Tales of the Watershed – Chinese Torch Prints

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fish by Steven Szegedy Szuts

fish by Steven Szegedy Szuts

Dreams No.89   May 1975

IF YOU were Chinese …

If who was Chinese?   Me, you or history?

The dream is a scribe of “his” story.   The dream tells me with some authority, that if I was Chinese and wise like a mandarin, I would know very well that I make my own bed to sleep on. The floor on which I lie for the night to imprint “his” story in my fibre, should be roughened.   Otherwise it will have no “key”.   My pillow would then slip, and no message come to my hearing.

This seems to be an ancient Oriental tradition.   As you make your bed, so you live.   A page too smooth cannot take the ink from heaven and the underworld. The fibre holds the script.   The rationale for this insight comes to me with all the force of Chinese respect for ancestry, and with the revelation of a brush scribing pictures.

So far so good.

Am I a printing press?   And from which civilisation did Renaissance Europe take the idea?

They say to me in this dream, roughen a plank on the wooden floor with a flaming torch to char the grain.   Lay paper on the burnt patch, and your pillow on the paper.   And lo! when you raise your head from sleep the paper will be printed with the mark of your life.

old tao sage

This principle seems unfathomably relevant to living, creating and suffering. A wisdom within it glows – something to do with fire which heats, burns out old wood and hollows a primitive boat for voyaging.   In the spirit of fire are interwoven myriad patterns of incarnation.   I gaze into the embers of flame, red, yellow, blue, violet, sometimes even lucid green. In fragile castles of carbon, whole histories fall to ash.   A dreamer is a traveller on the spot with his or her ear to the ground.

Certain prints of life are stroked out into the crinkle of slow flame; they glow.   It is breaking my heart!   how some people can play with fire and create these without having to make beds to lie in, or go to sleep at all.   These people – like my sister – have wonderful ideas.   They conjure filigree landscape from random traceries of the wood’s charred grain, to the delight of all who behold.

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B gave me some sheets of thick paper to experiment with.   And look, my sister and her friend Jemima at school are here in the room with me;   in their play, they made five or six colour pictures by holding the burning torch to the thick paper.   The sharp, incisive lines of their pictures have the glory of a Byzantine woodcut.   The flame crinkled or split lines or curves along the papery grain, along which they drew. I held those pictures in my hands.   I gazed at them envious, and humble, before such mastery.   B said my sister was an ordinary girl – so I never saw the power and clarity of her imagination, till now.   How does she do it?   Won’t she show me?   Then I could make a card like this, for his birthday next week.   I want him to value something from me, some taste and texture to delight in, like new brown bread, or an earthen pot with lapis lazuli glaze.   Then he couldn’t possibly tell me I’m a “spiritual desert”.

I was in his room later.   He went to get loo-paper for me to blow my nose.   We agreed to see each other less often for a while.   At least, our dialogue is not a wound.   Can we shake out the feathers, allow our own colours to grow, be less mutually invaded when we meet?   Hope broke shyly through into space.   The mood changed, and became sensitive to one another.   It could smile and laugh with our trouble.

I showed him three of those prints my clever sister made – the tension of her inner eye and the delicacy of her touch.   “Look!”   I said.   “My sister made those. What an artist she is.” Here’s a black and white one of a labyrinth, an immense industrial landscape somewhere in the North Country. To the left, a group of business magnates in top-hats and frock-coats, barter nineteenth-century expansion.   They haven’t refined the technology yet.   Smoke billows from chimneys, stove-pipes and flues, and to the right a black city opens to the foot, an intricate tangle of streets and sooty towers – a pool of life that is still a furnace.

So she too knew Liverpool!   And here’s a green one, the deft caricature of an earthy old man bent like a gnome.   The third one shows a field of long summer grass deep enough to wade in, rich with clover and wild garlic, active with the multi-level hierarchy of small creatures.   All her Tragic Stories are here, to walk with – the stories she tells to herself with chewed stems of grass for girls’ hair and bits of bent wire for boys’ legs. She is a sturdy, short-sighted child. She mumbles her song through field and farmyard, utterly absorbed in the drama at play in her hands.   I follow sometimes, and listen.

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I am burning to do it too.   I want to release that vision heat-held in wood and paper.   I thirst for the water of life, that slow dew of remembering …

What is really happening is that a baby is sitting here in this room with the burnt patch on the floor, a baby with dark eyes.   And the drawing that he, she, I, am doing so carefully along the advice of the ageless sages collapsed, and broke into a wild infant scrawl.

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child caught tasting pebbles - Art-Not-Doing 1987

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

Gene Keys Golden Path Program
This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

aquariel link

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2014. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

Tales from the Watershed – The Man in Lime Street Station

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Street. Liverpool 8 1968

Street scene. Liverpool 8 1968

This week, I post three Watershed tales, which have been on my mind.  Here is the second one, in this sequence. It mirrors in an odd way, “The Knight”.  The oil-pastel paintings are from my old sketchpads when at Liverpool art school.

Many of my recorded “Watershed” dreams from the 1970s are “relationship koans” – stories of strange and sometimes “brief” encounters …

children in trains 1954

children in trains 1954

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Dreams No. 258   17 August 1976

WHICH IS the train to London?   There are just too many platforms at Liverpool Lime Street terminus – slots for departure on which to put your pennies.   The noise of the great station throws me;  small local trains and big ones with diesel engines for distance wait the guard’s whistle – the hands of the clock, a tick from the tock.   If I’m on the wrong platform, it’s that hard to cross to the right one, around this or that engine, up here past the ticket office, over sweaty stairs, down past Information – the timetables are covered in fog – it’s a matter of life and death.   Some  parts of this station are even outside it, away in the city;  and by that time my train has gone.   Can I find out, a matter of moments before it goes?   I haven’t very long, but I’m in no hurry –  oddly.

Because I’m sitting on the platform,  on the ground.

We walked to this spot together.   Me and this man I once knew.   But I never saw him before in my life.   He says I knew him well, several years ago when I was at college.   A penny for your thoughts, dear!   And I do have a sort of memory of him.

tao generation & destruction cycles

I have seen and talked with him in the alleys of Taunton, and among my dreams of a disordered and dark city to adventure and lose myself in  – just like Liverpool it is, where sailors buy coffee-coloured ladies, and the kids scream and steal and light fires on the cobblestones.  He is so familiar.  Love and death is a tough tune of sadness;  the Anglican Cathedral shelters dropouts, tramps and charwomen with mops;  they bomb the dole in the pubs,  and the trollops in greasy Parliament Street glow like painted angels.   He looked out for me.   He knew who I was, he watched over me.  I used to see him also in the smaller town, Taunton where I went to school.

Liverpool 8 1968

Liverpool 8 1968

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We talked first of Liverpool.   Oh, I’m about to cry, the great wave which opens my heart!   He is from Liverpool, but Ireland was his home.   In his voice there lilts the brogue.   I  forgot all about him!   Yet intimate we were, and are.   He was a big, very fat man.   And he looks ugly because he has not a hair on his head, and his skin is yellow as a lemon.   But in his face and manner, a peculiar sensitivity and grace.   It reminds me of a song.   Or was it a poem, a joining of musical notes from different places and times, where did I hear or read it?   “Twas there I learnt readin’ and writin’, at Brockets where I went to school.”   And twas there you learnt all of me fighting with the schoolmaster Mr O’Toole!   No maid saw he, as fair as …  the dew (he lost me) from Bantry Bay to Dairy Kay …  just to keep her from the fog – the foggy dew.   And from there to Dublin Town … it is crystal clear.

colours in Liverpool 8 1968

colours in Liverpool 8 1968

Now that boy – d’you remember? – called Micky Malone came and stole her affection away!   and oh,  lathered him with his shaghlele did I, ’cause …  He trod on the tail of me coat, like that.   D’you remember those fields, I run after you …  the little glistening hills of rainbow – our ancestry begod, it flows in the peat?

That I met in County Down.  He said wistfully,  “It was the only …  thing he …  ever did wrong.”

O

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We sat on the platform, the uncertain moment before parting.   We spoke of our past and of now.   He’s very kind to me.   He seems to like me just as I am.   And hideous fat and lemon though he is, I fancy oh yes to bed with him, it is in his quiet touch like the bud of a yellow rose.   The sadness is everywhere about this imminent yet indefinite departure of mine, my lord.

“You need a man to be firm with you,”  he said  “don’t you.”   At Taunton art college, and in Liverpool too, my jeans were torn, my feet were bare on the street, and my hair wasn’t washed.   “But …”  he lifted his shoulders and looked at me very straight   “you’re a woman, you’re no eejit.   You’ll go where you will, and one day you will turn around and find me.   I’m here, you know.”   “Yes,” I said, very sad  “but I’ve got a man back in London.   And he’s very firm with me, really he is.”   My friend on the platform sitting close to me on the ground said  “and is it sexual?”   “Yes,” I said.   “Really. Then that is good,” said he.

But that’s not true, is it.  It isn’t.  It’s all broken and ashamed.  And if I said No it’s not sexual, that wouldn’t be true either.   What is the boundary of the loyalty, my body to the man back there in London?  He keeps me on the rails.   So to speak.

couple in a coffee bar 1987

couple in a coffee bar 1987

The trains on their rails coughingly wait to depart, and some of them have gone, and I don’t know which of them is mine for the long journey.   I think I’ve got a few minutes before I get in.   The man accepts this with tenderness and regret.   “But you must follow what is going to happen to you, mavournin, mustn’t you, all the way.”   For I had said so myself.   We kissed each other very gently on the lips.  My box opens for him again.   He is so powerful.

Anglican cathedral, Liverpool 8, in 1968

Anglican cathedral, Liverpool 8, in 1968

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We shared some kind of a drink in a glass.   Or the dregs of such a drink which were left.   Bittersweet taste and clean and pure and yellow it is, and I’ve got to go and get a full glass of it.   I got up, put my purse in my pocket, I left my green suede handbag with him to look after, and went off down the platform alongside the train to the stall where they sell drinks displayed aloft in all kinds and colours.   Some of them are milkshakes and some are essences.   And some look like ice-creams, they are the colour of violet with square crystals.

“It’s quinine that y’want then,”  they said,  reaching for it.   But …  Quinine is terribly, terribly bitter!   Am I wrong?  They give it for malaria.   What if he’s got jaundice, is that why he’s so yellow?   If his liver is ill, then quinine wouldn’t be at all the best drink for him, or for me either.

I can’t make up my mind.  I must have that yellow drink, none of the others have that flavour and colour where I belong.

There were only a couple or so big diesel engine trains left to go as far as London now.

I woke up, it took me away!

It’s alright.   I left me bag,  the little green one,  with him.   I’ll be back.

ribbed water

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solis luna conjunctio

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

Aquariel Link

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/