Gelli Fach

Gelli Fach

I'm a cell, I'm fragmented, I change my form;
I'm a repository of song, I'm a dynamic state.
I love a wooded slope and a snug shelter,
and a creative poet who doesn't buy his advancement.

Wyf kell, wyf dellt, wyf datweirllet;
wyf llogell kerd, wyf lle ynnyet.
Karaf-y gorwyd a goreil clyt,
a bard a bryt ny pryn y ret.


From: Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, edited and translated by Marged Haycock





Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Gardener and The Goddess - now available here




 Poet and writer, Jane Whittle, explored Britain alone on foot for many years before settling on the coast of West Wales, where she began to make a garden from a patch of un-tamed mountainside 'in a place where rainbows land'. The poems in this book arose from that mysterious space between dream and reality experienced in the landscape, first by solitary long distance walking and then by sinking a root in one unspoiled place. They are accompanied by the author's own illustrations.




The poems are divided into two halves. The first half are in the voice of The Gardener, the woman who has stopped her physical journeying and has settled, finding 'new strength/to stay at home'. We are taken on the Gardener's inner journey through the seasons, from spring when 'New arrivals/crowd their neighbours/budding intermezzos drown in brazen greens' to winter, when 'The earth is hard on new flowers/broken by gales and frost'. Through her we meet the Goddess in different guises as she allows the Gardener to see the magic of the garden emerge and to experience her at the source of much that is around us - in a faltering stream, in the colours of the rainbow, in a leaf uncurling, in the cycle of elderberries from flower to wine.

In the second half we are privileged to hear the voice of the Goddess herself, first as Eurynome from early Greek myth who created the earth with the help of the serpent Ophion but banished him when he tried to take all the credit, then as she reveals herself in water, in wind, in a poem but above all in the earth. 'Lay yourself down/ and become land' she says, 'Listen - you will hear me'. 'As I turn and re-turn/, I return you to life.../  Remember my story.'

Jane Whittle's language throughout is skillful, simple with the simplicity of archetype, conveying in a few well-chosen words a depth of meaning that offers us new insights and delights.



Copies of The Gardener and The Goddess published by Brigit's Forge ( ISBN 978-0-9574106-1-9) are available to buy from this website (see sidebar) whether or not you have a PayPal account.



Friday, 20 March 2015

Brigit - Provider of the Seed-Spreader





I recently found a reference to Santes Ffraid (St Brigit) which I hadn't heard of before. It's by the 16th century Welsh poet William Cynwal in his poem O Blaid Y Gwragedd - In Defence of Women. The poem was written in response to a satire by another poet against girls and women 'am ddryced eu' marweddiad/ yn nechreuad yr oesoedd' - 'for the ill of their behaving/in the beginning of ages'. Eve, of course.

He begins by recounting the story of Jesus and the woman who was caught in adultery and about to be stoned:

Wrthynt Iesu a ddyfod
'Hwn ohonoch sy heb bechod,
coded garreg, rhoed ddyrnod;
ei llabyddio sydd amod'.
Ac euog oedd yr holl wlad
a Duw y Tad yn gwybod.


to them Jesus said, 'Let
him of you who is without sin
raise a stone and fist
to kill by covenant.'
The whole land was guilty rather
and God the Father knew it.

He goes on to say that Mary came from Eve as recompense for her sin and arrogance and that the Trinity gave five virtues to maids and not to men:

wedi hynny fe ddyfod
ac iawn i bawb gydnabod
y llanwai hil y wraig 
wâr
nef a daear hynod.


With that in mind it's proper
that we should all
acknowledge
gentle woman's progeny
as filling sky and earth.

He outlines the five virtues and then names woman after woman who have contributed something of value to humankind. According to the poem:

Pan oedd y byd wrth ddechrau,
heb na gerddi na llysiau,
Seres, gwraig o'r rhyw gorau
a ddyfeisiodd bob hadau
i drwsio bwyd yn ddiwael
ac i gael aroglau.


And when the world began
with no herbs or gardens,
Ceres, the best sort of wife,
invented every seed
to garnish the fine food
and give it a good flavour.

But the accomplishments of the women are not always what you might expect: Nicostrata, of the tribe of Seth and Adam o'i hathrylith yn fwya' / ac o rad Duw gorucha' - out of her greatest learning/ and God's highest grace - produced the origin of the first Latin letters and a girl called Isis 'a hon oedd ddoeth i'w bywyd/ a chraff ymhob celfyddyd/ a mawr ei chyfarwyddyd - a wise one in her living/ and sharp in every art/ and a great story-teller - devised in pictures the characters of Egypt. Palathas invented the means to spin and weave wool when everyone was naked.

Brigit merits her place because:

Pan oedd wŷr  fry'n troi cwysau
ar ol erydr a thidau,
heb orffwys na chwarae
yn poeni ei traed a'u breichiau,

dyfeisiodd San Ffraid leian
chwelydr harddlan eu moddau.


When men of old turned furrows
behind the plough and chain,
without rest or play
torturing their feet and arms,
Saint Brigid the sweet sister
made seed-spreaders for them.

The virtues of women and girls are the traditional ones - they are noble, pure, proper, courteous, gentle of speech, fair, sensible and prudent - but they are also learned, wise - and they invent things needed to make the lot of humankind easier.

I rather like the description:

Gwraig sy lon a bonheddig,
fal gwenynen o'r goedwig
hi a wna lawer o' chydig

A woman is merry and noble
and, like a bee of the woods,
she will make much from little.

The poem ends:

O daw gofyn a gwiriaw
yn uchel ac yn ddistaw
pwy a wnâi yr araith hylaw
ar draethodl a'i myfyriaw,
Wiliam Cynwal, ac nis gwad
pan fyddo'r wlad yn gwrandaw.

If it is asked and verified
aloud or secretly
who made this fit oration
and rhymed this meditation,
William Cynwal won't deny it

though you cry it through the land.

Good for him I say. And I'm delighted to have this glimpse of another tradition about Brigit in her capacity of compassionate provider.


(All quotations and translations from The Burning Tree by Gwyn Williams, Faber and Faber Ltd, London, no date.)

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

International Women’s Day: Poems about Rape




In the latest edition of Mslexia, the magazine for women writers, Sarah Hesketh writes that deeply intimate poetry collections are a form of feminist activism. She mentions the poetry blog series of poems Against Rape on the Peony Moon blog and, reading the poems, I remembered that I’d planned to write a post last year for International Women’s Day on poems about rape. Here it is, a year and a day late.

As Moniza Alvi, writing in in her Foreword to the anthology Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives points out, although rape is increasingly in the public eye, it still bears the stigma of taboo – “of that about which we dare not speak or write”. She goes on to say:

“Rape is an unsafe subject for poetry, while war is a wholly accepted category, and yet rape is constantly reported as a facet of war. Primarily, rape is considered a women’s issue, though this is, of course, hardly the case, and perhaps this is partly why it is considered a literary taboo, particularly when conveyed from a female viewpoint.”

The poems in Alvi’s book Europa contain many poems about rape as well as other trauma. She believes that any subject can be suitable for poetry and because poetry has potential for “the piercing and memorable” it seemed important to her that it is used to influence this particular instance of trauma.

Yet there are concerns. If, as Alvi posits, one aspect of poetry is to give delight, should rape poetry be a different kind of poetry? Her answer is to use myth to explore rape and trauma, “giving a kind of delight through the imaginative qualities of the story”.  I find myself uncomfortable with the word ‘delight’ in this context even though I know what she is getting at. I think it might be more suitable to say that myth and metaphor are able to make the poem ‘aesthetically pleasing’. I am aware that some of those who hear accounts of rape enjoy them salaciously, delight in them, as in Adrienne Rich’s poem Rape where the speaker has gone to report her rape to a cop who has grown up with her brothers:

…And so, when the time comes, you have to turn to him,
the maniac’s sperm still greasing your thighs,
your mind whirling like crazy. You have to confess
to him, you are guilty of the crime
of having been forced.


And you see his blue eyes, the blue eyes of all the family
whom you used to know, grow narrow and glisten,
his hand types out the details
and he wants them all
but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best…


Using myth and image to create distance is a useful device for discouraging such voyeurism and trying “to bring a kind of beauty or artistry to a discordant subject”. Alvi’s poems are beautiful, clear and sparse, sparkling with suggestion, and no less hard-hitting for addressing the subject from a distance. Particularly notable is the poem Mermaid, based not on the Hans Anderson story but on the painting by Tabitha Vever entitled When We Talk about Rape which is the cover image for the Europa collection. Here's an exerpt:

Swiftly       
            he slit

down the muscular length
exposing the bone in its red canal.

She played dead on the rock

             dead by the blue lagoon
             dead to the ends of her divided tail.

He fell on her, sunk himself deep
into the apex.

Then he fled
                      on his human legs.

Human love cried the sea,
the sea in her head. 
  

Some poems, however, are more blunt and explicit, as in Marge Piercy’s Rape Poem:

There is no difference between being raped
And being pushed down a flight of cement steps
Except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped
And being run over by a truck
Except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped
And being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
Except that people ask if your skirt was short
And why you were out anyhow.

There is no difference between being raped
And going head first through a windshield
Except that afterward you are afraid not of cars,
But half the human race…

Alvi thinks it possible for rape poetry to rise above the confessional and quotes Pascale Petit: “When I read out my poems that have very personal and sometimes shocking content, I still concentrate on them as art rather than statements or “confessions”. That’s what I’m interested in, the transformative aspect, the image-making, chant or song of them. Afterwards, when people ask questions or react to the subject matter, I remember that they were rather revealing”.

My own poem about rape is packaged in the form of an intimate “confession”; the speaker confiding in the audience. I have crafted it - based on an actual rape - to convey its insidious nature, how its tentacles may reach into language itself even when the survivor thinks she is free of it. I have also given the rapist some individual attention, making him more than the stock shadowy sadistic figure. Not all rapists are the same. I hoped by this to provoke a discussion: What makes a man rape? What is he thinking and feeling? It’s time the focus was turned on men rather than just on the victims of rape. Society teaches ‘Don’t get raped’, not ‘Don’t rape’. If women's behaviour is scrutinised, why not men's? We need an honest and searching debate to look at the problem.

A rare poem by a man concerned about rape is this by Farhan Akhtar, a Bollywood film director and actor, who set up a social campaign in India, Men Against Rape and Discrimination or MARD. The poem, with its insistent rap structure, is surely ripe for performance:

What is this country that I live in?
With no equality
And the quality of life
Differs from husband to wife
Boy to girl, brother to sister
Hey Mister, are you the same?
Contributing to the national shame
Replacing your mothers
With the bent ideology of another's
perception that women have a particular role in society
Fills my heart with anxiety
Where is all of this going?
What will emerge from these seeds that we're sowing?
It makes my head spin
But I'm not giving in
Will keep asking the question
What is this country that I live in?

What is this country that I live in?
That takes away her right to love
Brutalises her with an iron glove
Rapes her without fear
of there being justice for her tear
We've demeaned our goddesses
Gone back on all our promises
Become a gender distorted nation
Given our conscience a permanent vacation
what do I tell my daughter?
That she's growing up to be lamb for the slaughter
we've got to make a change
Reboot, reformat, rearrange,
and never give in
no matter how much our head may spin
Just keep asking the question
What is this country that I live in?

However I am beginning to have some qualms about reading my own poem in public, important though I think it is not to hide these poems away as if they are not a suitable subject and as much as I like the idea of intimate poems being a kind of feminist activism. As Sean O’ Brian has said, “The poem is an event happening in the act of reading” and Moniza Alvi asserts “It is important that the poem itself becomes an experience, rather than being merely a vehicle for something” - for the audience then the poem may become an experience of rape.

I have read my poem at a number of events but the last time I read it I noticed out of the corner of my eye and the corner of my mind that as I introduced it a woman in the audience looked uncomfortable, shifted in her seat and then looked down at the floor, a pained expression on her face. Thinking about it afterwards I realised that she was trapped in the situation, that the poem might have triggered memories she’d rather forget and that she couldn’t simply get up and leave without announcing something she would probably rather not say. My poem starts with the memory of a rape being triggered by an article so I felt I should have thought more about the possibility of this happening through a spoken poem. Even reading poems about rape on the page or screen may be triggers, as the Peony Moon blog warns its readers.

But at least on page or screen the reader has a choice to look away and being silenced is not an option if things are ever to change. I remember what W.H.Auden said, in his poem in memory of W. B. Yeats:

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth. 
(My emphasis)

Scathed
When I was raped… I discarded certain assumptions I had held about how the world worked and about how safe I was. Alice Sebold (from Lucky)

Caught by an article in the Guardian
I thought I’d write a poem about a rape
from many years before.

I meant to tell how he’d driven to the Common,
forced my head back when I tried to scream
till I thought my neck would break
and my decision then to just give in
and hope he didn’t kill me.

And how he dragged me to the ground
broke into me and yelled at me to ‘move’ –
as if he thought there could be any rhythm
between his act and me.

How afterwards he fell apart,
became a shrunken thing,
leaning over the roof of his car
like a wilting plant,
crying and begging for forgiveness.
And I then standing still intact
because somehow in the decision to surrender
I had kept possession of myself.

But that night – of the day I planned the poem –
I had one of those dreams I sometimes get
where there’s menace and someone in the room.
I fight – I always fight – and grab his face
and twist and smash and wake
to hear soft footfalls stalk the bedroom floor.

So though I kept possession of myself
something was born of that encounter
that slipped unseen into my future,

insinuates itself between me and safety,
contaminates innocent words like
'neck' and 'car' and 'common' and' move'
and not so innocent words like
scream and scream and scream.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bride is welcome! Bride is come!





Brigit's Day has come and gone and never before have I been so aware of the change as I am this year. Last year was a dismal one and the winter particularly so. But over the weekend a subtle change occurred and I've been feeling the shoots of my usual enthusiasm and creativity return.

This year, for the first time, one of our number was unable to come on the evening of her day, so after taking the shawl out to hang on a tree for Brigit to bless, I dressed the Bride doll myself, made up her bed, decorated with snowdrops, shells and quartz and softened with the wool I'd gathered from the Park at Hawarden, went to the door and standing on the threshold, holding the door jams, I sang an invocation to invite her in. The song I used is one by Nickomo and Rasullah - it's very gentle and evocative. I sometimes play it on my whistle as I can't sing in tune, but this year I sang and it didn't sound too bad! You can find details of the songbook with the music and the CD, both called the Song of the Land, on Nickomo and Rasullah's website. (Their Brigit's Blessing is lovely as well.)

It was quite special to have this time alone meditating on Brigit and as I was choosing ribbons and sewing them in place to make a gown for the rush doll I felt in touch with previous generations of people who had made a figure to represent the return of spring, not only in Ireland, but I suspect in other countries in the distant past. I was also aware of the festival as one of the return of the light, of the sun, the very first spark of spring rather than spring itself. It chimes for me with the perception of Brigit as a goddess of the dawn, of the beginning of light, of enlightenment.

The next day, Brigit's Day, I made lunch and my two friends came to celebrate with me. After we'd eaten we recited Ruth Bidgood's Hymn to Sant Ffraid (Brigit's name in Welsh) for 3 voices, as we have done for the last few years. This year I was the first voice and I felt the words at the beginning resonate with me:

"February,
month of Sant Ffraid.
Earth has long lain white, rigid,
locked into lifelessness.
Ice on river, no lively running:
ice on field, no soft furrow:
ice on byre, no boon for beasts:
ice on hills, no high pasture:
ice on heart, no hope leaping."

And later, a moving on, a freeing as I said the words:

"February,
month of the quickening,
month of Brigid the Threefold,
muse, healer, goddess of fire.
Ice clutches copse and cataract;
earth faints with cold, craves to be free.
In grey of grim dusk,
in black of bleak night,
a cry dies, a life is given.
Blood blots the Bridestone,
flame springs, fire supplicates -
Bride, goddess, bring now
the breaking, the slaking,
the flowing, the growing!"

Several pages later, in unison, we invoked Ffraid:

"We call you now to walk on the riverbank,
to break the ice, to free the river.
We greet you now
from your churches and your wells,
from the cold sea-coast and the colder hills,
with the immemorial cry,
'Ffraid is come! Ffraid is welcome!'"

After this we set to work weaving crosses. The rushes came from a different place this year and were thicker and stronger so they didn't bend so easily but we persevered. While we worked we shared some poems and talked about our lives.

I feel as if I am moving into a new phase where I crave more simplicity, more of an uncluttered life. I've always been reluctant to remove side shoots from plants or some of the apples that form a cluster and prevent just one or two reaching a good size. All things want to live, the life of plants spills out into these growths, who am I to stop them? But last summer I began to see, or to feel in my bones, how this may stunt growth and weaken the plant. If I want good-sized fruit that ripens well, it's necessary to limit unchecked growth. I could see the analogy with my own life - how 'spreading oneself too thin' may result in a weakening, especially when one's energy is limited, as mine is. I was beginning to crave the cutting down of ideas and projects so that I could focus on the few important things that I would like to bear a rich fruit.

So this is my agenda for the year ahead. I hope to be successful in this. I'm beginning to declutter, it feels more urgent as I may move at some point to be nearer my siblings or my son and family since my mobility is deteriorating. In which case I need to start clearing out the many drawers and cupboards in this house, getting rid of the dross and giving away things which aren't useful or beautiful, things which, in a subtle way, I feel are weighing me down. I hope to emerge lighter, more focused, more fruitful, more fit to engage with whatever lies ahead.

I certainly feel a renewal of my spirit. But last year has not been wasted, for one thing it has shown me that I haven't achieved that Still Centre which enables one to keep one's balance, one's equilibrium, through the vicissitudes of life, though I have moved some way towards it. This gives me the prod I need to spend more time in practice - with meditation and ritual work centred on Brigit, with yoga exercises to make up for my lack of walking, with carefully chosen creative work and with Being-in-Nature. My Buddhist calendar for February supports me in this resolve, saying:

'It is better to practice a little than talk a lot.'  Muso Kokushi. Or write a lot perhaps?! (But I hope to write my blogs a little more regularly, though shorter posts perhaps.)



Friday, 28 November 2014

Robert Graves and William Ewart Gladstone’s Grandson, William G. C. Gladstone

.

William Glynne Charles Gladstone (Will) 1885-1915, the son of William Henry Gladstone, eldest son of Willam Ewart Gladstone the eminent Victorian statesman.


As mentioned below, during a recent stay at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, Flintshire, I went to view a WW1 exhibition in St Deiniol’s church which is next to the Library. I was interested to see that there was a board on the Royal Welch Fusiliers. As well as learning more about Robert Graves’s regiment, which recruited primarily from North Wales, I was delighted to find that R G had known Gladstone’s grandson, also a Royal Welch Fusilier, and had attended his funeral in Hawarden in 1915. After looking round the exhibition, I went back to the Library to find a copy of Goodbye to All That and locate the passage where he is mentioned: 

From Goodbye to All That:

“Of the officers sent out before me, several had already been killed or wounded. The killed included a Liberal M.P., Second-Lieutenant W. G. Gladstone, whom we called ‘Glad Eyes’. He was in his early thirties, a grandson of old Gladstone, whom he resembled in feature, and Lord-Lieutenant of his county. While war hung in the balance he declared himself against it, whereupon his Hawarden tenantry, much ashamed, threatened to duck him in the pond. Realising that, once war was declared, further protest would be useless, he joined the regiment as a second-lieutenant. His political convictions remained unaltered, but, being a man of great integrity, he refused to take the non-combative employment as a staff-colonel offered him in the War Office. Soon after joining the First Battalion in France he was killed by a sniper while unnecessarily exposing himself. General French sent his body home for a military funeral at Hawarden; I attended it.”   (GTAT, Penguin Books, 1985, p 66)

I was told by the head of the Tourism Committee of St Deiniol’s Church, who had organised the exhibition, that William Glynne Gladstone was particularly tall so that when he was standing in the trench his head was above the parapet. The sergeant told him to duck down but he said “I can’t do that. The men will think I’m in a funk”. Consequently he was shot. She also told me that, although it was usual for officers to be buried with their men, a special dispensation from the king allowed him to be brought home to be buried in the churchyard at Hawarden. Here are some photos from the exhibition:


The body of W. G. C. Gladstone in the Temple of Peace, Hawarden Castle



Lieutenant Gladstone’s body, drawn by estate people, leaving Hawarden Castle through the park his grandfather loved so well



The funeral procession through Hawarden village



Brothers-in-Arms pay their Tribute in the churchyard.



The last scene in the peaceful old churchyard. All the villagers were there to mourn the young soldier squire.


I had hoped to be able to identify Robert in the photos but they aren’t detailed enough. Still, it was good to think that he is there in them somewhere.

Unfortunately the name of the member of the Tourism Committee of the church who provided these photographs and the information is obscured by poppies in the photograph I took of the complete board, but I am grateful to him or her for their research.




Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Gladstone's Library - Day 7 (belatedly)




My last morning at the Library was a beautiful one and the jay appeared again as though marking the beginning and end of my stay. Although jays are not uncommon birds, it's only the second I've ever (knowingly) seen.

After breakfast I went to the church, St Deiniol's, which is next door to the Library to look at the WW1 exhibition. I wasn't sure what to expect but found it fascinating with boards on the subject of such things as Women's Work and Women's Poetry, Venereal Disease and Brothels, Wounds, Posters. The exhibition had been put on by the Tourism Committee of the church and the call had been put out to the local community to submit any relevant information and photos they had. I was particularly interested to read about the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the local regiment to which Robert Graves had belonged, and the 'young earl', Gladstone's grandson who had served in the regiment and been killed; Graves had attended the funeral and mentions it in Goodbye To All That.

After viewing the exhibition and taking photos of it (I'll post some interesting snippets another time), I went back to the Library for lunch. I was thinking that I must get a copy of GTAT, my own having vanished somewhere long ago, so that I could copy out the reference to William Glynne Charles Gladstone. Then I suddenly realised that I was in a library which would surely have a copy so I went along there, the librarian found it for me, brought it to my desk and after some searching I found the relevant passage. Job done!

The journey back to Aberystwyth is always lovely, bordered by trees, hills and mountains. That day the sun was colluding with the trees in making it a golden one and I enjoyed driving along with Van Morrison singing ('on the road with my soul'). I stopped briefly at Bala Lake, aka Llyn Tegid, where Ceridwen of the cauldron was said to live. The sun shone brightly on the water.



This reminded me of the glass sculpture in the chapel at the Library. I'd asked who had made it and heard that it was by a Liverpool artist called Linda Crabbe. She had been told that Gladstone had originally called the Library 'Monad', meaning Oneness, One, the original number. It reflected his belief that, as long as people studied solidly and seriously, the truth would be served and the sculpture she made is her interpretation of this Oneness, of the coming together of shards. This is very different from the way the piece had spoken to me and I reflected yet again that sculpture, primarily non-representational sculpture, is rather similar to poetry in its suggestibility and openness to various interpretations. The truth - the coming together of many disparate fragments. (And yes, the arms of the cross are copper.)

Leaving Bala, the sun was bright and low in the sky making the journey both difficult and uplifting as I headed back towards Aberystwyth and the setting sun.


 Autumn afternoon
travelling West
the sun in my eyes


Friday, 14 November 2014

Insight in the Library - Gladstone's Day 6




Yesterday I set aside the morning to work out how to resize my video so that it would fit onto the page properly. I could see where I had to change the dimensions in the HTML but did't know how I would keep the correct ratio - being rubbish at maths. However, having googled and discovered that I would get the right height by multiplying the width by 0.8235 (who knew!) I had the bright idea of looking at YouTube dimensions for videos then took a calculated guess and hey presto! it worked first time. I felt inordinately pleased by this and quite energised. Having the morning free I set off for the Library with no goal in mind, knowing that something would catch my attention.

That something was a journal called Interreligious Insight, (volume 12, No 1, June 2014). There were several interesting articles in it and some things that I noted down to muse upon. One article mentions Karen Armstrong's use of myth and logos as useful vocabulary for talking about different approaches to our understanding of life and the world we find ourselves in: 

Myths, Armstrong says, are not concerned with practical matters but with meaning; the need to find significance in our lives else we despair. Myth is rooted in the unconscious mind; myths are ancient forms of psychology. Logos is the rational, pragmatic and scientific thought that enables people to function well in the world... Logos must relate exactly to facts and correspond to external realities. (Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, 2000) 

I find these useful designations for the dual tools that are necessary for us to function effectively in the world as well as engage with meaning and significance, each mode of being or of thought complementing the other rather than being mutually exclusive as some would have it. In fact I believe that both are vital and need to interact and cross-fertilise each other in order to maintain psychic health for the group as well as the individual.

I was also interested in a mention of a book I hadn't come across before, The Mystery of Being by Gabriel Marcel. In it he says that mysteries such as the existence of God or of life and death are not problems to be solved because we cannot objectify them, we cannot isolate them from ourselves. They are inseparable from us and "encroach on our own data". How then do we approach mysteries? By participation! We participate in mysteries.

It seems to me that there is resonance between problem-solving and Logos and the participation in mysteries and Mythos. My need to fit my video into the required space was something outside me, a problem to be solved. The mystery of the elements as symbolic of my personal make- up and functioning, which I was contemplating earlier, is something to experience and participate in, by following intuition and imagination and promptings from the unconscious mind. Both are, for me, a necessary part of living and being effective in the world.

Today, after another session reading the Times Literary Supplement in a comfortable armchair in the library by the window, I bought a sandwich and then went to sit on the steps going down to a wooded and tangled area of the grounds. Sitting there, the sun warm on my back, the gentle movements of leaves in the breeze and the half-seen presence of various birds and insects in the wood, I am aware that I am totally happy.




Later it's time for tea. Gladstone extolled the virtues of tea, saying: "If you are cold, tea will warm you, if you are too heated it will cool you; if you are depressed it will cheer you, if you are excited it will calm you." I concur :-)

Here's a picture of him in the hall, taking tea with (one presumes) his lady wife.