Tag Archives: nature

… snow baby visits Kakadu National Park …

The midwife rushed after us, having overheard we wanted a home birth, but were told she had retired and the new midwife would not arrive in time. ‘Not true,’ she said, which settled it. In my wisdom I had brought my husband along. Sister Heney was delighted to attend a rare home birth for her last delivery. All went well. My epiphany snow baby, she later said. It didn’t take a helicopter landing on the opposite field to transport us to a hospital, only a police land rover to bring this dear midwife up through ice-covered lanes and snowfall to the cottage in the Quantock Hills where snow baby was duly born.  We lived in this Somerset hamlet for five blissful years, with the kindest neighbours one could wish for.

That’s me being nostalgic.

My son recently had another birthday. He allowed me to share a blog-post. In it he relates his holiday in Darwin, Australia, where his wife’s family lives.

The post contains thoughts and links regarding the fires in the south of Australia, and also a range of beautiful photographs, some of Tasha painting, and some from a birthday visit to Kakadu National Park, including the art works of the Jawoyn people. A click on the link will bring you to a new page:

Down Under for the Holidays …

Enjoy

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… in London at the Olafur Eliasson exhibition …

When not actually engaged with it every single day, at least contemplating the in-depth editing of ‘Shapers,’ is my daily routine.

This week had a highlight, since I was treated to a day in London by my son. As luck would offer, it was a day with glorious December sunshine, giving sparkle to the fountains in Trafalgar Square. The wind blustered cold though, and I was grateful for the hat I brought along, and the tissues to dry my runny nose and watering eyes.

First call was the famous and wonderful Watkins Bookshop in Cecil Court, where I sold a few old books, including copies of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ and a few remaining hardback copies of ‘Heart of a Sufi,’ an extraordinary rare book, believe me.

Later we took a boat trip from the Embankment to the Tate Modern Olafur Eliasson  exhibition, which turned out to be a deeply touching and immersive experience. The Danish-Icelandic artist Olaf Eliasson challenges habitual modes of perception. His passion for nature, space, light, renewable energy, reflective metals and geometry has drawn together a devoted team of collaborators. The art projects stimulate poignant debates about our environment and our communities through visual and sensual installations, sculptures, photographs and paintings.

The 39 meters long fog tunnel took me by surprise. I hardly saw anything beyond a meter around me. Space became mysterious and unfathomable deep. I had a sense of being totally lost while also feeling held, though assured in the knowledge that my son was near, and that I could call him and reach out for his hand.

I also reached into the patch of tender rain suffused with spectral

this image is by Yeshen Venema

hues, like just discernible water dust or the finest hair floating down and caressing my skin with moisture.

Moisture – how often do we think of this gentle yet indispensable harbinger of all organic life?

In one room, a kind of Plato’s cave, our back-lit bodies made colourful shadows ahead that shrunk or grew in size as we stepped forward or backwards, or overlapped and multiplied as we moved sideways. The magic was achieved through a row of primal coloured light beams projected onto the wall we visitors faced. Thing is, we are more intrigued, animated and comforted by reflections than the light itself.

It’s why I love the moon, which is going to be full tomorrow.

Here is a ceiling looking back at me. When ceilings fill the frame of our perception, the only landmark we catch is our own image.

Apart from suffering back pain while trying to catch one’s own image, there’s a possible message … let’s not box ourselves into the realities of narrow visions.

And there was so much more to take in and think about in the expanded studio, showing the wider scope of Eliasson’s activities, projects like Little Sun, Green Light and Ice Watch.

On a big round table small and big kids can have fun building architectural structures.

Oh, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Tate Modern, while overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames in crisp winter light.

It was a very special day in the company of my very special son. In a world that seems distressingly askew these days, it’s heartening to know there is a new generation of sane and life-embracing young people.

Check out some  videos about Olafur Eliasson.

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… embracing the messy soul …

I hesitated posting this, since a deep sadness resurfaced and took hold of me while pondering Soul and Spirit. What’s the point, why exist, to what end? I asked this as a child, having been shown horrendous images in the wake of the Second World War, meant as shock treatment in my German primary school during the 1950’s. A poem I wrote about this experience I still don’t feel confident to share. I turned iconoclast, explored philosophies, religions, myths, literature, searched for exceptional minds, and resisted prescribed beliefs in favour of direct experience.

In my twenties I turned to images and their symbolic power, until a numinous event in Israel reunited me with language, literature, poetry, and science. I studied too many subjects to bore you with, at my own expense, none for economic advantage. I did meet exceptional people, including mystics, yet my question, like a spell, kept birthing more questions.

Disheartened, yet fascinated by our manic mechanistic Zeitgeist, I adopted a transpersonal view, letting things unfold until decisions fell into place. With each intuitive choice, energy for action met me half way and helped me succeed with many projects. This included workshops on dreams and myth, and the wonderful Parent Link programme I helped get on the road, all about reflective listening and the language we use. Unfortunately this parent and school-supported project received no support from the Government. Still, at times I felt I was making beneficial contributions to society.  Of late, no new question has arrived to kick off a renaissance in my poetic imagination, or shed light on the collective mood of futility, which seems to confirm the scientific view that reality is determined by numbers.

Battered, but not beaten, I honour my core resolves: that everything physical is en-souled and resonates with everything else in the universe. And that consciousness, with the potential for symbolic awareness in humans, creates innumerable realities we co-create in ever new forms.

Arthur Rackman – Twilight

Soul and Spirit have become terms relegated to poetry. Some traditions hold them to be interchangeable and interdependent, akin to the Eastern concept of Yin and Yang. In this sense the feminine and masculine principles (mentioned below) reside in women and men alike, that is, their receptive and active and qualities work in each of us. Certain myths simplified and distorted this truth, which now asserts itself with fresh understandings regarding the psychological identification with gender.

“When I say the feminine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living—or suppressed—in both men and women.”  Marion Woodman

Observing the political debates around the globe, I notice a similar narrow power dictum in entrenched wars for control, which conjure up the quarrel of parents that drive children to hide in the broom cupboard.

I understand SOUL (Psyche) as pure consciousness, self-sufficient. Yet once identified with impressions of the physical world –  soul becomes the vessel. We talk of soul shining through eyes, through nature, or as immanent presence pervading matter. Consider body, mother, growth, loss, suffering, receptivity, attachment, memory, meaning, imagination, mystery, intuition, aesthetics, melancholy, yearning, endurance, constrictions, chaos, bliss … One may associate Soul with Eros, energy, the cosmos, planets, moon, beauty, stars, history, identity, myths, time, space, past, darkness, the unconscious, unpredictability, and the female principle (Anima) inviting spirit for input and direction.

SPIRIT, to me, is like a wind of light carrying seeds of information to recipient vessels, conscious or unconscious, singular or universal. Humans interpret this information, wisely or not. We talk of actions as spirited, fiery, determined, energetic, contradictory, passionate, always moving and changing. We talk of people driven by principles, for good or bad, or, frankly, being possessed. Spirit aligns with order and ideals, again, for good or bad. Add the relentless drive for perfection which aims, in some traditions, for transcendence, seeking the divine not in the messy psyche, but only in abstract spheres beyond matter. We associate Spirit with logos, will, action, speed, the sun, innovation, reason, light, the male principle (Animus,) and future visions … welcomed by the soul.

Mothers – Käthe Kollwitz

Torn between spiritual heights and visions, and the dark depth of the collective psyche, my initial therapy training with Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis impressed me with an undeniable necessity: The higher we rise the deeper we’re called to descend into the murky shadow of ourselves and our collective inheritance. Gripped then, once again, by the deep sadness I felt as a child in the face of human suffering, I cried for days. The work began, with my own unconscious, with individuals and groups. But nearly 35 years on, I feel yet again despair that the knowledge gained about the psyche is not wider applied. The abuse of people, especially women and children, and the planet itself, continues in the name of the power principle and progress, as does the resistance to acknowledge and heal personal and collective grief. It’s so much more convenient to blame an enemy.

I had the privilege to meet a remarkable Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, and the community of his students during the mid 1970’s. As the grandson of the saintly Hazrat Inayat Khan, Fazal developed his grandfather’s message in passionate, spontaneous and radical modern ways. One of his sayings: ‘Answers are dead, questions are alive,’ gave perspective to my existential query. For him, fragile egos behind the mask of their persona needed strengthening before the Self could become conscious. He orchestrated intense workshops during which the shadow aspects of our personalities were exposed. Each event was followed by a tender and humorous process of debriefing. He taught me to forgive myself, to be kind to myself. He died much too young in 1990. The copyright to hundreds of Fazal’s pioneering talks is held by the present Sufi Way, so his deep mystical insights must wait for another day. While I was co-editing Heart of a Sufi, reminiscences gathered from his students, we were limited to a few quotes and one inspired poem, Qalandar, which I hope to share some time.

Explanations aim to reassure, but knowing the limits of reason, I search for metaphors, symbols, poetry in words and images to make my fleeting insights graspable, as lonely as they stand, and as totally irrelevant as they may be to others. Still, it’s a lovely surprise when readers explore the archives here, or read my quest novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ which defies genres.

Turbulent times call for intuitive introspection, though sifting through the avalanche of information available is probably the great task we must master in this present decade. When lame slogans and bitter opinions are shouted with animosity across the media, our conscience is severely tested.

What we call good and bad coexists in the psyche. If you’ve read Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea Saga, you may recall the poignant moment when the protagonist realises that he and his shadow opponent share a secret name. For that instant their identities merge as one.

Among great thinkers of recent decades who influenced my thoughts, I often return to Stanislav Grof, Gregory Bateson, C. G. Jung, and the people who honoured and expanded Jung’s brilliant insights, among them Esther Harding, Marie-Louise v. Franz, Marion Woodman, James Hillman, Anthony Stevens and many others who further explored the Psyche in relation to the inner work of individuation, that is – learning to hold the tension of opposites towards realising the balance of a universal underlying wholeness. Archetypal forces inspire, overpower, or dull us to sleepwalk into tragedies. We, with our humble egos can take on our small responsibility; each individual serves as a bridge, and an interface.

‘Matrignosis’ is a rich site by Jean Raffa, who explores Jung’s ideas with helpful guidance.

Related: Cartography of the Psyche, with a link to Stanislav Grof’s talk on the psychology of the future.

And my cheeky post about the ego – give the poor ego a break.

To conclude, a rare excerpt of thoughts on metaphysics from Hazrat Inayat Khan, shared with his students between 1915- 1920:

Maya Deren – Meshes of the Afternoon

The Experience of the Soul through the Spirit …

The soul has two different sides and two different experiences. One side is the experience with the mind and the body, the other side is the experience of the spirit. The former is called the outer experience, the latter the inner experience. The nature of the soul is like glass, transparent, and when one side of the glass is covered it becomes a mirror. So the soul becomes a mirror in which the outer experiences are reflected when the other side is covered. That is why, however greatly blessed a person may be with the outer knowledge, he is not necessarily gifted with the inner knowledge. Therefore, in order to attain to the inner knowledge the Sufi covers the other side of the soul, that its mirror part may face the spirit instead of the outer world. As soon as is able to accomplish this he receives inspirations and revelations.

There are people who are by nature intuitive, or who are called psychic or clairvoyant by nature. It is accounted for by the other side of their soul naturally facing the spirit within. One may call them extraordinary, or exceptional, but not mystical, for the mystic does not desire that position. He, by concentration and meditation, gains such mastery that he can cover the soul from without to take the reflection within, and that he can cover the soul from within when he requires the reflection from the outer world to its full extent. Balance is desirable, and mastery is the goal to be attained.

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… impromptu garden do under apples and stars …

as this wet August

ends in glorious hot days

a mild night brings round

friends to guard a fire

and surreal stories circle

high into midnight

 

under ripening apples

and sweet stars glowing

in the deep violet dome

calm nature absorbs

the quirky suppositions

of weird human minds

talking birth, death, consciousness

possible futures

superficial differences

global politics

recent IT advances

plant-drugs and cyborgs …

 

are we indifferent

to overwhelming data

can we make choices

on how limited knowledge

is being applied

do we have sacred values?

 

once ice-cream arrives

a silence charms the garden

tongues put thoughts on halt

body and soul nudge closer

senses celebrate

taste – sight – smell – touch – sound – this night

everything matters

for now – though must fade in parts

the very next day

when our best ideals give way

to daily routines

and we survive best we can

 

hard questions endure

take shape-shifting neutrinos

… so much goes missing

yet for all our dares it is fine

to have mystery

define this amazing life

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… souls roam and arrange impressions …

let sleep do its work

so the spirit will guide you

and leave helpful dreams

in that rich abode

of our collective being

– the only being –

 

awake souls roam and arrange

streams of impressions

rebel angels see

the judge slaves under man’s law

… while nature rules all …

in this earthly home

we catch our face in mirrors

that slowly unveil

through rhythms of remembrance

the source of freedom

 

heeding the heart’s pulse

your hand cascades poetry

and transmits secrets

I really must start to sort my poems …

The left sketch is a possible cover for my first poetry chapbook …

I was recently encouraged when two of my poems were published with Queen Mob’s Teahouse:

https://queenmobs.com/2019/05/poems-photographs-ashen-venema/

And then mentioned once more in a Berfrois magazine article by Joe Linker. Thank you Joe.

Paintings and Poems: City on a Hill

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… taming …

Everything alive is curious, humans excel in this trait. When meeting up with something we haven’t come across we ask … is it worth knowing: is it important, useful, is it friend or foe? Getting to know something is a kind of taming. We energise what we tame, and attempt to exert control over it, be it elements, animals, people, or ideas. Then again, when for innumerable reasons, which include changing priorities or attitudes, interest fades; we withdraw our energy from what we tamed.

Take this vat. Not having held water for some time – its wood shriveled.

a dried-up vessel

lacking its soulful function

becomes an icon

an exquisite memory

or inspiration

where in beauty of decay

new dreams incubate

as nature’s purpose rotates

 

Getting older sparks such contemplation, and the reassurance that a formidable self-regulating force is in charge of life – nature and its cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Despite every greedy effort to control nature, there is ample proof it will only work for life if we honour the spirit behind the delicate interdependencies of its cyclic system, which in its wisdom continuously expands the consciousness of the one and only being.

‘Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.’ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

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…Brexit – the exhausted old man …

Last week I had visitors, Fred, Kit and Mirre, dear friends from Holland. Their invigorating presence took me away from my mordant addiction to the UK Brexit drama, for a while, anyway.

We went to a nearby Sculpture Park.

    seen in Churt Sculpture Park

The particular sculpture on the right was pointed out to me by Fred, or I might have missed it. The body of the old man impressed and his image lingered on. It conveys interiority, a bowing down towards earth, in memory of its elements.

The old man sits still, listening to the hidden part of the soul below the surface of busy things. He may contemplate regrets, feel clichés evaporate and the linear progress of his life fade, together with familiarities of the past. For me, the sculpture also encapsulates a phase when ideals are crumbling during a homecoming to mystery, and hopefully a guidance from the spirit of ‘the one being’ we are part of.

The shape also evokes my father, who died almost a year ago, having nearly reached a century of existence. The most touching thing he said during the last years in a dreamlike moment was … ‘I want to be where you are’ … which took me by surprise, since he disapproved of my choices in life. I can only assume it was a slip of the tongue, or a desire to shed his history for an expanded imagination and another future.

as seen in Churt Sculpture Park

Bless my dad, he’s moved on …

Transformation happens unseen, much like in this present dark moon phase all of us experience within and without – sensing deep down that the eternal is ever now, and there’ll emerge another healing well, another spring of joy and renewal … the wildness of the unknown.

I deeply thank natural cycles, mirrored in seasons, world affairs and the lifespan of creatures.

 

Were it not so, humans would have no chance for reflection, redemption, renewal, and a fresh dance of love.

        seen in Churt Sculpture Park

‘We are the mirror as well as the face in it.                       We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.            We are pain and what cures pain. We are                        the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours.’

Versions of Rumi from Open Secrets (transl. by John  Moyne and Coleman Barks.

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… to relish the sense of taste …

Our senses, physical and otherwise, make us feel alive, grant pleasure, and no doubt increase our hunger for taste, touch, smell, sight and sound, and more senses besides. They all overlap.

Try, as I did once with my ex-husband, to go on a weekly fast. You may, like us, get your hunger satiated by the sweet torment of smelling and looking at food on market stalls or in shop windows.

A dear friend of mine, who recently visited, relishes taste. How does one describe taste in our taste-filled world? I challenged my friend to find words to evoke the recent meal I served. Here then a leap of the imagination back to the event – an excerpt:

 … the small, round boiled new potatoes were the sweet, starchy berries of the earth. Their light brown skins stretched enticingly over the creamy white fruit within. The asparagus, almost luminescent green, redolent of a waving forest of green marine plants viewed through the warm clear waters of a tropical island bay, fresh and tender in the soft embrace of the mouth and chewy enough for the teeth to relish their work of liberating the cacophony of nourishing juices over the vibrant, aroused tongue. 

The salmon, its raw fishiness tamed by gentle heat in the company of thin slices of lime, into a piquancy which thrashed around the palette like wild seas. And, the final trigger to culinary orgasm, a tangy, herby sauce, which pulled the palette this way and that, like stretching a rubber band, taking it for moments into the realms of sublimity.

I remarked, ‘You could’ve become a restaurant entrepreneur or a food taster.’

 

 

During gatherings of friends, we love sharing stories as well as food delicacies … the displays and the bouquet of flavours wafting on the air on such occasions may well attract hungry ancestors, grateful for such feasts.

My mythic adventure novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ has sections depicting sensual experiences, which is why a re-read, while tuning into editing the sequel, ‘Shapers,’ is a pleasure. My childhood must have served as inspiration, encapsulated in my village poem.

If you relish taste, you may like ‘The Last Banquet’ by Jonathan Grimwood – a feast for the senses, if a little decadent. Here is my review of the book on Goodreads in 2014

With the waves of depressing news around the globe, I thought I’d cheer up my readers, and myself.

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… debates at beech tree junction …

From my desk I see the crowns of a few massive beech trees on the hill beyond my garden. Come autumn, tons of leaves used to smother my mossy lawn until, thankfully, the branches were cut back last year. Wood pigeons value the majestic view across town from up there, as much as they like gobbling up my Stella cherries before I ever have the slightest chance of harvesting them. And yet, I like the pigeons’ cooing code by which they talk to each other in spring, and I find their peculiar waddling, neck-pushing walk in search of worms amusing. Presently the bare branches of the beeches show the pigeons’ constellation throughout the day, bringing on some thoughts … and a Haiku.

at beech tree junction

each morning the ruler lands

sometimes with a mate

later the pigeons gather

and debate migrants

they conclude – not our problem

skies are border-less

Re: migrants, given the human longing for belonging, it is the brave feat of ‘exits,’ people who leave their birth land for whatever reason, which expands tolerance, as well as emotional and intellectual independence from the collective pull towards loyalty for any one group or ideology.

Recently I came upon this quote by Italo Calvino, which resonates:

‘The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.’ – Italo Calvino               

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… hope – the oracular mystery …

August Rodin – Le Secret

These tumultuous times it takes a leap of imagination and ingenuity to trust in hope, which has frequently been my resort during past difficulties. Hope is assumed to have remained in the jar after Pandora released its darkness. The conflicting interpretations of hope around this myth are fascinating. Try relating darkness and hope to the psycho-dynamic phenomenon of projection. In what we call life, both darkness and hope circle around nothingness. We suffer the periods of dense darkness in hope of the ever-recurring creative  energy of spring – the spirit I dance to in my lucid dreaming.

While natural, our expectations are necessarily blind and hampered by frustrating circumstances. In the wake of two stressful years, the hope that my nearly 100 year old dad would leave me the small fund he legally owed me was buried with him. Still, my yearning for a little more creative freedom is well alive.

There was a comical element to these last summer/autumn months, when I was challenged by one thing after another that needed repairing around my home. I tend to be inventive at fixing things myself, but this time I had to rely on experts. Thankfully I found competent, honest and warmhearted people and the problems were solved at reasonable costs. In fact, every problem solved … cementing dangerous steps, replacing old iron guttering, massive clearing of garden overgrowth, sorting a blocked man-hole … felt like a heroic victory. You should have seen me stirring the shit in the manhole with a long iron rod. I kept on for hours since it has worked once before, many years ago. I spare you the hilarious details. In the end I called in the experts. Craftspeople who know their job have my admiration. Societies couldn’t function without them.

To me, obstructions have a symbolic significance in relation to my physical and psychic state, that is when I look at the environment I depend on as extension of my body/mind.

And, of course, the presently depressing and equally hilarious world of politics that leaves many of us speechless seep seamlessly into personal anxieties. At one point, I spontaneously popped into a surgery (unfrequented for decades) to have a heart and blood test, and I even got myself a blood pressure gadget. All is well, a relief, despite my stubborn habits of smoking roll-ups and enjoying red wine (in moderation, to keep me grounded.)

The Seed – Silvia Pastore

Hope is my coin once more.  Course of Mirrors, I’ve been told, would make a great film or TV series. Useful contacts to this effect are welcome. A few more reviews, posted where the book is listed on Amazon, Troubadour, Goodreads or Waterstones could spark sales and bring funds for marketing. Since I’m totally incapable of selling my lace, I appreciate any encouragement and support.

The soul guides that dream my myth were given full reign in my first novel – #courseofmirrors  https://twitter.com/mushkilgusha

My desire to publish the sequel, ‘Shapers,’ next year, made me explore financial support through: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241 I’m thrilled to have attracted a few Patrons. What consoles are flashes of beauty that stimulate the writing of Haiku, like this week …

can it be a cheat

to gift a street musician

a red autumn leaf ?

While parking in town, a beautiful plane leaf dropped on my car roof, in rhyme with the voice of the regular street musician. The leaf ended in his guitar case. I received a huge smile.

HOPE …  by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.         

Further: – Exploring once more the myth of Pandora, I found a chiming C G Jung reference here – one third down the page of: https://symbolreader.net/2015/01/11/the-guilt-of-prometheus-and-pandoras-gifts/  Wonderful site, worth exploring.

Re: The paintings of Silvia Pastore – I love them. Some years ago purchased usage of ‘The Magician’ (left) as cover for Course of Mirrors.

When my then publisher didn’t share my choice, I dropped the idea and ended up using one of my photographs, taken at the Atlantic in Morocco . I may however use The Magician for a future poetry collection.

 

 

 

 

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