We endow obvious practical functions to clothes tools, furniture and any number of items we use daily and which therefore become intimates, like I have a favourite knife, cup, spoon, breakfast bowl and so on. I remember a T-shirt, apricot-coloured, with the iconic Snoopy character on it. Over the years the fabric of the shirt faded and softened beautifully. Finally I was wearing it in bed, for comfort, until, after various fixes, it fell apart. A sad day!
We also endow objects with symbolic, creative, guiding, protective and blessing potencies. Beyond reason – be it by a kind of enchantment – we grant them magical qualities through sustained affection. For me these are stones, shells, driftwood, feathers, or small ornaments given to me by friends.
Starting as children, we’ll adopt what Donald Winnicott called transitional objects, meant to restore the lost closeness to mother. Also early on we may express interests that foreshadow an inborn zeal. So beyond toys, teddy bears, blanket, pets, books, and so on, we bond with anything that fascinates us, initiating a passion that could encapsulate the myth of our lives. In my case this became the bridging of divides. My first novel started with the image of a bridge.
I wrote elsewhere … a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.
Objects and interests we seek or meet, may relate to a particular element, earth, water, fire, air, aether. Quite often our vocational and professional activities relate to an element. Also, one or the other of our senses may take hold of us, the love of light, shapes and colours, a fondness of sound, touch, smell, taste, or a love of metaphysics. Attachments drive our interests throughout life.
Strong affinity with an element may bring the challenge of dealing with another element we feel less in resonance with. The psyche plays at balancing extremes. For example, my astrological birth chart confirms a predominance of fire and air signs, fast energies, fierce, intense; even obsessional. I can still hear my mother saying, with a touch of exhaustion, ‘You’ve got a vivid imagination.’ My authority defying associations caused the odd trouble with teachers. In compensation I had need of grounding, befriending earth, literally digging and planting, which taught me patience. And I’m calmed by the vicinity of water. My childhood was spent around lakes, rivers and ponds.
We hold our loved ones and friends dear. We give significance to certain animals, trees, plants, prominent landmarks. We cherish gadgets, periods of history, art styles, places, habitual rituals and ideas. Each bonding adds to the creation of a strong net. To lose a strand precious to us, requires a child-like faith that our relational energy net can be mended and re-aligned to our guiding light. This net is all about relationships, inner and outer, informing the purpose of our extended self.
Over recent years, efforts to dis-endow some of my attachments, among them endless folders with notes on projects and visions I’ve slim chances to achieve in this round, left me melancholic, but through the more malleable net sneaked fresh insights and mysteries. It also helped me to focus on writing my novels. ‘Course of Mirrors’ will have its sequel, ‘Shapers,’ published next spring.
This ceramic bee shone from a box of knickknacks among items my dad left.
. I liked the ornament as a child and can still see the bright wings mirrored in the surface of a lacquered sideboard. The bee was my mother’s and sums her up, always on the move, hardworking, generous and caring, though struggling with the emotional complexity of my father. His mother warned her … he’s a closed cupboard, meaning he didn’t trust people with his inner life. I had intuitive access to this cupboard, as daughters do, but the content was so fiercely protected, even my most gentle enquiries were repelled to the day my dad died, last spring.
Then again, had he not hidden his hoard of secrets, his girl may not have sneaked through the doors of the imagination, become a seeker, an explorer, a poet, a storyteller, a writer in search of words for what intuition reveals. Where invisibles exist they act like the fungi that entangles and interconnects what is unseen, unless brought to light. I write for a small audience – lovers of the imagination, lovers of myth, and lovers of poetry – you will appreciate my book, Course of Mirrors, and its sequel to come, which turns into SF.
In last month’s post, complementing an image found on twitter, of a screaming new-born, is an image of my mother holding me close as an infant. She died 35 years ago around this time, but still visits and protects me during nights; such is the vivacious spirit of the mother bee. Apart from my parents, I’ve lost many dear ones these last decades. While every loss refills the loss jar to its brim, a crescent (presence) still abides.
Each that we lose takes part of us; A crescent still abides, Which like the moon, some turbid night, Is summoned by the tides. – Emily Dickinson
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.
One book of poems I have always at my bedside, for when I need to shift my thoughts, is Wislawa Szymborka’s New and Collected poems 1957 -1997, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavenagh, published by Faber and Faber 1999
She lived from July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012
Apologies for not having the photographers’ names for the two images of her that are spanning decades.
I like the humour, the ironic style, the contradictions running through the poems like a clear spring.
I thought I share a poem in full, since I posted a fragment on Twitter the other day. And also because I remember the protagonist in my novel, Course Mirrors,’ is in search of The Real.
THE REAL WORLD
The real world doesn’t take flight
the way dreams do.
No muffled voice, no doorbell
can dispel it,
no shriek, no crash
can cut it short.
Images in dream
are hazy and ambiguous,
and can generally be explained
in many different ways.
Reality means reality:
that’s tougher nut to crack.
Dreams have keys.
The real world opens on its own
and can’t be shut.
Report cards and stars
pour from it,
butterflies and flatiron warmers
and shards of clouds.
Together they form a rebus
that can’t be solved.
Without us dreams couldn’t exist.
The one on whom the real world depends
is still unknown,
and the products of his insomnia
are available to anyone
who wakes up.
Dreams aren’t crazy—
it’s the real world that’s insane,
if only in the stubbornness
with which it sticks
to the current of events.
In dreams our recently deceased
are still alive,
in perfect health, no less,
and restored to the full bloom of youth.
The real world lays the corpse
in front of us.
The real world doesn’t blink an eye.
Dreams are featherweights,
and memory can shake them off with ease.
The real world doesn’t have to fear forgetfulness.
It’s a tough customer.
It sits on our shoulders,
weighs on our hearts,
tumbles to our feet.
There’s no escaping it,
it tags along each time we flee.
And there’s no stop
along our escape route
where reality isn’t expecting us.
Poets, not being profitable, get little screen-time. Wislawa Szymborska says … ‘Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens … Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?’
‘I’ve mentioned inspiration. Contemporary poets answer evasively when asked what it is, and if it actually exists. It’s not that they’ve never known the blessing of this inner impulse. It’s just not easy to explain something to someone else that you don’t understand yourself.’
‘Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.’
Her words bring to mind a Rumi quote: ‘Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.’
Follow this link to Brainpickings and find a number of write ups about Wislawa Szymborska
Brainpicking’s Bulgarian creator, Maria Popova honours language, and somehow manages to bring context and coherence to the irrational and the imagination. Her curiosity is unlimited. She writes about my favourite people in the world. Among them are poets like Wislawa Szymborska.
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.
Winding the clock back to before events were recorded in writing and ordered along linear timelines, folks across the globe unified their beliefs through countless symbolic creation myths, none the same, and much more fun than any Big Bang theory, which, in any case, must surely relate to only one among many big & small bangs. Since record-taking, everything supposed to have happened has been arranged around a spine and neatly ordered, chaos tamed into a clearly delineated map of history. It is a beautiful logical structure, mirroring the cosmos, nature, plants, the human body, the brain.
The concept that all is one in eternity and everything in the universe connects to everything else is ancient, if difficult to uphold in daily life. And here comes our century with its digital multi-perspectives. Bones are loosened from the spine and make a mess of our time map. The neat rules of cause and effect science has used to build reliable calculations are re-shuffled into surreal dreamlike possibilities, while we cling uneasily to our everyday three dimensions.
Information is spinning so fast that old beliefs drop into vast seas of information (energy,) so turbulent; we must decide where to place ourselves and chart new destinations. Think uncertainty principle – position of particle – momentum of wave. Solutions waver. What does humanity want? What is its purpose, its vision?
The deep sea of information, like the unconscious psyche, is tossing unpalatable errors of judgement into the light, dark stuff, requesting acknowledgement and inclusion, personally and collectively. My – I don’t know – mantra resist all stale answers and advice, other than inklings from the spirit of inner guidance.
Within the ONE innumerable realities exist together … heartlands of strangeness seeking ever new formations. It intrigues and troubles me that the escalating complexities of life might result in social decisions being assigned to data crunching artificial intelligence devices. Our roots might shrivel. Where would we be without the stories drawn up from the inner worlds of the imagination. I wrote about it here:
P L Travers says … nothing is truly known until it is known organically … this chimes for me. There’s even a hint as to the why of human existence.
At times, our inner landscapes allow for communing with nature’s elements. Ana has this knack in Course of Mirrors. As long as she remembers to calm her heart, she senses invisible presences, the timeless spirit within things – telling her that nothing dies, only reforms. She also picks up thoughts forms from uncluttered minds, and some animals talk to her.
Aspects of my protagonist’s receptive traits are based on my own experiences, expressed in a poem I composed during the 1970s. The poem, as such, does not feature in the novel but I like to share it here, with minor tweaks insisted upon by my inner editor.
you swallow my hand
giving way with fluid grace
to this dream of flesh and bone
yet as I recall the form
you allow me to retrieve it
circling round and round
spun by the mesh of time
I see your whirling
and sense my turning too
in its mystic trance
you slither in the spine of waves
and lay a track of fate in sands
entranced I follow
to your cave and become
this rushing in the dark
your rising pitch one vow
winging yonder blue
towards the break of dawn
above the silver winding stream
your passing leaves no mark
by the blink of eye you sink
to my core as glowing cipher
allowing for your lush
and fragrant state
to unfurl from the heart
your white breath burns clean
dark corners in my mind
without a moment’s pause
you blow apart
all apparitions of my art
Update: My first novel can be found on Troubador, on international Amazon sites and Waterstones via searching for the title, Course of Mirrors, or my name, Ashen Venema. The e-book is now available. The paperback will be released on 28th of April and can be pre-ordered.
Paperbacks ordered within the UK will come from a stock of copies held by Troubador who distribute via Orca Book Services. Orders from abroad will be print-on-demand- copies, saving expensive postage.
If you enjoy writing reviews, they are easy to post on Troubador. On Amazon sites one has to log in as a customer, and a review entry only appears on the site of the country where it is entered, be it uk, de, fr, com … and so on. With a little effort reviews can be pasted into more than one Amazon site.