Tag Archives: photography

… 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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… 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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… 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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… 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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Mystical experiences & J. B Priestley’s Dream

Numerous children, if not all, bring along an openness that allows them a peek through the chinks in the veils that cover ordinary reality. Sudden insights, call them special, spiritual, paranormal, transpersonal, mystical, timeless, ecstasy of oneness … dreams … experiences that make no sense to a rational adult and may evoke fear of the unconscious. Sooner or later children may learn that a vivid imagination, as it is often called, brings no rewards and is of no solid use in a world geared to material respectability and control.

To have one’s experience belittled is humiliating. A child may react with rebellion, remain silent, or learn to deal with contradiction. At worst, the door will be shut against random revelations and curiosity about anything unfamiliar. This is a great pity, since a whole range of dimensions remain untranslated. Fortunately there are those who refuse to have their imagination squashed, who find a medium to hold and share encounters that do not fit prevailing assumptions, concepts of reality or theories of time.

They are truth-seekers – artists, writers, musicians, painters, dancers, physicists, biologists, astronomers, mathematicians, inventors, mystics … people with a passion to re-discover realities beyond appearances from multiple perspectives, including deeply personal ones. In short, anyone adventurous enough to explore the jungle of diverse interests, the way inner and outer truths mysteriously mirror each other and spark mystical consciousness. But since the boundaries between light and darkness are porous, one is always well advised to hold one’s balance, like a skilled martial art practitioner.

Having listened over decades to thousands of client stories, I haven’t yet met anyone who hasn’t shared (often for the first time) a near-forgotten mystical experience. Such experiences are the best kept secret nobody dares to talk about. For fear of ridicule, we let the poets speak for us.

‘To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.– William Blake

Take heart, it is possible to find words, like J B Priestley, to convey the indescribable …

Drawing by Douglas Fenton

I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon the myriads of birds flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds.

But now, in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and the time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek and then, in a flash, bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless biological effort?

As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us at all, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy.

But now the gear was changed again, and time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But, along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket-burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of beings.

Birds, people or creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so as this flame of life travelled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought of as tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never felt before such happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds, and I have not kept that happiness with me, as an inner atmosphere and a sanctuary for the heart, that is because I am a weak and foolish man who allows this mad world to come in destroying every green shoot of wisdom. Nevertheless, I have not been quite the same man since. A dream had come through a multitude of business. –  J.B. Priestley (Sept 1895 – Aug 1984)

In case you’ve not come across William James, read his ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’

And look up a recent sweeping epic that breaks all the rules by Philippa Rees, ‘Involution.’

And, of course, my novel 🙂

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