Tag Archives: young people

… grandparents …

I must have been 4 or 5 years old when my mother took me to Berlin to see my maternal grandmother for the first, and, as it turned out, the last time. Due to the Soviet Berlin blockade after the war, the severe lack of resources, and the disrupted transport system, many families were kept apart for years.

We stared up a bleak wall, until Hildegard appeared. She flung her arms towards us, wanting wings, leaning precariously from the window of the hospital ward where she was kept isolated with TB.

Or so we Berlin 1955sthought. A nurse confided her doubt to my mother, and how she had urged for a second opinion, a hint my grandfather ignored. My mother insisted on a fresh blood test, but was ridiculed by the doctor in charge.

To console me, a kind neighbour rescued an old bicycle and taught me how to ride it among the rubble of ruins in the streets. He also allowed me to watch him construct a ship with sails inside a bottle, which made me think of gran being confined, not sailing anywhere. The atmosphere between my mother and her father grew tense. She insisted he should query the doctor’s diagnosis.

The crescendo happened in the kitchen, when she lifted a tray of 2 dozen eggs from the top of the fridge. He said, ‘You won’t.’ She said, ‘I will.’ He demanded, ‘You will not.’ She shouted, ‘I will.’ He shouted, ‘What can a nurse know?’

That’s what did it. Two dozen yellows and whites marbled the red-tiled floor and my mother walked out. I was thrilled. The drama mobilised my grandfather to challenge the hospital.

Sadly, my gran died within days, much too young, and not of TB. The blood test had been mixed up. What killed her were toxic medications based on a wrong diagnosis.

The message went deep. I was going to be a warrior. I learned to appreciate my intuitions and developed a useful allergy against intimidating authority.

Memories of my paternal grandparents are more serene. Oma and Opa, Erlangen145 Oma was a tall, striking woman. Despite having lived through two tragic wars she kept her back straight and held her head high into old age. When she caught me sitting crouched, she would gently push her fist into my back – ‘Free that, spine girl.’ At other times, she advised me to pull superfluous thoughts from my nose. The tricks work to this day … sometimes.

My parents had moved south towards the Alps after my birth, but we regularly visited my grandparent’s home in Erlangen. With fine weather, we would walk across the River Schwabach into the wooded hills to have a picnic. Oma would place several handkerchiefs on the moss under fir trees for us to sit on. Once we were settled, she spread out the much anticipated picnic treats from her basket, with plates, cutlery, napkins and all. My favourite treat was Gugelhupf  Marble Cake. Increasingly, my imagination was plagued by the secrets of her handbag. During one of our picnics I dared to ask why her bag was so bulky. Forthcoming, Oma explained how during the war, before I came along, when sirens frequently announced bombing alerts, they needed to drop everything and rush to the underground shelters.

text, German cookbook‘I developed a habit of having our survival gear ready at short notice,’ she said. To my delight, she displayed her survival gear on the forest floor:

Identity papers, notebook, pens, her favourite recipes, dried fruit, a pocketknife, matches, candles, string, clothes pegs, a scissor, plaster, ointment, cotton strips, tin opener, mirror, needles and yarn, buttons, a slim book of Rilke poems, a small bottle of Brandy … and spare knickers.

To this day I never leave the house without identity papers, notebook, pen, and a slim book of poetry. Skipping knickers 🙂 I carry a shrill-sounding whistle, visa cards, a pay-as-you-go mobile, a Barret in case it rains, and a small makeup bag. Times changed, or have they?

Opa, a dreamer like me, enticed me to create imaginary scenarios in the soft, black forest soil. We sculpted landscapes, with villages, a pond made of gran’s round mirror, churches, roads, rivers, bridges and hills, using pinecones, sticks and stones, and tiny people made of leftover food and chocolate wrappers.

I came to value the creative power of sculpting when it comes to out warding inner worlds. I encourage my therapy clients to shape sand in a tray and and to populate the landscape with world objects.

The recent post of an online friend, Katia, reminded me of my paternal grandmother, and the incident with the handbag I had in mind to share. Memory swerved and expanded. It occurred to me that whether we are grandparents, aunties, uncles or family friends with the benefit of a certain age, our influence on young ones has a timeless quality. Children may crown us with a halo of mystery. Given this kind of power, even small incidents, benevolent or troubling, can leave deep impressions and impact lives, nursing stories that travel onwards through generations.

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… The Inner Jihad …

I met some remarkable people in my life. During the late 70s, instigated by my then Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, I stayed with my then partner for two months in Washington DC, at the time when President Carter was inaugurated.  Our contact person was Dr Abdul Aziz Said, Professor for International Relations at the American University. We saw him almost every day at his office at the University or at his lectures, or we met him at his home, and in other places. His sincerity had a great impact on me. His words never left me. He made us think about spiritual economy (of that another time) and he introduced us to some wonderful people, many of them Sufis , in the area in and around Washington DC.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

Some were Muslims some were non-Muslims, some were Christians or Hindus, and others followed no religion but had faith in mankind. One day we were invited for a meal by a young couple, a practicing Muslim and his wife, a practicing Christian. Their loving relationship impressed me deeply. They lived what Sufis call the Greater Jihad, the inner struggle.

After the atrocity in Paris, having written realms of nonsense to try and clear my mind, I wondered what Professor Said had to say on the Islamic conflicts, I searched & re-found this yourtube video, where he addresses his students. It’s three years back but worth listening to twice. Here are some of his points:

  • Communicate respect and share values. Peace has been conceptualised by dominant cultures. Seek conflict transformation.
  • Insist on negotiating solutions, not impose them.
  • Engage – don’t exploit the rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
  • Westerners and Muslims could re-frame the conflict between Israelis and Arabs as an internal conflict within the Abrahamic family.
  • Peace is a fragile flower. Use public diplomacy to listen … and speak.
  • Build bridges through intercultural and interreligious dialogue, engage youth,
  • It’s not enough to condemn radical religions, we need positive alternative visions.
  • What does your religion bring to the table to deal with the issues of poverty, violence, and the environment?

He widens the perspective. East and the West must together become architects of a new story. The West could give the East the best it had to offer in exchange for the best the East has to offer. The idea is beautiful. I hope, with patience, it comes true.

Here are some of my present thoughts. I’m totally against bombings in Syria, as I was against the interference in Iraq. The problems of Islam are for the Arabs to sort amongst themselves, should have been from the start. In international conflicts the circular blame goes, ‘They hit us back first.’ Justified anger arises from having suffered abusive power, threats to livelihood, resources, security, chosen identity, religious or otherwise, or simply unbearable disillusionment, the loop has repeated itself throughout known history in the form of wars.

There is no denying the grit in the shells of democratic systems. Present irritations I observe in the UK are the dissemination of local community shops and enterprises, since anything small and beautiful can’t be economic, can it? Then the privatisation of essential resources, the absurd discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the lack of jobs due to a runaway technology, depriving innumerable young people of meaning. Add crime, insufficient support for mothers, depression and marginalisation … all in no small way due to excesses of a capitalism that feeds greed, consumerism and the exploitation of the earth. I’m not alone in feeling disheartened about such developments.

And yet, here’s the amazing thing, I can express my thoughts without being persecuted as an enemy of the state.  Cognitive dissonance and the battle for tolerance are uncomfortable, but rewarding. Maybe because of their faults, democracies have an evolutionary edge.  Here’s why?

Self-examination serves the growth of human qualities, or, if you like, the expansion of consciousness. I have an inner terrorist that battles with ambiguity, confusion, anger and vulnerability, at the same time I value being able to think independently. I feel privileged to live in a country where creativity and innovation are encouraged, individual voices can be heard, disagreements are allowed, and negotiations can be reached. Yes, hypocrisy and corruption are also rife, but with it the means to expose them.

Dresden, Feb 1945

Dresden, Feb 1945

Ideas can of course be subverted. Academics, innovators and scientists can’t control how their insights and inventions are applied, especially when social unrest becomes the manure for another utopian uprising, and more kneejerk reactions.

Are we brave enough to face the latent dangers of injustice, poverty and disillusionment that could call in another despot who sedates with propaganda and naive solutions that promise to solve all problems? For this reason, I think, a debate weighing the benefits of market-oriented enterprise against ways to curb the excesses of capitalism needs to happen, to search for a dynamic balance.

When it comes to the killing of civilians by militants in the name of Islam, ordinary Muslims do not condone these atrocities. Many may well be too dumbfounded and embarrassed to comment on the bizarre brainwashing of young the name of their faith, as in this video, which, however, given the puzzled expression on the children’s faces, I suspect has been commissioned to incite outrage in the west.  I dearly hope Muslims will find ways  to open a dialogue amongst themselves and with other faiths.

Lovers of life – don’t look away, don’t reject conflict and doubt, don’t numb your hearts. Secular societies with their temporary guardians, for better or worse, challenge us towards unlearning. Editing out complex thoughts will keep us stranded in the flatland of the known, unable to empathise with the physical and spiritual starvation suffered around the globe. Listen to the lecture of Dr Abdul Aziz Said again – and seek conflict transformation in all spheres of life.

One could say we are the particles of multiverses becoming conscious of embodied spirit. It’s no mean feat to shield our little lights from the winds of ignorance.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ – C G Jung

‘We are not meant to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

And I can’t help it, I admire the graceful poet and singer, Leonard Cohen, who loves his country though he can’t stand the scene. Here is …  AnthemRing the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering – there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in …

 

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… give the poor ego a break …

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

I’m all for shielding the Ego from moral experts who succumb to counter-transference. Proverbs, turned inner voices, instruct: Put yourself last, be considerate, don’t let people down, adapt, respect trade-off laws, keep promises – the inner voices more or less prescribe what’s in your best interest to feel, think and do.

Noisy commotions, muddling any sense of ‘I.’

The poor ego not only holds awareness of our multifaceted reality, but is driven to distraction by conflicting demands, assumptions, chimeras of grandeur, bouts of doubt, all drowning the whisper deep down – ‘Who or what am I really ?’

‘Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.’  – John Lennon

John summed up the typical seesaw compensation attempt. Adding insult to injury, self interest is blamed for our social ills. Even astute spiritual wisdom falls flat when it fails to appreciate the ego’s task – to daily create new order out of chaos, attempting a compromise with reality. No wonder people become nervous wrecks when their temporary identifications are threatened, no wonder fierce defences are constellated. The battered ego-agent screams silently – I’m only loyal to my familiars.

Some familiar rituals guarantee a  child experiencing rejection, physically, emotionally or intellectually, will self-reject for failing the expectations of its superiors. Welcoming or neglecting, early responses by adults we depend upon set foundation for our personality. Break that mirror and you’re on your own.

Maps serve us as orientation, they don’t convey territory. S. Freud’s map of the psyche is powerful. Think of the Id as a Launchpad to stars. What Freud omitted is a higher unconsciousness, our inner guidance and intuition, later introduced by C. G. Jung and A. Assagioly

Freud’s ideas deserve studying. His terms slipped into common speech like brands and became tangled.

Leviathan

Leviathan

Take the ego construct. Sandwiched between the powerful gratification-force of the Id, in need of gentle and firm boundaries, and a cultural Super-ego, with its rules and regulations, the Ego has the unrewarding task of mediator. The Id, at worst, is a heap of misery dragged along, withholding its energy, while the Super-ego, at worst, hijacks personalities like a psycho terrorist, know–it-all, manipulator, fanatic …  having abandoned the powerless inner child with its distressing and embarrassing need for acceptance and love.

And let’s not fool ourselves, distorted ideals attach themselves to well-disguised tyrants in the collective psyche, slumbering, until the day when circumstances conspire.

Children who grow up anxious to placate, or are bent against authority, invent ingenious strategies for survival. Fragile or strong, balanced or torn by extremes, developing a personality is an art form, assembled from layers upon layers of impressions and accumulated memories. Only increased awareness lessens over-identification and softens defences.

‘The paradox of the arts is that they are all made up and yet they allow us to get at truths about who, and what we are or might be’. –   Seamus Heaney

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

Young children need space to playact, and adolescents need safe outlets for their natural aggression, opportunities for intense experiences, and encouragement to explore their self-image. The houses of identity we create, however basic or twisted, position us in space and time. They have windows allowing a view, and doors through which to venture into a wider world and align our personal myth to a greater myth.

The problem is clearly not the personal ego, but its cultural super-edition, coloured, at least in the west, by mechanistic templates that regard nature as enemy to be conquered and controlled.

Reprimands like selfish stem from a period when inducing guilt was a convenient social formula. Today this approach is counterproductive. Educational practices must catch up with the nuclear age and the fresh metaphors for space and time. New dimensions arise in our consciousness, compelling us to re-think:

Escher's Relativity

Escher’s Relativity

Relativity theories freed perspectives and brought a climate of moral liberty. In a psychological sense, moral advice became repugnant, which explains why western minds begun to question aspects of religious dogma. A way was opened towards looking inside, and individuation, in a Jungian sense.

Quantum physics has widened our vision further, and brought deep spiritual turmoil through new speculations that suggest a symbolic reality of consciousness that over a hundred years ago would only have been imagined by a minority – mainly mystics.

The Digital revolution has upset linear time and is gradually transforming our relationship with time and space, leading us to ask, ‘What is real?’

A mould, no matter how inadequate, is necessary for any new-born. Judging behaviour without acknowledging the initial and well-meaning intentions underlying the formation of personality will only strengthens neuroses, instead of allowing the acceptance of one’s imperfect self-creation, with a nudge towards a gradual softening of defences.

‘Form is a relic of eternal potential.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

This post contains excerpts pulled from past articles that were never published.

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… songlines – family – a wedding in Darwin …

Families are an enigma to me. I value solitude and, yes, company, inner space and, yes, gritty adventure, constancy and, yes, change. I must have been born on a wave of contradiction. With no siblings or surviving grandparents, and my mother gone since 27 years, I’m left with a hermit-like father who avoids communication and  lives at a distance. Well, bless him.

my mother with her grandson

my mother with her grandson

 

Opa and his grandson

my father and his grandson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, my sense of family has an abstract quality that benefits my fiction writing. That said, my family extends to weathered friends whose authenticity I respect, my ex-husband included. Last week, our son, Yeshen, and his partner, Natasha, who live and work in London, had their wedding in the tropical Northern Territory of Australia. Sensible, since most of Tasha’s relatives live around the great coastline of this continent, in Brisbane, Sidney, Melbourne, Perth and  Darwin – where we gathered. As a child, like the author Bruce Chatwin, I once asked, ‘why don’t the people from down under fall off the earth?’ Australian children may well think of Europeans as down-unders and similarly ask, ‘why don’t they fall off the earth and float into space?’

The first three decades of my life I moved from place to place, restlessly roaming my inner songlines, searching for footprints leading to a family of mind and spirit, much like Chatwin described in Songlines, the practices of the indigenous people of Australia, who used to traverse their vast territory following the dream tracks of their ancestors, singing the names of everything they encountered on their paths, as a way of bringing their world into being and endowing their lives with existence and meaning.

I travelled all over Europe, have been to Israel, Africa, America … the other side of the planet had never called me. The thought of clocking up over 20 flight-hours made me nervous. Hey, I told myself, this is an adventure. In the end, my passion for clouds outshone my anxiety. A window seat always helps. Without the view I’d feel boxed in.

As the plane cruised over the Bay of Bengal towards my stopover, Singapore, I stared 36 000 feet down and couldn’t help thinking of the plane that only a few months ago went missing without a trace. I diverted myself, as one does when overcome by the enormity of one’s human helplessness, with useless thoughts, like pondering the possible legal implications when bodies can’t be found. Two days after my flight, another plane went down, this time shot out of the sky above the Ukraine. As it emerged, my son’s father was meant to be on this flight from Amsterdam. Due to overbooking, the airline offered a later flight, via Paris, with complementary business class thrown in. He and we were lucky, others were not.

from my window seat

from my window seat

Life is a treasure, if unpredictable – at times beautiful and brimming with joy, at other times painful and cruel, and often exceedingly strange, without rhyme or reason. We like to think we have control, yet know little to nothing about what decides our fates.

It made the wedding ceremony, which took place on an old pearl fishing vessel, all the more precious. The event culminated with the setting sun painting the wisps of clouds salmon pink. It’s my favourite light.

 

approaching Darwin

approaching Darwin

father and son

father and son

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the ring exchange

the ring exchange

the signing

the signing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the bride

the bride

the sun winks

the sun winks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Because the pearl-fishing boat could only accommodates a limited number of people, the ceremony was small and intimate. The images speak for themselves. Later on, a much larger party met for a fabulous reception at the estate of a relative.

There were songs, one specially prepared by the bride’s mother, accompanied by my son’s father on the guitar, there were humorous speeches, there was the glimmer of water from illuminated rock-like pools, festive lights overhead, candles, and the music and slideshow the couple had prepared. The latter I missed and must catch up on, having been too involved with meeting my son’s new family and getting drawn into stories over champagne, wine and delectable menus.

The pleasant tropical winter night, with tables arranged on English-style lawns, was equivalent to a rare, gloriously European summer night. And of course there were more songs, by Mr Palm of Palm Guitars …

Mindil Beach Market

Mindil Beach Market

P1060262lowerIn days that followed, we returned to favourite places.  Crowds gather, especially on Thursdays and Saturdays, at the iconic Mindil Beach with its backdrop of festivities and over 300 colourful market stalls. People come here to watch the sun grow in size as it nears the horizon, and everyone cheers and claps when the last sliver of red drops into the Arafura Sea.

 

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We travelled to Nature Parks, with abundant wildlife …

Palaces built by termites …

Springs, waterfalls and rock pools to swim in, with the thrill of possible crock sightings …

P1060382 - lowerWe enjoyed nights at the waterfront where they serve fresh seafood and Thai dishes, with Sharks and Moon fish beyond the harbour wall waiting for morsels.

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls

termite palace

termite palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the garden pool

the garden pool

Russell

Russell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banyon

Banyon

palm roof

palm roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On returning, I watched the lights shining from the islands in the Timor Sea. After 4 hours stopover in Singapore, to stretch my legs, and, delight, enjoy a few roll-ups, yes they have smoking areas at this airport, I settled into another window seat, overawed once more by how such super-heavy Airbuses can lift from the ground. My eyes switched between the book I was reading and the screen on my seat showing the flightpath, with the sun moving across to the Atlantic, while Australia’s night was encroaching on India. Endless hours later, England’s south seemed quaint from the air, with its patchwork of orderly fields framed by hedges and lanes. An American friend once called it Hobbit Land.

Home again. I feel like being gently rocked in a cradle. It will pass. I’ve yet to absorb the experiences of my Aussie adventure, still deliciously disorientated by upside down time and a different kind of dreaming. I got a taste of a new world, as good wine that lingers on, leaving a desire for more, like learning about the traditional owners of the territories, the Larika people. If I heard about Darwin’s man-made and natural disasters, it had not registered. The town was flattened twice, first in WWII – during Japanese air raids, and again in 1974 by Cyclon Tracy. Aussies are a resilient people.

Having enjoyed generous hospitality by the brides fathers, stepmother, mother, aunt and uncle, heart warming company by more uncles, aunts, siblings, their partners, cousins, nieces, and their partners, I miss the buzz of the large family, and not least the cute dogs, Russell and Rosie, whose exuberant joy in ballgames included jumping into the pool. I’ll hold the memory of the green shade under layers of palm leaves, the fresh fish served at the waterfront, the buzzing markets, the incredible architecture of old banyan trees, massive baobab and eucalyptus and the impressive series of sunsets. I’m looking forward to visitors, and maybe assist them in exploring places where their ancestors lived in Hobbit Land.

One image keeps playing tricks on my mind, some dark thing, stuff for a surreal crime novel – a giant toad in a freezer. But that’s a story for another occasion.

Technically challenged, I now hope the images on this page don’t jump all over the place once I press the ‘publish’ button 🙂

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… first photos from Darwin …

Our summers are Darwin’s winters with uninterrupted sunshine at over 30 degrees.  From October it becomes too hot and humid for the easy life.P1060366lower

I’m here to meet my son’s new family. In two days there’ll be a wedding on an old perl-fishing boat – an event which Natasha fictionalised in a delightful animation, where all guest are bush turkeys. They do walk in that peculiar way.

 

At waterfront locations are great markets, several times a week. The air is filled with culinary smells from food-stalls. Hundreds of merchants sell leather ware, clothing and indigenous crafts. There are fire-twirlers, puppet shows, picnics, and at sunsets the crowds gather.

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I’ve been swimming in safe places, and yesterday in  a fabulous spring pool, which, I was told later, has the very occasional crock sighting. The water is clear and soft and the falls offer a brilliant free massage. P1060443lower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… surprise – blog tour interlude …

Ruth - watering plants in her allotment.

Ruth – watering plants in her allotment.

Wow – my friend Ruth Paris  joined a blog tour, which is the ritual of charting and connecting-up undiscovered blog-islands in the virtual sea. I was so impressed she took on this challenge I’ve so far avoided, my hand reached for the baton before I knew it. Besides, Ruth’s posts about her ‘middle-of-the-roundabout allotment project’  on her Huerto site are a pleasure to share. Here some photos from Sept 2011. Her recipe page alone is worth a visit … and certainly the virtual islands of the friends she introduces. And it’s true, she does pick out the teeny little stones and whispers encouragement to the weakest seedling. Look at her ‘about’ page and you find she also wears another hat.

The theme of gardens has irresistible appeal. I like the thought Ruth shares, inspired by our joint friend Shazadi – since we can’t change the world we can at least cultivate our gardens – which applies to earth-tilling plots as well as the metaphorical kind. In that sense, here are my responses to the 4 deceptively simple questions this tour asks of its participants.

1 – What am I working on?

I’m editing my second novel, a sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors,’ completed two years back. Last year I was contracted by a small, devoted publisher and am looking forward to having my first novel released in a few months. English not being my first language (more about this here) – allows me the perception of a stranger in the strange land of my psyche, not unlike the protagonist in R. Heinlein’s book. In a way we’re all exiles owning a planet somewhere – be it an inner world.

2 – How does my work differ from others of this genre?

I puzzle over the term – genre. It may apply to career writers, which I’m not. Writing is my moving on from photography, another tool to symbolically express what drives me. Set in an imaginary world, my characters outward their inner conflict, the archetypal tragic/comic exodus I feel entitled to elaborate on. If genre it must be, my novels could be called mythic poetic adventures, gripping magical quests.

3 – Why do I write what I do? 

I may fool myself, but I can’t help thinking that re-creating or co-creating history can make us whole. I’m fascinated by how our fragile identity is formed through early mirroring, how people and environments define us. How we oblige like sleepwalkers and build a myth on these early templates, and inevitably mirror others.  And yet, small shifts in awareness can change our perception from deep within. Each of us brings along something unique we’re yearning to recognise. Without the recall of that signature we feel a lack.  Having been intensely involved with many groups and sub-cultures throughout my life I now tend the seeds I gathered and cultivate my soul garden. using the magic of words that string together and create music, sculpt feelings and even lift the invisible.

4 – How does my writing process work?

It didn’t, until the pressure became so great I decided a few years ago to reduce my professional work and commit time to writing. When a character takes shape and is called on a journey, I trust the narrative will unfold in my imagination. With consistent attention there eventually emerges the emotional coherence of a short story, or a chapter, and another. For me, this process, though enjoyable, happens in semi-darkness. I can’t force the outcome.

Editing is fun, and sometimes torture, which is when I crave diversions – watch birds, make coffee, fix things, blitz-clean the house, sort finances, prune hedges, cut grass … and relieve my pangs of guilt for neglecting friend by stepping out from my solitude. I may go harvesting in public spaces – that is, observing how people move, which I find endlessly fascinating.  On really bad days doubt intervenes and I sulk over the ‘who-do-you-think-you-are’ syndrome,’ until I accept I’m no Shakespeare.

In the end it is always being with friends and reading that refreshes my conviction in writing.  On many levels engaging with people and their stories helped me understand my private myth, and more.

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A few entries on gardens from my archive https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/garden/

The task of choosing further runners for this tour from a tapestry of amazingly creative people gave me a headache. To stem the flood, I’ll cheat the rules and introduce only 2 writers to weave the thread onward and hopefully reveal more secret islands.

Philippa Rees

Philippa

Philippa

The book that wrote my life … Philippa says of – INVOLUTION – an Odyssey Reconciling Science and God – an epic poem, and a spiritual revelation. It’s been called a tour de force. In nine cantos the work travels through pre-human involution, the enfolding of consciousness in matter, early man’s emergence on the Serengeti … through the recorded civilizations of Greece, Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance towards Enlightenment and finally Modernisms’ success of science – of which the latter, ironically, obscures the internal story – the story of direct intuition, nous, experience.

I totally grok this.

And I’m looking forward to meeting Philippa this weekend. She’ll join a gathering of my friends and share what sparked her life-long project. I imagine she’s good company, holding memories of gripping stories, including her childhood in South Africa, which she’s beginning to share on her blog, ‘Careless Talk,’ accessed here.

Diane Dickson

Diane

Diane

Diane is a prolific writer of short stories and novellas. She hardly pauses, and generously shares the developing instalments of her work on her website. I’m totally addicted to her posts. Increasingly, she publishes e-books through Kindle and now also in print-versions.

Her characters are usually teetering on the edge of change before they slip into a life-changing crisis. The protagonists are often so hilarious you want to shout – get your act together. Then there’s a cliff-hanger and you’ve  to wait a day or two for the next instalment. Stories range from light-hearted, uplifting, to mysterious and dark and they all have surprising twists. As I said, I’m addicted. A recent published tale is:

The Man who lost his Manbag and Found Himself‘ Here’s a modern day odyssey, and a simple recipe for losing your identity.

Both authors presented here, like so many I came to know during these last years, fought their own publishing battles. I hugely admire and have great respect for their skill and perseverance. There was never a time I did not find selling myself daunting. Even during days of professional success I relied on others to shout out the existence of my ware. I need someone to hold my hand.

Some of my friends are slow in developing their island on the internet, yet offer compassionate mentor-ship I can’t emulate. Notably Evlynn Sharp  We worked on various projects together, and I feel deep gratitude for her support.

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And here more cheating – I’d like to introduce the islands of two young people engaged in the buzz of life, with scarce time for leisurely blog-tours. They’re brilliant at what they do. They make me proud, my son, Yeshen  and his partner, Natasha.

I wrote about them recently https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/weddings-still-happen/

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… apples, flu, altered states, wedding plans …

This autumn is drunk with colours and fruit. Red-blushed, in their own sweet time, apples have been falling with soft thuds onto the dewy lawn for weeks. Each morning they blink at me, and shout – help, pick me up, the slugs are coming. They’re good for something, but did you know that slugs and snails are hermaphrodite, and lay up to 500 eggs a season? Re: fruit, after last year’s poor crop, this year’s harvest is a tad overwhelming. The scale by which nature balances excesses evades rational comprehension.

autumn colours

autumn colours

Too much of a good thing brings obligations. Eaters taste best when fresh, so I’m urged to act fast. Slug-nibbled and bruised fruit lands on the compost heap. The bulk of apples, several kilos a day, I wash, dry, box and put out on the road for passers-by, mainly kids on their way home from school. This time-consuming and noble deed has left me exhausted, and with numerous bumps on my head. Here’s the apple saint, drop now. For lack of a resident family to boss into cider-making, I’m left with ‘waste not’ ringing in my ears. If you remember scarcity, you’ll co-suffer the enforced hypocrisy of a  twenty-first-century system that thrives on waste.

I could blame the nagging ‘waste-not‘ guilt for frustrating the flow of my writing. I could blame three early morning trips to London on crowded trains, or  alien dust settling on my skin … whatever …  my body succumbed to the annual purge of flu. So a week ago I sneezed and coughed through fever and chills. Sweaty nights occasioned surreal dreams and visions, and there were days when I lost faith in my invulnerability, reminded that I need to clarify some matters in my Will. I survived – with tons of lemons. You’ve guessed by now that I’m shy of conventional medics, a story I won’t regale you with. The last official need for a doctor’s visit to my home was benign, and over three decades ago,  after I’d given birth to a healthy baby in deepest rural Somerset.

So last Sunday, following a week of altered states, I ventured out to put petrol in my car. I support small enterprises for their human idiosyncrasies. The cashier gazed absent-mindedly over the forecourt and across the street towards a line of taxies, while automatically debiting my Visa and, at my want, pressing another button to produce a tax receipt. Sensing a process at work, I said, ‘You’re bored.’

His head moved independently from his neck. You may remember the craze of bubble-head mascots:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobblehead that’s exactly how his head moved while his eyes rolled in their sockets to take note of my witnessing. His mouth then rounded and huffed before emitting a speech he must have rehearsed all morning. Slow, precise thoughts poured out, including snippets of existential dialogues he had had with taxi drivers from across the road. Written down, it could have edged itself towards some literary prize. His exposition ended with : ‘Nothing to be done. I’m bored stiff.’ Reminiscent of Beckett. Promises, waiting … in tune with my dull-witted flu-states. Missing most words, I was captivated by the man’s brilliant and spooky slaying of meaning. Another customer entered the cubicle. On leaving, some wise-crack in me I’ve no control over, said, ‘You’re reading …’ thinking, you’re observing life  from a distance, co-creating  its absurdities and joys. It’s what writers do.

 ‘Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.’   –  Walter Benjamin. 

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This post was meant to be short and about my son and his partner, to brag a little.

Yeshen with baby croc, photo by Natasha, Aug. 2013

Yeshen with baby croc – there’s a story

Yeshen and Natasha

Yeshen and Natasha

They were engaged this year and their August journey to Australia had been a reconnaissance for their wedding plans next July, organised by Natasha’s family, who live in Darwin and Perth.

I asked if I could share a few images from their trip. Yesh and Tash have featured on my blog before, indirectly. You’ll find them, for example, under ‘Inspiration’ or ‘Story of an Animation.’ They’re self-employed and work extremely hard, like many young people in super-expensive London, to make a living. They’re lucky being able to do creative and fulfilling work.

 

I’ve not been to Australia, and am now looking forward to this journey – you can see why.  

Australia's west coast

Australia’s west coast

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… story of an animation …

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You can find the inspiring story of an animation here …

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/story-of-an-animation/

PandaHorseStudio-7

 

 

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… inner time – writing – rant …

Beyond my window, robins, wrens, blue tits and blackbirds are nest-building, with bursts of passion. Dipping in and out of view, they settle shortly on a deck chair, branch or flowerpot, balancing lavish bouquets of fluff, moss, twigs and leaves, before darting off towards the next promising material. The birds winging through my garden make me happy.

Yesh

My thoughts wing in similar fashion dedicated to another passion, no less preparing for a new round of birth – in my case the writing of the next chapter of a novel. I anticipate with joy each few hours of unstructured time that allows me to visit my garden of recollections, a space where myths re-weave themselves from the fluff, moss, twigs and leaves of memories. Like the visions I brought into this world, ambivalent responses to my existence, altered states, affinity with elements, genetic markers, epigenetic quirks … my bundle of life that fell into a mould and was conditioned by socially convenient patterns of time.

Dividing reality into past, present and future time, measured by clocks and dated events, called facts, is a fairly modern idea that made Science the grail of knowledge. The best of science deepens our understanding of the cosmos and improves the quality of our lives, but its method is limited, not suited to go to court on another reality dimension, inner time, infinite, immeasurable, where our experiences assume meaning. We may walk through life like snapshots of ourselves, collecting capture after capture of evidence for our existence, while longing for a dimension within, the bridge to a spiritual presence hidden between each breath, a truth impossible to evaluate? Some religions banked divine capital in heaven. Science too, in its present phase, projects a kind of heavenly capital, hijacked by corporates selling us the future, a Promised Land of artificial intelligences catering to our every need, uncannily resembling the Matrix or Plato’s cave.

My rhythm of life changed when I dropped out – the second time in my life – taking the financial risk to work from home and make time to write, which I had failed to combine with careers, family and social obligations. The experiences were vital, up to a point. Now I relax about clocks and tend to my inner worlds. I crave unstructured time. Not everyone does.

Recently a friend reflected humorously on her frustration at finding herself with one hour to spare, having miscalculated her travel time. She would have been happy had she brought a book to read. Instead, she endured a dragging hour of unplanned, wasted time. Intrigued, we reflected on this sense of loss when there is unexpectedly nothing in particular to attend to.

Is there merit in unstructured time … what do you think? Is it only for children, is it a luxury, a waste, or an opportunity to shift perspectives, discover your passion, break the mould and loosen up your ideas of reality? I don’t see unstructured time being much encouraged, or its lovely randomness being valued. I was burdened by the message that my imagination is fanciful, a kind of debility. It took me decades to claim the time for my passion, writing …

Little Prince

This seems the place to share a personal rant, blaming no one in particular, since, from where I look the rift between head and heart that is tearing apart the fabric of western societies may yet need to become wider before the peril is addressed. If the media is anything to go by, meaningful purpose, visions, let alone joie de vivre, are overshadowed by collective gloom. Feel free to disagree with my take on this. Straining under the pressure to change, I see our systems are attempting to cement a shaky launch pad towards a logarithmic future, with good intentions, though the consequences are dire. Every aspect of our lives is in danger of becoming: over-calculated, over-regulated, over-efficient, over-specialised, over-mechanised, over-prescriptive, over-secured, over-insured, over-compartmentalised, over-conglomerated, and over-economised.

On a more cheerful note, young people in their 30s, at least the ones I know, are asking sharp questions, and are finding ingenious ways to play with, while not getting sucked mindlessly into programmes that abuse data, spoon feed illusions, appeal to personal anxieties, invade privacy, and insult the intelligence of creative individuals.

Back to the birds winging through my garden …

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To see a world in a grain of sand

And Heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour … W. Blake, from Auguries of Innocence

 

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… a rare book – now on-line …

Following an eight-months labour of love, between my co-editors, the Archventures group, and contributing writers, a small edition of 250 beautiful copies of a book were published in 2011 – Heart of a Sufi – A prism of reflections on Fazal Inayat-Khan (1942 -1990.) As of now, the book is affordable on-line, see below.

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Fazal at Four Winds. 80s

Hand printed wood engraving by Susanne Harding inspired by Fazal's signature.

Hand printed wood engraving by Susanne Harding inspired by Fazal’s signature.

The book contains stories, essays and poems written by those who were inspired by the controversial and innovative nature of Fazal’s work, or by the creative spirit that pervaded the place and people he left behind.

Kaliani, singing

Isha, Elias, Aisha, Puran - lowres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the way mystics talk about the right time, place, and the right people, Fazal offered a timely and challenging spiritual education that embraced wit and the complexities of modern life. During the 1970s – 80s he attracted people from many backgrounds and countries who had very little in common, other than being exiles from tradition and hungry for truth. The book gives a flavour of encounters, stories charting the edge of learning and unlearning, relationships with one’s self, the groups, the world, intense experiences, affecting deep peace and change, often achieved after games of orchestrated struggle and conflict, peaking in performances on the stage of a magical theatre – live and experience first, then reflect. Debriefings after workshops were sobering, humorous and mind-blowing events. And something ineffable was transmitted in these transformative setting, through music, through silence or through a glance.

Fazal, 84 inside page for Heart of a Sufi

Signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short history:

In 1968, at the age of 26 Fazal Inayat-Khan became the head of the Sufi Movement founded by his grandfather, Hazrat Inayat Khan, accredited with introducing Sufism to the West. By 1982 Fazal embraced his personal style to honour his grandfather’s legacy of spiritual liberty by surrendered his leadership of the Movement and chart his own path. His approach to Sufism resembled Idris Shah’s, whose writings had perked my initial interest in Sufism as a timeless practice of wisdom pre-dating Islam, a teaching kept alive through adapting its essence to new times and people. Adaptation in many fields was called for during the 1960s – 80s. The psychological and scientific insights of that period were so radical their social assimilation has yet to happen.

Conceiving of a book that offered a window to Fazal’s work, the editors had wondered if anyone would be brave enough to come forward and share their interactions with this passionate man, the groups and the tumultuous conflicts worked out during that period. We thank again those who contributed. And there must be many more stories of regret, pain, delight, disillusionment, new found coherence, inspiration, and significant life-changes.

Sufi Way gathering - Four Winds 1991

Fazal, 80s with children at Four Winds

F.W. car- smashing 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rights for Fazal’s hundreds of talks, poetry and musical tunings rests with the present leadership of Sufi Way. Our book contains some of Fazal’s quotes and the extraordinary poem – Qalandar – but the purpose of Heart of a Sufi is to show the potent seeds of love this remarkable man placed into the hearts of people he touched, seeds now unfolding in new settings for generations to come.

the cook runs

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4W2Bonfire

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Archventures are pleased to offer Heart of a Sufi as e-book, making it affordable:

http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2180

On amazon you can peek into some of its pages: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Sufi-InayatKhanReflectionsebook/dp/B00BFUO0T6/ref=sr_1_22?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363426951&sr=1-2

 

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Relevant links can be followed up from the e-book.

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