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… without sleep & dreams we’d go mad …

Sonnets to Orpheus    

                Part II

          10

All we gained is threatened by the machine

As it assumes possession rather than obeys the mind,

Ignoring the hesitant gesture of a radiant hand

It wilfully forges ahead, cutting sharp into stone.

Nor does it ever slow down enough for us to win distance,

Yet oiled by itself remains in the silent halls of fact.

It circles in living and claims to know best about living,

And with equal resolve creates, destroys, indifferent to all.

Yet our being remains spun in the mysteries of birthing,

Origins from enchanted wells, a play of pristine powers,

To behold only with eyes closed, and in adoration.

Words still softly dissolve before the unspeakable state,

While the most resonant stones give form to ever new sounds,

Gathering music into the divine unmade.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Ashen Venema

A friend called earlier, lovingly concerned, wondering why I hadn’t posted anything this month. I don’t plan posts ahead, but asking myself – what lingers in my mind – this poem by R M Rilke asked for attention. I used it to upfront a film degree dissertation (as a mature student) during the mid-90s … ‘Body Electric,’ An Exploration of Human Identity in the Digital Age. Once I discover how to transfer Mac Claris Work from floppy discs into a Word doc. or PDF, I’ll share the dissertation and other articles with my readers.

I like translating poems from German into English, poems by R M Rilke, W Goethe, H Hesse. It’s an adventure to find the right word and phrase. Maybe I should share such translations more often. The title of this post … without sleep and dreams we’d go mad … relates to the above Rilke’s poem, since the internet with its avalanche of information can assume a machine-like relentlessness, and yet, we can’t do without it, which makes me grateful for being able to sleep, so my psyche can assimilate new information during dreams.

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… Morocco adventure, fourth part …

31st Dec 2007 … The dogs must have eaten something unsavoury during their beach run. Ulla worries. Ali is unwell, though recovers during the afternoon. After fresh prepared fish meal for lunch, I consult the I Ging. It’s tempting to veer decades back into the past, a time I consulted the oracle daily during my solo trips through Italy in my VW Bus. Such free strands of associations would easily make a novel of this report.

Anyway, the I Ging brings up ‘determination. What the heck for?’ Not having to make decisions is a fascinating experience for me, if slightly unsettling. I reckon Ulla’s moods slow my futile attempt at reducing ruminating thoughts, like I puzzle over how frequently she marks events in a negative frame. ‘I knew it was going to be a bad day,’ that sort. I made the decision (ha ha, I made a decision after all)  to trust in her powerful guardian angel. The sharp way she sums up the occasional unpleasant person we meet, I fully admit, creates an instant emotional clearance, which I like, as long as an analysis of my congruence follows. I was born that way, and too easily succumbed to my mother tabooing cuss words from my vocabulary. Further, with vital exception in cases of injustice, or when pushed too far by idiots, which sparks pure anger in me, I tend to neutralise my attitude when negative reactions towards people perk up. That is to say I trained myself stepping into other people’s shoes, even when they pinch. I fully own the torture of this tricky ideology. I’d not recommend the style. Phew, that was a droll effort at self-observation.

1st January 2008 … Last night was a non-event, though a hilarious late TV show diverted me away from sulking. We wait ages for a camel dish. I’m unsure about eating the mutton of such useful and loyal creatures. The dish tastes fine, but scenes I witnessed of how animals are treated before slaughter always trouble me. Just then Ulla storms off in disgust as a truck with cramped chicken cages arrives at the restaurant. She eventually returns. Our waiter friend packs up the content of her plate for us to take along. On way back to Bou Jerif we almost turn around when another troupe of four-wheel drivers showers us with clouds of dust. Short of time, we call the fort and order a tent for me. All turns out well. I get a tower room for the price of a tent. And the manic French group leaves shortly, for whatever reason.

2nd to 3d January 2008 … After a walk following a parched river bed with patches of blooming desert, we return to an Oasis below Bou Jerif. Later Ulla takes the van to the fort to recharge batteries, while I have a hot shower, and read. Tomorrow we’ll head up the Atlantic coast.

4th – 5th   January … We get meat for the dogs in Goulimine and drive on to Sidni Ifni for a late lunch at Suerto Lorca. My choice is octopus. I’ve run out of colour film and have been using a spare black and white film for a while. We plan to shop in Tiznit. I access my email to check whether Julio has answered my query re: a room at his Marrakech Riad, Dar Pangal for the day before my flight back to London. No luck so far. Off to Tiznit. After I rent a room for the night, we have lunch and go shopping. Ulla strikes a bargain for a beautiful hand-embroidered Kaftan, intended for cushions. She frowns when the trader asks her to smile. A deal that is not sealed with smiles seems to signal disapproval here. The trader relents, is forgiving, ‘Inshallah.’

Near Agadir we stop for the night at a place called Paradise de Nomade. I’m impressed by the fresh sheets in my Berber tent. And the massive boulders in the dry riverbed nearby are an epic sight. Unfortunately the night turns noisy from 11:30 pm onwards. Four wheel drivers arrive, dogs bark, music, jolly talking … until 3 am.

Next morning we hear the sudden influx was due to a desert rally being called off at short notice, because four French tourists were murdered in Mauretania. The locals, it was said, asked the party for some money and were refused, so they killed them. Sadly, past political grievances, lack of deep listening, arrogance, and the refusal of dialogue can have terrible consequences. Morocco has a complex history and a hard won independence.

6th Jan … Images along the road to Essaouira, and some reflective thoughts … As the light, colours, food, scents, the warmth and hospitality of ordinary people in Morocco grow on me, I ponder on how outer impressions oscillate with my inner pilgrimage. Sound plays a powerful role in stirring the unconscious. The tunes I hum unawares, I realise, include folk themes, lyrics from German romantic poets set to music by Schubert, even Kurt Weil songs; melancholic echoes from childhood and teen days. Yet even then I probed the meaning of home, of belonging. Being a stranger seemed more exciting. There is a kind of accord with other strangers around the world, due to a gap in narratives, demanding keen attention, shaking up perceptions and allowing for the unfamiliar to astonish.

On this stretch of road, the predominant sound, whenever Ulla stops the engine, is the rhythmic surf of the Atlantic, Sea of the Atlas, into which many rivers flow, and which, through a narrow strait, connects to my beloved Mediterranean. The high and low tides of this expansive body of salt water, dividing Europe from North America, and Africa from South America, make up the drone to dreams criss-crossing cultures from East to West, with ancient legends adding a shimmer to images that present themselves each day. To these inter penetrating worlds a constant wind adds turbulence, creative chaos.

Approaching Essaouira, we’re both a bit tense. Neither of us slept well at Paradis de Nomade. We search a hotel for me, after Ulla missed the earmarked camping place. She has the beach in mind, to give Ali and Leila their deserved run. Her stress and impatience adding to mine, I accept a hotel at the outskirts of Essaouira. The receptionist makes to pretence about relishing my embarrassment when I mistake E120 for 120 Dirham. A shock, considering my dwindling finances, but I can’t just walk out and sit on the curb. Overcoming the inner struggle, I decide to switch attitude, enjoy a hot shower and have sublimely quiet night.

7th of Jan 2008 … I find my kind of place, affordable and relaxed, in the Medina of Essaouira. At Hotel Souiri my inner harmony is restored. Ulla and I meet at 2 pm for a meal of irresistible fresh-smoked sardines at the harbour. The dogs enjoy a walk along the fortress walls, but are less pleased when we trundle through narrow streets in search for bargains. We both find items after appropriate spans of haggling. I buy a carpet runner to cheer up my kitchen at home. The labyrinth Medina has a lively and friendly atmosphere, and a well sustained patina of hippy charm, inviting a longer stay, but not this time, since I must catch a plane in two days.

Ulla offers to drive me to Marrakech.  In hindsight, I should’ve made the decision to refuse and organised a bus. Marrakech does not welcome dogs, which traditionalists consider unclean in Morocco. We were rejected at the outside table of a restaurant at central market place, Jemaa el-Fnaa,  even while sitting on the fringe, because our lovely friends, Ali and Leila were unwelcome. It was a sad downer.

In all, the journey reminded how moving to England in 1978 marked a departure from my crazy life in Germany, with all its professional successes and private failures, opening another crazy section of my life, with equal successes and failures, coinciding with a change of my name. The bridge I crossed then, offered a deep learning, and it allowed me eventually, through another language, to find my way back to writing. But that’s a story in itself.

My friend and travel companion, I must add, while inclined to retreat into her shell, is to my heart an iridescent pearl. I’m grateful she suggested the pilgrimage, and thank her for her companionship during these remarkable weeks.

Note: Please ignore grammar quirks in this spontaneous sharing. Thanks .Also, the underlined blue words in this text open safe links to Wikipedia, and bring up a separate screen.

Blessings for 2021. Wishing you, us, a better year ahead, one that makes pilgrimages possible again.

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… Morocco adventure, third part …

27th Dec. 2007. Instead of committing to another night at Bou Jarif, we decide on a day trip to Plage Blanche and perhaps return for the night, or the next day, depending on whether I can occupy one of those deserted cottages at Plage Blanche we heard about. Turns out I can. The former manager of the dilapidated Hotel, if it ever was a hotel, sweeps out the layers of sand from one of the cottages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s a loner, let-the-world-go-by kind of man. Ulla speaks French with him. I get the gist. The planned facilities for the hotel got stuck, were too unrealistic, never happened. The plot was apparently sold to another developer.  Our hermit says he bides his time until the machinery moves in … probably never. His story has holes. Truth balances on a thin edge around here. Still, having apparently resisted threats and bribes, he holds his fragile station and is cheered to have visitors. The splendour of the dunes settles it. Our stroll along the beach is crowned by the brilliant orange sun slipping over the horizon. Not for the first time, I wonder if by photographing such  moments I diminish deeper absorption. Yet here I am, sharing the image of a sunset with you, my readers, who have seen many fabulous sunsets in their lifetime, if only to re-spark such beauty in your memory.  Even without water in my cottage, and no toilet use, the minimal décor appeals. I make myself an oasis with candles and a red shawl for colour. The steady sound of the Atlantic surf rolling in and out is softened by the dunes. The clear night ocean above me sparkles with galaxies. Bliss.

28th Dec. 2007, Ulla has taken the dogs for a run along the beach. I furtively look for a spot to dig a hole for what finally stirs in my intestines, since I never use the chemical toilet in the van. The spot I find looks upon miles of surf before the Atlantic horizon. The occasion allows for a most spectacularly relieving bowel movement, certainly with the best view ever. The argan oil I soaked yesterday’s excellent local bread in must have worked the magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argan oil is harvested and processed via many small co-operatives, run by women. Goats treasure its fruit and climb high into the trees for it, a surreal sight. They remain natural harvester in some areas, since kernels containing the valuable oil remain unharmed in the animal’s droppings, which are then collected.

I see Ulla returning from miles away. I ask her to take the above photo in the dunes of me. Later we walk along an estuary teeming with birds. A young man on a moped sells fresh fish to Ulla, filleted on sight. I set up a folding chair along the sacred line that marks the boundary between reality and dream, a place of sweet solitude.

 

 

 

 

 

The world intrudes. An elderly English woman parks her caravan near Ulla’s van. She, too, has two dogs. Based on that association she relates a horror story to us, of how her husband was killed (murdered) near the area some years ago by a ten year old Moroccan boy. Since then the woman makes a yearly pilgrimage. The boy, she says, drove his bicycle down a hill at full speed and rammed into her husband while he locked his car, on purpose. Their planned coffee break never happened. I wonder about the truth of the matter. Ongoing legal proceedings are swallowing up the woman’s savings. Consumed by this ghastly event, fate teases with endless plots crowding her imagination, a horrific trauma that seemed to have no absolution, apart from finding listeners. We listen.

 

29th Dec 2007. Ulla and I share a grief from way back for the untimely loss of a dear Sufi friend. Though every grief has its own constellation and depth, improvised travelling, demanding total presence, tends to soothe sorrows. As for me, hardly did a grunt or a sigh escape me on this journey. Daily a new horizon open, like the breath-taking rock formations found along hidden beaches. Each obstacle requires a surrender to circumstances. Western visitors fare best when adopting the shoulder shrug which is second nature to Moroccans, signifying their readiness of trusting in God’s will, ‘Inshallah.’ While I enjoy the sense of being lost between dream and reality, I drive Ulla crazy with the tunes I hum unawares. The melodies arrive from nowhere; old songs from the 70s, or themes from symphonies and operas. Brought to my attention, I try to place the tunes and can’t rest until I do. This peculiar habit of mine taps into an unconscious matrix where emotional memories find fresh connections, a kind of dark and invisible womb in which experiences are recorded. I feel embarrassed when Ulla admits irritation, though I thank her for bringing this habit to my attention. I learned to value this unconscious process as a mnemonic tool in the process of writing.

We drive an hour back to Goulimine and enjoy lunch in a restaurant with a familiar friendly waiter. He accepts and arranges for the fish which Ulla bought from a young man in the dunes to be prepared. I later get two bottles of wine for the next four days from the known secret corner in the souk.

Driving toward Tan Tan Plage, we divert to Ksar Tafnidilt, yet another nerve wrecking track leading to a 5star desert palace that includes a camping area. Like Bou Jarif, the abode was built to accommodate French tourists. A few four wheel drivers blast their horns and impatiently overtake us. The passion of these people is racing their sturdy vehicles at high speed along the sandy coastline at low tide. It’s a noisy hazard, and worth keeping in mind when paddling unawares in the surf.

I inspect a lovely tower room at Ksar Tafnidilt, but my budget is dwindling. So after some dreaming of luxury, it’s back to the main road. The four wheel drivers have churned some nasty holes in the sand. At one point we collect rocks to make a passage. Ulla’s bondage to the van conjures up her fears that we’ll get stuck. The scary possibility sparks my usually drowsy determination into action, physically and mentally. All went well in the end. We continue towards Tan Tan Plage.

A fourth part of this journey will be coming next: Tan Tan Plage, New Year, TV, dreaming in the philosophy zone, worlds within, symbols, returning via Goulimine, Bou Jerif, Sidi Ifni and Tiznit, before heading up the coast towards Agadir and Essaouria, a lovely small town. I think as an old hippy I could live there 🙂

These are spontaneous posts, so please ignore possible grammar slips.

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… Morocco adventure, second part …

21st Dec,. 2007. Ulla and I head to Tiznit, and on to Playa Aglou, where I book into a hotel at the beach for two nights at reduced price. I sleep well after two glasses of red from the bottle I brought along from Agadir. We have a morning walk under spectacular skies along the coast.

Here happens the image for the title of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ with clouds brilliantly reflecting on the water. The dogs race on the moist sand. Late afternoon it rains a little. Next day we make a short trip south, exploring hidden bays with otherworldly rocks.

22nd Dec. We go shopping in Tiznit, for candles, water, yogurt and postcards. The souk is empty, maybe because of the holiday. Afternoon we walk along the coast, with two, three, four bands of surf under a misty sunset with pink clouds, and also stroll along Aglou promenade.  We contemplate renting a flat for a few days. A Moroccan scout suggests a few, but they’re all in a dire state … half functioning appliances, smelly and dirty, nothing that couldn’t be righted with a little effort, but we are in conflict whether to commit to one place or push on.

23d Dec. Massive rainfall, through which I run to make it dry to the breakfast terrace. The sky clears quickly. By lunchtime we drive on towards Sidi Ifni,  stopping in Mirleft for lunch. As only customers we are served like royalty.

Later on I hold my breath, while Ulla, seemingly fearless, navigates the heavy van descending a scary steep rubble track, the last stretch bringing us to the legendary Legzira beach. This heart stopping moment brings back a time when I had my own, smaller VW bus, and got stuck ascending a vertical narrow road in the mountains of South Tirol. I was younger then, with more guts. I relied on my handbrake to exit the car and put rocks under the back tires, mainly to gain time and catch my breath. In the end you do what needs doing. Once you’re on a sheer slope you keep your nerve. Gliders have most excellent nerves around here and, for us, Legzira’s red rocks were well worth the  effort.

Sidi Ifni was relinquished back to Morocco by Spain in 1969. The beach is massively dirty, yet overall the place has an odd charm, and seems to have escaped mass tourism.

I book into Suerte Loca. It’s a full moon night. My room is shared with one lazy fly, which, in my dream, I pursue with a formidable army of girls, equipped with arrows.

The terrace with a view up the road is lovely, though it connects with three other rooms, something I feel uneasy about. There were once plans to build an airport here, but the designated area remained empty. I like this photo I managed to take. Developers overestimated Sidi Ifni’s attraction to tourists. Some months after our visit there were violent protests by the unemployed, who blockaded the port. Maybe things changed.

24th Dec. No tinsel or jolly Christmas bells for most Moroccans. French people living in Morocco tend to spread the tradition, though not in the Oasis where we arrive today. Domain Khattab has camping facilities and a few small bungalows, all set in a desolate landscape not far from Goulimine, the gateway to the desert. I rent a little bungalow. Before bedtime Ulla serves a vegetable stew done on her camping stove. We share reminiscences. Happy Christmas, I say, with some irony. Ulla believes in nothing, and why not. Traditions that lose symbolic value degenerate. When I think of how Christmases have changed since my childhood, I despair at the monster enterprise it now stands for. It is bitter cold, hard to sleep, even under several layers of blankets. Dogs are barking on and off during the night. The place has a filthy kind of allure. Only a trickle of water in the bathroom, and the toilet doesn’t work. A helpful man brings a bucket of water, and then another for the next flush. Unfortunately the toilet bowl leaks, which I discover in the morning when I step into ice cold puddles that soaks my leg warmers. Despite all these discomforts, there is something refreshingly disorientating about travelling along unknown roads.

25th Dec. Christmas day. The sun brings a little warmth. I pay what I think is sufficient for the lack of much, which is accepted. Breakfast is delayed, because someone overslept. We meet a Swedish woman who travels alone via public transport. I admire her good faith. We are off to Goulimine to get some shopping done. A young man shows me the one place that sells wine, in a dark corner of the souk.

For our next destination we drive a dangerously bumpy track to Fort Bou Jerif. The stillness among the bare hills is eerie. Not a soul for miles on end. Lost in the desert, the fort attracts visitors because of its stunning ruins. The guest quarter, including a camping area, run by French people, has a Disney feel and lacks authenticity. Only mad tourists like us attempt this arduous journey, which should require a 4×4 vehicle. The room I book is expensive, sigh, but since everything is clean and well cared for, I anticipate the unique pleasure of a hot shower. Close by is a river with a palm grove oasis. We opt for a tagine dinner in front of Ulla’s van, prepared traditionally on a wood fire by a clever trader hiding among the bushes. It tastes delicious, and we enjoy the sunset with a full moon rising. Tomorrow we’ll explore the ruins.

26th Dec. A fairly comfortable night, for Ulla in her van, and for me in my snug room, where I sketch some furniture details. We set out to explore the crumbling ruins. Apparently the fort was built by the French around the 1930s and abandoned once Morocco obtained its independence in 1956.

The hot shower was overstated. To safe costs, I opt for a tent for the second night, spreading a sea of tiny tea lights around me for comfort. Still, the cold prevents me from sleeping, until Ulla saves me by supplying a cashmere blanket, which I wrap around my neck. It also helps to muffle the noise of barking dogs.

Choosing images is difficult, there being so many, in different folders. I hope the ones chosen add a taste to the journey. More adventures to come, hopefully to cheer those of us in lock down.

The lone warrior at Plage Blanche, back to Goulimine, and on towards Tan Tan via Ksar Tafnidilt.

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… Morocco adventure 2007, first part …

Marrakech airport, 16th Dec 2007 … new arrivals are greeted by hundreds of placards. I scan the display showing names of people, Hotels, and Riads, until I spot Dar Pangal, my Riad. In the rush my top heavy case topples and grazes a man’s toes. He shouts an avalanche of abuse, in French. I say, ‘Sorry,’ which raises his blood pressure even more. My understanding of French being embarrassingly basic, I do grasp the questions he hurls at me like projectiles. ‘Where do you come from? Why do you come here?’ His insolence finally riles me. ‘Why do you want to know?’ I ask. He snaps back in English, ‘Shut up.’ Young Saladin, who will bring me to my Riad in the Medina, casts his eyes to heaven and shrugs his shoulders, so do I.

Anything on wheels ages well here. Old bangers zip through the buzzing crowd. Some cars, and bikes, have well-fed goat tied up in the backseat. ‘Feasts are ahead,’ Saladin says, in perfect English. ‘Sacrificing goats for celebrations and sharing their mutton with family, friends and neighbours is an honoured tradition in these parts of the world.’

Turning into a narrow backstreet, we arrive at Dar Pangal. The inner courtyard is an island of peace. Julio offers a warm welcome. He’s South American, but spent years in Paris, working as a designer. He likes Werner Herzog films, and once met Klaus Kinsky. Eccentric people fascinate him. I reveal how I worked for some of these eccentric people in the past. On that wavelength we share reminiscences over mint tea. Using a mobile and texting is a new experience for me. Somewhat nervous, I practice sending messages to Ulla, Ruth and Zohra. Connections work well. A hot shower also works well, and helps me to sleep after a long day.

17th Dec. 2007 … A knock on the door. 7 am and pitch dark. Latifa opens the shutters and invites me to have breakfast. Later I explore Julio’s roof terrace, with sweeping views over the medina roofs, which carry a field of satellites. Seems Marrakech is well wired up through gold vision orbs.

I find an exchange office to buy dirham cash, and then stroll through the Souk, taking my time, feasting on spicy smells and deep colours. An exotic trance battles with my intention to look purposeful, to avoid harassment. Charmed by a timeworn caravanserai, I calculate the exchange rate in my head and bargain over a holdall made from a Berber saddle back. In the process I lose a knitted hat I’d bought for my son. His taste in clothing has become refined, so maybe I should find a different present. I notice that most people don’t like to be photographed without permission, which I respect. The plenty starved cats have no objection.

18th Dec. 2007 … Saladin learns there are no places on trains to Agadir on the Atlantic coast, where I am supposed to meet my friend, Ulla, with her VW bus and her two dogs. We manage to find a seat for me in a grand taxi, an old Mercedes already cramped with Moroccan men heading to Agadir for family gatherings. To ease their fare the men wedge me into the backseat. Pressure of time cancels choice, so I trust the arrangement. Magnificent white clouds over the Atlas Mountains compensate. A short cigarette stop provides a memorable photo. After an hour being cramped together, the men invite me to mint tea and pancakes. We communicate in made-up language, hand gestures and smiles.

I meet up with Ulla, her van and her dog family, a Dalmatian, Leila, and an adorable adopted Moroccan street dog, Ali, in the parking area of Marjane Shopping Mall. I had visited Ulla’s home a year earlier, refreshing a connection from eventful past decades that combined in our memory. Besides, there was our joint mother tongue. Mine had become rusty. Being challenged to speak German brought not only forgotten words to the surface, but also forgotten experiences. Where I can be hesitant and avoid conflict, she has a no-nonsense manner, often with an edge I admire. Shouting the name ‘Ali’ down the road for your dog to behave, is potentially asking for trouble, that is, in Morocco. The predictable raised eyebrows before the penny drops remind me of childhood pranks my mother used to censor. We make an interesting pair of travellers.

Two friends Ulla met on the road, Peter and his partner, have their camper parked nearby. Peter knows everything there is to know about Morocco, including where to find my rolling tobacco, and how to achieve reduced deals for lodgings. Useful, since Ulla’s dog friends own any spare space in her van.

19th Dec 2007 … We are en route through the Anti-Atlas Mountains and along steeply winding roads, with an almost invisible turnoff towards the hidden Berber oasis of Tafraoute. I sign in at Hotel Salama. We have a fabulous meal at a tiny Berber restaurant. The owner, I learn later, married an English Writer, and back in the UK, I discovered by chance a proof copy of her novel in a charity shop. I wrote a spontaneous review.

 

 

 

 

 

The landscape surrounding Tafraout is littered with spectacular rocks. In 1984, a Belgian artist, Jean Verame, painted a cluster of rocks blue. I prefer land-art created with earth materials, not tons of paint. Still, it was done, and these rocks look as if the sky dropped a spot of its blue on them.

Our next destination was Tiznit, and from there on all the way to Tan Tan, near Mauritania, and up again along the Atlantic coast to Essaouira. Given the present surreal lock downs, I may share more episodes of this adventure.

Photography fans may like my album on Morocco at  https://500px.com/p/ashen?view=galleries

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… other-worldly Cornwall’s clay pits …

Some call it a lunar landscape. Wrongly. For lack of atmosphere, as mentioned in my recent post, the moon has no blue dome with cloud beings.

Years ago, my friend, Rahima (aka Elspeth Spottiswood/Milburn,) enticed me to visit the clay pits near St Austell.

While living in Cornwall as a young mother, she often marvelled at the white phenomenon seen from the road. Glowing on the horizon, the then white hills left a deep impression, bringing to her mind a city of temples, namely Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of a New Jerusalem.

This in stark contrast to the black slag heaps of coalmines, which, as a painter, and having grown up in Scotland, visually fascinated Rahima just the same.

In uniquely attuned spiritual warriors mode we conducted many seminars and workshops together, on dreams and archetypes and the imagination.

One day, off to visit the St Austell Clay Pits, we were searching for an entry to the site. During an adventurous process of getting lost among dusty criss-crossing tracks, circling on forever, we finally found ourselves in the heart of and atop the excavation site.

Luck was with us in another sense, the dramatic Cornish light on that day inspired the series of photographs I am sharing here.

I love clouds in any form and shade, regally resting, floating or racing on the breath of the wind, seen from a valley, mountain or plane. Clouds story our skies with magical creatures. Here one of my posts celebrating clouds. 

Human industry values the hidden treasures under the earth, black stuff, white stuff and golden stuff … Cornwall supplies white gold, the clay prized for porcelain, paper, paint and rubber.

Traditionally, china clay was extracted from the kaolinised granite by “wet mining”. High pressure jets of water were used to erode the working faces and wash out the kaolin. The slurry produced would flow down to the base of the pit from where it was pumped to the surface for processing.

In St Austell this process has moved on to dry-mining. In recent years, locals have taken to re-greening the scars of industrial excavations around mining sites, and, in a way, are making the scars less spectacular.

The China Clay Museum, Wheal-Martyn, provides information about Kaolin history and research.

The museum is planning a celebratory exhibition this summer …

There exist more dramatic images of the day, but I leave it as is for now.

Be aware that it may be illegal to enter the Clay Pit site without prior arrangement. We were naive and plain lucky, guided by my friend’s love for the place.

Later that day, Rahima and I travelled along narrow, sun-speckled  Cornish lanes towards Lamorna Bay at the coast.

That’s another story, for another day . I wrote about missing my friend in 2017.

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… meeting my foxy child in twilight …

a tall fox appears

in the garden’s night shadow

he stops – sits – alert

cautious from a safe distance

we eye each other

he triggers my cunning child

buried long ago

since grownups detest smartness

even hunt their kind

yet through our meshed lineage

recognition plays

in the nimbus between us

we affirm being

and our shape shifting stories

Next day I strung up my little hammock near that magic spot, with different views:                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly, during these surreal lock down days, I sigh and groan a lot, bewildered by hilarious media stories and the never ending blame games, which, given people are bored, have gained major entertainment value – and this from my perspective of not having watched TV for years.

Keep sane my friends.

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… outer and inner horizons …

Atlantic coast, Morocco

Whatever dream is dreaming through me brings stimulation, challenge, insight, learning, or, during dark times, unlearning. The latter, with its accompanying disillusionment, has tested me for a while now. I’m not alone. The whole planet seems to be going through a dark moon phase.

I like to think beyond every effort, every hill and every sea are new horizons, outer or inner, where adventure beckons, treasures might be found.

But I tend to forget that the most relevant information is gifted by the body, and the planet. It is unsettling to accept the physical signs and their metaphors, because nature’s truth is scary. It holds a mirror of knowledge surrendered over time, with glimmers that engaged the human imagination and has given us the tools of science. As living organism and self-correcting system, nature deserves deep gratitude and respect.

The mind (psyche,) a finer and faster kind of matter, with the ability to emulate nature, plants and re-plant itself in any field of interest … outraces wisdom, seeks drama, familiar patterns, fertilises, grows, invents, designs, builds ideal dwellings, ideal systems, ideal worlds … be they citadels of power suppressing the underdog, utopias of love and liberty, or creative realms, where artists embrace and make the ordinary luminous and sacred. The mind loves myth-making, explores symbols, plays with forms and random connections, re-interprets reality and generate new meaning.

Continuously rejuvenated, mind pursues all imaginable universes across time, seeking eternity, since, even if unawares, it envisions the wholeness of its original home, where it will never be lost, but forever be enfolded by unlimited potential.

Yet when it comes to the daily business on this planet, the mind fares best when listening to the body, the living matter, the feminine principle (irrespective of gender,) and appreciates its cosmic interconnections, since all secrets arise from nature’s dark chambers. A severance from these intricate physical and mythical roots of our being can result in a devastating sense of futility, where the question, ‘What’s the point?’ brings up no action worth considering, no ideal worth following. Somber and futile looms a future that wants to fix waves into particles.

The thought brought on a Haiku last week …

 

if I were this calm

river without internal

discord – I would miss

how the waves urge particles

in random beauty

While unsettling at times, I must attend and listen to my body – learn and unlearn, flow with change, light and darkness, of dust, the chorus of wind and birds.

 

From an exhibition in Amsterdam, Dec 2014

And, hopefully, I’ll catch ever now and then a spark of Duende,’  the poetic escape. Goethe called it the spirit of the earth – a mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosophy has explained.

Follow the ‘Duende’ link above for Lorca’s talk.

Below, a related post from 2017 – Both links open new pages without losing the page of this post.

… letting go of letting go …

 

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… 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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… my memory of the moon landing …

News reminds me that today is the fifties anniversary of America’s moon landing.

I was in Prague. My then companion, for his birthday celebration, had organised a small group of friends to spend a weekend in this beautiful city, coinciding with the moon landing. We could afford a 5 star hotel, due to a bargain currency exchange rate in the wake of the short-lived Prague Spring … the invasion of Czechoslovakia by members of the Warsaw Pact, and then the country’s occupation. We found an eerie hush hush atmosphere, but once rapport was created, people were keen to treat us cash-spending visitors like royalty. Hotel staff attended to our every need, insisting on polishing our shoes overnight. Restaurants, beyond serving exquisite goulash, entertained us with stories and life music. Our luxury was tinged with sadness. These people had had a rough time. It would take many more years before the collapse of Communism.

Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon. Photograph: NASA

We watched the moon landing on a black & white TV in the lobby of our hotel, outnumbered by American tourists. The atmosphere was electric. All our eyes were glued to the small screen, witnessing the eagle’s landing, feet stepping down the ladder into the moon dust. And them Armstrong documenting Buzz Aldrin imprinting the dust with his heavy shoes. Given the lack of air-movement on the moon, these imprints may still be there, unless the later take-off erased them.

We took in the iconic exclamations … one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…

Americans around us burst into high decibels and fell into each other’s arms for joy. So yes, it was a memorable moment, and, without doubt, a magnificent achievement for the visionaries, like J.F. Kennedy, who sadly missed the event, and the many thousands of technicians and supporting staff involved in the project.

Earthrise, Dec 1968

However, for me it amplified a more significant image from the year before, a photograph called ‘earthrise.’   I sincerely hoped that beholding the wonder of this beautiful planet floating in dark space would widen political perspectives and bring people’s consciousness around the world to the realisation that we are in this adventure of life together.

That weekend in Prague, I visited the old Jewish cemetery. Stirred by a brilliant slanting light, I took a series of b&w photos, only to destroy them later, incl. negatives. (The scene became incorporated in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’) I regret the loss.  The photos were stunning.

Wars, atrocities and poverty continued, nothing changed. Technological progress only worsened injustices. Protesters during the moon landing proclaimed “Billions for spacePennies for the hungry.”

I came to the conclusion that the exploration of deep space requires the balance of another exploration … a deep exploration of the human mind. A befriending of the unconscious, the objective psyche, which we can’t control.  The latter study inspired my subsequent vocation.

I grew up with this lullaby, my favourite …

Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar:
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weiße Nebel wunderbar.

Click here for the whole text with notation, and translation …

What do you do there, moon, in the sky? Tell me what you do, silent moon … Giacomo Leopardi

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