Tag Archives: lover

… a tribute to snags …

I’d make a lousy fundamentalist of any kind, and was probably born with negative capability http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_capability and a tendency to daydream and contemplate life, skirting extremes, which makes my voice almost inaudible in a culture where sensation trumps. It also means I procrastinate on tasks that need doing, until a snag propels me to act.

CNV00003 - copy 2

One morning last week, easing myself into the day, the shirt I dusted in the cool morning air was trapped when I shut the back-door; next the sleeve of my pyjamas got caught while I closed the lid of my coffee tin. SNAGS – their repetition blinked a green light for associations and made me think of dreams, how they sneak into the daylight via signals. With only a vague memory of my dream, I followed an impulse to catch up on practical tasks round the house.

A shelf in my shed needed fixing. It had crashed, bringing down an array of cans, sprays and sealants. In the way one thing leads to another, I sorted and dumped stuff, and dumped some more – making space. Seized by the flow of action, I de-frosted the freezer, thinned the ivy round the shed, cleaned windows, filled a sack with confidential papers for shredding, loaded the washing machine and made some overdue phone calls … all amounting to what I call a BLITZ day.

Knocks from the dark, SNAGS, help me overcome procrastinations. BLITZ is how I operate to gain periods of laziness. I’ve learned to humour my inner driver (superego) and made peace with Lazy.

Dark of beginnings

Flees the meddler

The shrill demand

The noisy footfall

The sharp beams of

Imposing eyes

Dark folds its mantel

Round the dreamer

The shy nomad

The vague image

The tendrils of

A budding poem

Approach it softly

Like a lover

It may surprise

Or yield nothing …

———————————-

After my Blitz day, a book came to mind, ‘Worlds in Collision’ (1950) by Immanuel Velikovsky. His research resulted in controversial astronomical theories about catastrophic events planet earth experienced over time, and how the human race was affected. Here a link to a 1972 Horizon documentary:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U18gMJXNyX8

He concluded that as a victim of amnesia, collective humanity is compelled to repeat and re-experiencing traumatic events, to aid, in a psycho dynamic sense, recovery through triggering repressed feelings, wake up, and learn to control the experiences. It’s a wider, thought provoking context for the contemplation of our human lot, which I leave to you, my readers, to explore.

———————————– 

On a smaller scale, we may have memories of being held in the womb and in the arms of our mother – or not. In either case, there are giants to overcome, grown-ups. One of the saddest things grown-ups do is deflating a child’s dreams and desires, talking down: Wait till you grow up. Life is tough etc. etc. It’s like telling a seed, ‘Don’t bother; you’re doomed from the start.’

collage2, familyThe desire to be  held equates home. The longing for a permanent home seems to motivate our actions in relation to food, shelter, competition, acquisition, power, money, knowledge or love, as well as being the impetus underlying the craving for prophets who promise salvation.

Fear of not being held, of having no claim on a place where it’s safe to rest when life gets tough, has made us inventive. We wall our interests, invest in insurances, wage war to protect what we identify with , or claim ownership of ideas, philosophies and creeds. Maintaining behaviours that keep familiar systems in place, we find it difficult to accept with sobriety that we are all in the same boat, that our ideas and identities are fleeting chimeras.

Imagine … wouldn’t it be wonderful to seek nothing and simply enjoy the miracle of living, and be like this child overcome by the mystery of rain?  http://vimeo.com/84802749

There is an experience of home that tends to go unrecognised, hiding, as it does, between each breath, in dimensions beyond time. Such glimpses come and go, leaving a sense of union and connectedness while we’re tossed along the rapids of progress, inevitably bumping into obstacles – the snags of life signalling messages from the unseen.

The psyche is a bridge between inner and outer dimensions (the theme of my novels,) similar to the corpus callosum connecting our two brain halves. On good days I sense that in addition to existing in time, a part of me also resides in another frequency dimension, as a light-body, or soul, resonating in my body while I occupy it.

*    *    *

A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why?  Because all time is contained in now. Meister Eckhart

Advertisements

16 Comments

Filed under Blog

… 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

2 Comments

Filed under Blog

… the wonderful visit …

I loathe most talk of angels since they became best-selling brands, but the synchronicity of Annie Lennox wearing wings and singing to an angel at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the discovery of a rare book among my shelves, brought angels up close.

H G Wells (1866-1946) has been referred to as the Father of Science Fiction. A neglected story, The Wonderful Visit, published shortly after The Time Machine, was regarded as a mocking reflection on attitudes, beliefs and the social structure of a typical English village in Victorian times. I read the social commentary as ornamentation, the comical human attempt to stay the same, round a more essential theme, the conflict that can accompany awakening.

The edition below is from 1922 and has an illustration by Conrad Heighton Leigh. The line under it is from chapter 5 – ‘He fired out of pure surprise and habit.’

A strange bird was sighted.

Ornithology being a passion of the Vicar of Siddermorton, Rev. K. Hilyer, he was going to outdo his rivals and hunt the strange bird. So it came to be that on the 4th of August 1895 he shot down an angel.

… He saw what it was, his heart was in his mouth, and he fired out of pure surprise and habit. There was a scream of superhuman agony, the wings beat the air twice, and the victim came slanting swiftly downward and struck the ground – a struggling heap of writhing body, broken wing and flying blood-stained plumes … the Vicar stood aghast, with his smoking gun in his hand. It was no bird at all, but a youth with an extremely beautiful face, clad in a robe of saffron and with iridescent wings … never had the Vicar seen such gorgeous floods of colour …

‘A man,’ said the Angel, clasping his forehead … ‘then I was not deceived, I am indeed in the Land of Dreams.’ The vicar tells him that men are real and angels are myth … ‘It almost makes one think that in some odd way there must be two worlds as it were …’

‘At least two,’ said the Vicar, and goes on ponderinghe loved geometrical speculations, ‘there may be any number of three dimensional universes packed side by side, and all dimly aware of each other.’

They met half way, where reality is loosely defined, and truth has no hold. And they shared the nature of their worlds. Eat, pain, and die were among the new terms the strange visitor had to come to grips with.

‘Pain is the warp and the waft of this life,’ said the Vicar. Riddled with remorse over having maimed the Angel’s wing he decides to looks after him. But to adjust to the Vicar’s world, the Angel must eat and accept pain, and learn all manner of things very fast indeed … Starting to read, during a phase of now legendary sunshine, I settled in my garden with a glass of red, and consequently spilled the wine on my wild strawberry blossoms due to sudden bursts of laughter.

‘What a strange life!’ said the Angel.

‘Yes,’ said the Vicar. ‘What a strange life! But the thing that makes it strange to me is new. I had taken it as a matter of course until you came into my life.’

Mr Angel is nothing like the pure and white angel of popular belief, more like the angel of Italian art, polychromatic, a musical genius with the violin. Listening … the Vicar lost all sense of duration, all sense of necessity … The reactions of the villagers oscillate across a hair-thin-divide between comedy and tragedy, while the bone of the story is psychological, and spiritual. Indirectly, the Vicar encounters his anima (his inner female) through the Angel’s love for Delia, the maid servant of the house. There is no escape. Things get intense. The Angel, over the span of a short week, is tainted by the wickedness of the world, and it crushes him. And the Vicar’s awakening from his narrow prison brings him into tragic conflict with his community.

*    *    *

Not much has changed. The world is crowded with wounded angels seeking compassion, and since our daily vocabulary offers little more than clichés for other realities, awakening rarely convinces, unless it is embodied and conveyed through atmosphere. Look out for the artist… the musician, painter, writer, animator, filmmaker … and the children.

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’
― William BlakeThe Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The painting heading this post is by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg.

16 Comments

Filed under Blog

… the wild horse of the mind …

I thought I open the window a bit to what I’m immersed in, drafting the sequel to Course of Mirrors, called Shapers. Another mythic adventure, and more. The short piece below is not representative of the tense action this story has plenty of, but depicts a pivotal moment. The scenery is  Eire, where time-zones overlap. In 2550 AD the island is called Sax, where Rhonda, the super-controlling power, cast their misfits.  In the excerpt below, Tilly (Cassia in Ana’s story) has arranged for Cara and Mesa to meet in Kerry during the 1970s.

The theme touches on the creative process. Something for my writer friends. I welcome any feedback to the draft.

*    *    *

Tilly’s ruined estate on the Kerry peninsula was one among many places around the world where past and future began to cross or run parallel during the 1970s. Not all drop-outs travelling through Derrynane were aware of the phenomenon. Those open to the new wavelengths either tuned in, or received no more than garbled white noise. The going slogan was – love, don’t think – though it should have been – love and think – and stay grounded. These were turbulent times. Traditionalists abhorred the breaking free of conditioning. Leaps into the unknown frightened them.

This is Cara’s time, and these are her thoughts: Personal myth is a complex self-creation, mainly unconscious, but less so once we replace the postulates we inherited with our own, and are drawn to our psychic kin. Every night when the body rests we visit beings in other spheres. We may discount these sojourns as dreams unrelated to our daily existence. Yet bridging occurs when we value inner dynamics and re-story the associative symbols of images. Resonance momentarily fills the void between the known and the unknown, and meaning is assigned to events. Some good people trust in God, but then abnegate their creativity. Are we not the desire of a divine will? Are we not the ears, eyes, nose, hands and feet of a universal intelligence, of which we are the deed? Does not our speech derive from one sound? And is love not the creed that breathes all things and directs the movement of all spheres? I don’t understand the need to prove or disprove a universal intelligence that is within and all around us. The world I create is imperfect and suffers from on-going flux. But I can bring my small flame to its shadows.

Now that Cara’s myth caught up with her, and she was confronted with the net of postulates she had cast into the future. She found herself challenged to engage with what she animated, because she was animated by it.

Gutch spotted Tilly talking to Cara and Mesa in the hall. He was bursting with pleasure. ‘I found my clan,’ he said. ‘This place is teeming with talented actors. We’re going to do some magic theatre. Are you joining us?’

‘I need to take care of something,’ Tilly said. Can you keep an eye on Gart?’

‘That devil had some weird conversion trip and is sound asleep under the table.’

‘Excellent. Let him sleep.’

When Cara and Mesa arrived at the cottage across the atrium, Tilly had lit a fire in the hearth. A nest of chairs invited them, and the smell of fresh coffee. ‘Have some,’ she said, ‘pointing to a steaming pot, ‘and there’s chocolate cake, too.’ Mesa soaked up the atmosphere, transported to Ana’s world, reminded of Cassia’s kitchen. Tilly placed a small leather pouch in Cara’s lap. ‘Here, forged by fire, polished by the sea, a gift of remembrance.’

Cara opened and turned the pouch. A black stone fell into her hand – smooth as marble, yet radiating warmth and shining in the glow of the fire. ‘Ana’s talisman!’

‘Yes, and you might as well own it.’ Tilly paused, gazing into the flames. ‘I have a favour to ask from you, for Mesa’s benefit.’

‘What favour?’ Cara poured cups of coffee for everyone, dished out giant slices of chocolate cake and added a dollop of whipped cream to each.

‘Your future, Cara, has come to visit you. Mesa returned to assimilate what was lost to her. With Ana’s story you re-animated her soul. Certain events in history require beings to return, to right things or bring a message.  Mesa will take on her role in the odyssey of the Ypocs. And she’s going to be the narrator of your story, Cara.’

‘Huh, this takes a leap of the imagination. I haven’t even smoked the weed.’

Tilly smiled. ‘You know what it takes. Uncovering a personal myth is different from writing a Hollywood script. To help Mesa to re-connect with random creative processes, I want you to explain to her in as much detail as possible how your mind works.’

Cara heaved a breath. ‘The idea sucks every thought from my head.’

‘That’s a good start.’

‘All right, here goes a slice of random micro processing … Momentarily stuck with a paragraph, I remember to stretch my legs. In the kitchen I snatch a yogurt from the fridge. I notice a sticky shelf – mental note – clean it soon. Dark clouds gather outside, looks like rain. I run up to the bathroom and close the window. On the way down, I see dust-clouds on the stairs – mental note. Heading for the desk I stop by the fridge again because I’m now really hungry. I prepare a sandwich – mental note – put butter on shopping list. I use the loo – mental note – toilet paper is running out. Telephone rings. The answer machine kicks in. Just as well, I’ll return the call later – mental note. A letter that needs sending sits next to the phone, I put a stamp on it – mental note – post it. A fly is trapped in the window. I release the fly and study a tree out front that leans over and needs pruning. I quickly assess which branch to cut – mental note. Off to my desk. Passing a shelf I spot the book I couldn’t find earlier. What a relief! I plonk it on my research file and am reminded of an article I need to chase – mental note. The sun shines again. I open the backdoor and listen to the birds. Grass needs cutting – mental note. Finally back with my paragraph the writing flows, sheer bliss. At a natural break in the narrative I decide to go shopping. In the car I have an epiphany relating to a character in my story, to do with birds – mental note. The walker I pass reminds me to visit a certain person – mental note. I recall this person collects small antique tins. I could find him a present – mental note. I think of metaphors, how obsessions, like collecting tins, are really personalised teachings – mental note.’

Mesa had listened with rapt attention. ‘What happens to all the mental notes?’

‘Ha, ha … they’re promises. They’re torture. They heap up. They demand execution. My way to deal with accumulative pressures and gain time to focus on my writing is through procrastination. I’ve become patient with nagging voices. They’re not jailors. They’re easily humoured until the time is right for a blitz. Then I act fast and achieve a great deal in a short time, happy to have cleared the space.

‘But why give these mental notes the power of demands over you? Mesa asked.

Cara glanced at Tilly, who had taken up knitting, as if the dialogue bored her.  What was her agenda? Was this really for Mesa’s benefit? Tilly smiled and said, ‘Go on.’

‘It started out as compulsive pattern. I was conditioned to respond to the needs of my environment, and to maintain order. There are exceptions. Some days, it could be the weather, a dream, the stars … from the moment I open my eyes everything flows effortlessly. My brain is relaxed and I attract harmonious thoughts, like I’m fine-tuned to a subtler station, beyond the busy bandwidth of neurotic naggers. The tuning can be learned. It’s like taming a wild horse. I can actually do it, when necessary. But I like letting the horse run wild. I find wild things that way.’

‘We have different conditioning,’ Mesa said. ‘From early on I was trained to tame my mind, to let it rest like a still pond, or focus thoughts like laser beams. Then free play was introduced, disrupting Rhonda’s order, and all went wrong for the Ypoc.’

‘Aha! I bet you didn’t have to juggle a deep conflict, and oppose a controlling father.’

Tilly dropped her knitting. ‘This gets interesting. It’s what Mesa came back for.’

* * *

Apologies: The origin of the image of the horse is unknown to me.  Many thanks to the photographer.

9 Comments

Filed under Blog

… smoking elegies – another facet …

Fusion

He was clear-minded and ambitious, with precise plans for his career. We met at Munich’s Domicile, a jazz bar, where an intimate haze of smoke welcomed and embraced you like an accomplice. The cool gaze and pure intent of his grey-freckled eyes took exclusive possession of me. Jazz and smoke fused us. Our cellular resonance defied the gravity of committed brain cells and gave my heart wings. He moved into my flat, warning me upfront that on completion of his apprenticeship at the most prodigious hotel in town he would return to the States to put his culinary management knowledge to the test. He was going to own not just one restaurant, but a chain of them. He convinced on several points.

One: he totally and reliably engaged with what was before him. The moment he stepped through the door after his day at the hotel, the outside world was no more, only us, together. We showered, cooked delicious meals, listened to music and spent  most of our time in bed. The pure intensity of his presence ricocheted like a charge between us and left no room for anything besides. In this rarefied sphere, lovemaking became a cycle of small deaths and resurrections. Some of my friends had angry fits under the porch of my door, knowing full well I was home but inaccessible. My king-sized futon had become a sacred island floating in a vast ocean.

Two: he was a strategist, which, together with point one, makes an unbeatable combination for material success. But most of all, he understood branding, the powerful imprint repetition leaves in the mind. It happened religiously during our celebratory smoke after lovemaking and became a surreal ritual. With his thumbnail he cut a cross into the filter of his cigarettes. The cross was tied to a mantra he kept secret. I thought this was cute and took up the habit, inventing my own mantra.

Two months passed in eternal bliss of now, until the appointed time for his flight back to the States approached. I started hurting bad. He wanted no soppy goodbyes at the airport. He was not going to be tied down. Only when he had made a million by the age of 30, he said, would he focus on having a family. He left no address. For months I continued punching crosses into my cigarette filters to strengthen my ambition, and, inadvertently, remember him. It became an obsession. Only my mantra, unlike his, was not based on a strategy. And the branding thing annoyed me after a while. I favoured the meandering dance of a poetic life.

His clarity left a strong impression. Hopefully he found what he was looking for. I came to perceive my early ambition as metaphor, and owned up to a misspelling. The path my aim prescribed sharpened many skills, but was littered with Freudian slips that lead into emotional woods. And yet, looking back, every re-start, every detour in my life stimulated creativity and inventiveness, crucial unlearning, greater tolerance with myself and others, and a more symbolic understanding of my existence.

The ideal is the means – its breaking is the goal.   Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

10 Comments

Filed under Blog

… lap of fate … part five

This is the fifth and final part of a short story inspired during a recent visit to Spain. If you enjoyed the read, and are so inspired, please leave me some much needed feedback in the comment section. I’m happy to return the favour, and will soon do reviews again. If you have come here for the first time, you might want to scroll down the home page to get to ‘part one’ of the short story, posted on April 30th. Thanks you dear readers who followed the evolving narrative, and those of you who left comments and/or pressed the ‘like’ button.

I’m still learning how to operate this site, but this is post no 80 since I started this blog last April … hurrah! And I have another reason to celebrate. A dear friend helped me today clean up the first three chapters of my novel, Course of Mirrors, a final leap towards sending out queries. No more excuses.

*    *    *

Here then the final instalment of … Lap of Fate

… The weight of my revelation receded like a wave sucked back into the sea. Confused by the señora’s flat response, I latched onto the distraction of soft paws resounding from the spiral stairs. Abu, the dog, poked his head through the opening to sample the mood. Neck tilted, he sneaked towards me and pushed his wet snout into my lap. Touched by his show of affection, I stroked his pelt, at which he burst into a whirling dance, trying to catch his own tail. Abu’s antics dispersed the static air around my chest. I cried and laughed in one.

The senora’s worried face softened to a smile. ‘What a pretty dog.’

Straightening her back, she regarded me as if seeing me for the first time. ‘My dear child,’ she said. ‘You released a ghost I created. Antonio may or may not have believed my story. The truth is, I miscarried at four months, there was no Juanita, but I had so strongly wanted her to exist in the world, like a fresh and blameless me, I made her up.’

I flinched, recalling my own painful miscarriage, when a river of hormones came to a drastic halt and left a dark hole in my body, like a consuming abyss. I had other children, who thrived. Though my past held secrets, it never detained me from living, unlike the señora, whose child was held captive in the tabernacle of this studio.

‘Antonio cherished me. He was intuitive. He sought to restore my creative spirit by painting me expectant.’ Her shoulders dropped. ‘He died. I was desolate and clung to my old story, imagining Juanita out there in the world having a better chance at life. I must have dreamed you into being.’

The synchronicity of our longing astounded. ‘When I learned of my adoption, I started daydreaming too, convinced my birthmother was out there somewhere regretting her decision to abandon me. I imagined her looking for me, wanting me back.’

Her eyes shone as she took my hands. ‘Does it matter – mi angel?’ she said. ‘All children, born from mind or body, are wanted by life. They deserve to be loved.’

A car horn sounded.

‘Oh dear, we must apologise to the agent,’ she said.

I begged her to stay on, offering a lift to her hotel later in the day. The senora accepted, which freed the agent to drive back to town. His wide grin showed he was happy my break-in had been absolved, and I had made friends with his client.

Alma was her name. Alma Ruiz Gonzales. First, we opened all shutters of the studio to let the sun in and more – a peculiar hint from heaven. Light coming from a far window hit a round mirror standing at an angle on the wall. The reflection in the glass rebounded to cast a circular sunspot on one of the paintings, framing the cardinal with the girl sitting on his lap.

Alma shrieked – with excitement, struck by a sudden idea. With her dazzling crown of hair she looked like a crazed woman as she rummaged in a toolbox. In triumph, she held up a Stanley knife. I thought for a moment she was going to lash out and slash the painting. Instead she found a sharp pen, marked the lit area on the canvas, cautiously inserted the knife, and began to cut with small sawing movements round the curved line. It may have been poor eyesight, but it seemed as if  she put her ear to the cleaving sound of the blade. Her lean and leathery hands nudged along with amazing precision, until the severed circular shape could be lifted from the canvas. Her dedication was riveting. Moving on to the second painting, of the cardinal with the snake in his lap, she cleanly sliced out another circle. Both canvases now had a hole large enough to crawl through, edged only by the backdrop of lavish chandeliers, a facet of the cardinal’s scarlet skull-cap and his polished shoes.

‘Why waste good frames?’ she said.

I shook with laughter, bringing Alma to the edge of hysterics. She slumped on a chair to clutch her belly. Our unrestrained mirth thoroughly cleared the air of any lingering ghosts.

I suggested we eat something. Alma opened the backdoor to an enclosed courtyard adjoining the semi. She wiped clean a bench and table, while I fed Abu more of my chocolate and prepared a snack for Alma and me. We had our meal in the yard and chatted about mundane things, like the weather, and neighbours.

I poured us some Merlot. During an isle of silence, the chime bells in a nearby branch moved to a breeze. The melodious ring unsealed more tragedy. Alma shared she had given birth to an actual child, from Antonio, a son, who was stillborn.

‘It’s odd, but at the time I thought of the cardinal’s fixation on me,’ she said, ‘it could have been him … trying to return. Maybe his soul feared I would make his life a misery.’

Mother, Son and a not-so Holy Ghost, I thought. There is no end to the novel ways we make sense of what happens to us. And until we mourn our losses and move on, the meaning we give to what life throws at us could be right, or wrong.

After our meal we went to work. During sunset, the art world was impiously deprived.  The cut-out centrepieces of two magnificent paintings, depicting a cardinal’s obsession, were released into the ether. The fire was moderate, and held in check by a bed of stones. Leaning on her cane, Alma watched the flames lick at the snake and gnaw at the flawed beatitude of her abuser. ‘May his soul find peace,’ she said.

The historic aura of the paintings mingled with the cooling air in the hills of Granada and rearranged the past. Brilliant purple, white and scarlet paint simmered and charred, turning canvas into a crumbly leaden tablet with white markings that looked very much like a snake eating its own tail.

*    *    *

11 Comments

Filed under Blog

… lap of fate … part two

The second part of the short story inspired by a recent visit to Spain. As events unfold, I may insert subtle alterations to earlier instalments.

*    *    *

That moment my mobile played its carefree tune. Here comes the sun … I knew it would be the agent, having second thoughts about allowing a single, middle-aged woman to camp in a deserted house. I fumbled in my bag on the floor for the phone. ‘Hello. Yes, yes, gracias. I’m fine. Chimney … flue is clear, all cosy with the fire. And the night sky is magnificent … no, no, I’ve everything I need … yes, todo está bien. Thanks again. Bye, bye.’

The super-dry logs had burned to embers and a threat lurked in the far corner. I conjured up creatures coiled to jump at me any moment. Snakes! Oh no, big mistake, don’t think of snakes. I lay motionless. Blinking, to keep my eyes open, I stared across and beyond the floor to where I thought the thing was hiding. I saw a glitter there. I felt observed.

A growl – or was it a lament? My heart thumped in my throat as I reached into my bag for the tobacco-pouch. I flicked my lighter, lit a candle and held it up.  Curled on the heap of rags to where I had brushed the scraps earlier was a dog, a slight, elegant creature with short pale pelt. Its wild, not fearful, but contesting this-is-my-territory look fixed on me. Cornered dogs were dangerous, though this one chose the risk. To confront a human intruder takes courage. Water, food, some gesture was needed to befriend the animal.

In slow motion I shifted my feet to the ground, unscrewed the bottle of water next to my bed and walked towards the stone-ledge round the chimney where I had dumped my cooking gear. I lit a candle and poured water into a bowl. My movements were tracked for the slightest sign of mismatch. I set the bowl down in the middle of the room and retreated to my bed. Exhausted from the effort, I rolled myself a cigarette.

The dog didn’t stir. ‘Come on, the water is for you.’ Ears perked, that was all. Our eyes locked in combat – a staring test. ‘What do you want?’ I got up and broke off a piece from my bread, added a chunk of goat’s cheese and placed the morsels next to the water. Back under my blankets I prepared myself for a long wait.

From outside came a bark. My visitor growled.  Company was unwelcome. There must be an opening for animals to slip in to the house. Tomorrow I would camp upstairs and close the door on me. Tomorrow was a long way off. My thoughts drifted to Cora, the puppy that had been given to me for my tenth’s birthday, a spaniel. Neighbours adopted her when my father died and we moved into an apartment. Cora liked chocolate.

A slight thud – snakelike, the dog slid along the floor towards the offerings. Outside another bark broke the silence. My friend tensed but kept quiet. Did I think  – my friend? After careful sniffing he daintily consumed the meal, and, without giving me another glance, bounced from the room and disappeared. The presence of a dog that had eaten my food was oddly reassuring. I blew out the candle and fell asleep.

A chorus of birds signalled sunrise. I glanced to the corner of the room now empty of last night’s visitor. The rags turned out to be a frayed woollen cape and shreds of trousers splattered with oil paint, bringing the mysterious artist to mind. With an urgent need to freshen up and explore I skipped breakfast and made for the stream. The clear water purled through my hands like liquid gems. I splashed my face and would take a dip later on. Looking back at the house it appeared seamless, as one, but for the bleak air surrounding the semi.

There are instances when man-made laws ask for transgression. My state-of-the art Swiss army knife had a screwdriver. I detached the padlock from one of the spider-webbed shutters. Peering into the twilight, there were rattan chairs, a round table, dated kitchen facilities and an ornate spiral staircase near the partition wall, against which was an empty shelf.

A snarling – my friend. ‘What’s the matter with you?’ I screwed the padlock back into position. To pacify the dog, I surrendered a bite of my treasured dark chocolate and made sure all food was out of reach on the chimney mantle. While he devoured the treat, I moved across the hall into the rooms adjoining the semi and noticed a shelf looking similar to the one on the other side. My new friend had sneaked up and was yapping. His puzzling behaviour and the coincident of fixed shelves on both sides of the wall in the same position sparked an idea. In the past, my shots in the dark had been rewarding, giving me a certain confidence in areas of the immeasurable.

The sound of a rough engine labouring up the hill distracted my musings. Annoyed, I went to check on the intrusion – a banged-up jeep. The local farmer wanted to know what was going on. In my broken Spanish I said I was planning to buy the property and had been allowed to stay here. The furrow between his brows deepened. He waved an arm, ‘Asustado,’ he said.

‘Un momento!’ I ran to fetch my dictionary.

‘Frecuentado por fantasmas,’ he emphasized on my return.

‘Yo no creo en fantasmas,’ I said, standing my ground.

He shook his head and forcefully reversed the car. I caught ‘turista estupido’ before the jeep vanished in a plume of dust.  So the place was spooked, or neighbours wanted me to believe so. Not that I disrespected ghosts. They gave an edge to my goal, is how I saw it.

The dog re-appeared. ‘You must be the guardian of this place,’ I said. He wagged his tail. Finally – an acknowledgement of my presence – and acceptance. I smiled and went to boil water for a much desired cup of coffee. ‘I’ll call you Abu,’ I said, rolling a cigarette, at which he wagged his tail with even more enthusiasm. There was text on my mobile, a message from the agent. ‘Owner expected today. She not sell semi yet but reduce price.’

My mind quickened. She needed the money. I would tackle the ghosts and buy the entire house. Back at the partition wall, I scanned every inch of the shelf and discovered a hook behind a plank. I pulled. Nothing happened. I pulled again and pushed at the same time – the whole shelving creaked and shifted. Abu’s frantic bark made me twinge. His pelt of hair stood on ends.  He tucked in his tail and sprinted off as if chased by an abysmal force …

Continued at  … https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/lap-of-fate-part-three/

6 Comments

Filed under Blog

… lap of fate … part one

Part one of a short story inspired by a visit to Spain … please note, all characters are invented.

*    *    *

’No worry, ‘he said during my first viewing. ‘ Solo tiene valor sentimental para la señora …’ meaning, I guessed, the semi-detached part of the house had only sentimental value for the old lady. He was cautious with words, and my Spanish dismal or I would have pushed for more information.  By chance, the elderly expat owner of a local restaurant was more forthcoming.

‘Hacienda Colina, you want to buy the abandoned place? I remember Señora Ruiz Gonzales. She dined here on rare occasions, with her artist friend, a mysterious man. There was gossip.’

She had offered bait, I asked, ‘What about?’

‘They weren’t married.’ I shrugged my shoulders. She nodded. ‘People are biased. I heard her parents died young. She grew up in a convent. When she returned to live here with her painter, she was, well, let’s say mature,’ a laugh escaped her, ‘like me.’

‘What happened, why did she leave?’

‘Her lover died. Let’s see … sixteen years ago.’ The woman pressed a hand to her heart. ‘The señora  moved to Barcelona.’ It seemed rude to pry further. A last snippet came. ‘She returns annually to commemorate her friend.’

The discreet agent had hinted at an unfinished tale. And, as if anticipating a resolution, he promised, ‘You get first right to buy semi,’ stressing it was not a financial issue.

Hoping to learn more, I had asked him. ‘Can I look inside?’

‘Sorry, no key.’

Not even a glimpse. Window- shutters were closed and secured. My obvious disappointment and desire to buy made him agreeable to let me camp in the main house for a week. I assured him I would make do with the poor facilities. It was a blind bet, but I wanted to know the spirit of the place.

A writer’s dream – the worn two-story house nestling against the hill in the afternoon sun had golden mean proportions that intuitively appealed and captured my heart yet again. There was rightness about this spot in the hills of Granada. I would put my English home on the market as soon as had clarity about this property, especially the wing I wanted included in the sale.

Navigating potholes during the last stretch, I scraped the exhaust of my rental car. A four-wheeler, like the agent’s, would have been sensible. As well I brought all basic supplies for the week, including incense, candles and broom. Water and power were laid on but not connected, a small matter. I carried bottled water,  gas-cooker and blankets. And stored in a shed smothered by rampant honeysuckle, there was plenty of wood, though no fires had been lit in the dwelling for years. The agent had been philosophical. ‘Smoke in room means birds have built nest in chimney.’

One hour of sunlight left. I parked at the arched side gate, turned off the engine and savoured the silence, made exquisite by the murmur of a small stream close by. A familiar inner voice scoffed – the peace will be ruptured if anyone were to occupy the semi. I warned the critic – get lost – and walked round to the front. No fancy terraces here, Spanish peasants had worked hard to survive and overcome the prejudice against olive oil.

They would have found scarce time to laze and adore the gnarled trees, their crowns iridescent like clouds of dragonfly wings against the slanting rays of the sun. Beyond, the south-western valley filled with muted light. I would build French doors and a balcony to the upstairs bedrooms, providing a covered porch below. The design was clear in my mind, down to the wine and fig plants growing up the posts. And a dip further down the slope was  asking  for the purple rain of a jacaranda tree. I already saw myself sitting under the porch, writing my next novel.

Work to be done before nightfall. I let myself in to the hall and opened the window in a front room that had a large fireplace. I gathered an armful of kindling from the olive orchard and set it alight in the hearth. First victory, no bird nests blocked the flue! I brought in chunky logs from the shed and stoked up the fire.

Before getting food and bedding from the car, I swept dust and litter into one corner where there was already a pile of rags. Once I had placed candles all round and set out generous amounts of my favourite Japanese incense the room was transformed. With a little bread, cheese and a bottle of Merlot, I sat out front on a rock to watch the hills sharpen to black topped by luminous purple.

My desire for change was urgent. I felt overwhelmed by excess information, excess communication and excess demands, having lived in one place for far too long. But what was I doing here, in this desolate spot, discounting the probable myth of a Spanish ancestor, what was I seeking to unearth through solitude?

Inside, the fire glowed and crackled. I pushed an old table to the window and sat on a rickety chair looking up at the darkening sky. The empty page of a notebook remained just that, empty. Grimy walls swallowed the light my sea of candles might otherwise have reflected. I grabbed a blanket and went outside. With only a faint sliver of moon, the brilliant copula of stars dispersed my fussy mood. Yes, I wanted solitude, the rawness of nature and an open link with the cosmos, vast space to connect up the most vibrant threads of my life, to create stories that made sense. Instead of spinning more silk, I was going to weave inspired tapestries.

I locked the outer gate and, from habit, left the inner doors ajar. Bliss – days ahead with no junk through the letterbox, no e-mails, no obligations – a week of reflection and tranquillity. I unfolded the camping bed, arranged my blankets and blew out all candles. The glowing logs cast a ring of mellow light. Images returned, from today’s hectic shopping spree for my survival kit. Sleep did not come. The warren of empty rooms played tricks on me. What had possessed me to come here alone?

Twisting shadows pranced across the ceiling. I shut my eyes, imagining the colours and fabrics I would transport here to soften the place.

A scream pierced the silence, something outside, an animal. The window had none of the iron grids usual for this area, and it was open. High enough, I thought. Nobody could climb through unless they used a ladder. Of course, a bat or an owl could fly in. Gosh, where did all these stupid thoughts come from? A flash alerted, not of light, but of a dark shape intercepting the illuminated space before the fire. My food bags must have attracted a rat. The shape swelled in size and seemed to retreat into a corner. My rational voice demanded I shine my torch onto the creature. My torch, I realised, was at the hotel, the last item on the table, left behind  …

*    *    *

Continued at … https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/lap-of-fate-part-two/

11 Comments

Filed under Blog