Thursday, December 31, 2015

FARAWAY & NEARBY - Mystery of a History: AURORA

Désolé, there is no Part II - The past is a foreign country:  they do things differently there.  L.P. Hartley if with the future we could replace the past
as in the childhood of terror and holiness as light or the retreat of light 
- Blue Hour, Carolyn Forche


Through a chink too wide comes in no wonder - Patrick Kavanaugh

Madrid, Spain  - October, 2015

This line is the present.
The line you've read is now past
It fell behind after being read.
The rest of the poem is the future,
which exists outside your

The words
are here, whether you read them
or not. And nothing on earth
can change that.

Joan Brossa, Catalan Poet, Playwright 1919-1998
(After the Civil war, Brossa experimented with Surrealist
automatic writing. He supported himself selling banned books 
and doing magic tricks: throughout his life he maintained magic 
and poetry were closely allied.)

At Punt Magic, Barcelona, Oct. 2015

Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.  To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.

Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller's art, and then a way of traveling from here to there...We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind...Sometimes the key arrives long before the lock.  Sometimes a story falls in your lap.   Rebecca Solnit from The Faraway and Nearby*

Antique Skeleton Key - Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The Locked Door - Unknown Artist

Sometimes you look through a keyhole; sometimes there is no lock -
 You just turn the knob.

In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.
― William Blake 

Eugene Atget - Paris Through My Lens
This story fell into my lap. It is my friend's story.  Her name is Dawn - Aurora, the mythical Roman Goddess, the first appearance of daylight.  We took a journey together, a Tarot journey to Spain, to see if we could retrieve some of the missing pieces of her story - to turn the key in the lock. 

Mental Traveler -

But before that could happen, we hunted down some magic, dug up a few artists, devils, saints, Geishas, poets and storytellers (+ sheep) in Barcelona. A city where the peeps make merry - laugh, love & live in the streets; a place where no one sleeps, least of all us, bedding down on one of the noisiest streets in the city.  It wasn't Las Ramblas, but perhaps its twin sister, Las Noiselas.   

Aurora - La Pedera, Casa Mila, Gaudi Barcelona
Rudy - Ditto

Las Noiselas
Las Ramblas
Finally tracked down Punt Magic in Barcelona. Quite a fancy pants Tarot center. Loads of decks, crystals, Buddhas & Professor Rossanna (is that Rossanna Rosanna Danna?), with a wall full of diplomas presiding, she had a steady stream of clients of all stripes, from suits to nuts. I didn't make an appt. - I already knew what she was going to say. I bought a crystal from Brazil, kissed the Buddha and wondered if my career would be enhanced with Professor in front of my name?  Voila!
Professor Rossana - Punt Magic, Barcelona
A friend had told us to visit the Abbey at Montserrat, where the Benedictine monks would feed us bread & figs with honey drizzled on top.  That didn't happen; they were busy with ora et labora, their rhythms of work & prayer.  And we didn't wait in line for hours to kiss the Virgin's hand - the Black Madonna, but I did find out why she is black.  Not because she is African or the dark color of the wood, simply darkening over time.

I slept with faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening:  I drank and danced all night with doubt and found her a virgin in the morning.  Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies.

Some local wag said "a country with a black virgin and a white Gorilla, (Floquet de Neu) aka Snowflake) can't be all bad."  I would have waited in line for hours to see the Albino, Snowflake, but he died in 2003. Look at those hands, the nobility of that creature.  Just as well, it would have broken my heart to see him in a zoo.

Black Madonna - Abbey Montserrat

Floquet de Neu - Snowflake, Catalunya Zoo

You can see Heinrich Himmler's signature in the visitors book, 1940/41.  He thought the holy grail was hidden there somewhere. And Wagner used the mountain as a backdrop for his opera, Parsifal.

The day soared when we took the Funicular up, up, up, eye to eye with the eagles.

No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming—
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of vast silence
Antonio Machado

Montserrat - Spain, October 2015

Yes, it's a tourist trap, with its trinkets, overpriced food, and Selfie sticks, but redemption came in the form of a legend. That of Saint Jordi (St. George), told to us by our mesmerizing Italian guide, Bella Bella (not her real name, but it fits).  In a nutshell, St. George slew the dragon (stand-in for Satan) to save a Princess.  He then plucked a red rose to bestow upon her from a rose bush which sprouted on the exact spot where George had spilled the dragon's blood.  There are many versions of this legend, but in Bella Bella's recounting, the roses were growing out of St. George's chest, where he had been gored by the dragon.  I haven't been able to verify her story, but it's so much more romantic!  The day is commemorated on April 23rd in Catalunya, the equivalent of St. Valentine's Day.  Life is the flower for which love is the honey - Victor Hugo

By some loose association pattern, which I am frequently guilty of, I was reminded of Yukio Mishima's last book, "The Decay of the Angel"; his literary suicide, dagger ripping open his abdomen.  Mishima was heavily influenced by Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales, especially, The Rose-Elf which threw deep shadows over my heart, only that beautiful youth who, while kissing the rose given him as a token by his sweetheart, was stabbed to death and decapitated by a villain with a big knife. And hey, we always thought it was only the thorns that were to be avoided.  Mishima's characters were always throwing themselves after their destinies & aren't we all doing that? But seldom with Yukio and George's style - the stuff that legends are made of.  Amor Fati.

The Decay of the Angel

As is quite clear, the enchanter interests me more than the yarn spinner or the teacher.  Vladamir Nabakov

Saint-George by Picasso - Abbey Monserrat

Nel Mezzo - Midway upon our journey, Shepherds/Drovers led 2000 sheep thru the center of Barcelona & Madrid to protest the loss of ancient grazing and migration rights.  That's a lot of sheep. Our own pilgrimage took on a deeper meaning.  How much time do we all have left? Questions for scientists, poets, and tarot cards (or just ask yourself that question).

Centre de Madrid - Photo Daniel Ochoa de Olza - October, 2015

Alert and unsettled, I thought about the sheep grazing back home in France, and the ones I met in Cumbria in July, free and easy they seemed then, with their pastures and precipices.
Cumbria, Lakes Dist. July, 2015

But the visions were sliding into home plate. Like the Cumaean Sibyl, Amalthaea, who lived in a cave in the Phlegraean Fields, I scribbled down my prophesies, hers were on Oak leaves, mine in a little blue notebook...both scattered to the winds.

Many moons ago a palm reader told me:  you have "the finger of doubt."  I think I was also born with the map of calamity in my palm.  I see good things tout le temps, but now acres of sorrow stretched out onto the Plazas as far as the eye could see.  Later there were more witnesses (les témoins).

Newborn Lamb, Combiers, 2015

Gaudi distracted us with his sparks of holiness.
As if you were on fire within. The moon lives within the lining of your skin. Pablo Neruda

On the rooftop/light show at Casa Mila, we experienced Gaudi's adroit unification of  heaven and earth. His homes were meant to be desired, touched, embraced. Our flesh and bones melted into his casas.  For Aurora it was the metal work that made her heart thump.  I could see her with a welding torch and helmet.

La Perdrera, Casa Mila - Barcelona, light show at midnight, October 2015

La Pedrera - Metalwork
Dawn/Aurora touching the Barcelona sky
On the Rooftop

Girl with a torch

Nothing is art if it does not come from nature - Antoni Gaudi

Nautilus - Casa Mila

Python Skeleton - Casa Mila

Light Show on the Rooftop

I walk and walk and walk some more.  My feet are killing me...I get lost, I lose my bearings.  I try to learn some Spanish.  Dawn finds me blisterpacks.  I buy new shoes.  My feet still hurt.

Between Barcelona and Madrid, I find gardens, saints & statues, angelic cellists, a guy with part of his head missing.  I pull tarot cards while watching idle Spanish housewives, I drink lots of Cafe Ibera with condensed milk...feel even more dislocated. Dali creeps me out. 

Salvador Dali

"And then there was St. Kevin and the Blackbird...One turned up palm is out the window, stiff as a crossbeam when a blackbird lands, and lays in it and settles down to he must hold his hand like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks until the young are hatched and fledged and flown...a prayer his body makes entirely, for he has forgotten self and forgotten bird and on the riverbank forgotten the river's name." Seamus Heaney from "The Spirit Level".

Plaça de Catalunya

I limp to the Japanese Botanical Gardens to leaven the endless kilometers of commerce, concrete & cars all around me; to smell, touch, feel, hear:  chlorophyll, children's garden of squashes, leaves and bark, bird song, Spanish guitars, old couple from 1959. 

Real Jardin Botanico - Madrid
Japanese Gardens - Madrid

Real Jardin Botanico - Madrid

Japanese Gardens
Quoth the Raven...

Spanish Guitars
Grown by tiny hands and big hearts

Autumn Leaves

Grow old with me - the best is yet to be

I find the soul of Spain in the eyes and music of this cello player behind the Gothic Cathedral, El Gotica, like Pablo Casals in Paris 1958

Barcelona, Barri Gotic
Pablo Casals, Paris, 1958

Guy with missing head
Cross card, second from left - Suffering

Spanish women at Starbucks
Cafe Ibera
I went back to our Air B&B and stared at the Museum of Communism poster, the one decorative touch in the whole place.  And our hosts were two gay guys, go figure. 

What is the message here?

If I couldn't locate myself in time and space, how was I going to help Dawn solve the mystery of her history?  I pulled out Rebecca Solnit's "Field Guide to Getting Lost" and randomly landed on this:

Solnit quotes the twentieth-century philosopher-essayist, Walter Benjamin:  Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance - nothing more.  But to lose oneself in a city - as one loses oneself in a forest - that calls for quite a different schooling.

Solnit then goes on to say:  To lose yourself:  a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away.  In Benjamin's terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.  And one does not get lost, but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography.  

Oh, I could have kissed her! 

And I knew it already, how the world finds you & opens its heart to you - if you let it. I felt the key slip into my hand.


Wanting to know all
I overlooked each particle
Containing the whole

Intent on one great love, perfect,
Requited and forever,
I missed love's everywhere
Small presence, thousand-guised.

And lifelong have been reading
Book after book, searching 
For wisdom, but bringing
Only my own understanding.

Forgive me, forgiver,
Whether you be infinite omniscient
Or some unnoticed other
My existence has hurt.

Being what I am
What could I do but wrong?
Yet love can bring
To heart healing
  To chaos meaning.  

Kathleen Raine

We rent a car to track down Aurora's roots in Madrid, and the doors began to creak open, starting at Europcar, after all the other rental places slammed the door in our face. En fait, their rates were too high, so we slammed the door in their faces too (pas vraiment).

Europcar - Madrid

What more favorable omen could you find to start a pilgrimage than this?

Our angelic agent, Santiago Lopez

Dawn with "La Maison" - The House Card

Our favorite Cafe in Madrid

Madrid, Spain



The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

- David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press


Lenormand Revolution - Carrie Paris, Roz Foster

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