Tag Archives: protection

… hands …

Allow one hand to caress the other, feel the fine sensations through the skin of your fingertips, their manual perfection, capacity to reach out, touch and sense the rough and smooth, warmth and cold. The power of hands to hold, give, heal, remember, receive, express feelings and ideas, inner states – hands that trace shapes and yield to shapes, strong hands that build and destroy, and skilful hands that wield the tool, the brush and pen …

Käthe Kollwitz,  'Zertretene' 1900

Käthe Kollwitz, ‘Zertretene’ 1900

Käthe Kollwitz - Mütter, Krieg, 1919

Käthe Kollwitz – Mütter, Krieg, 1919











The two drawings by Käthe Kollwitz (July 1867 – April 1945) show the incredibly gentle hands that protect – from a collection of her work in a ‘Die Blauen Bücher’ series, discovered by a friend in a second-hand bookshop in St Just, Cornwall. She posted the book to me this week. I was reminded of the plight of mothers in situations where disease and violence are, once again, out of control. And – how so often, dogmatic politics, religious or otherwise, have programmed generations to de-value the body – its wisdom, beauty and need for expression.

And there remains the question, what is being taken out of our hands? Here a wonderful video I found at the National Film Board Canada site: Faces of the Hand

And the lines from two poets whose tool of passion was the pen.

From ‘Leaves of Grass’ by Walt Whitman

… I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into new tongue ….

From ‘The Marriage between Heaven and Hell’ by William Blake

… The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom …


Filed under Blog

reflections on loss

Yesterday, on Face Book, in a moment of daring madness, I invited a challenge – to write on my blog on any theme proposed. The challenge arrived – OK Ashen! How about the theme of loss, and how to come to terms with it? –  this from a friend who experienced severe losses in her life, one that cost her the full use of her legs, and another that took her only child, a teenager who died in the belief that a cheesecake did not contain nuts. Wrong. As it turned out, the death of my friend’s daughter saved innumerable lives since, in that rules for exact food ingredients were introduced. Yet bereavement remains. and it is immensely personal, as well as universal.

Life itself is conditioned by loss, which brings change, often traumatic change, of which death is the most final. It reminds us that our body and personalities are mortal. When I was a child, death seemed fascinating, and unreal. What most affected me were the reactions of people around me. As a young woman, I witnessed the violent death of a friend at a party. What helped at the time was a hallucinatory dialogue with that person. They were dreamlike meetings, enabling my farewell. Frequently, the stress of a sudden change produces prolonged suffering. Studies are being done of brain activities during grief, and certain neuron connections are blocked in people who cannot accept the loss. There is evidence that physical exercise, and touch, eases stress, shown in the cyclically stuck neural pathways in the brain being loosened. Coming to terms with loss is in the end about accepting life, the whole of life.

It is said in every loss there is a gain and in every gain there is a loss … wisdom difficult to fathom when something we have been attached to is taken from us. Metaphorically speaking, the loss could be the cornerstone we had built our future on, or the pole that held our tent upright. It could be the loss of status, home, a relative, our health, a life-time job, the loss of a loved pet, a belief that kept us sane, coherence, freedom, a promise, or simply a handbag.

Once, I remember the sharp jerk in my stomach when I turned round in a supermarket and saw my trolley empty of my handbag. In a flash, the full consequences overwhelmed. My bag is my survival kit, something my grandmother impressed on me, another story. Moreover, I carry every required proof of my identity with me whenever I leave the house. Heart beating wildly, I looked for a store person, when I realised my mistake. In a short moment of absence I had mistaken the trolley. The poignant questions this shock sparked, and the relief, was my gain then. When a handbag serves as container of one’s identity it can symbolise the archetypal mother.

I had a dream the year before my mother fell ill and died shortly after. In the dream she was an image in a mirror. I walked through the mirror to find her, and stepped into her bedroom, sorting her wardrobe, while my father looked on. Soon I was a motherless, which was the beginning of more losses, the death of people very dear to me, and each time it seemed as if a part of me died along. Each time emotions wrecked havoc, from guilt and anger, to melancholy. The most truly debilitating reaction, which I tend to witness in my work, is denial, because what is denied is life itself.

In essence, my losses were qualities I had projected onto a person, a place, an object. Qualities I then had to find inside myself. When this developmental process is engaged with, it could be considered a gain. If I accept change, I can never be the same again. Each loss changed me.

There is simply nothing we can depend on in life  And there continue to be new mirrors that reflect yet another bit of us, another object we desire, be it in this life or the next … where your treasure is, there will you heart be also …

Opening to the theme of loss, I could go on – it is also the most pervasive theme in literature, and the most spiritual. Writing has helped me to accept loss in the past. Here is a poem I wrote after miscarrying a child:

To my Unborn Daughter

All is well my child,

when you come next time

transport will be provided,

you’ll be elevated,

and your light touch alone

will make things happen.

Remember –

there are many ways towards the One,

not all seekers have tender feelings

or sit cross-legged;

some do the sword-dance

or hold a scrap of ice in their hearts.

Like sugar and salt they seem,

different, yet each yearns to dissolve

into the flavour of divine breath.

Love is the message,

but reckon with the power

of fear that hides under love’s habit.

Best imagine the future

whilst you’re off-stage,

but also fully participate,

embody your play, and delight

with your presence.

Learn from fools to be unpredictable,

and move as often as you can

from the middle of each moment.

Empty your heart – nothing matters,

not what you carry, nor what you leave.

Know what this means – you are free,

free to make everything matter.



“Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak

Whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” 

—William Shakespeare, Macbeth


Filed under Blog