Tag Archives: literature

… rose is a rose is a rose …

 

The rose-phrase is the enduring refrain of Gertrude Stein. In her surreal 1939 children book, ‘The World is Round,’ for example, rows of three words appear throughout. A girl called Rose carves her name round a tree in an endless loop to affirm her existence .

Rose is a rose is a rose – rolls from the tongue much like the prayer beads of a rosary roll through nimble fingers.

You want to stay with the rose, let it take root in your psyche, and from there let roses after roses grow.

By comparison – BrexitisBrexitisBrexit – sounds like the rusty hinges of a rotten door, or the croaking of a parrot with a sore throat. I try to resist the word’s grating in my skull, but it’s difficult to avoid its ugly edges from day to day, in bizarre discord with the rousing refrain of Britannia rules the waves.

There’s repetition and repetition. Applied with intention in literature, music, dance and the visual arts, repetition can strip the familiar to its essence. The arts, at best, alert us to nature’s spellbinding repetitive rhythms. Shield your ears and hear the blood-river rushing through your veins – touch your wrist and sense your heart pump the river round and round. Spirit is seduced into this trance-dance, or it would never get trapped in forms. Repetitive behaviour settles us into mollifying routines and gives us a sense of stability, as well as addictive habits. Beneficial as they can be, customary routines also have a tendency to dumb us down.

In this time of rapid changes, words and images topple over each other’s associations. Type ‘apple’ into a search engine and up pop pages listing Apple Inc., the multinational technology company that has seized the apple, bitten off a chunk of knowledge, like Eve, and deployed it as a metaphor for its corporation – brilliant, and disconcerting. It had trouble finding a title for my novel, where ‘mirror’ was not already owned as a label by tabloids or rock bands.

Most young folk today move along the electric cultural highway in fast gear. Facebook’s Zuckerberg famously said ‘Move fast and break things.’ Maybe he’s a speed-hatched modern-day mystic. I’m reminded of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s profound quote regarding the journey of life – ‘The ideal the means, its breaking is the goal.’

I suffer a long view. My first experience of TV was Queen Elisabeth’s coronation. What unnerves me is the speed of spear-heading elites, leaving ordinary people no breath to digest events, especially as history and the arts are being replaced by computer science in education. With automation the rage, the journey happens in a blur, as do thinking processes. Keywords have become mechanical codes, and shareholders bow to the omnipotent algorithms’ patterns of, let’s say, how existential fears relate to consumer behaviour. We hardly notice our choices being manipulated. How to catch snap assumptions that keep consciousness caged, or one’s imagination buried under debris of glib answers? With traditions and ideologies on trial, how to develop a filter of authenticity to stem the flood of information? Reflective minds are turning cynical. I have that tendency.  Doubt is the new lodestar.

Like never before, we perceive phenomena through multiple eyes, tap into the states of other beings – their joy, their ignorance and excess, their poverty, suffering and distress. We may blank out what upsets, but can’t escape the increasing experience of contradiction, the very function of reality. Greater awareness deeply conflicts us, as much as it inspires creativity. There’s hope. Seeing does not require physical eyes. Collective consciousness will expand, be it through chaos. The least we can do is to still our own mind, which is why I return to the rose.

The genus Rosa, according to fossil evidence, is 35 million years old and begun to be cultivated circa 5000 years ago. Due to its tessellated structure, dome-like shape and its delightful perfume, the rose has become a symbol of the heart, of wholeness, love, beauty and perfection the world over, frequently with mystical connotation, and often highly stylised, as in Islamic art.

When held, thought or spoken of, the rose lingers on and generates a mood. It may appear in different stages of opening or beautiful decay, in a particular colour, light. The name alone conjures up memories of scents, places, relationships, delight or melancholy. What ‘rose’ evokes derives from a time-wrought cypher that evokes all roses that were, are and will be.  Rose is a rose is a rose – depicts a rose, no more, and yet, it kindles all the experiences and ideas humans formed around roses.

While fear of loss and abandonment engenders life, it also draws us towards the mystery of infinite consciousness, the one being with countless names. Various practices, derived from spiritual traditions, can calm a turbulent mind enough for a glimpse of harmony beyond divisions. For a while, at least, we sense the larger presence, the effortless zone, the flow – and given patience, come to realise that consciousness is what we are.

I invite you again to This guided rose journey I shared here three years ago, requires only your imagination.

It is a short imagery, easy to memorise. Enter with eyes closed, and it may work for you as a bridge to the recurring presence of rose – a reminder of continuous becoming and expanding consciousness.

 

 

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… Winter Tale …

A poem for Ricarda Huch

Snow-tracks, 3Snowflakes spin in lantern beams like distant nebulae,

iron scrapes on ice and halter-bells chime with the trot

of horses. The sledge slows on the steep track,

at the top – a click of tongue – the reigning in.

One window shines in the black yard. Off the sledge,

I drop back in time and nearly slip on frozen muck.

 

Inside, the woman serves hot stew; she says, matter of fact,

‘Stay up, read, that’s fine by us.’ They have an early night.

I feed the fire in the hearth, wrap up and settle near the light

of a paraffin lamp. ‘You love books?’ This is how it began,

Ricarda left books, enough to span the valley to the farm.

You must visit us.’ I was keen, though mother held mistrust:  

 

‘They’re odd; famous relatives don’t take away from that.’

A hiss, a splutter of flame, the antler’s shadow shifts on the wall.

 

Morning sun, books in open crates, scattered across the floor,

nibbled at by Billy goats – how had they opened the door?

Three dog puppies jump and bustle on my bed, gnashing holes

into the eiderdown. They grin at me, feathers on their snouts,

Their eyes propitiate. I let rip and belly laugh. From the hall:

It’s all right; our creatures can wander in and out as they like.

 

The southern window glows opaque with frosted fern and flowers,

cold grace melts under my breath and hand, unveiling a frozen

lake, and beyond the valley, a curl of river and the white rim

of Alps like a parade of porcelain elephants under the pale sky.

From the blue … Ricarda’s voice: ‘Poetry is perception unbound.’

It will take years to feel at home with no rules but my own.

Ashen

An unashamedly romantic  facet of my childhood. For several years I used to spend parts of my school holidays at a ramshackle estate close my home, because my parents had a business and could not always find the time to attend to me as they would have wished. The treasure in that special place (owned by relatives of Ricarda Huch) were the amount of books, stacked up in crates because no one had the time to sort them into shelves. For me, this was an exciting and oracular milieu.

As is the case with 99 percent of images on my blog – the image of the snow tracks is my own.

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… erotic charge of flawed characters …

Literature thrives on flawed characters. With the sinister Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, for example, Emily Bronte tapped into the shadowy aspect of masculinity.

C G Jung calls the latent masculine within women the Animus. Both in its light and dark aspects, this archetypal blueprint can put women under a spell.

I can see Jonny play the disparate twins in my novels :)

I can see Jonny play the disparate twins in my novels 🙂

Equally, the latent feminine potential within men, the Anima, can evoke both, the guiding wisdom of Sophia or the dark erotic charge of Medusa, causing tremendous fear of nature and its awesome power.

Rather than using the image of a femme fatal, I choose to show what  fear of the feminine inspires in some cultures.

Rather than using the image of a femme fatal, I choose to show what fear of the feminine inspires in some cultures.

Our irrational attractions can be sparked and coloured by the parent of the opposite sex. Like a woman with a brooding and unapproachable father may have to kiss many frogs before she discovers the prince inside, while an idealising father can trap his girl in vacuous fantasies. And the boy of a manipulative mother may develop resentment or idealisation for women, or both in a toxic mix. What we tend to project onto the opposite sex is however deeply sculpted by a collective archetypal storehouse of experiences with dual aspects. Paradoxically, this storehouse is also the source of our most powerful experiences and innovations. Whether in a life-giving shape or a dark and petrifying shape, either way, the Animus and Anima hold a numinous fascination until their autonomous grip on us emerges into awareness, becomes conscious, is redeemed, turns creative and makes us truly human.

In my first novel, Course of Mirrors, my protagonist, Ananda, is torn between two disparate men, twins. The theme continues into the sequel – Shapers – with higher stakes in another time zone. In the excerpt below, Gart is rescued from a dangerous impasse by a trickster and transported into the twentieth century, where he meets the story teller and myth-maker, Cara.

*     *     *

Short excerpt from chapter 12, Shapers

Back in Derrynane

Five hundred years back, at the Kerry peninsula, Gart pondered how he came to sit at this familiar coast, under a dull sky that matched his mood, the sea before him rolling and spitting at his soiled boots. It was the trickster’s doing, of course. He did not thank Zap for transporting him back here, where an old crone had hexed him and a group of weird artisans had made him look like a fool. Yet it was here that he first met Mesa, who he now pined for in his bones. He must get back to Rhonda and outdo Crim. And Leo must be terminated, since he had obviously gone mad, and courted disaster if he planned to control Rhonda’s army. The Governor of Guardians, ha, they despised the fat man. It was him, Gart they followed.

‘I messed up,’ Zap acknowledged, stretching on the wet sand nearby and cracking his joints. ‘Forgot, I can’t activate coordinates for the hub, and this happens to be the only other place we’ve been in together before. I had little choice. ’

‘You’re not so bright after all, are you?’ Gart grunted.

‘At least we’re not consumed by noxious fumes of our own making. Best not dwell on the past.’

‘We are in the past, eejit.’

‘Local slang, eh? You’re a fast learner. You score a point. Zap jumped up and ran a circle of cartwheels. ’Let’s go up to the estate, see who’s there.’

Derrynane estate looked deserted. ‘Nippy air on the plateau,’ Zap said, ‘you would’ve thought they’d light a fire, but not a whisk of smoke from the chimneys.’ The men slipped through the narrow gap between green-smothered walls, the two dragons, Zap recalled, though now their shape was lost under rampant ivy. The yard, empty of dogs, cats, geese or horses, had a silver car parked near the main entrance. Zap whistled, ‘Flashy design, time’s moved on since we’ve been here last.’

Gart’s heart lurched at the sight of the woman appearing in the porch.

‘Hi,’ she said, ‘do I know you? You’ve been here before, haven’t you?’

Zap, in Shaper style, put a hand to his heart. He too recognised her, though she had turned into a mature woman. ‘You’re Cara, I remember. Where’s everybody?  Saki, Anke, Mushki …’

‘Oh the troupe, goodness, that was years ago. When Gutch and Craig joined them they hit the road together. I think they operate from a place at the English coast.’

‘And that witch?’ Gart wanted to know.

Cara gave him a piercing look. ‘You mean the oracle of my mentor, Tilly. She has sent me here, for a retreat. I only just arrived. I plan to spend some time writing on my story of Mesa.’

‘I hope the story includes us,’ Zap said, we’re friends of Mesa.’ He shot a glance at Gart, whose mouth opened and shut in confusion.

‘You better come in.’ Cara’s scalp tingled. This must have been what Tilly had had in mind, to process the strange occurrences from so many years ago. ‘Zap and Gart, is it?’ Like Tilly, they hadn’t aged at all, while she herself had gained ten years. To mask her excitement she whizzed around the kitchen. She stacked kindling in the cooker, emptied her shopping into the fridge, plonked bread and cheese on the table, put a kettle on, fetched plates and cups and cutlery, all the while feeling Gart’s eyes on her. She told her guest about her life, her journeys, and studies. Zap helped with arranging the table and kept nodding, eager to hear all she had to say. Cara only tried to gain time to collect herself before she was ready to ask the questions pressing on her mind, about Sax, about Rhonda, about Mesa.

‘Shall I get logs?’ Zap asked sweetly.

‘Oh yes, please. I was planning to camp in the cottage, but we might as well get rid of the chill in the big house. The cooker is attached to a central heating.’ She watched Zap walking out with a basket, charmed by the ease of his manner.  Gart made way for Zap but did not offer any help. Rooted to one place since entering the kitchen, he resumed his position, leaning casually against the door frame  Now they were alone Cara couldn’t avoid him. Their eyes met. She blushed. He had followed her every movement with an air of aloofness. A hint of curiosity sneaked into his eyes.

‘I look like her. Is that it?’ Cara said.

‘In a way.’ Gart moved towards the table and pulled out a chair to sit on. ‘What happened to your lover, Dillon?’

‘We split, went our different ways. He had his quest.’

‘What quest?’ Gart asked. The term perked his interest since Oruba had called his underground journey a quest.

‘Not my tale to tell. He may have found whatever he was looking for.’

Zap returned, groaning under the heavy basket of wood on his shoulders. He piled logs over kindling in the cooker and neatly stacked the rest against the wall before he went to get another load. Cara lit the fire. Gart, intrigued about her remark regarding Dillon’s quest, struggled to grasp what precisely intrigued him. He scratched his ear, as if hoping for a message. He resented how confusion undermined his confidence. The kettle whistled. To snap out of his dazed state, Gart got up to pour the boiling water over the coffee in the percolator Cara had prepared. ‘Thank you,’ she said, surprised. When Zap returned they settled to a meal. It was Cara’s turn to ask questions. Intermittently Zap fed the fire and they moved from coffee to drinking wine. The story Cara was so eager to hear unfolding was punctured by heated disagreements between Zap and Gart.

‘Some names have changed, but I recognise the characters.’ Cara said, jotting down notes, pen hot in her hand. ‘I thought they’d outlawed weapons in Rhonda. Where did the laser guns come from?’

Gart said. ‘Leo must have raided the Archives. Everything from ancient pasts is stored in the pyramids surrounding the archives – and there maybe catacombs under them. I know this because Leo let it slip once. ‘The man’s a danger to Rhonda. I’ll put an end to him.’

Zap shook his head. ‘Killing Leo, and start a war! Use your imagination. He turned to Cara. ‘If you’ve a say in this story, keep this man away from Mesa. He’s murdered in the past, he can do it again. Mesa deserves better.’

Gart pushed back his chair and sent it cluttering to the tiled floor. He stormed from the kitchen. Cara felt the hurt pride under Gart’s rage. Zap crunched his fist and stared into space. Fiercely protective of Mesa, he had clean anger under his pain. ‘Please keep the fire going, Zap, there may be frost tonight. I’ll talk to Gart,’ Cara said. And she knew where to find him.

The sky had cleared towards the horizon. Beyond the yard, the autumn breeze picked up, biting through Cara’s light coat. She saw him standing at the cliff, looking towards the faint silver band that now divided sea and sky. A diaphanous layer of cloud screened the late sun, against which Gart’s lean body looked delicate, like a feather drawing. Why had she invested her story with two lovers, men who did not see eye to eye, men as different as Assisi and Caligula?  He did not turn to look at her as she stepped close to him. He did not move at all, his mind had wandered off through time’s veil, searching for Mesa, no doubt. ‘You see,’ Cara said, ‘once we have given life to something we can’t control it, we can only try to influence an outcome with truth, which is not always in tune with our wants.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Gart finally met her eyes. ‘You created this damn story. Whose side are you on?’

‘Truth is hard to discern, its meaning is held in another reality, where on-going myths are spun. You became part of my story because you walked into it, in a most brutal and controlling manner, though it wasn’t entirely your fault. Does the name Batin mean anything to you?’

Gart felt a stab of fear, but quickly shrugged it off. ‘I think I met a ghost of that name.’

‘How your path unfolds depends on your engagement with what you attract. It’s the same for me, but in addition I’m recording fates, yours, Leo’s, Zap’s, Mirre’s, Oruba’s, Mesa’s, Crim’s… ‘

He cut in. ‘Crim’s one too many.’

Cara sighed. ‘I care for all of your fates, they affect me deeply.  My feelings swing about, gyrate like a weathervane does when it storms, which should kind of answer your question. Right now, as I stand here next to you, sensing the pain you can’t quite admit, I’m on your side, but my alliance can change, from moment to moment, from day to day, from chapter to chapter, since like you, I’m compelled by this quest for truth.’

‘Truth again …’ Gart’s lips curled and broke into a devastating smile. ‘Tell me this then – why does Mesa look like you?’

Cara swallowed her shock. He had touched on her core identification, revealing her disparate affections, the turmoil she experienced between the two types of men she was enmeshed with across time, of whom one now exploited her vulnerability, took complete possession of her with his eyes. And faithful to his nature, he relished in the conquest. Cara’s heart quickened. From deep inside her body she felt his pull, as if by a rope. His seductive power made her tremble. Yet she knew he cared only about himself. And coerced by her divided nature, her concern instantly switched to Crim.

*    *    *

If you’re not familiar with the concepts of the Shadow, Animus or Anima, the Wikipedia pages can serve as introduction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anima_and_animus

And anyone who has never heard of Joseph Campbell – this book is a must for writers.

http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Faces-Collected-Joseph-Campbell/dp/1577315936

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… the mystery of character versus genre …

Flicker, flicker, speed, speed – time is flying – here is a genre – an inviting golden bowl – let’s drop a story into it. A well-defined genre promises the best route to financial success for many aspiring writers.

the golden bowl of genre Human traits that make up characters are unfathomable in their combination, which is why we traditionally veer to an index of types. The adage of the writing guru – don’t tell, show – suggests character is revealed through traits that imply qualities. Traits fascinate us, but if they are mechanical in their emotional and logical processes, they seldom surprise. In such case the page-turning tension must be provided by the plot.

During the nineteenth century’s advent of psychology and individuation many writers moved away from the Greek model of plot-driven stories. Curiosity shifted to the complex inner life of characters and their individual way of creating meaning was employed to unfold narratives.

The search for a unique self beyond the collectively orientated ego personality is relatively new, and while time-engraved archetypal energies hold us in their emotional grip, we have now psychological maps to help us become more conscious of their compelling powers, more conscious of our personality, which, for the writer, informs their fictional characters and opens new worlds and new choices. Irrespective of the rich psychological and scientific knowledge available to us, the process of character formation present us with the greatest mysteries of our time – as exciting as discovering new territory, new planets, new eyes on the universe.

Here I am making up a scene from scratch:

He stiffly dragged his feet along the polished marble floor of the shopping mall, his head forward as if pulled by a rope, though his eyes did not focus forward, nor up or down, they swivelled, left, right, left right, alert for what? Alert for anyone who might observe him? Nobody did – apart from one person who sat still on a seat moulded into the stone replica of a toy train. She raised her eyes from her book and looked straight at him …

Now as reader, and as the writer of this entry into a scene without blueprint for a story, I’m curious – where is he heading, where is this going? I search for a deeper layer, a narrative unfolding from the mysterious core of the character walking through the mall. I want a substance to chew on, to extract a flavour from his unique world.

The woman’s stare broke his set rhythm of surveillance. His face contorted in fear, his feet lost touch with the marble floor, sailed on air, while his arms flattered like duck wings failing to lift. All he could think of before his fell flat was – she knows, she knows I’m not present in this body. All he perceived were veins of light in a glittering darkness. He chose to vacate.

Are you hurt? While approaching the sprawled body of the man, the woman shot a stern glance at her boy who stood by guiltily. She had noticed him drop the sweet wrap. She had noticed the man stepping on the slippery cellophane. She had caught his eyes – and what she saw in that instant had made her shiver …  

I’m not going to follow up this scene. Anyone who reads this is welcome to do so. It would give me a thrill.

We all enjoy our stock characters and their antics, types set into situations and conflicts we can readily identify with, heroes we can like, villains we can despise. We enjoy themes that fall into definite genres that entertain us away from tedious daily concerns. I’m not knocking these stories. I enjoy them myself.

But hey you, all writers out there, why not take a risk and be drawn to the mystery of the unpredictable that challenges you to think in new ways, why not evoke characters who, even while using known containers, allow their (your) unconscious past and future to fill in the content, characters who explore their personal experience to a depth where it becomes universal, characters who play with time and space and are directed from their inner spirit, even when it requires a new container?

In my writing, I like the adventure of discovery, a nut to crack. I like to allow my character to walk ahead and unfold the story, and if it spills over the frame of a convenient genre, so be it.

P1100981And here my little gripes with how-to-does:

The advice-filled internet spheres turn and turn like gyres.

Answers sum up being and are full of promised abundance – yet they are dead.

Questions sum up becoming and are full of challenging limitations – yet they are alive.

 

 

‘One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.’

Andre Gide

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