The Dreamer

 

 Here Everything Is Dreaming

 

Here, Everything is Dreaming, Robert Moss, Excelsior Editions pp 170 rrp $16.94

I often envy poets.   As a writer, I frequently wish I could let my words go wild – and yet, of course, the dichotomy is that poetry at its best is also highly disciplined, a technical craft it takes years to master.

It’s this combination of technique and wild words that Australian-born, now US based author Robert Moss, brings to Here, Everything is Dreaming, his poems and short stories spanning a twenty-year period.

Take the first two stanzas of ‘If You Spill a Dragon’, for example:

If you spill a dragon,

          don’t think about washing the tablecloth.

Everything interesting happens on the boundaries,

and when you are real, shabbiness doesn’t matter.

 

You can’t see the whole picture when you’re in it,

and inside the soft animal of your body, you forget

that you are a star that came down because

         you wanted a messier kind of love.

What a wonderful visual feast is contained in only those eight lines!  And it’s a feast that is repeated right throughout this enticing volume full of love, life, death, sex – and dreams.  It is also a paean of praise to the natural world, and in particular the earthly and other-worldly animals that accompany us in our lifetimes.

As a dream-meister Moss is well known.  For many years he has taught and practiced Active Dreaming, a synthesis of dream-work and shamanic techniques.  His books include Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life; Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death; and The Secret History of Dreaming.  His novels include the three-volume Cycle of the Iroquois – but this is his first collection of poems.  He is also an imaginative and accomplished artist, and perhaps it is this artist’s sensibility that creates the rich vein of visual imagery that runs through these poems and stories….

The cherry trees are disconsolate lovers;

they can’t hold their pink smiles

after the unkindness of that night…

 Or

Before the secret green cells in the leaf

drink from its suncatchers, light walks

all paths through the protein scaffold…

Moss wasn’t always a poet.  He began his career as a lecturer in Ancient History at ANU in Canberra, but after a move to the UK to study for his PhD he joined the editorial staff of The Economist as a writer and special correspondent.  He was an active commentator on international affairs on the BBC World Service and on British television, and also wrote for publications as diverse as The Daily Telegraph and The New York Times Magazine. He later became a full-time writer, publishing a series of suspense novels.

It’s an intriguing combination of erudition and belief in the power of dreaming that gives both his poems and stories layers of meaning.

In his story The Other, Again, Moss uses Jorge Luis Borges’ story The Other as a springboard to explore him meeting a younger version of himself, in what may or may not be a dream.

This story, written in 2010, reveals a writer at peace with the extraordinary, and, it has to be said, his move from the mainstream into his shamanic dream-work was extraordinary in itself.

In 1986, as Moss tells it, he felt the need to get away from the city life and moved to a farm in upstate New York, where he started to dream in an unknown language, which, after investigation turned out to be an archaic form of the Mohawk language.  Helped by native speakers to interpret his dreams, Moss came to believe he had been put in touch with an ancient healer – a woman of power – and that he was being called to a different life.  It wasn’t long before one of his animal spirits – the bear – made itself known to him – and it’s the bear that often guides, reveals and surprises him in his work as a shaman.

Bear

Here too, perhaps is the poet’s courage to charter unknown imaginative terrain – not easy to put aside a mainstream international career for a ‘calling’ into the unknown, but Moss embraced his new life with the same dedication he had put into his previous careers.  His central premise being that dreaming isn’t just what happens during sleep, but that active dreaming is also a source of guidance, healing and creativity beyond the reach of the everyday mind.

It wasn’t long before his work and writing attracted international attention and he was asked to present his method at the conference of the Association for the Study of Dream at the University of Leiden in 1994.

All of this long career involved in words and worlds of so many different varieties come to fruition in Here, Everything is Dreaming – at the height of his powers Moss entices us in; creating a pathway between the worlds, and a way for us more mere mortals to draw closer to the gods, goddesses and animals spirits that wish to live through us.  This is a book full of texture and wonder from a dreamer and poet in his prime.

You can purchase Here, Everything is Dreaming through the State University of New York Press:  http://www.sunypress.edu/default.aspx or directly through Amazon as a kindle or paperback, and, of course from US bookshops!

 

 

Meditation on: Our Inner Child

“The end of childhood is when things cease to astonish us, when the world seems familiar – when one has got used to existence one has become an adult.”
– Eugene Ionesco

Photograph of Anna by Candida Baker

My daughter recently turned 12, and over the past six months or so I’ve watched that perilous rocking between childhood and young womanhood with a sense of trepidation and excitement – on her behalf, and on mine too, I might add.

I could almost pinpoint the exact moment when lists of girlfriends gave way to lists to One Direction’s names, with Harry being Numero Uno of course; the moment when riding up the lane on her bicycle became ‘boring’; when going to the movies with mum or dad became no match for going with a rabble from school.

My daughter’s growing up – no doubt about it. And, paradoxically perhaps, I see part of my continuing job as her parent to help her stay in touch with her inner child – to help her, if I can, to keep her soul alive with those little things that have sustained and nourished her throughout her childhood.

I’ve seen Anna look after herself in dark moments by dancing, or by drawing, and as a small child she could summon her imagination and her humour to her rescue easily. May those qualities stay with her always!

Surrounded by Anna and her friends, I’ve been thinking a lot about the inner child recently – by the time I was 12 my mother was an alcoholic, my father was often drunk and abusive and for me childhood was something I wanted to leave behind as quickly as possible.

Through a friend’s posting on Facebook the other day, I chanced across a wonderful letter from the poet Ted Hughes to his then 24-year-old son, Nicholas. Nicholas was only a baby when his mother, the poet Sylvia Plath, took her own life, and sadly, Nicholas too committed suicide in 2009.

In part of the letter Hughes talks directly about the vulnerability of our inner child, and of its essential importance to our lives and our own understanding of ourselves. He writes:

“Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self. At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them…It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool — for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful.”

In inner child therapy what is looked for is what therapist Robert Burney describes as the tools to unlock the magic of the inner child, without giving it free rein to drive the bus, and derailing life because of its lack of a proper place in someone’s life.

One of the main keys to understanding this internal secret garden is to remember what your child liked to do when he or she was young. Often, if we stop and ask our inner eight-year-old what it might like to do as a hobby, a surprising answer will emerge – an answer which can lead us towards a more creative, more joy-filled life.

 “The analogy between the artist and the child is that both live in a world of their own making,” wrote Anais Nin in her diaries.“Every child is an artist,” said Picasso, who knew a bit about his inner child, “the problem is how to remain an artist when you grow up.”

Such a multitude of grown-up concerns drive us away from that childish sense of glee and excitement in life – so many shoulds, musts, can’ts, fill our days, and as we grow older the accumulated weight of life’s lessons seem, well to me, I must confess, sometimes overwhelming.

Living in the country I’ve learned that sometimes something as simple as lying on my back under a tree and looking at the patterns in the leaves against the sky makes my eight-year-old grin with pleasure.

If I could say anything to my daughter now and have her remember it, it would be always listen to your heart.

As Ted Hughes writes: “The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”

Quote of the Week: 

Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life.
G.K. Chesterton.

 

A Christmas poem

  And so Happy Christmas…

 

Oh won’t it be fun

when the family comes

for Christmas?

There’s Aunty Beth

who’s arrived in a mess

and every decision is double the trouble

which triples the bills

of all of the other

aunties and sisters and cousins and brothers

and won’t it be fun

when the family comes

for Christmas?

We’ll play charades

that’s for sure

remember last year

and the broken screen door?

Well that was a sister in a blistering rage

taking sides

calling a shovel a spade

oh won’t it be lovely

won’t it be fun

when the family comes

for Christmas.

Now the little one loves it

for her it’s such fun

dollies galore and pink by the ton

she doesn’t quite it

the sub-text that’s there

the background flow of old treasons and reasons

the confusions of family that are not always clear

but maybe that’s why she cries on the stair

sucking her thumb and stroking her bear

oh it’s always such fun

when the family comes

for Christmas.

There’s Uncle of course

who once was a banker

but something snapped and now,

well, he’s a wanker

with signs that are rising

and crystals aspiring

to make his life better

which is all very well

might even be swell

if it wasn’t for wifey

who’s feeling quite knifey

and has only just found

that the spiritual epiphany

that’s become quite the litany

is due to the presence of a Dutch supermodel

and not, as she thought, a bunch of old twaddle

oh isn’t it fun when the relatives come

to stay in the house at Christmas?

As for my steps

and the half-baked attempts

to pretend we’re all jolly

it’s way beyond me

I’ve gone off my trolley

the passive-aggression of the visiting drunk

who blows smoke in our eyes

while we’re eating our lunch

what can she see in him…

we all crowd around

can’t she tell he’s a bounder

a rat and a cad

no doubt about it, thoroughly bad

staying for days –

how delightful we cry

filling the house with emotional haze

saving the break-up

which inevitably comes

to have here at Dad’s

why not at Mum’s?

Oh isn’t it jolly

isn’t it fun

isn’t it lovely

when the family all comes

for Christmas!

Copyright Candida Baker 2011

The Shadow

Aside

It seems like only yesterday…

The Shadow

Yesterday

My daughter found her shadow

Bubby! Bubby! She called to it

Lifting each leg

And waving her arms

Bubby!  Bubby!

She marched

And crawled

And patted it

And as the waves lapped at her feet

Concerned for its safety

She called to it again;

Bubby…Bubby

And toddled it to higher ground.

As I bent to gather her up

She waved her ams wide

In a gesture of farwell

Ah…Bubby, she sighed

Bye-bye…

Prose, poetry and pictures

Hello!

Welcome to my new blog.

Sometimes I think that the hardest thing in the world for a writer to do is actually write words out of the blue for no particular reason other than – well, it’s fun and it’s What We Do.

I have been a writer, journalist, editor, photographer and horse lover for many years, and I also have an interest in all things spiritual, and in nature, which is perhaps my greatest source of inspiration.

My world is a universe of prose, poetry and pictures – I hope you enjoy it…

Sliver

The sliver of ice

It was so very nice

It dwelt in my heart for years

I knew when it left

I would be bereft

I knew it would lead to tears

Then you came along

With your sweet sexy song

You cut out the ice

With your very own knife

Love flooded in

Where the coldness had been

And my body gave way to fire

But now I was razed

On the flames of desire

Left bleeding alone and crazed

What can I do but lick my wounds

Read the cards and cast the runes

And pray that the ice

Will take its place

Cover the bleeding

Without a trace

And dwell in my heart once more