Tag Archives: perception

… first long review – this is not your mom’s fairy tale …

Once a novel is released into the public domain it belongs to readers who, when snatching the story from a stream running by, engage with it from their own perspective.

I’m a slow reader of novels. I like discovering myself in other worlds. When I’m not intrigued by chapter three, I drop the book. The language may excite me or put me into a pleasant trance. I may admire or envy the writer’s way with words, or think, huh, I’d have expressed this differently. Sometimes I find fresh metaphors that resonate or come upon a sentence that makes me catch my breath and pause for a while, at other times I rush through a story for the sheer adventure.

Reviews, feedback, short or long, are gold nuggets for a writer. What took years to compose is finally shared. Close-reading of a 400 page novel that sits grinning apologetically behind stacks of neat categories is no small feat. Joe Linker, a blogger friend from Oregon, had fun.  On amazon.com he heads his review  ‘Girl Disguised.’

Brilliant. Had this been the title, algorithms might have set it next to recent bestsellers, since ‘girls’ are the new trend. Joe posted the review originally on his blog  ‘The Coming of the Toads.’ … Go there and also check out the comic page, showing his ingenious electric doodles.

I was thrilled reading Joe’s thoughtful review. Here a few snippets:

… She’s interested in neither shame, nor honour … The holy grail of ‘Course of Mirrors: An Odyssey’ is a story of its own … This is not your mom’s fairy tale. … We are on a rogue adventure in a picaresque tale where disguise and subterfuge are necessary and ordinary … The writing style moves with the scenes … There is economy in the writing that is expedient, efficient … How serious is all this? … First, it’s great fun … Myth is not false news. It’s a way of telling a story.

An animated film quality is touched upon, likely influenced by my love for film, and, possibly, aided by the creative distance from my mother tongue that writing in English allows, giving me the liberty to step into multiple characters that resemble aspects of my suspended and ever-changing self, variously dormant or expressed in my life.

Last year I posted a review here on Joe’s novel, Penina’s Letters, about love, friendships and passion for the ocean, which made me grasp the exhilaration of catching a wave.

If you’re a member of Goodreads, please  consider entering the give-away for 3 free copies of ‘Course of Mirrors,’ running from today, Sunday 11th June until Monday 19th June.

Apart from a chance to win a signed copy, your entering of the contest will increase the visibility of the novel, and, hopefully bring a rainbow of reviews. All different.

What fun.

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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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… the shock of disorientation – the unknown …

Change is the only reliable constant. I sometimes wished I could pledge my life to a convincing reality. For me, what is derived from facts or beliefs in our culture often lacks a vital ingredient – the acceptance of the continuous process of harmony unfolding from cycles of necessary chaos – so I watch the river flowing and imagine stories and create worlds.

four weeks old

Though my childhood had its trials, I was lucky to be held during my early years, both physically and metaphorically, which gifted me with a sense of basic trust, a right to exist, a right to question, and a playful irreverence. Maybe this is why my little wisdoms play with facts and beliefs, dust the inner mirror, value what is emerging, the ever higher level of coordinates of truth and beauty, like a trajectory of the love I received.

For someone not held at birth, change can be dreaded, or seen as a means of escape from an unsafe environment. What we all have in common, is a longing for sufficient containment, and periods of relaxation.

Some years ago, I walked up the stairs of the Social Services centre where I worked. The building had two sections of offices that mirrored each other in design, with exactly the same stairway on each side. A lift in the middle accesses both sections. Being lazy, I usually took the lift up to the third floor, though I liked to take the stairs down on the far side. On this particular day I wanted exercise, and time to ponder a logistic problem. Steeped in thought, I headed for the staircase in sight. Arriving at my floor, I entered the office with its familiar layout and was hit by a sense of total disorientation. Wrong, all wrong, on my desk sat a row of bright, fluffy soft toys, not the company I had round my computer. In a split-second I noticed other irregularities, the quality of light – a smell of heady perfume. The entire atmosphere in this office was alien, the wrong music – alien to my expectations.

 

M. C. Escher

First thought – I must have time-jumped, returned from the past – my mother often marvelled at my vivid imagination. More laser-fast thoughts – perceptions are tenuous and dreamlike reality is self-made and its boundaries are fragile. Calling in episodes of lucid dreaming, my fear switched to wonder, until I grasped the situation. With my thoughts dwelling in abstract orbs, I had walked up the wrong set of stair, expecting to see my desk, which was however in the other, mirror-part of the building.

Being sandwiched between two realities, the expected and the unexpected, the cognitive familiar and the unknown, tends to cancel time for an instant, long enough to escape the compulsion of identifying with objects or thoughts. Shocked awake, the mind is free and spacious, a delightful state.

 

Disorientation, if tolerated, can bring a sudden glimpse of unidentified consciousness in action.

Not discounting trance and meditation, or the vast variety of personal experience – mind and body work in synergy if we loosen up our ideas and learn to relax. In synergy the combined intuitive intelligence of body/brain and the collective mind brings us into resonance with a reality beyond our comprehension – the reflection of a universal order. Not a miracle.

As a child I once dived into a swimming pool. The brilliant sky was of the same blue as the tiles that lined the floor and walls of the pool, which would have been fine had I not opened my eyes under water – the blue world overwhelmed. I lost all sense of direction and panicked. With no way out, I instinctively shut my eyes, which calmed my racing heart and allowed my muscles to relax. My body naturally floated upwards.

I later learned, during experiential Sufi practices, that apt intentional exposure to situations depriving us of habitual coordinates, can prepare us to face change, the unknown, with less stress and more equanimity.

Have you had moments of disorientation – even if it was putting a cup to your lips expecting coffee and tasting tea?

*    *    *

The theme of ‘disorientation’ came up after recent posts by a blogger friend, Joe Linker (see blog roll), on Buckminster Fuller – his thoughts on synergy are powerfully relevant today – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

… We are now synergetically forced to conclude that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long suspected — like it or not — ‘life is but a dream’ …

Buckminster Fuller

So we might as well dance … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXpaI5IMQsg&feature=related

 

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… layers of perception …

Lately, fully into the process of writing again – the sequel to my first novel – I sometimes wake up with phrases. Yesterday it was: Outsight is the dream, insight is reality. Aha, not just a nice wordplay, I thought, but a fitting indication for what happens in the creative, intuitive process. Insight is new comprehension, often through a shift of focus revealing deeper layers, new connections in the matrix that awaken and surprise, fresh meaning, and adjust the outsight, the old noise caught in a time warp. It’s like having new sight through what the Celts called Thin Places, actual or virtual, where our senses are transcended and spheres intermingle.

If you are a creative person, you may listen to the system talking to itself, as it does day and night, even during dreams. Some of us like to branch into the unknown for dimensions beneath surface impressions, probe into the vast reservoir of the personal and collective psyche,  normally filtered out from our conscious awareness when we must attend to the practical matters of daily living.

Often a creative process is sparked by sensing in-betweens. This applies to all arts, including writing. Different layers of experience and association diverge and merge anew when we de-focus. In a visual sense, for example, try looking at a tree in twilight, squeeze your eyes and concentrate on the in-between spaces. There is a moment when the shapes reverse and the background becomes the foreground. And who hasn’t looked at clouds or landscapes in a particular light and seen magical beings?

In this optical illusion you only need to tilt your head. 

And there is the meandering mind, receptive to intuition. Like yesterday I popped to the corner shop to get a paper. An unintended detour got me talking to Annie, who does house clearances. Amongst her cornucopia of stuff a spot of bright magenta caught my eye. I instantly thought of my friend, Rahima, presently in hospital. She is a painter. She loves colours. The vibrant patch of silk, I thought, will make her smile. 

Artists tend to tune out of fashion, out of mass projections, to let the muse take them along random paths into deeper strata of perception and cognition – of shapes, colours, sounds and movements – to re-arrange personal experience, bringing them into a new, universal context.

A good example of this process is shown in a documentary of the painter Howard Hodgkin by Alan Yentob, from the IMAGINE series.

Howard Hodgkin has a current exhibition at the Alan Christea Gallery, London.  http://www.alancristea.com/  in celebration of his 80th birthday,

A Robert Frost poem – Acquainted with the night – was chosen as the title for the exhibition.

De-focussing is magical – it brings new layers of perception …

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.’ – Howard Thurman

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… 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.

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