Tag Archives: writing

Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – talking in the dark

In my last post I touched upon the half-imagined essence shining through a work in progress – via incubation, the search for one’s language (in whatever form,) through the heart. This kind of search is bound to involve deep personal experiences, be it related to an outer or inner place, as the myth of one’s existential journey, which, when authentically communicated and shared tends to assume universal significance.

Kent Haruf –  (Feb 1943 – Nov 2014,) a humble, kind and unbiased writer, developed a powerful language. He shaped words until the essence of his characters stood clear – endearingly visible through sparse dialogues, exposing silent inner dramas all the more. The way I see it, his characters are letting sorrow be – a pragmatic yin approach that helps one to move along with the relentless forwarding force of life.

It is high art that sketches a story with modest words that slip right into the reader’s heart.

‘Our Souls at Night,’ is Kent Haruf’s last novel, published after his death. The story opens with possibilities: “And then there was the day Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”  The courageous elderly Addie propositions Louis, a neighbour, widowed like herself, to share her bed during lonely nights. She scarcely knows the man, but acts intuitively on her need for companionship.

Talking in the dark, their hands occasionally touching, Louise and Addie come to value their fragile pact. Even Addie’s abandoned visiting grandson is wooed by the loving regard between his grandmother and her new friend, and their tolerance and tender concern for him, which is, the way I read it, the initiation of a small boy into the wisdom of respect. While the petty gossip of townsfolk adds to the fun of their social transgression and strengthen the closeness they’re forging, the jealous objections of Louis’s daughter and Addie’s son are truly hurtful, and in the end decisive.

Making less use of the environmental atmosphere that sparkles in earlier books;  this last story keenly sharpens on the inner sanctuary of lonely people.

The backdrop to these novels about ordinary fates is the sleepy fictional town ‘Holt’ on the high plains of Colorado, which embodies the writer’s reclusive childhood.

In an essay published in the Granta magazine, Haruf movingly shares about his difficult early life, and how it advantaged him later on – follow this link, it’s worthwhile …  – The Making of a Writer.

… ‘Years of unhappiness and isolation and living inwardly to myself have helped me to be more aware of others and to pay closer attention to what others around me are feeling. Which are good things if you are trying to learn how to write fiction about characters you care about and love’ …

And he has a message for fellow writers …

… ‘You have to believe in yourself despite the evidence. I felt as though I had a little flame of talent, not a big talent, but a little pilot-light-sized flame of talent, and I had to tend to it regularly, religiously, with care and discipline, like a kind of monk or acolyte, and not to ever let the little flame go out.’ …

Le Guin wrote that Haruf’s “courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love – the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection – are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction”.

Kent Haruf’s novels will certainly enrich your reading list during the coming festive day.

And, my wishful thinking, have a sneak at my mythical quest: Course of Mirrors, to be followed by its  immersive sequel, Shapers. Funds allowing, please consider supporting my efforts at Patreon

Related … don’t miss this short video about the most compelling story of a woman who found a language for her myth – think of incubation, cocoon, deep, deep desire to protect …

The blue-highlighted links in this post will open new pages – so you won’t lose this page. Thank you for reading.

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… 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.

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… hope – the oracular mystery …

August Rodin – Le Secret

These tumultuous times it takes a leap of imagination and ingenuity to trust in hope, which has frequently been my resort during past difficulties. Hope is assumed to have remained in the jar after Pandora released its darkness. The conflicting interpretations of hope around this myth are fascinating. Try relating darkness and hope to the psycho-dynamic phenomenon of projection. In what we call life, both darkness and hope circle around nothingness. We suffer the periods of dense darkness in hope of the ever-recurring creative  energy of spring – the spirit I dance to in my lucid dreaming.

While natural, our expectations are necessarily blind and hampered by frustrating circumstances. In the wake of two stressful years, the hope that my nearly 100 year old dad would leave me the small fund he legally owed me was buried with him. Still, my yearning for a little more creative freedom is well alive.

There was a comical element to these last summer/autumn months, when I was challenged by one thing after another that needed repairing around my home. I tend to be inventive at fixing things myself, but this time I had to rely on experts. Thankfully I found competent, honest and warmhearted people and the problems were solved at reasonable costs. In fact, every problem solved … cementing dangerous steps, replacing old iron guttering, massive clearing of garden overgrowth, sorting a blocked man-hole … felt like a heroic victory. You should have seen me stirring the shit in the manhole with a long iron rod. I kept on for hours since it has worked once before, many years ago. I spare you the hilarious details. In the end I called in the experts. Craftspeople who know their job have my admiration. Societies couldn’t function without them.

To me, obstructions have a symbolic significance in relation to my physical and psychic state, that is when I look at the environment I depend on as extension of my body/mind.

And, of course, the presently depressing and equally hilarious world of politics that leaves many of us speechless seep seamlessly into personal anxieties. At one point, I spontaneously popped into a surgery (unfrequented for decades) to have a heart and blood test, and I even got myself a blood pressure gadget. All is well, a relief, despite my stubborn habits of smoking roll-ups and enjoying red wine (in moderation, to keep me grounded.)

The Seed – Silvia Pastore

Hope is my coin once more.  Course of Mirrors, I’ve been told, would make a great film or TV series. Useful contacts to this effect are welcome. A few more reviews, posted where the book is listed on Amazon, Troubadour, Goodreads or Waterstones could spark sales and bring funds for marketing. Since I’m totally incapable of selling my lace, I appreciate any encouragement and support.

The soul guides that dream my myth were given full reign in my first novel – #courseofmirrors  https://twitter.com/mushkilgusha

My desire to publish the sequel, ‘Shapers,’ next year, made me explore financial support through: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241 I’m thrilled to have attracted a few Patrons. What consoles are flashes of beauty that stimulate the writing of Haiku, like this week …

can it be a cheat

to gift a street musician

a red autumn leaf ?

While parking in town, a beautiful plane leaf dropped on my car roof, in rhyme with the voice of the regular street musician. The leaf ended in his guitar case. I received a huge smile.

HOPE …  by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.         

Further: – Exploring once more the myth of Pandora, I found a chiming C G Jung reference here – one third down the page of: https://symbolreader.net/2015/01/11/the-guilt-of-prometheus-and-pandoras-gifts/  Wonderful site, worth exploring.

Re: The paintings of Silvia Pastore – I love them. Some years ago purchased usage of ‘The Magician’ (left) as cover for Course of Mirrors.

When my then publisher didn’t share my choice, I dropped the idea and ended up using one of my photographs, taken at the Atlantic in Morocco . I may however use The Magician for a future poetry collection.

 

 

 

 

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… the mysterious object – a fable …

Once upon a time, not far from now, a small planet was veiled in semi-darkness. Humans of a kind lived under a vast cupola strewn with tiny sparkling lights. Space had no dimension, and time was measured by sleep and dream-cycles. The stature of a man, woman or child was crouched and bent, like the shrubs covering the land. Diets were meagre, consisting of crushed insects, seedlings and roots. And for warmth everyone huddled close together in caves.

Great pleasure was derived from ironwood, the rarest of plants, with leaves that warmed the body when chewed. Those gifted in finding the plant called themselves light-seekers, for reasons shortly explained.

One such seeker, a young woman called Lila, was a renowned ironwood huntress. She would disappear from her settlement for many sleep-cycles, driven by the promise of yet another encounter with the red glow of the plant, her reward alone, since the glow vanished once the leaves were reaped. Attempts to dig up this rare plant with its root and cultivate crops near settlements had been in vain. Ironwood did not settle anywhere but wandered unpredictably from place to place.

Great honour was attached to bringing home a harvest of leaves. They were consumed in the ‘great chewing,’ which animated the hearts of participants, and made them burst into song and dance.

Our story begins when Lila had been hunting for three sleep-cycles, without success. Despondent over her bad luck, she was overcome with awe at the sudden appearance of brilliantly glowing object, no bigger than the head of a new-born. As if teasing her, the object drifted almost within her reach. The glow of ironwood paled in comparison to this astounding light. Colours sprang up all-round. Insects were drawn to its radiance, their tiny bodies shimmering. Lila gazed at her hands being doused in gold. Yearning to touch the mystery, she crouched cautiously forward, but the light escaped, and each time Lila advanced, it receded a little more. Often times Lila lurched forward – only to clutch air. She spent her entire strength chasing the small orb which promised an expanded world. Stumbling on, she was oblivious to all but the brightness ahead. Whichever way she turned, the glow was before her, just out of reach.

When Lila was discovered by the people of her settlement her condition aroused much interest. She was speaking in delirium about what she had witnessed. Words so spoken were believed to come from divinities, embodied by water, plants and insects, powerful spirits known to visit people in their dreams. So it happened that the light-seeker’s revelation spread instantly throughout the tribes, and great portent of meaning was attached to the glowing object. Everyone was convinced it really existed. And sure enough, soon people begun to see the orb bouncing above shrubs, and in turn felt compelled to touch it. They fared no better than Lila, yet their desire remained, undiminished.

Clever minds devised coordinated methods. People teamed up. One reached out towards the light while another stood opposite, ready for the catch. The trick failed, of course, since the light simply passed out of reach sideways. The next idea was to create circles at a respectful distance and cautiously close in on the trophy. These events were set up with great attention to detail. Specialists offered refinements to the ritual. However, as you might guess, the instant all hands reached out, the orb floated lazily upwards, a small span beyond the longest arm. Societies developed strict rules of engagement and complex theories about the orb. To differentiate their activities from the commonplace light-seeker, they called themselves truth-seekers.

Drifting ever higher, the mysterious object grew in size, and the desire of truth-seekers to touch its light intensified, and with it the limbs of these small peoples stretched, their spines straightened, and their imagination took flight. Plants, too, reached upwards. Shrubs became trees and the fearless among the community climbed the trees as soon as the glowing object popped over the horizon, because by then, the cycle of its appearance could be counted upon.

sample of my occasional art, 1998

Once the orb passed higher than the highest tree, the innovators among the communities promised future rewards to lesser endowed folk and employed them to cut down the trees and build tower-like wooden structures.

Before the approximate time of the light’s arrival, the owners climbed the towers to await their chance. But no matter how daringly the height of towers progressed, the wonderful orb of light slipped out of reach. Higher and higher it moved, growing in size, and, increasingly, warming the planet. New animal species appeared, and new plants, some of which were farmed. The towers found more mundane uses. Other curiosities were invented, all with the aim to get closer to the mystery. The glowing object became the guiding principle of every enterprise on the small planet, and was invested with divine power, replacing all previous divinities.

While the now blinding light was adored and venerated, darkness was shunned. Days brought riches, nights reminded people of their dim past and aroused fear. Whatever could not be distinguished in clear light became suspect. All respectable activities were focused on understanding the light and finding ways to somehow partake of its power. So it was that people who still ventured into darkness were mistrusted.

One such night, had you been there, you would have been startled by cries of joy resounding from a hill. Wanderers beheld a pale shimmering globe. Memories were stirred, of a time when it was still possible to gaze into the heart of the beloved light without being blinded. Gripped by profound longing, a growing band of old seekers regularly ventured into the darkness. They puzzled over why the twin globe changed shape and periodically disappeared, only to re-emerge, waxing from a curved shard to full roundness.

Before long, they venerated the glowing disc as the divine mother of the unknown, whose coming and going altered the rhythm to time. The new divinity was angrily decried as sacrilege by those who saw it as a betrayal of the bright and bountiful deity of day.

The two kinds of believers did not see eye to eye. Secretive clans claimed having been touched by the pale mystery, though were unable to elaborate on what possible benefit the gentle light might hold. Incredulous stories spread, laughed at by the now established beneficiaries of ingenuity and industry. Seekers of the night who sincerely tried to share their experiences were ostracised.

Let us relate an incident, told by a witness. One clear night, so it goes, a group of seekers arrived on a level rock above a deep pool of water to watch the round ghostly orb fill the night sky. To their surprise its perfect replica appeared in the still water of the rock pool, beautiful, beyond words. Those present gasped. One young woman, who resembled her ancestor Lila, the legendary ironwood huntress, exclaimed, ecstatic, ‘This is it!” and dived headlong from the rock’s ledge into the heart of the glowing reflection. The orb scattered into a mesh of glittering stars, forming circles upon circles across the pool. Friends stared open-mouthed as the silvery light slowly retracted to gather itself back into round brilliance. Night’s divinity had re-assembled and rested quivering on the water’s surface. There was no sign of the young woman.

To break the unbearable tension, all assembled started talking, expressing what they thought they had witnessed, not hearing the soft footfalls.  Quietly, from surrounding shadows, the young woman stepped into their circle. Her skin gleamed, illumined, as if she had absorbed the mysterious light. Questions drowned her, everyone was eager to know her secret, but she had lost her voice. Instead, a silent gesture planted itself into the memory of each man, woman and child standing there on the rock. The seeker pressed her right hand to her heart.

She had many silent followers, as had many like her from there-on after.

~ end ~

My conscious mind is unconsciously magical, while my unconscious mind is irrationally pragmatic. – Ashen

I’m curious as to what my  readers make of this fable, which I wrote over three decades ago. In the wake of a few some strenuous years, I’m beginning to unearth the treasures sitting in my files. Bear with me.

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… Alhambra – The Red One …

Me … less than a month ago at the Alhambra. I wonder how many people over the centuries sat on this ledge to gaze out over the Albayzin. Adding to my last post, ‘sunny places,’ these are images taken by my son on his IPhone … 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the inspiring studio of a local artist.

Entry to our friend’s house.                                

‘Moto,’ our friend’s venerable old cat likes to be comfortable …                                                                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk of fitness … my son ran every morning 5am miles into the hills above Gualchos to catch the sunrise..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… sunny places …

light and shadow make

daily joys – like twin beings

they sculpt soul dwellings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed a week-long break, based in Gualchos, uphill from Castell de Ferro, Costa Tropical, visiting a friend I had not seen for some time. My son accompanied me, a rare treat, since his time is generally tightly booked with work.

The mountain villages in this part of Spain have a simple charm that appeals to me.  They attract strays, artists & creative souls, as well as gentle dogs & cats. During the summer months, swarms of starlings arrive, seeking trees and church towers. Their acrobatics are inspirational.

We swam & travelled through Alpujarra hills  to Lecrin, Lanjeron & Orgiva, and along the way visited a friend, whose life as a horsewoman and a jewelry-maker is an inspiration. I hope she’ll publish her amazing story one day. The place Rachel created is a paradise for all creatures – see the dog’s stylish abode below …

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, of course, Granada … my second visit to the amazing Alhambra Palace and its beautiful gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night of Saturday 23th of June, as is tradition in Spain, fires are lit all along the beaches in celebration of Saint John the Babtist. We enjoyed them at Castell de Ferro’s beach, crowned by a waxing moon. One of my obsession is finding small washed up stones of all colours and shapes, including heart shapes.

 

We even watched last Monday’s 2:2 Spain against Morocco’s world cup football game on a TV screen in the local Plaza of Gualchos, where villagers gathered for drinks and cheers.

There were additional friends I would’ve loved to visit … thank you ‘Albi’ in Baza, thank you ‘Malcolm’ in Nerja. I plan to make space to meet you next time. A big Celtic Hug to Binah for accommodating us in her lovely home.

I sooo needed this holiday. For now I’ll let the rich patchwork of impressions settle. Flying is always a pleasure for me, being enamoured with clouds. But how land and sea are re-framed from the sky adds a surreal perspective on life. Now I must make good on a long-held  promise – properly learn Spanish.                                  

Oh, and in case you missed it – I started a Patreon site.

Click on the link to check it out. I might post a photo there later today – of me in the sun 🙂

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… 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.

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… everything matters – nothing matters …

Having succumbed to waves of nostalgia, I’m unsure what will emerge next, which is fine for now. My father’s death at 99, while sad, is also a relief. During the last two years I’ve been on tender hooks, waiting for the telephone call, and the prospect of sorting and processing a left-behind-part of my life. As anticipated, the reality of it was exhausting. There’s no financial reward, since what’s left of my father’s estate will just about cover the bills. His furniture was too damaged to be accepted at auctions, and anything else of value he had given away to people whose support he appreciated. He resented me for not living up to his ideas, and I resented him for his total lack of support. He had fun, spending a fortune on years of luxury cruises around the world with his second partner. While often justified, resentment is entirely useless. I tried my best, so I’ll drop my misgivings and wish my dad’s soul a good journey onwards. It frees up my life.

It’s ironic, because my Dad had artistic leanings resembled my own. We only occasionally clicked, for a short while, especially when he needed me, after which he retreated into his controlling paranoid mode. He may have been jealous of the self determining freedom available to my generation. I should add that his psyche was injured by the last horrific war.

Friends in Munich and other places were my rescuers. I deeply appreciate their existence. Around the world, we shared the magical April moon.

It’s an apt moment to remember a wondrous Sufi saying – ‘Everything matters, nothing matters,’ which, for me, means I have a choice as to what things matter to me.

Once the horizon clears, I’ll pick up my editing and writing, and attend to you, my WordPress friends, and my Patreon friends: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241

In case you missed my daring venture, I took the courage to ask for support from people who value the sharing of my quirky reflections. A little support goes a long way. I’m still exploring how the Patreon platform works. Beyond regular postings, I’ll share more private stories and images there, and offer rewards that only Patreons can access. It’s given me a boost to have found two friends and supporters there – big cheers and a Celtic hug to them.

For now, here are some Haiku style thoughts on time and perception, to be continued …

… a glimpse of turnings …

earth has countless realms

each held in their private time

the one-day wonders

such as mayflies and drone ants

surreal creatures in dark seas

faint glowing planktons

trillions of unknown microbes

nature dances our cells

in the whirling waltz of spring

we glimpse time turning

during rare blissful moments

the whole of our life

may rise up as one in death

curving through our myths

the worlds without and within

where we deeply imagine

and create the yet unknown …

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… into the unknown …

The photo below is of my talented and complicated dad as an eight-year-old boy in carnival outfit during 1926. He did

Dad – in 1926

not quite make it to 100 … He died last Friday, 99 years old. I’m glad he went peacefully and without pain.

His parting released me of the anxious waiting for the day when I must sort his things, though I had a taste of this ordeal two years ago when I organised his care.

Even though I was an only child, my dad never supported me financially, not even my education, or the education of his grandson. There’s an endless list of what I could not do right for him.

And I still I loved him, and wished for his approval. What he leaves behind will not ease my situation, but most likely incur expenses I can ill afford. Age is often extended these days, and children tend to experience more and more that a parent’s last resources are eaten up by their care needs.

Even when communication within relationships is loving and open, the other will always remain partly veiled, and a mystery. My dad survived hardships after the First World War, the Spanish Flue, and the Second World War, which traumatised him. He could not quite adjust to the intellectual freedom of my generation. I admired his thirst for knowledge, his fine-mechanic and inventive skills, his achievements as a photographer and painter, and his up-and-go cruising around the world with his second partner after my mum died 30 over years ago.

Earthrise, Dec 1968

Most importantly, my father and my mother  gave me the invaluable adventure of life – an embodied consciousness in this amazing time, when the outer and inner universe so rapidly expanded. For this gift I’m deeply grateful.

Still, I wish I had not allowed my dad to diminish my self-value quite to the extend I did, which came home to me once more in this dream.

Strangely, the week before last I started my very own Patreon site, hoping to spark a little support for my creative output.

I held back with the launch – feeling scared. I’m an introvert after all. But here it is, for my readers to explore.

Go and click on the link, have a look what I made of this platform so far, and bring up the question …

For now, I’ll hang on to my constructive mantra, something I heartily wish for all my readers:

A little more freedom, a little more happiness, and a little more beauty.

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… visability – Italo Calvino – imagination – writing …

A tile made for me by E. Cordier for photos in his studio.

In a previous post I mentioned my erratic filing, which, when working on a writing project, results in phases of strolling through my inner jungle in search of a spot marked for attention, often years back, or wandering through a library in a kind of trance, ignoring categories, with only a vague sense of purpose. On route, I explore seemingly unrelated and often incongruous themes, before a match creates coherence in a new context.

While searching for an invisible gestalt, I tend to reread authors that inspired me. Last week it was Six Memos for the next Millennium, by Italo Calvino (translated by Patrick Creagh.) Like him, I’m all for the shared magical. His Memos are lectures he prepared during 1984 for presentation at Harvard University. It was the year when computers moved into our lives. Maybe he was concerned about Orwell’s dystopian Newspeak being just around the corner. In any case, it made Calvino reflect on a set of literary values. His sudden death meant he never presented these lectures, and only five Memos made it later into print:  Lightness – Quickness – Exactitude – Visibility and Multiplicity … keywords, expanding on ways we perceive.

Though it’s a small volume, the material is too rich and diverse for my humble post. Still, I want to share a few quotes and reflections from re-reading the chapter on visibility. Calvino wrote …

… For successful imagery, writers must do two things: convert the visuals of the mind into words, and at the same time make sure that the words are so well-crafted that when read, the reader can instantly visualise every setting, every character, every chosen detail as if they were looking at it directly, and not at a page. It’s a deliberate process, this transmogrifying from image to text and back to image ….

He describes the progression … something that is painstaking but not necessarily painful, from the moment you grasp the significance of a single image and then associate it with other images, forming a field of analogies, symmetries and confrontations, and then organising this material, which is no longer purely visual but also conceptual, to try and give order and sense to the development of a story. Here the writing, the textual product, becomes increasingly important. From the moment you start putting black onto white what really matters is the written word, first as a search for an equivalent of the visual image, then as a coherent expansion of the initial stylistic direction, so that eventually it is the image that is being pulled along by the text, and not the other way around …

My poems, and certainly my first novel, started with a spark, a solitary image, like a cypher compelling me to uncover its meaning. An unfolding message can be drowned or crowned. Writing (like any creation energised by passion and craft) occasionally achieves such a finely tuned nuance that an invisible quality resonates deeply through the visible.

During my recent reading of Calvino’s chapter on visibility I recalled my entry into black and white photographic processing, which, before digital technology, happened in the darkroom  … to start with, in complete darkness, with the celluloid film being developed in a chemical bath, regularly shaken, like the preparation of a homeopathic tincture, then rinsed and fixed in another bath, rinsed again and dried. Creating prints is the next stage, for which red light is allowed. The negative is placed into the enlarger, from where it is projected through a lens with a sharp beam of measured light onto a light-sensitised sheet beneath. Correct duration of the beam results in a positive print that, at best, develops very slowly in a tray of chemical developer.

Watching the print of a well exposed negative emerge under the red light has always given me enormous pleasure. Like a dream emerging from the unconscious and becoming visible.

The image first appears as a sketch, until grey and dark tones assume saturation, ideally without losing highlights. Once perfection is achieved, the print is shortly rinsed and transported into the fixation bath for a while. Only then is it safe to introduce daylight, for further rinsing and drying of the print on a hot press.

No doubt the experience of a slowly developing image in the darkroom influenced my writing. A sketch to start with, suggesting a mood, a lightness of touch, and, with some stroke of luck, an emerging symbolic element, which black & white photography is particularly well suited for. In short, a feast for the imagination, inviting associations for … poems, stories, and even cosmologies.

Are you a visual writer – in Calvino’s sense? Do you bring vision into focus with your eyes shut? Do you use images to think, and words to imagine what never existed?

Back in 2012 I posted a very short review of Italo Calvino’s Six Memos on Goodreads

related post – imagination …

 

 

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