Tag Archives: memory

… my memory of the moon landing …

News reminds me that today is the fifties anniversary of America’s moon landing.

I was in Prague. My then companion, for his birthday celebration, had organised a small group of friends to spend a weekend in this beautiful city, coinciding with the moon landing. We could afford a 5 star hotel, due to a bargain currency exchange rate in the wake of the short-lived Prague Spring … the invasion of Czechoslovakia by members of the Warsaw Pact, and then the country’s occupation. We found an eerie hush hush atmosphere, but once rapport was created, people were keen to treat us cash-spending visitors like royalty. Hotel staff attended to our every need, insisting on polishing our shoes overnight. Restaurants, beyond serving exquisite goulash, entertained us with stories and life music. Our luxury was tinged with sadness. These people had had a rough time. It would take many more years before the collapse of Communism.

Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon. Photograph: NASA

We watched the moon landing on a black & white TV in the lobby of our hotel, outnumbered by American tourists. The atmosphere was electric. All our eyes were glued to the small screen, witnessing the eagle’s landing, feet stepping down the ladder into the moon dust. And them Armstrong documenting Buzz Aldrin imprinting the dust with his heavy shoes. Given the lack of air-movement on the moon, these imprints may still be there, unless the later take-off erased them.

We took in the iconic exclamations … one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…

Americans around us burst into high decibels and fell into each other’s arms for joy. So yes, it was a memorable moment, and, without doubt, a magnificent achievement for the visionaries, like J.F. Kennedy, who sadly missed the event, and the many thousands of technicians and supporting staff involved in the project.

Earthrise, Dec 1968

However, for me it amplified a more significant image from the year before, a photograph called ‘earthrise.’   I sincerely hoped that beholding the wonder of this beautiful planet floating in dark space would widen political perspectives and bring people’s consciousness around the world to the realisation that we are in this adventure of life together.

That weekend in Prague, I visited the old Jewish cemetery. Stirred by a brilliant slanting light, I took a series of b&w photos, only to destroy them later, incl. negatives. (The scene became incorporated in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’) I regret the loss.  The photos were stunning.

Wars, atrocities and poverty continued, nothing changed. Technological progress only worsened injustices. Protesters during the moon landing proclaimed “Billions for spacePennies for the hungry.”

I came to the conclusion that the exploration of deep space requires the balance of another exploration … a deep exploration of the human mind. A befriending of the unconscious, the objective psyche, which we can’t control.  The latter study inspired my subsequent vocation.

I grew up with this lullaby, my favourite …

Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar:
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weiße Nebel wunderbar.

Click here for the whole text with notation, and translation …

What do you do there, moon, in the sky? Tell me what you do, silent moon … Giacomo Leopardi

16 Comments

Filed under Blog

… loss and restoration …

This time of year I like reading in the garden. Last week I forgot to take a book inside – ‘The Hand of Poetry,’ collected poems from Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz, translated by Coleman/Barks, with introductions taken from talks by Inayat Khan. During a short but heavy shower that night, the book greedily feasted on rain. I found it blown up, like a balloon, to double its size.

Restoration would atone for my failing. Gently lifting page after page, I placed toilet paper between each, twice and three times over. On the third day I hung the book by its spine on the washing line. Once dry, I managed to press the volume with a heavy vintage iron into reasonable shape again. The ordeal required my undivided attention. The re-read pages during those hours lodged themselves with refreshed presence in my heart.

I recalled a scene from ‘Shapers’ –  the not yet published sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’ The story starts with a shipwreck.  Surviving this tragedy, my protagonist finds her diary drenched to pulp. The irreplaceable loss gained her unexpected access to internalised memories, and the ability to exchange virtual letters with her soulmate of the future, scripts made visible in the thin air before her.

This phenomenon happens to me frequently these days. Just before sleep, or waking, I see screens with writing, sometimes even Twitter pages, which later turn out real. Beats me – explanations are welcome.

Memory is fluid. The child in us not only imagines the future, but also re-imagines the past. While I was lifting apart the soaked poetry pages during my restoration, it struck me they resembled crumpled and discoloured reminiscences of my father a trailing grief about our dissonance brought to light in dreams, with messages to abandon this nonsense. Can you miss a surreal projection? Yes you can – releasing a feeling of rejection that ruled years of your life takes getting used to. Had I not taken my dad’s anger with the world, and me,  so personal, I might have implored deeper into his heart pain, and mine, since, after all, deep down, our sensitivity for beauty and nature, even our humour, were much alike.

I had resisted my father’s expectations and boldly followed my heart, which, while gratifying, brought its shadow of existential anxieties. My rare brave attempts to cross the dividing bridge were met with contempt for my quixotic worldview. Bridges then became imaginary sanctuaries between varied realities, a neutral zone for my rebel to gather strength for the next quest ahead. Bridges became a major theme in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’ – see book page on this site, or my twitter page @mushkilgusha

Rejection can add fuel to a journey. But what if a regular fuel runs out? Consider the weird silence when a monotonous background noise stops … suddenly. I identified my inner background noise as the subtle lament of blame that long ago slyly settled in my unconscious. Blaming something or someone can achieve an emotional distance, displace resentfulness, a hurt,  – but now – this peculiar silence …

The symbolic intelligence of psyche’s inner dimension communicates not only through dreams, but also through our surroundings: world events, people, objects, images. My restoration of ‘The Hand of Poetry’ resonated. Compulsive energies shift when time slows,. Familiar scripts may assume fresh meaning, and re-write themselves with different rhythms and new pauses for the spirit of surprise to enter.

Meanwhile I enjoy some treasures close by …

 

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to share a Hafiz poem from the restored collection. Hazrat Inayat Khan says of him:

The mission of Hafiz was to express, to the fanatically inclined religious world, the presence of God, which is not to be found only in heaven, but to be found here on earth.’

THE BANQUET

A gathering of good friends

talking quietly outdoors,

the banquet being served, a dry Rosé

with a bite of Kebab afterwards,

a wink form the one who pours,

Hafiz telling some story,

Hajji Qavam with his long laugh,

a full moon overhead,

the infinite mystery

of all this love.

If someone doesn’t want the pleasure

of such an openhearted garden,

companionship, no, life itself,

must be against his rules.

Hafiz

14 Comments

Filed under Blog

… taming …

Everything alive is curious, humans excel in this trait. When meeting up with something we haven’t come across we ask … is it worth knowing: is it important, useful, is it friend or foe? Getting to know something is a kind of taming. We energise what we tame, and attempt to exert control over it, be it elements, animals, people, or ideas. Then again, when for innumerable reasons, which include changing priorities or attitudes, interest fades; we withdraw our energy from what we tamed.

Take this vat. Not having held water for some time – its wood shriveled.

a dried-up vessel

lacking its soulful function

becomes an icon

an exquisite memory

or inspiration

where in beauty of decay

new dreams incubate

as nature’s purpose rotates

 

Getting older sparks such contemplation, and the reassurance that a formidable self-regulating force is in charge of life – nature and its cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Despite every greedy effort to control nature, there is ample proof it will only work for life if we honour the spirit behind the delicate interdependencies of its cyclic system, which in its wisdom continuously expands the consciousness of the one and only being.

‘Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.’ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

16 Comments

Filed under Blog

… story – art – quest for the cypher – symbol …

As painters or sculptors do, I frequently step back from my writing projects, searching for the core, a half imagined essence to shine through and re-animate the creative flow. Skills alone don’t do it, techniques alone don’t do it, nor style. As long as the essence of what I try to express floats in the unconscious, my efforts will baffle and tease me.

Having listened to thousand and one stories during my 30 years of working as a transpersonal psychotherapist, I conclude that when we tell our story to ourselves, or others who watch and listen, we trace a rhythm, a sound, the distant bubbling of a spring – a theme. While sourcing and shaping words we ideally become aware of how we translate experiences, string up memories and weave a pattern that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our story. We may re-weave the past and change how we perceive life. Even a single image, too evanescent to fit ordinary reality, can assume significance. An ideal may sharpen – and with it a vision of what not yet exists, revealed by the imagination.

Sensual impression, dreams, primary images and the love/hate of relationships, present a puzzle we try to arrange in some kind of order, waiting for a theme to become intelligible, and therefore transmittable. Finding a structure to express our experiences through words, images, movements, sounds, music, or numbers is insufficient. We must play with the fragments – take out bits, or add bits, until a satisfying narrative suggests itself.

World objects from my sand tray

Fairy tales, heroes and villains of myth, historical figures, cartoon characters or pop stars may do the magic by evoking a psychic resonance and providing a metaphor, or a precious symbol to ease the pressure of the archetypal demand lurking in the unconscious.

Not only those we call artists, but all creative people respond to what holds sensual and cognitive fascination for them. I include trades, crafts, makers, men and women with affinities to certain elements, who explore the quality and beauty of materials, like weavers, potters, wood workers, printers, plumbers, electricians … I include technicians, engineers, inventors, scientists and mystics. Curiosity and passion for a subject deepen knowledge and intuition as to how things connect outside, and, vitally, how they connect inside us.

Ashen – directing a film in the woods.

My fascination with creating stories was revived while doing a film degree (as career brake) during the late 1990s. I’m curious about consciousness, relative perception of time, and the interplay of characters for which I invent pasts and futures, where ideals are the means to a goal, while as soon as the goal is reached, a new ideal looms over the horizon. If this were not so, evolution, our whole story would stop. Ursula Le Guin once wrote –

‘In eternity there is nothing novel, and there are no novels.’

My ongoing writing project, a trilogy of stories, involves three soul sisters, Ana, Cara and Mesa. The first (already published) book of the trilogy, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ (see book page) narrates the quest of Ana, which is really the myth of the story teller, Cara, whose theme is seeking a balance for the enigma of clashing feminine and masculine principles. The sequel, ‘Shapers,’ (not yet published) introduces Cara in the twentieth century as she follows the characters of Ana’s myth into a far future society where emotional expressions are outlawed until the experiment breaks down under its duplicity.

In a third book, ‘Mesa,’ a work in progress, same characters move to a realm where time has slowed down to such extend that ‘novelty’ has to be rescued for life to continue. This story calls for a deep dive into the heart of my imagination.

I’m once more held in the cocoon stage. Given the ideological power games around the globe, I feel foolish about these musings, since I’ve been sharing the ups and downs of my quest here for the last seven years.

Do you, my reader, recognise the pressure to bring something into existence? How do you search for the cypher (the wild uniqueness in the soul) that informs your creative process?

*    *    *

A definition of Symbol … from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, transl. by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University

The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.

12 Comments

Filed under Blog

… an early phenomenon of recycling …

Marie was one-of-a-kind, a unicum, einzigartig. Considered a fool, she was waddling through the streets of my childhood village in search of rejected items.

Based on a few photos my dad took during the nineteen-fifties, I put a challenge to my Patrons  inviting a short story (250 to 500 words) to include in a post here. I’m starting with my version, in the form of a monologue.

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.  (As You Like It)

Marie found good – even in the flawed. She says:

… I have you know, my great, great, great grandmother, add one, was a noblewoman in Russia with more material means than King Ludwig of Bavaria, and an equal flamboyant imagination. Like the Fairy King’s life, hers was cut short through envy.

My life, too, is in service to art of some kind, though nobody envies me.

At least that’s what I thought for a while … some do envy me – the treacherous bunch in this village, the ones chased by hungry spirits hovering over their houses. They resent and envy my freedom. I scare them, because I remind them of the ravages of time. I’m beholden to no one, which is why they spread lies about me. I’ve sharp ears.

You know who, down the road, claims I’ve put a spell on his family, so his wife will only bear girls. The bully doesn’t know his blessing. A son would topple him. And his trickster of a neighbour, you know who, blames me for his impotency. He doesn’t know his blessing either. The mishaps some people complain about may actually save them from much, much worse. Just saying.

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’ (As You Like It)

There you have it. Ask me anything and you get truth, since I’ve got nothing to lose. The absurdity of human behaviour makes rejection bearable. I learned to live with it. Consequently, my brain cells can’t help being impressed by discarded objects. It’s compulsive. When you get there one day, remember me, the woman in the street, shouting, ‘We ripe, we rot, it’s all the same. Do as you like.’

Nothing goes to waste with me. My backyard is the showroom of my art, for all to see. I give every item the freedom to be and decay, ache over its beauty, and let it speak for itself.

That rusty teapot hanging from the tree over there has outlived its owner. If you gave the pot a voice it would tell you how it was used to kill a burglar, a scoundrel, bringing misery to his family. Blood still crusts its metal edge. There’s justice for you.

That scruffy carpet leaning against the fence, which had three generations walk, dance, fight, puke and sleep on it, holds a rich legacy of tales. The well-used tools in that box among the dandelions could still fix and dismantle implements. And the mangled doll on top was once loved to bits. With your mind at rest you can hear kids scream and battle over its possession.

Each thing stacked up here has a Sermon to tell.

And now you want to see what’s in my shack? You’re a nosy one, aren’t you? I tell you a secret. It’s hellishly empty.

A link to the Shakespeare quotes.

15 Comments

Filed under Blog

… sometimes I feel …

… like a motherless child … This famous Spiritual is known the world over, maybe because it touches the orphan child in us. The lament of being a long, long way from home speaks of the universal desire  to feel safe, to be accepted, have one’s talent nurtured and simply be held. Listen to this deep-felt ache in Odetta’s voice from a late recording on You Tube.

In most cases we leave the nest in order to become our own person, but winning the obstacle race of growing into an adult and finding self-worth is a remarkable achievement, made easier when a child is welcomed and loved by a parent, a mentor or a community.

The latter presents a grim challenge for people who are forced to leave their homes, for whatever reasons. Affluent societies are now faced with a surge of refugees. There is much goodwill, but equally resentment, often based on ignorance. Public debates seem to miss the acknowledgement of how the wealth that brought about commerce and stability in the west was and is part-indebted to slavery and the exploitation of defenseless countries. The lesson for humility and tolerance is implicit – and ongoing.

Before I get carried away, this post is in memory of my mother, who died three decades ago to this day.

I miss her, and yet …

Sometimes I feel like my mother is near                                                                                                                                    At home, right here in my heart

11 Comments

Filed under Blog

… then they lived again – friends – soul families …

How we make friends is a mystery. What is the unremembered that draws people and groups together as in a mirror? Are there families of souls tasked to exchange particular reflections during particular times?

Via serendipitous events my son was born in a Hamlet in the deepest Somerset hills among neighbours who adored him. The phase lasted five years, enough to provide me with a much needed hiatus after intense years of work, travelling and communal life.

Our selfless neighbours left an indelible impression on my son. They made him a valued and loved part of a small community. Our farmer friend, Hope, was hungry for knowledge, though never realised her dream of travelling as a journalist. She had however the most vivid visions of Tibet; a place neither of us had visited but felt strong emotional connection with. Not the first time, I had a shock of appreciation for the unremembered sparking instant rapport slipping through time.

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ – William James

I was thirty then, had travelled much and been involved with innumerable internationally composed groupings, circles upon circles – this was to continue for decades to come. Among the groups were people who felt strangely familiar, like Hope. We would guard out solitude, cry together, or laugh hilariously about silly things. Equally there were those wary of me, often for reasons unknown to themselves, which made me wary of them. You may know this treading-on-eggshells feeling.

Serendipitous time-jumps weave through my novels. The cast of ‘Shapers’ has characters from ‘Course of Mirrors’ set in a future time, but caught in similar psychological dynamics.

It has been said that behind every creative expression is a desire for immortality, the prolonged influence of personal achievement. This seems simpleminded to me. I think our desire is to create beauty and meaning to make our existence worthwhile. It is the human search for our spiritual identity, generated by three persisting questions: who are we, why are we alive and what is the purpose of it all?

In this illusionary play of differences and multiple meanings we need friends. To have even one friend is a blessing. Friends distanced by space, and time, reside in the heart nevertheless. They include those who died. They may be writers, artists, innovators, past and present. They include friends who moved to other continents. They include the sympathetic minds we encounter via the internet, who greatly enrich our lives.

Friends I shared core experiences with are especially dear.  A few of them I see face to face at yearly intervals. We may catch up on the narratives we hold of each other, though there will be new thresholds – moments where the known encounters the unknown.

My mum used to put a ruler or a book on my head and mark my height with a date inside a doorframe during my rapid growth years. More than a physical measurement, these marks made me think of what else had changed during the months since the last recording. Our essence abides, but our persona grows and is mutable in the way we evaluate ourselves against the passage of time.

This is why I like having guests. When a Dutch friend visited last month, the thought arose as to how the time gaps between our actual meetings affect us. He suggested I write something about this. He works presently in Germany, so our conversation slipped into German, with snippets of Dutch and back into English. He uses one language for business, another for philosophy, and yet another for emotional subjects. This strikes me as a neat arrangement. A little space between feeling and thinking, and a choice between modes of operating can make one’s internal communication more finely tuned and coherent.

The occasional visit of a friend eclipses my routines and opens extra dimensions, like the virgin pages of a notebook where our idiosyncrasies are redrawn, edited and updated. Connective threads shift past memories or future visions.

We are re-imagined and in the process re-connect to our essence.

The lens we focus on each other is subtly adjusted by the most intimate of all friends, the angel that is our inner story teller.

 

 ‘Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.’ ― Henry David Thoreau

‘No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.’ ― Kahlil Gibran

 ‘Mankind is interdependent, and the happiness of each depends upon the happiness of all, and it is this lesson that humanity has to learn …’ –  Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

18 Comments

Filed under Blog

… meetings – poem …

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.

meetings

earth –

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

tree –

circling round and round

spun by the mesh of time

I see your whirling

and sense my turning too

in its mystic trance

snake –

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

bird –

your rising pitch one vow

winging yonder blue

towards the break of dawn

above the silver winding stream

your passing leaves no mark

rose –

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

fire –

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. 

Related posts:

… the magic of remembrance …

… cover reveal for course of mirrors …

10 Comments

Filed under Blog

… guiding spirits & stones …

Contemplating buzzwords relating to my soon to be published novel, Course of Mirrors, I thought I make a start with guiding spirits, or angels.

We each have one, so ancient, such intimate presence, so discreet and soft spoken, we fail to notice. My protagonist forgets hers, despite obtaining an object of remembrance she takes on her journey as talisman – a shiny black stone, polished by the elements,  holding aeons of memory and embodying her first encounter with spirit in matter, the invisible in the visible:

“I was bridge, river, riverbed and water falling from the cliff, the aria of water. I was air, breeze and water dust rising. I was mirror to mirrors yet looked from beyond mirrors. Behind my eyes a truth flashed.”

When, seemingly by chance, she does remember her treasure, a timeless power is released, the miraculous happens, aligned with nature’s power to transform.

‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart

‘Time is eternity living dangerously.’  – John O’ Donohue

These related posts open new pages, so you don’t lose this one:

Oh my sweet crushed angel.

The magic of remembrance.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Blog

… a little backstory to ‘course of mirrors’ …

When I enter the room Dot is absorbed in reading from a folder among stacks of papers stored in drawers under a bed. ‘Hey,’ she looks up, ‘this is fascinating. It’s got your name on it.’

We were clearing the main house of a workshop venue near London, a magical place I had been associated with for 30 years and which I facilitated during the winding down period of its operation, dealing with the grief of an international community, as well as managing group bookings for the remaining few months, before the estate was sold.

The folder Dot had discovered contained the beginning of a story I had drafted …  and then lost. For two action-filled decades my protagonist had lingered patiently in a corner of my mind. On that momentous spring day of clearing Ana emerged from her hibernation.

Resembling the experience of my own myth, Ana is called to her adventure by a kind of celestial twin, an agent between past and future, between dense and subtle realms.

The novel was completed five years on, much encouraged by E. Zohra Sharp, who offered her generous editing support. I also shared some chapters on the then still existing Harper Collins Authonomy site, where writers could give and receive feedback for work in progress, and have great fun with trolls.

In 2011 another project took priority for a few months, Heart of a Sufi, which involved organising, arranging and co-editing reminiscences about a remarkable teacher who had died in 1990, much too young. He was Fazal Inayat-Khan, aka Frank Kevlin, the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan – more here.

The same year, not wanting to become a writing recluse, I started this blog. Through a poet I met online, Course of Mirrors found a small publisher who loved the story, which perked my confidence. Three years passed without action – a long time when you are not getting any younger. During  the long wait, I did however write a time-travelling sequel and started a third book. Not keen to endure more agonising delays, I decided to self-publish.

In charge of the process, I had to make decision after decision, aided by a competent team at Troubador and my proof readers, Zohra and Susanne. There will be an initial print run, enabling bookshops to stock copies. The publishing date for Course of Mirrors is April 28th, but the book information is up and orders can be taken in advance, as paperback, and soon also as e-book.

Through Troubador, where I get the best royalties

Through Amazon …  and through Waterstones

Today the dynamics of spring enchanted. I glimpsed a yellow butterfly. Sunlight, dappled by branches into a gently moving lattice, was playing on a carpet of fresh cut grass, where Robins feasted on worms. The laurel hedge glistened. A few tulips made a pink and white appearance, their leaves folded as if in prayer.

18 Comments

Filed under Blog