Tag Archives: past

… a father/daughter odyssey …

Opa Weiss - smallerIn frequent transit between countries, I’m also travelling through malleable realities with my dying 98 year old father. Experiencing past, present and future flowing into each other makes me realise, more than ever, that time is an invented concept.

I’m blessed to have some good friends in and around Munich, who are very supportive in this long anticipated, difficult time.

My dad never fired a shot during the last war, but excelled and won accolades in ‘Sportschießen.’

And he almost shares the August birthday with his famous namesake, the Bavarian Fairy King, Ludwig II, for whom annually a huge bonfire is lit on the Kogel in Oberammergau.

Kogel - with half-moon

The Kogel rock can be seen from my father’s apartment, and during a half-moon night earlier this year he captured this image on the left.

Presently my father is in care, eating little and sleeping lots. We have been going through a process of releasing the frames we put round each other.

Exhausted, I shortly returned to my UK home in order to recover from arranging care and sorting paperwork, and to catch up with my own stuff … post, cutting grass, clearing my mind etc.

When life requires complex actions, and becomes a bit overwhelming, we need to look after ourselves, as well.

I’ll be returning to the Alps next week to continue the father/daughter odyssey.

Not surprisingly, my first book, which I hope will finally be published this year, has a father theme at its core.

 

For those interested in the Kogel, I found this lovely post by Tricia Anne Mitchell, which was written last year …

http://triciaannemitchell.com/2015/08/16/koenig-ludwig-feuer-oberammergau-king-ludwig-bonfire/

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… imaginary time …

Image by Almos Jaschick

Image by Almos Jaschick

Today is one of those when I can only attend to bits of information, short sequences of writing, a paragraph maybe, while my eyes are drawn to ivy leaves moved by the breeze, a blackbird family feasting on apples left for them, a pair of woodpigeons landing and swaying in the branches of the huge beech at the top of my garden. Again and again I engage in pockets of attention beyond the window and shake off focus, ironically, in order to re-find the focus towards a coherent little blog post. A sudden rainfall is followed by the sun spinning through marbled clouds, while the heavenly voice of Kiri Te Kanawa streams through sound boxes linked to my computer. Eventually, my eyes return to the words I’m assembling here about the mystery of time, also relating to the emerging parallel worlds featuring in my two, coming to three, imaginative novels, where intentions create connections – from invisible realms beyond space and time.

Check out this and similar posts on YouTube, ha, ha, a few speculations. I haven’t been there for a long while. Don’t get lost.

‘The distinction between past, present and future is an illusion, although a convincing one …’ is what Einstein wrote in 2007 in a letter to friends. Time, he showed, has no universal constant and is relative. His famous equation E = mc – energy equals mass times the speed of light squared – had enormous implications, technologically, as well as socially.

This valued theory seems, at present, incompatible with the Quantum Physics that apply to tiny things. The chase for a unifying theory that includes quantum gravity is on. Moreover, physicists puzzle over the unseen pulling and pushing forces in our universe that elude detection.

We perceive time as proceeding steadily forward, although the laws of physics allow for time to equally run backwards. When it comes to our subjective inner experience we easily accept time as non-linear and relative. In therapy work, for example, a shift in attitude towards a person in one’s past can change a generational pattern.

We define time, create time, record it, hoard it, take it apart and re-frame it into fresh representations and stories. Stepping from one reality into another without losing coherence of mind is the province of individual adventurers of consciousness. Some artists like to dwell in liminal spaces where time shrinks and expands, like the twisting passage between one dream and another. Many devote their life to the re-framing of events in time. Imagine for a moment where we would be without people who create novel perspectives on entrenched realities. To call such expressions mere fantasy demeans the symbolic understanding found in the vast dimensions of the psyche.

Try and compare the creation of our cosmos with the conception, cell divisions and the birth of a human infant. The procreations and expanding consciousness of humans make for multitudes, while each of us inhabits our own self-constructed world. A psychic universe held together, it seems, by forces not unlike the unseen tides our visible galaxies swim in, the ocean of dark matter and energy that exists symbiotically within us.

Dark matter is assumed to collide with oxygen and hydrogen nuclei in our body, speculated to happen at the rate of up to 100 000 times a year. There, you may be hit right now. To my knowledge, no idea has been proposed as to what might be sparked or exchanged in these collisions.

In any case, at this, another year’s ending, quite a few of us spark flames and kindle candles in dark nights to celebrate the cosmic dance, the birth of light.

 

I’m wishing you, my readers, wherever you are, a time of peace and reflection.

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From Little Gidding by T. S Elliot …

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always –

A condition of completed simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

 

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… marginalia of bodies …

moon's swing door

moon’s swing door

the white rock sails adored –

silent swing door to sanctuaries

imagined beyond where

each being claims its mystery

un-evidenced

 

 

winged by unknown purpose

spirit seeks shelter

tumbling through cells

to the orb of a home –

embodied in you and me spirit mimics

nature’s mirrors moments after now

though once inner vision unfolds

our dreams are branded …

framed by the one eye

supreme to all eyes …

sun’s furnace illuming draperies

history sanctioned

seemingly evidenced

but for the singular breath

of insight needling between

obvious fabrics to thread

intense tales of beauty …

sample of my occasional art, 1998

sample of my occasional art, 1998

 

The poem was inspired by June’s full moon.

Places accumulate impressions, snippets of reality that draw us forever into experiences from different directions and points in time. The one place we carry with us – OUR BODY – remembers what reason does not. While the intellect sorts memories into virtual boxes and slaps on the tag ‘facts,’ the body, animated by each breath, deeply informs our singular perception, helps us to adjust the past, refine the relationship with ourselves and others in the present, and opens a new wavelength and vision towards the future.

 

The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by you, your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength. What you reflect immediately influences your environment, people close and far away.’

Fazal Inayat-Khan, notes from an attended lecture, 1989

‘Spirit without soul has no vessel – soul without spirit has no direction.’ Roberto Assagioli

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… the ones who walk away …

Ursula Le Guin’s short metafiction, ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas,’ first published in 1973, had its 40th anniversary last year. My first reading, when Google and book review sites were non-existent, left a deep impression. This week’s re-reading, once, twice, three times – the story deserves it – made me curious as to what other readers might have made of it. Obsessing in a web-crawl I came upon predominantly moral interpretations, which I distinctly remember resisting, though these associations are understandable. The way our systems deal with the unadjusted tends to appease the troubled conscience for the rest of us normal citizens.

For me, there were deeper complexities in this brilliant piece of writing. I decided to share my thoughts and tempt those of you who don’t know the story to read it and derive their own insights. I’ll use spoilers, so if you want to read the story first, here is a link: http://genius.com/Ursula-k-le-guin-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-annotated

… With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city of Omelas, bright-towered by the sea …  

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

We are shown a charming city where order and harmony reign, a city well-protected in a bay, resembling a womb. Reality is suspended. There’s a sense of timelessness. It is a civilised place, decorous, joyful, without hierarchy. No king, no swords, no slaves … no power games. Utopia comes to mind, the idea of eternal life – the eternal innocent child.

No science has yet dispelled the vision of a haven without strive, where everyone is happy. In the wake of traumatising wars and unspeakable atrocities, there are always attempt to re-create places like Omelas, attempts to soften the reality of birth and death, the extremes of joy and pain, nature, the cosmos our life depends on and which we try to fathom. But since our spiritual lore cautions that life is an illusion – an ornament that covers ultimate truth we can’t perceive with our senses, we get anxious when life becomes too comfortable.

The narrating voice, anticipating our scepticism, invites us to fill in the sketches of this perfect democracy. We are told, ‘They were not simple folks, you see, though they were happy.’ After all, Omelas may strike some as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. ‘If so please add an orgy.’ More delightful pleasures are suggested – celebrating life, with one significant addition, ‘One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.’

In contrast, the voice notes the bad habit of a different place, where pedants and sophisticates consider happiness as something rather stupid. ‘Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting … the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.’ The voice insists that the citizens of Omelas were mature, intelligent, passionate people whose lives were not wretched.

The Festival of Summer has begun. ‘Do you believe?’ the narrator asks. ‘Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? NO? Then let me describe one more thing.’

And there it is, the secret lurking out of sight, a child, kept in the darkness of a tiny cellar room, with only a faint ray of hope based on a dull memory. The child is not driven out of the city, like the traditional scapegoat, but contained below ground; there to absorb everyone’s fear of reality and its cruel justice, embodying, maybe, submerged histories, rather like the depths of the iceberg below water keeps its peak afloat in the light.

… They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it; others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on the child’s abominable misery …

Terms are clear, should this child be freed, the beauty would wither and be destroyed. The pragmatic solution seems such: One punished and suffering child is meant to redeem the rest from coming to terms with their inherited sins and traumas.

To leave this comfortable enclave of Omelas means leaving security and loved ones behind. It requires crossing mountains, stepping into the unknown, with no charm against collective guilt.

Omelas’ citizens are free to look at the unacceptable child. While reactions, those of young ones mainly, vary from disgust to outrage, most accept the necessity of this child’s sacrifice, though some fall quiet and leave Omelas in the middle of night, alone.

For me the child is there to serve cohesion, symbolizing a lid on the unconscious, primitive, wild aspects of the psyche. Isn’t dis-ease a loss of order and rhythm? If you judge this pragmatism harshly, consider the purpose of trip-switches in an electricity-wired house. Or, consider how people under social or dictatorial pressure may choose to safeguard the lives of their loved ones at the cost of betraying their knowing heart.

Le Guin does not condone staying or leaving Omelas, she provides no answers. I am one of those who walked away, many times, always at a cost, because I preferred guilt to shame. C G Jung developed the concept of individuation, hoping for it to expand collective consciousness from the inside out, through the individual, sometimes involving a precarious personal journey, going through a process of separating psychologically from parents, state, authority, to become whole. Like in the Zen story where the seeker eventually returns, better able to serve the community. While a single brain does not survive its limited life-span, the collective memory of matter, and each human experience lives on and is transmitted to every new-born life.

Each one of us carries the traumas of our histories, though not everyone has the opportunity to redeem such wounds, contribute new ideas, or explore different states of being. What drives one to walk away from the familiar – is it inner conflict, allegiance to one’s heart, fear to upset the order, the need for a wider perspective, or simply a calling? We bond to the systems we grow up in, in cases we adjust our behaviour in order to emotionally survive, along with the implicit bargain to keep quiet about the shit, our shit, others’ shit, and how we deal with all the shit.

There are those who leave a comfortable place and those who stay. Maybe a balance between conservative forces that protect structures and revolutionary forces that seek change is necessary. Not everyone, for example, can face existential pain and futility without succumbing to psychosis. There is a case for Festivals of Summer, sport, drugs, ecstasy, trance …

Was the power of the imagination born from fear of mortality? Is this why we envisage dystopias or utopias, and, ultimately, scenarios that make us feel in control of our destiny?

What we hide from ourselves and from each other often relates to our most prominent outcast, the neglected inner child, so embarrassing to the adult world. This child in Omelas seems to embody the ongoing ritual of shame for walking from Eden into the dawn of creation, a reality burdened with consciousness, and free will that frequently misses the mark, but, heck, is the very process of becoming human.

My naïve hope is that we can learn to embrace our all too human failures, show patience with our children, stop seeking blame and end scapegoating, yet also acknowledge our individual and collective need for comfortable realities … protecting us … from what?

Here a quote from a former friend and teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan … taken from a lecture on Reality:

‘For the whole collective of the human mind – outside that self-created reality there is a storm. That storm – that wind – that pressure – that influence and space is for our existence and permanency completely annihilating and destructive … our assignment outward is because of a deep decay … Reality is a veil that is spun with the finest and thinnest and strongest silk. It weighs nothing – it covers a little darker area behind – and yet the moment when you reach out with your hand to draw the veil away it will skin your hand till blood is drawn.’ 

To fill this emptiness we assign our meaning outward. Call it the human project. Sorry to trouble you, my friends, but the function of reality is worth contemplating, and, in my view, Ursula Le Guin’s story does just that.

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… mother tongue & other tongue …

Starnbergersee

Starnbergersee

 

 

Two languages, two rhythms, two patterns, two spheres, two perceptions … last week I attended a re-union of my primary school class in Bavaria. Around 20 of us turned up.  The event included a ship ride on the lake that marks the geography of my childhood – Starnbergersee – whose shores are garlanded with castles and grand villas. Once I’ve won the lottery I’ll snap up one of these dream places and invite all my readers to a prolonged party with performances of magic theatre. Yeah!

 

Das Vogelhäuserl

Das Vogelhäuserl

 

The tour added a refreshing breeze to the sweltering heat. Later in the day a smaller group gathered at a lakeside restaurant, the same spot where, as a child, I turned up in summer holidays, at sunrise, to assist the local fishermen bringing in their full nets, in return for the free use of a small sailing boat during afternoons.

A re-union

A re-union

The encounter with classmates I hadn’t seen for over half a century unfolded like a surreal dream as we cooled down with beer and wine and gossiped time away into the evening. I’m still trying to fit names to faces and places, and make sense of stories that cast stray beams on my memories of the village I grew up in, a village close to the Alps, set in landscapes whose ambiance morphed into the beginning of my first novel.

 

Schloss Berg

Schloss Berg

 

Among my class mates were a few women I quickly chimed with, not surprisingly, we were close friends during those early years, though we lost touch when we moved on to different schools. It’s deep and wondrous – the mystery of this precious resonance called friendship.

 

This is me, aged 6, on my first school day. I was a single child.

Erster Schultag

Erster Schultag

And I well remember the excitement. The Zuckertüte, the upside down magician’s hat filled with bonbons, chocolates and presents to sweeten the transition into the big world seems to grace my head in the photo my dad took. I can’t find the image right now, but I did receive a proper Zuckertüte on the day, filled to the rim.

My favourite teacher (in the group photo with the village poem post, link below) turned up at the re-union, slow on his legs but sharp witted. His eyes lit up when he recognised me, which gave me a warm feeling all over.

Living in England since several decades, I visit Germany periodically to see my grumpy late-artist-dad, and dear German friends, made during my later Sturm und Drang phase. What struck me about the school re-union was how the primary sensation of my childhood was brought to life through words tossed into the conversations, keywords from my mother-tongue, embedded in local dialect. My mother, who came from Berlin, never picked up the Bavarian dialect, neither did I, however, the term mother tongue incorporates for me my early environment, the village. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/village-poem/

For the greater part of my life I thought by and spoke in the other tongue, which I first learned at school. Aged 18, unsure of my path, I spent a cultural year with a family friend in London. She cherished me. Our relationship was a healing experience for both of us, given her loss of friends and family members in the Holocaust, and my inherited burden of the atrocities having taken place in my country. Later, studying in Munich, English was the language connecting a multicultural student population. When 9 years on I married a Dutch man and we moved to England together, my German vocabulary gathered dust during further studies. The distance from my mother tongue freed up a wider perception. It also helped me overcome an encoded traumatic experience. At secondary school I had written an essay, freely based on a painting of my choice by Spitzweg – writing was then a blissful creative process. The teacher read the essay aloud, praising its brilliance, after which she informed the whole class that I could not have composed this myself – a screaming insult! And yet, I thank the stupid woman, it changed the course of my studies. I initially used photography to express myself, resuming poetry and imaginative writing later, finding that English allowed me the necessary wings.

Who knows what the dusted off layer of my mother tongue will bring round. Writing in the other language helped me to transcend the mere facts of my life to essential themes, universal metaphors. The divided kingdom of parents, the psychology of the single child, her assumed bridging function between patterns of seeing, like the rational and imaginative perception, the distorted mirrors of relationships, betrayals, the search for the real, and the meeting of soul families. Essential themes lifted like green islands from dark waters during my protagonist’s river journey west.

Course of Mirrors is a gripping adventure story, as well as a psycho mythical opus. In its sequel the teller of the story is revealed as the visionary myth-maker overtaken by her myth – in the way that we can re-arrange the past and postulate possible futures, explore different time-zones, and expand expectations.

I must leave it to my readers to judge the results of my experiment. The first book, Course of Mirrors, will be published next year, by a small but devoted publisher.

 

Are you a writer/artist who processes experience through two or more languages?

 

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… 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.

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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.

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