Tag Archives: my novel

… remember me – the body implores …

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.

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… excerpt from Shapers – sequel to Course of Mirrors …

‘the Seed,’ painting by Silvia Pastore

 ‘Shapers’… the end of chapter 6

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.

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’m grateful for any small support on patreon https://www.patreon.com/posts/its-been-almost-67178389

 

 

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… how past and future flipped their meaning …

Painting by Theodor Severin Kittelsen

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.

My week living in a cave on the island of Elba

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… turning a stone – compelled to look deeper …

The year before the millennium, a then dear old friend of mine, Sitara Brutnell (I wrote about her in another post) found a stone on West Wittering beach during one of the little outings we did together. We both loved stones. I sometimes invest my finds with magic power. Those who have read my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ will know a black shiny stone becomes a vital talisman to my protagonist.

As we wandered close to the purling waves brought in by the tide, mesmerised by the sound of pebbles tumbling over each other, we were open for treasures to signal us. I had already discovered a few smooth stones, white, marbled, pink and black, for my collection.

selfie that day, with Nikon suspended exposure

The one stone Sitara picked was uneven, jagged, with the odd spot of glassy flint shining through. Folding her palm around the slimmer end, it could have served as a tool to spark a flame with. She stood a long while contemplating the contours and varied colourings of the stone, turning it over and over.

I became intrigued with Sitara’s jagged stone, which seemed to me a metaphor of her concern for others, their troubles, their sharp edges. An exceptional friend in my life, her special grace was the capacity to forgive, always seeing a person’s character from many sides. The urge for genuine forgiveness shaped her personality, was her path.

Feeling prompted to explore her stone; I was given it on loan, to attempt a few drawings. The recent comment by a Swiss friend, regarding stones, made me dig up my sketches of Sitara’s stone, which explored its charming irregularities.

An ancient story came to mind, probably of Asian origin:

The two Pots

A water bearer in China had two large pots on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered the full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. This went on daily, with the bearer only bringing home one-and-a-half pots of water.

The perfect pot was proud of his accomplishment. But the cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, and miserable about accomplishing only half of what it had been made for.

Two years it endured its bitter failure, until one day it spoke to the water bearer by the stream. ‘I’m ashamed of myself, because the crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.

The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that flowers grow only on your side of the path? That’s because I’ve always known your flaw and I planted seeds there, and every day while we walked back you watered them. So I’ve been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.

So, all dear crackpots, myself included, we have functions we know nothing about.

Enjoy the full moon. And if your sky is clouded, enjoy at least the special energy.

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… the value of inner conflict …

Democracy starts inside us. One way to explore our inner crowd is through allowing the different aspects of our personality to have a voice, including ones we dislike or suppress, like parts burdened with shame, self-loathing and self-hate. Together with their inner persecutors and defenders, they tend to pop up involuntarily with strong emotional force during stress, or an experience that all too often had its first traumatic installment way back in childhood.

During a 1980s training with the Psychosynthesis Institute in London, we gave names to what we called our sub-personalities. The concept encapsulated what I had sensed for a long while, that I host various distinct entities inside me that can spring to live with their unique voices, interests, sensitivities and defenses in response to circumstances.

Take a dwelling that houses a family of all ages. From day to day there are debates, intimidation, fights, making up, tenderness, fun, humour, but always reoccurring conflicts, like an angered sibling can easily spark a massive row. Then ask who is in charge? A family with conflicting needs lives inside each of us.

As baby, toddler, teen, young adult and so on, we succeed or fail in overcoming obstructions. We learn, or unlearn. Ideally we mature and the understanding of ourselves deepens. Some memories we cherish, others we bury. Yet each time a traumatic condensed experience re-occurs, dormant anxieties may explode and cause us to overreact to situations out of all proportions.

The needy child seeking attention is easily recognised. Where early hope for safety and acknowledgement was frustrated, the inner child in the adult draws on an arsenal of acquired strategies, be it nagging, crying, pleading, pleasing, withdrawal, or, equally, rage. Stonewalling and sarcasm can serve as defense. The little person in us may have been confused by contradictory demands, manipulated by a toxic parent or severely damaged through abuse, yet still struggles for acceptance and love.

Another well-worn sub-personality opts for control, a no nonsense character, who detests, let’s say, hesitation and vulnerability. So when a firm response to a present situation is required, this despot may simply order the child to pipe down and shut up. End of story. You get the drift.

Internal conflicts can be harsh. Without awareness of the warring cast in us, we tend to blame others for our upsets. Alternatively we punish ourselves. Identifying and befriending judgmental players is vital before we can reach the vulnerable and fearful part that has become numb and possibly unconscious, or discover the creative dreamer that was ridiculed. Or, indeed, lift a dis-empowered warrior, who must learn to say ‘No!’

Without a mentor, this awareness journey is a daunting task.

Unable to afford Jungian analysis, my spiritual search become an escape from what I saw as our revengeful, destructive and corrupt world.

Meeting a remarkable, brilliantly creative Sufi teacher, who embraced psychology as a basis for the spiritual quest, was my turning point in the mid 1970s.  Grounding and digging started with a workshop called ‘Earthing.’

I had had a wild life up to then, a path I don’t regret. My empathy and patient listening lacked skill, but attracted interesting and eccentric people into my life. However, I needed to accept my limits, and better understand myself, others, and the absurd world we are born into, with the inherited traumas from our parents’ and generation before them.

World objects from my sand tray

A welcome to my inner journey was imaginative play, giving voice to the different parts of myself through monologues, imagery, objects, drama, art, sculpting, painting and writing, etc., all effective in daring to acknowledge conflicting needs. Due to choices enforced by my early environment, I host a philosopher and poet at odds with each other, as well as a cynic and a romantic. Their conflicts are as creative as they are intimidating.

In the digital realm people have come to make up aliases based on their ambivalent shadow aspects, like appearing in different disguises on Twitter, sometimes for the sole fun of contradicting each other. As a writer one might contemplate publishing trash genre that sells well, under pseudonyms, though it seems crass, like a soloist hijacking the performance of a symphony.

Stepping aside from internal conflict, invites my unbiased mediator. My quick route to self-remembrance is saying ‘hello’ to my body, whose every cell holds a record of old wounds. The body (the earth by implication) has endured horrendous exploitation, and to call it into awareness, with all its scars, is a huge challenge for some people.

‘You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves … ‘
from Wild Geese by Marie Oliver  

In the present global turmoil, my inner child craves empathy and compassion to endure the pain of the world, including pain I feel observing how some public figures ignorantly out-ward their inner stress through creating enemies – divide and conquer – a steely defense, and a betrayal of the heart. Then again, truth to  the face rarely convinces, it lacks depth, and blunts out the whispers from the dark.

Many brilliant books facilitate psychological understanding, but when it comes to moving through a dark tunnel (also called the Night Sea Journey) it is best to seek a skilled companion as guide. In my therapy practice I came upon heart-breaking stories of abuse, especially sexual abuse. The last few decades have shown the full horror of such deeply intrusive and traumatising incidents, and how widespread they are, across all social settings.

‘You’re not alone’ … is the message by Tim Ferris, in a recent very moving and powerful podcast he conducted with Debbie Millman.

PRESS HERE for his Healing Journey after Childhood Abuse (including an extensive resource list)

He ends with a beautiful re-framing of suffering … The obstacles are the path.

This attitude brings meaning to our mysterious existence, to our individual and collective journeys. Obstacles force us to question rules, habits and behaviour. Suffering through adversity, hardship, ignorance, injustice and violence teaches us empathy for each other, and expands consciousness towards our interdependence and essential wholeness.

I could add a list of books here, but if the above concepts speak to you, click on the Tim Ferris link, even if you choose not to listen to his podcast, scroll down his page and find a list of books and resources.

To end this post, despite all grounding over the years, I’m still at heart a space cadet, exploring time travelling in ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors.’

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… an odd rush of energy …

Sun, finally, bliss. I sit in the garden, reading, among Robin friends flitting through the apple blossoms. After two hours in the heat my body needs shade. I resolve to clear some cobwebbed drawers in the shed.

The moment I lift a weighty plastic bag, I know it contains German pfennige (pennies,) about 2 kg in weight, at least. These one & two penny coins were meant to buy my wedding shoes. It escapes me how I came to start this collection. In any case, the coins were never used, though the wedding took place, and the marriage lasted for a good while. Two eccentrics … but that’s another story.

For the rest of the day I fell into a kind of Scrooge Duck hallucination, since, as I learned from Google, some two pfennig coins had acquired high iconic value. Up to 1968 German pennies were of copper, from there on steel was added, which made the coins magnetic.

So, equipped with a small magnet from the door of my fridge, a magnifying glass, various breakfast bowls, a glass of water, and another glass of wine, I returned to my sun spot and commenced with methodical sorting, looking for two ghosts – a 1967 coin marked G (printed in Karlsruhe) that had already steel in it, and a 1969 late limited edition of still pure copper, marked J (printed in Hamburg.)

With hundreds of pennies, the odds seemed promising, at least compared to the lottery ticket I buy once a week.

I felt a rush of energy I hadn’t felt for some time. Purpose with a promise is a high energy state, I thought, giggling to myself, a habit of late, due to the surreal atmosphere since the corona virus lock down. What if? What if I find a penny worth £3000 to £5000 to collectors? I could afford to market my book, regain confidence to publish the sequel, have some work done around here, fix the shed roof, asks a painter in, buy a number of books, and leave a chunk aside for emergencies.

Well, I was as meticulous as can be, but by the time dusk chill set in, I hadn’t discovered even one ghosts. Some coins might fetch a few £s from collectors, given more research. Thing is, I’d make a good buyer for a business, having excellent taste and a knack for bargains, but selling is not my forte.

Nor am I a talented collector; otherwise, for instance, I wouldn’t have burned negatives and photographs of praiseworthy experiential novelty, including images of celebrities taken during the 1960s/1970s. Vain laurels, I thought then, devaluing my achievements. Nor would I have gifted away hundreds of vinyl records of that period, and precious books, all in a minimalist attempt to travel light into a new adventure. Profit, for better or worse, has always been secondary. And that’s another story …

The only things I collect, or maybe they collect me, are small stones. The irony of choosing to treasure such solid items is not lost on me. It’s to counter-balance my high energy states. These states, which I love, though they also exhaust, generated many satisfying projects, often in relation to groups. I gradually learned to balance the energies between my extrovert and introvert, between intense emotional and cognitive investment and periods of drifting and dreaming – incubating a new beginning – waiting for another decisive moment of clarity. How this energy seesaw was impressed in me directly after my birth is another story …

Instances of high energy in the last decade were more solitary, though I had great supporters, the co-editing Heart of a Sufi, which came out in 2011, and the writing and editing my novels, Course of Mirrors, and its sequel, Shapers. The former came out in 2017. Since then stressful events dented my spirits, a lunatic Brexit, my father’s erratic care needs, which wrecked my income, his death in 2018, and the global lock down to halt a virus, but spreading hopelessness like a trance. Procrastination became keyword for just about everything.

Somehow my short-lived penny passion brought back a taste of excitement, which beautifully sums up the essence of my first novel – finally an elevator pitch – that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.

It’s sobering that the magic carpet of journeying has been grounded worldwide. And with the present road blocks, investing energy into a journey seems pointless, unless it’s an inner journey. Here I’m fortunate to hold rich life experiences. Being reminded what a strong purpose feels like, will, I hope, motivate me to value my writing again.

Sadness pops up when I think of teens, the young, whose natural impulse is to be active and connect physically with their peer groups, and whose desire for journeying is now frustrated – in stark contrast to the inspiring decades of my youth during the 60s/70s. Old or young, we’re all missing spontaneity, direct contact, stimulating discussions, hugs. One can never have enough hugs. Too many people struggle at present in isolation, or, indeed, in strained togetherness.

How do I cope? I don’t watch TV, haven’t done so for years. I prefer to read coherent articles and watch movies on BFI. And I’m lucky to have a garden, with nature to touch and absorb. The lilac tree waves, the laurel hedge sparkles; Robins build their nests, tulips nod in the breeze. Oh, and to end my ramblings, I just picked some delicate violets and forget-me-nots from my garden. They both have five leaves.

It’s time for me to read my odyssey once more, to attract the wind of light required for refining the sequel. You, too, might enjoy the read, for a taste of

that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.

Links regarding Course of Mirrors appear on my  book page

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… there is a place …

Imagine a circle of people, 20 to 40, adding their voices to the drone and tune of a reed organ, repeatedly singing a phrase for an hour, or longer, with short intervals when the organ’s tune breaks into musical improvisations, only to return to the melody and phrase. In the end the sound slows and fades, leaving the echo of your voice as an indispensable part of all voices.

Then imagine a deep silence.

One of many musical tunings my spiritual Sufi friend created went with these words:

There is a place of beauty –

There is a place of peace –

There is a place of harmony –

In me

Before you grunt at the sheer illusion of such place, consider the evocation of beauty, peace and harmony as an ideal, a means –  not a goal – a means towards the hub of the mill, where the grain is ground to flour in a process of transformation.

Musical tunings are regular events among Sufi friends. Their rhythmic repeating, with or without words, produces a trance-like state in participants – not aiming at escape, but at a homecoming. Fazal Inayat-Khan’s teachings broke rules, exceeded conventions. While honouring the value of traditional methods, he introduced  contemporary phrases, like the one above, and responded to his audience with spirited musical improvisations.

The purpose of such events is remembrance of the Self, or the One. In traditional Zikr it would be Allah, God, though in strict Islamic circles music is not allowed.

I occasionally play and sing the above tune on my reed organ, especially when distressing incidents happen around the world and I have a need to tune mind and body. The place of beauty, peace and harmony only exists in the imagination, as a timeless inner realm, a state where duality co-exists, a state of unknowing, where the spirit of eternal potential lingers.

For me these group events were profoundly renewing. The body, my temporary home, became a tuning fork brought into resonance with the ground and the marrow of my bones. Suffused with consciousness, any mind-chatter merged with the yearning sounds, and my atoms realigned in new constellations.

A darker cover for my novel I wish I had used.

Intention does not bring us to this uncharted and unmeasured inner place. And even glimpsing a truth flashing from there may shock the angels in us. Catching such truth can happen equally through other means … nature, art, dance, literature, drugs, breath work, praying, guided imagery, computer programming, psalm singing, sport, silence, fasting, dreams, etc., but resonance is needed, and a deep desire for truth must lurk in the heart.

While practices towards this ungraspable inner realm may have repetitive elements, the place is never repeated but ever fresh. It is where the breath of life pulses, just not at our timescale.

Returning from the inner realm to the contemporary flow of time, we get on with life. Yet such deep memories remains and will respond to a sincere recall, where we detect once more how matter is revealed in its essence and shine. For the psyche this is gold. This inner place shows that while we embody birth and death, light and darkness, good and bad, past and future, in true essence we are pure consciousness.

To remain grounded and prevent the fate of Icarus, I tolerate the company of my little devils.

My angels like it so, agreeing that while the obscure company I keep makes living complex, painful, a challenge, it also makes existence more interesting for that, and aids the psyche’s expansion of consciousness.

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… book pages let loose …

A few days ago, waking at dawn, I had retained a dream vision:

I saw the entire content of my novel, Course of Mirrors, 400 pages in all, displayed on one huge panel.  Astonished, I pondered how this expansion graphically showed that writing a novel involves massive work, time, and fierce motivation.

To put this into context, I must add I lacked motivation and confidence for some time now, having to deal with existential problems.

The 21.5 cm height and a 13.5 cm width of each page poured out onto a single panel would create a near 100 meter high and 52 meter wide installation.

Even if the panel size were halved by using front and back, it’s still a crazy idea – right?

Maybe the dimension of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall could suffice, but only a Turner price gets you there. In case you don’t know, the Turbine Hall is the place that allowed visitors to touch the sun, like my son did during an Olafur Eliasson’s weather project exhibition a few years ago.

As regards my high-rise panel of book pages, any visitors keen to engage in reading could only do so at average eye levels, unless they had means to levitate. Now that would be another idea.

Well, imagination being such fun, I played on.

Much smaller double-sided panels could each display the pages of one of the 29 chapters, broken up into moments, occasionally interspersed with slivers of mirrors, where the body of a reader flits by, or maybe images that enhance or contradict the mood of a scene. You enter the story by stepping into a cave-like enclosure. The text on panels is lit from within, not spreading much light, to achieve a twilight experience, which was done in caves long, long, long ago, with the imprints of hands.

This cave could be entered from four sides. One may choose to start at the end and read the story backwards, or wander through and pick chapters randomly, more in the way one reads poetry. In any case, the title image at each entry/exit gate would evoke an enchanting journey at the edge of consciousness, between rational and the mystical states.

Normally, a writer’s work is condensed and hidden between the neat covers of a book, or captured on e-book screens, one click by one click. The concept of spreading the pages out in real space fascinates me, and ideas keep tumbling in. Like making the text respond to the concentration of the reader, or the lack, in which case sentences would ripple, as if floating on water.

Intrigued by this vision of visitors wandering through the chapters of my novel, I thought of the remarkable characters, all archetypal part-mirrors of me, of you, of anyone really.

How if readers could scan a paragraph about one character, place it on an empty panel and temporarily type a scene of their own imagination about that character?

If you feel the fun and have any additional ideas, please share them here.

What I like about the interactive setup, is the random strolling. Just while writing this post I opened my novel at an arbitrary page and hit on a romantic instant after Ana met her first love. He gives her a heart-shaped ruby as a promise – half a page at the end of chapter six. Here the excerpt …

Luke dropped the jewel back into my palm and pressed my hands close. “You’re the true heart for me. We’ll meet again. We’ll journey together.”  He glanced at the travel-ready troupe, waiting for him. “I won’t fasten the chain round your neck, though I’d love to.” His face was close enough for me to catch the scent of his hair, the pond, grass, wood smoke and musk. I longed to touch his lips, steal and take along his smile.

“How can I contact you?”

“Find a messenger to deliver a note to Tatum and his Magic Theatre. His troupe is getting known along the river.”

I felt drawn into the loop of his mysterious fate. I wanted to be held, forget myself in his arms. Instead, I stared at my feet, pondering this indelible moment of intimacy and suddenly dreaded the journey ahead – without him.

Last week Course of Mirrors had a lovely review by Cath Humphris, which I’m pleased to share:

https://cathum.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/course-of-mirrors-an-odyssey-by-ashen-venema/

A magical tale, in which a young woman embarks on a hazardous search for The Real.

Since I have presently no way of realising my crazy interactive vision, you can only enter the world of my novel condensed in its covers, here: Courseofmirrors  This Troubador page connects to other platforms, too. Then again, any bookshop can order the novel.

The image on the left was an early cover idea from authonomy days, not used in the end.

For the time being I’m having a hard time surviving, which hinders my deepening edit for the sequel to Course of Mirrors … Shapers … from which I share some chapters on my Patreon page. If it is within your means, and you can tolerate or even like struggling fools, please support my creative spirit on Patreon. Here the link.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241

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… loss and restoration …

This time of year I like reading in the garden. Last week I forgot to take a book inside – ‘The Hand of Poetry,’ collected poems from Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz, translated by Coleman/Barks, with introductions taken from talks by Inayat Khan. During a short but heavy shower that night, the book greedily feasted on rain. I found it blown up, like a balloon, to double its size.

Restoration would atone for my failing. Gently lifting page after page, I placed toilet paper between each, twice and three times over. On the third day I hung the book by its spine on the washing line. Once dry, I managed to press the volume with a heavy vintage iron into reasonable shape again. The ordeal required my undivided attention. The re-read pages during those hours lodged themselves with refreshed presence in my heart.

I recalled a scene from ‘Shapers’ –  the not yet published sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’ The story starts with a shipwreck.  Surviving this tragedy, my protagonist finds her diary drenched to pulp. The irreplaceable loss gained her unexpected access to internalised memories, and the ability to exchange virtual letters with her soulmate of the future, scripts made visible in the thin air before her.

This phenomenon happens to me frequently these days. Just before sleep, or waking, I see screens with writing, sometimes even Twitter pages, which later turn out real. Beats me – explanations are welcome.

Memory is fluid. The child in us not only imagines the future, but also re-imagines the past. While I was lifting apart the soaked poetry pages during my restoration, it struck me they resembled crumpled and discoloured reminiscences of my father a trailing grief about our dissonance brought to light in dreams, with messages to abandon this nonsense. Can you miss a surreal projection? Yes you can – releasing a feeling of rejection that ruled years of your life takes getting used to. Had I not taken my dad’s anger with the world, and me,  so personal, I might have implored deeper into his heart pain, and mine, since, after all, deep down, our sensitivity for beauty and nature, even our humour, were much alike.

I had resisted my father’s expectations and boldly followed my heart, which, while gratifying, brought its shadow of existential anxieties. My rare brave attempts to cross the dividing bridge were met with contempt for my quixotic worldview. Bridges then became imaginary sanctuaries between varied realities, a neutral zone for my rebel to gather strength for the next quest ahead. Bridges became a major theme in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’ – see book page on this site, or my twitter page @mushkilgusha

Rejection can add fuel to a journey. But what if a regular fuel runs out? Consider the weird silence when a monotonous background noise stops … suddenly. I identified my inner background noise as the subtle lament of blame that long ago slyly settled in my unconscious. Blaming something or someone can achieve an emotional distance, displace resentfulness, a hurt,  – but now – this peculiar silence …

The symbolic intelligence of psyche’s inner dimension communicates not only through dreams, but also through our surroundings: world events, people, objects, images. My restoration of ‘The Hand of Poetry’ resonated. Compulsive energies shift when time slows,. Familiar scripts may assume fresh meaning, and re-write themselves with different rhythms and new pauses for the spirit of surprise to enter.

Meanwhile I enjoy some treasures close by …

 

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to share a Hafiz poem from the restored collection. Hazrat Inayat Khan says of him:

The mission of Hafiz was to express, to the fanatically inclined religious world, the presence of God, which is not to be found only in heaven, but to be found here on earth.’

THE BANQUET

A gathering of good friends

talking quietly outdoors,

the banquet being served, a dry Rosé

with a bite of Kebab afterwards,

a wink form the one who pours,

Hafiz telling some story,

Hajji Qavam with his long laugh,

a full moon overhead,

the infinite mystery

of all this love.

If someone doesn’t want the pleasure

of such an openhearted garden,

companionship, no, life itself,

must be against his rules.

Hafiz

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… as writer or reader I drift and dream …

Writers and readers have their unique (often indirect) discernment of text and image; a fluid perception spots moods in the sky, or envisages what’might be happening behind doors.

We look towards individuals to interpret our humanity, or the lack of it. But given the electric maze of mirrors that has come to represent our interlinked minds, what attracts us, what makes sense?

Global media outlets thrive on sensational reports of events, and equally sensational opinions. What merges to cohere and assumes meaning in our inner world swings day in day out  from the shocked, incredulous to the sarcastic, while many of us yearn for resonance with something deeply felt, be it a past, present or future versions of reality. We hope for a truth just around a corner, or a poetic hint towards the hidden place of our own chest of treasures. Food for thought comes through the stories that spring from our collective psyche, asserting we’re not alone, but part of the bliss, and part of the pain of existence.

As a writer, I struggle to express what is not obvious or visible – an insular task, with pitfalls and doubts. Readers who respond with sensibility to imagination that springs from dark and private places of solitude are rare. What wings into the air from solitude, poems among them, fleeting and shy like butterflies, can at times trigger unexpected flashes of light and shift our thinking and feeling.

Imagination is the cornerstone of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors.’ Combining fragments of my life into a fabric of mythic realities – probabilities wedged between rational deduction and magical alternatives, the story is however psychologically embedded in universal experiences, the ambivalent realities familiar to any reader.

Feedback to my writing sustains me, especially now, once more, the feedback to the ‘Shapers’ manuscript from beta readers/editors during the process of polishing. For such gifts, I give deep and heartfelt thanks to my angels, Zohra, and Susanne.

This question has been put to novelists: … When you write, what readers do you have in mind?

I pass … I’m the only reader I know.

What I write flows from my perception. Words I put into the mouths of characters are based on how I imagine myself into their skin and psychological existence. I follow their trials, immersed in the narrative, just like readers will be immersed in the movie they make in their minds while reading, along with the sensations evoked.

As a dreamer, my writing is playful, personal, fed by unconscious processes, like sharing a dream with a friend in a walled garden, not going on stage to entertain the whole town. In other words, the shape of my novels evolves with no thought of addressing a broad generic group of readers.

Pre-plotted novels can be page-turners and offer welcome entertainment, but they tend to preclude my emotional involvement, which is not to say that I don’t admire the art of wordsmiths wherever I find them.

Intuitively drafted novels, with or without plot, have a different feel for me, with elements of surprise. Intuition applies to my life in general. Writing is an inner demand. I’m most alive when I drift and dream.

Can you, writers and readers out there, add to these reflections?

My post from five years ago relates … better than the present one 🙂 I may need a holiday. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/moans-from-an-unruly-writers/

I cheer the unruly folk, including fools, dreamers, innovators, artists, poets and writers with an ear towards the hidden …

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