Over the years I have been gratified by the critiques that I have had re The Soul Food Cafe but this is one that stands out quite simply because it acknowledges the contribution I have made in helping people build their inner architecture.
After an absence for five years I have returned, not to work Soul Food as I did, but to guide thirsty creatives to billabongs within the maze that is Soul Food.
Check for details about the Travels With A Donkey courses that I am currently operating.
Before we left, Stephen handed each of us a few precious corn kernels asking that, when we returned to our respective home lands, we reverently bury them, grieve over them, tend their graves, and with nature’s grace watch the renewal of life and the growth of a new corn plant. It occurred to me that this is what he had done – planted seeds in our hearts and our minds, which are watered by our tears and tended by the labours of our learning, in the hope that a new elder might begin to grow in each of us with an understanding that death is a gift, “the cradle of our love of life”.
Stephen Jenkinson, the author of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, calls upon people to bear witness to a world that we wish were otherwise and he offers an opportunity to learn how to labour at the planting of hard-won seeds so that we might possibly, against what are sometimes great odds, learn to live, and die, well.
For some years now I have been encouraging creatives to plant nasturtium seeds and, over a period of at least a month, talk to them and watch them grow. I encourage people to keep a record in a small notebook that is covered with imagery of growth.
This is a simple task. Just fill a planter with rich potting mix and add some nasturtium seeds. Talk to the pot and the seeds and agree upon where to place it. Then spend at least ten minutes each day tending to it, taking photos, keeping a journal record. You will be amazed by what this simple plant has to teach you.
Writers talk about this frequently. Fiction writers often say that a character wouldn’t do what they wanted, or that the characters took over the story. Of course our characters aren’t real; they can’t really take over a story, they can’t really take on a life of their own.
So where does the writing come from? And why do we have so little control?
Because no one has precisely pinned down where ideas come from writers, who love to speculate, have proposed endless theories. Stephen Johnson talks about networked inspiration and how the cafe culture provides a pot in which creativity may bubble and boil. There is little doubt that creativity flourished in the melting pot of the French Salons where copious amounts of coffee may or may not have been served.
At one time I was going around talking about the creation myths suggesting that like the universe and earth itself it all began within a swirling mass of nothing. I had students closing their eyes, looking at nothing; writing about what they saw when they saw nothing. As I recall we also speculated about whether the answer lay in the roots of trees. We considered the deep roots that we are able to tap into. Carl Jung named this the ‘collective unconscious’ and many incredibly popular self help books, written by people like Dorothea Brande and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) have written extensively on the subject.
A personal favourite of mine is The Borderland: An exploration of theology in English literature, a book by Roger Bradshaigh Lloyd. My copy of this text quite literally leapt from the bookshelf into my hand in one of the second hand book shops that I frequent. Lloyd, an influential Anglican Priest talked about the Lord, or King of the Borderland being ‘Inspiration’. He names the Holy Ghost, of whom ‘no man has ever dared to give a human name’ as the sovereign of the Borderland in which the artist resides and suggests that answers to the unanswerable may be found in the Nicene Creed. Of course, at the time this affirmed my speculation that like God, in the book of Genesis, the artist makes something out of nothing. The artist is a creator, as compared to a manufacturer. One of the problems I see with self help books is that they encourage us to believe that we can manufacture things. Like Lloyd I do not believe that there is anything immoral in the “composition of pure pot-boilers since pots do need to boil if anything is to be written at all”. I do believe that we are truly creative when we are propelled by passion and find our way of tapping into the source.
With that in mind I welcome assorted story tellers, troubadours, hags, crazy people, trance tellers, bards, traveling poets, prophets, visionaries, charismatic preachers, spellbinders and holy people to join the caravan of donkeys heading towards the source. My hope is that this amazing collective will reveal quite unique ways of tapping into what artists perceive to be ‘the holy grail’.
All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it received its true consequence and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order.
Back in the day, when the Soul Food Cafe was fully operational, Enchanteur used to pass out dream seeds for participants to plant. The seeds were in the bag she gave people as they were setting out. The special bag was filled with talismans for the journey. The bag contained a packet of dream seeds, spectacles, a candlestick, a tiny anchor, a medallion with the imprint of the Unicorn and a set of wings.
When operating classes on terra firma participants have sometimes received a small pot with some seeds ready to plant.
This excerpt from Song Magic of the Papago Indians of Southern Arizona by Ruth Underhill provides the perfect ‘practice’ to apply upon receiving the planter, planting and locating a home where the seeds will flourish.
The Papago….stand at the edge of the field…. Kneeling he makes his hole and speaks to the seed, in the Papago manner of explaining all acts of Nature lest there be a misunderstanding. “Now I place you in the ground. You will grow tall. Then, they shall eat, my children and my friends…” Night after night the planter walks around his field “singing up the corn….” Sometimes, all the men of the village meet together and sing all night, not only for the corn but also for the beans, the squash and the wild things. (Source: Growing Myself by Judith Handelsman)
If you communicate with your plants they will respond and teach you about the inner gardening that promotes creativity. The challenge here is to look after the plant, talk to it, allow it to teach you, keep a journal, preserve your experience and generally grow.
Growing Myself A Spiritual Journey Through Gardening Judith Handelsman
An Interview With Judith Handelsman
The Faithful Gardener Clarissa Pinkola Estes
A Gift From the Sea Ann Morrow Lindberg
Make spaces indoors or in the garden where you can bask in the silence, welcome the goddess or the life force you turn to.
Alternatively you can go to Daily Zen Meditation Hall, set the timer and enjoy the space that they have created.
The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois, rulers of the Kingdom of France, for control of the latter kingdom. Each side drew many allies into the war. It was one of the most notable conflicts of the Middle Ages, in which five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe. The war marked both the height of chivalry and its subsequent decline, and the development of strong national identities in both countries.
I have come to understand that events over a period of twenty five years plunged me into a struggle of such proportions. As I have sought to reinvent myself I have found myself see sawing back and forth. It has been hard to come to terms with the void that came after multiple losses. This poem, written in 2006, is about a personal war that was raging on many fronts.
If I could write
I would write about
when the war ended
I would record how
we threw our ration cards
into the air
and danced into the night
hugging one another
I would marvel
Little things like
Spring lambs gambolling in the fields
The song of
crystalline Castalian waters
gurgling over ancient stones
I’d tell of
pulling out sheer silk stockings
and my golden organza ball gown
to wear at the celebratory ball
with my one true love
to the sounds of
Horrie Dargie’s Rag Time Band
After the war
I will write.
Heather Blakey 2006
Peace appears to be on the horizon. I can feel the creative force strengthening. I now have an understanding of the landscape of loss and I know that all I can do is carry those losses and manage my feelings. Maybe the words will come and I will write again.
I have excavated the skeletal remains
Of the child I was
Before my childhood was unceremoniously snatched
Before betrayal stole joy and eroded the flesh
Before the burdensome grief of another
Weighed down my shoulders
I look at the remains and remember
that I knew who I was
all those long years ago.
I was a happy carefree child with a sunny disposition
Who played practical jokes
Whited all the sand shoes
Lined dolls up
Made tea on the back verandah
Taught French from dusty texts
Was infused with the magic of treasure hunts
Played in a cubby house
under the shelter of majestic Pussy Willow trees
that lined our back fence.
I remember that I was
the gentle, studious one
steeped in mythos
who loved the library and
her own company
causing barely a ripple to family life
I look at the skeletal remains and ever so carefully
Place them in my saddle bag
to carry and sing over
to bring flesh to
and discover joy, in simple things
all over again.
Heather Blakey 2005
Consider the following
In her book, ‘Caravan of No Despair’, Mirabai Starr tells us that “you cannot succeed in mourning your loved ones. You cannot fail. Nor is grief a malady, like the flu. You will not get over it. You will only come to integrate your loss…”
In the introduction of ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ Clarissa Pinkola Estes introduces the notion of Singing Over The Bones. Later in the book she presents the idea of Descansos and talks about descansos being symbols that mark a death, not just of loved ones but of hopes, dreams and potentialities. She shows her clients how to look at their lives and mark where the small and big deaths have taken place.
Watch this video featuring Dr Kim Bateman and consider ways of singing over the bones of small and bigger losses.
Selene, Queen of the Starlit Heavens, is an ancient Greek goddess the moon. She carries the moon across the sky in a white chariot driven by winged horses or bulls. She is the totality of the moon, with its waxing into fullness and waning into darkness. Selene represents the fullness of life, incorporating all the phases of light and dark in her shining.
While one has no control over how long he or she may live, caring for one’s body/soul/spirit, can be a contributing factor in a long life. Selene reminds us to consider some characteristics that contribute to a full life.
- Good genes. No one has control over their birth, and who their parents are but caring for one’s body properly may help overcome genetic issues.
- A goal or purpose in life. Time to re-read Victor Frankl’s Search for Meaning
- Optimistic outlook on life.
- Handling Stress. There are three basic problems that adversely affect the normal stress that we all have: fear, guilt, and moral conflicts. Stress is a part of life itself. It is not a matter of whether we have stress or not, for we all do, it is how do we handle it?
- Good diet and health care. It has been said that the majority of organic diseases in our hospitals have had a psychosomatic origin. The constant stress and strain of life, coupled with lack of proper bodily care, contributes eventually to a serious breakdown.
Selene sweeps into my life to remind me that the moon waxes into fullness and wanes into darkness. The time in darkness with Hel helps me to understand the contrasts.