmonise with this dance we are part of.
Quite likely all the varied frames which determine our relationship with nature were formed by the wish to make the unconscious force of the wild psyche more bearable.
We demand nature’s protection. This includes humans. Do the ecological villains among us also deserve protection? In a psycho-therapeutic practice this would be considered as the expansion of consciousness through befriending and owning the shadow. I forever wish this map of knowledge was introduced to the educational curriculum.
First call is the body. If the body’s messages are fully received (giving varied frames their due) and understood (in a deep loving sense,) the messages are always essentially true. Only humans manipulate and deceive, by ignoring and belittling nature’s raw truths. The planet suffers the same neglect. Our best efforts at deep listening will always be partial.
I count on the constant minority that grasps a wide spectrum of meaning in relation to every rift that endangers our world. While this minority tries to uphold a wider view, as a small collective it is not geared for action, knowing well that whatever succeeds in being legally determined cannot please all, but usually intensifies disagreements, especially in cultures where emotions and thoughts are censored for political ends.
One could say the will to action is diluted by the wider view. But there exists a subtler use of the will, like rehearsing positive outcomes, which requires imagination. Efforts of this subtle will are hardly visible; but they no less influence and create our reality. This subtle will is based on trusting the intelligence of nature, of soul, the One Being, the Spirit of Guidance.
A prayer/song by Hazrat Inayat Khan:
Let thy wish become my desire
Let thy will become my deed
Let thy word become my speech beloved
Let thy love become my creed
Let my plant bring forth thy flower
Let my fruit produce thy seed
Let my heart become thy lute beloved
And my body thy flute of reed
Crossing and bridging divides is the theme of my life. As a child I came to believe in a spirit that guided me, sparked by a print that hung in my paternal grandparent’s bedroom, where a guardian angel leads a girl and a boy along a rickety bridge across a ravine with rapids rushing below. The image left a deep impression, and, over the years, similar images appeared in dreams, revealing the scene’s symbolic power. Training and working as a transpersonal therapist I often helped clients to explore the complex relationship between the masculine and feminine principle (Anima and Anima) active within each individual and across the gender divide. But most useful work on the road to greater wholeness begins with listening to what the body knows, and, by implication, what the self-regulating planet tells us.
The theme of bridges plays in my novel, Course of Mirrors, and continues (in the sense of bridging time) in a sequel, Shapers, which I hope to publish this or next year.
The random excerpt of Shapers, below, is where I’ve got earlier today while working through a last round of revisions, before proof reading and formatting towards an initial e-book, if I find the funds. From Course of Mirror’s mythic theme, the cast re-appears in a future SF setting, not on other planets, but on earth. The main protagonists, Ana, Cara and Mesa, connect back and forth in time. They are really one and the same, a triple soul. It’s a compelling work of the imagination with strong, memorable characters. Even my son agrees 🙂
* * *
The hall rocked with the rhythm of drums. All eyes were on Zap, who did a thrilling dance with silk ribbons, and at the same time juggled a round of colourful balls. They slid down his back and legs and with a kick of his heel were flipped back into rotation. He spotted Mesa and waved his ribbon, inviting her to join him, which she did, with sudden abandon. Her responsive dance provoked gasps of admiration. Elim stepped up with his violin, improvising melodies to Mesa’s sensual movements. Her waist undulated between the flowing ribbons, while her arms rippled like snakes.
The sight filled Cara with happiness, until she spotted Dillon staring at Mesa with rapture in his eyes. An intense bout of jealousy overtook Cara. Her lover was a pushover for mystery. When the muse grabbed him all else ceased to exist. She invited the pain, almost welcoming the torture of feeling rejected, though reason argued that Dillon’s infatuation would pass, like any storm, eventually. Still, she felt inept. And yet, only an hour ago she herself was irrationally impressed by another man. What was his name? He was not unlike Dillon, yet different, obscure, and more complex. The thought of him made her skin tingle as she ploughed through the crowd in search of Tilly, and the stranger.
Gart had escaped the festivities. Standing at the cliff’s edge, he clutched his flapping cape, while shouting into the storm, into the void. “Talk to me!” A deep rumble shook the ground. “What is it I am? Answer me!” A blinding streak of lightning split the night and dispersed across the fluid orb of black waters. “Who dropped me here? Take me home to my name.” Thunder resounded in his skull, a force surged through him, fused his feet to the rock under him, and roused senses he had no words for. “What’s expected of me? These people here … they sap my strength, and … I glimpsed something I’ve never seen before … forms behind things … behind her.” As if in response, the apparition of a woman, illuminated from within, rose from the waves below him. Gart sunk to his knees. “What are you?”
A name echoed from the cliffs, but was drowned out by another clap of thunder. The spectre of the figure scattered into shards of silver speeding out in all directions, the sea, the sky, across the sweep of rocks called Kerry.
“Aren’t the waves magical?”
Gart turned towards the voice and was confronted by the girl, Mirre, who by casually touching his shoulder at the banquet had made the hall spin. What was it about her? “Stay away from me!”
“Why?” Mirre’s eyes sparkled from under her windblown red curls.
Her candid question annoyed and intrigued Gart.
Mushki, having caught up with Mirre, skidded to a halt. Searching his holdall, he set up a tripod, screwed on a camera and focused the lens towards the flashes at the horizon. “You,” he motioned to Gart, “you obstruct my view.”
“Don’t be rude,” Mirre said. “Here, use my tablet. It records images in three or more dimensions.”
“No thanks. If I keep the shutter of my lens open I get the effect I want,” Mushki said, and readied himself. He was in luck. Another rumble … giant branches of light filled the sky.
Mirre shrugged and fixed her gaze once more on Gart whose looks reminded her of Crim, her favourite author of animations. “Tilly says you’re a Guardian. Their red uniforms are grand, but you’re not wearing one.”
A spasm gripped Gart’s spine. His head throbbed, and the memory of his identity flooded back. His eyes darted from Mirre to the ivy walls of the estate, to the bay where he glimpsed his airbus, and back to the girl. He burned the image of Mirre’s freckled face into his mind, turned on his heels and dashed down a path towards the beach, away from the chaos that had gripped his mind, familiar faces he couldn’t place. His Guardian training should’ve protected him from such emotional turmoil. What was wrong with him?
He now recalled a repeated interference on his console while heading for Rhonda after his spying mission in Sax. Someone called Zap seemed lost in Derrynane. Annoyed, yet curious, he had demanded his craft to find the place. Then the horizon wobbled, and as if taken over by some spook, he nearly crash-landed on this alien stretch of coastline.
With shaking hands Gart pointed the sensor towards the dolphin-shaped airbus glinting in the dusk. The craft responded. The signal light came on. Only a few more steps and he would be able to lift off from this bewildering place. A sense of vertigo made him stop. All sound ceased. For a brief moment he felt as if his body did not belong to him. Into the silence stirred a soft breeze. An invisible hand seized his and led him to where the water lapped at the sands. Before him the air wavered and the shape of an old woman appeared, more ancient than the yew trees on the peninsula. The crone looked at him like a fox, tilting her head. Her voice was firm. “When a heart cracks its myths flow free and the stories of river and sea mingle.”
Gart opened his mouth and closed it again. A melodic tune drifted across the waters.
Twinkle, twinkle, little rat … how I wonder what you’re at …
A subtle fragrance reached his nostrils bringing memories. Years of harsh drilling for leadership had sealed away images of his childhood. An ornamental garden with birdsong and blossom, a nursery filled with flowers, toys, and humour – a woman reading dreamlike stories to him. Children raised as Guardians were not read stories. They were trained from infancy to obey commands. He was different. Phrases he used as triggers to control his army had no effect on him. He tossed his hair back trying to shake off the confusion. The crone watched him. He realised his thoughts were exposed to her ageless knowing.
“You were led here to experience the sweet agony of emotion, what it’s like to be lovesick, and to yearn for a lost place,” said the crone. Her words seeped under his skin.
A gentle wave splashed over his feet. His toes squished in his sandals. Droplets of sweat soaked his brow. What was she talking about? He glanced back at his craft. Would the tide reach it? He must get away.
Heat shot up his spine when Cassia took a step towards him. “Stop your haste. Imagine deeply. What do you desire? Listen to what the sea whispers in your ear. Accept contradictions. They’re indispensable. You were raised to command the Guardians for a purpose.”
His head hurt. His skull seemed too small to accommodate this garbled talk. He blinked as the crone became fuzzy, then transparent, and finally vanished altogether.
Her last words echoed, “A woman needs your help, and you’ll need hers.”
Gart rubbed his eyes, squinting at the shimmering air before him. Some Shapers were known to materialise out of thin air. Was she one of them? Clinging to his wits he rushed to his airbus and fumbled with the console. How can the sea whisper? And how can a heart crack? His curiosity had often led him to unearth illegal information. He knew how to access a glossary of emotional terms outlawed in Rhonda. Agony – another troubling term – sounding like a woman’s name.
* * *
In late May I visited London – for the first time in almost three years. I met with my son, his wife, and her mother from Darwin. We visited the Tate Modern exhibition on ‘Surrealism without Boundaries.’ That’s for another post.
I noticed that since the lockdown of active living was brought in to control the spread of the Corona virus … the isolation from social engagement has affected children and the elderly in different ways.
The middle group, people who kept our social systems functioning, deserve deep gratitude. The work pressure surely involved intense stress and risk-taking.
As for children and young people, bursting with energy and hungry for experiences, I felt for them, being trapped in often cramped homes, while having their future projects halted. No rite of passage events, no opportunity to find their tribe, dreams lost in a distant mist, a mirage on the horizon, where sky and land meet. Recalling my own childhood and youth, I find it hard to imagine the sense of futility and sheer frustration. Some kids will have coped better with this situation than others, not least because there is now the internet, zoom, and generally the disembodied metaverse to engage with, but to what end, when bodies become redundant?
The elderly, to which I belong, for whom work and social engagement may have slowed, and then jolted to a standstill during the past few years, have at least the advantage of a rich and often meaningful past. At best, they can make use of an enforced solitude to regain contact with the unconscious, travel inwards, and use the overview from a distance to lift and re-weave the threats of their lived experience.
From where I observed the young and old sections of society, it seems that past and future flipped their meaning in relation to the expansion of consciousness, and, dare I say it, soul-making, which requires the organic experience. Compared to a bland future, the past holds abundant treasures for the imagination, and an almost luminous creativity.
As long as I remember I felt a desire to deepen my understanding of time and space, nature, human behaviour, the sciences, people’s perception and differences, the collective psyche … to which end I travelled to seek adventures, read countless books and studied many subjects, some of them formally, like philosophy, spiritual traditions, psychology, mythology, art, photography, film and video, each time meeting interesting and inspiring groups and ideas. I was too involved with people to value the poems and stories I wrote, until my introspection flowed into a novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ and a soon-to-be sequel, ‘Shapers.’.
I’m presently reading Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities,’ a dreamlike dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo about imagined or memorised cities. A sentence I came upon yesterday sparked this post …
“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living … “
This does not yet apply, but I get it. During the last three decades I lost over 20 dear friends, including my parents, not taking into account writers and public figures I admired. Grief meanders freely in my mind, is palpable, and unavoidable. Yet, due to their influence, all significant people that died during these last three decades live on in my psyche.
While my physical engagement with people has slowed these last years, time itself has dizzyingly sped ahead, which, for me, is enough reason to resurrect the embodied insights of past decades, if only to defy a sensational but boringly flat metaverse. Young people might of course have a totally different view.
Several themes were on my mind to write about here this month, until this curious thought of a reverse past/future junction came up last night. So I wonder if my reflections resonate with some of my readers, especially those of you in the second half of their lives.
Last month I shared my translation of one of R M Rilke’s Sonnets. Following on, I dug up the poem ‘Spanish Dancer,’ by Rilke, thinking that after our dark moon phase, we could do well with connecting to the Carmen spirit so powerfully expressed in the flamenco dance. When translating poems from German I mainly disregard form & rhyme, instead I try and lift the feeling and essence I experience while reading.
The wonderful image is from a 2014 photo exhibition I saw in Amsterdam. So sorry, I don’t have the photographer’s name.
As a match, struck by the hand, white,
before turning to flame, breaks out
into flickering tongues, so within
the circle of close onlookers begins,
quickening, bright and hot, her spiral
dance to flicker and catch.
And suddenly it is flame, fully flame.
With one glance she ignites her hair
and in an instant swirls with daring skill
her entire dress into this ardent blaze
from which, like startled serpents, her
naked arms dart alive, rattling.
And then: as if the fire might relent,
she gathers it all in and casts it off,
imperious, with a gesture of contempt,
and sees: there, raging on the ground
it lies flaring on and will not submit.
But victorious, assured, with a sweet,
hailing smile she raises her face
and stamps the blaze, with small, firm feet.
Spanische Tanzerin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Neue Gedichte, 1907
Translation: Ashen Venema
Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzündholz, weiß, eh es zur Flamme kommt, nach allen Seiten zuckende Zungen streckt -: beginnt im Kreis naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiß ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.
Und plötzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.
Mit einem: Blick entzündet sie ihr Haar und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst, aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken, die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.
Und dann: als würde ihr das Feuer knapp, nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab sehr herrisch, mit hochmütiger Gebärde und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht -. Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem süßen grüßenden Lächeln hebt sie ihr Gesicht Und stampft es aus mit kleinen festen Füßen.
Some mornings I wake to a cacophony of inner voices. I call them inner radio channels. From my introvert abode, I let the din be and digest impressions, images, readings, dreams and ideas in slow motion, waiting for my mind to clear towards a reflective theme for the day. A trick of light or a robin coming close might mute the noise. Watching the information flow by, my mind’s digestive system tries to keeps a fragile balance, often via leaps of the imagination that defy logic but help me bypass the mood of futility that circles the worldwide wide web these days.
The lockdown phenomenon of this pandemic has brought my sense of time circling like a lullaby round my heart. Lacking the animated exchanges and stimulations during physical meeting with friends, I rely on what I read, dream or observe in nature to feed my dialogues with life. Beyond repetitive daily tasks my memory travels inside, back and forth recent decades, re-examining relationships with people and places I lost.
Many of you may have a similar experience, and many of you, like me, may have put projects on hold. After my diary from last year yawned at me with blank pages, I didn’t bother getting another for this year, though I friend gifted me a wall calendar to keep track of days. What can we do unless abide in humility, hopefully to receive insights into what this pause in activities has to teach us, what we can be grateful for, and what fresh opportunities lie ahead?
Incidentally, a third novel I started some years ago, Mesa, deals with the theme of time slowing down. I must have felt it coming. Presently I am procrastinating with the final edit of Shapers, the sequel to Course of Mirrors. In the sequel, as well as well as in the threequel, the familiar characters of Course of Mirrors move into the far future. I wish I had the motivation to seek a publisher for these next two novels. I will however do my utmost to make them available as e-books.
Recently I posed a question to my twitter friends, where I am @mushkilgusha, I asked:
‘What is the most mysterious object in our world?’
A fascinating thread ensued; veering into the abstract, until an intuitive woman provided a satisfactory answer. As a reward, a paperback copy of ‘Course of Mirrors’ is in the post.