Into the Mythic

All week long my neighbourhood has reverberated with the sound of chain saws as my neighbours cut down trees for no apparent reason.  It feels like the perfect time to reblog this story I wrote a few years ago.   I made concertina book in the photos at the end of the story around the same time.  

After wandering through the woods for quite some time Mirabelle was relieved to stumble upon a gypsy caravan.   ‘Of course it’s a gypsy caravan, what else could it be?’ she muttered to herself. ‘This whole experience of being lost and alone in these deep, dark woods is totally archetypal. I am convinced I have strayed into the realms of the mythic and the mystic.’

‘That’s exactly right dear. That’s where you are,’ said a round faced woman poking her head out the caravan door. ‘It’s time you learned to trust your intuition.’

‘My intuition? I don’t think it’s working. I’m looking for my way home but I can’t seem to find it,’ said Mirabelle.

‘That’s because you are meant to come here first and have your Tarot Reading,’ the gypsy woman said with a knowing smile.

‘I don’t think so. I don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo.’ Mirabelle was very clear on this. How could little pictures on pieces of cardboard possibly have anything to say to her. She believed in a rational, objective approach to life.

‘Just as you like dear. It matters not to me. I can read the tea leaves or even the autumn leaves if you prefer – the I Ching or the lay of the land. The point is you will not find your way home without some metaphysical guidance. As you said yourself, you have entered the realms of the mythic.’

‘Read the lay of the land then,’ Mirabelle said with a note of challenge in her voice. ‘I’ve been walking through these woods for quite some time now and I’ve noticed there is something amiss here. Things don’t seem quite right.’

‘You are very perceptive my dear, you really must learn to trust that,’ the gypsy woman said  conversationally as she climbed down from the caravan and joined Mirabelle on the path. ‘Come, let us walk. The lay of the land will guide our footsteps.’

Setting off at a brisk pace the gypsy woman led Mirabelle down a winding trail. As they walked birds sung in the trees, butterflies flittered past and the golden rays of sunlight piercing the tree canopy illuminated their way. After a time they came to a natural clearing where a small spring bubbled up between round rocks. The woman took a seat on a carved stone bench nearby.  Mirabelle sat down beside her. From here she could see straight through a gap in the trees to the open land beyond – a wasteland of withered thorn bushes and dreary expanses of grey grass. A chill wind moaned as it whipped over the land and Mirabelle shivered involuntarily. jordan and london 303

‘As you can see from the lay of land, things are definitely not right around here and haven’t been for some time,’ said the gypsy woman. She looked deep into Mirabelle’s eyes as if searching for some gleam of understanding. Mirabelle returned the look. The woman’s eyes were a soft deep brown flecked with specks of mossy green. ‘Like pools of  water in the forest,’ Mirabelle thought as she travelled deeper into the mythic.

The woman’s voice came to her as if from a great distance. Murmuring like a forest stream the voice told stories of ancient times when faerie folk danced across the clearing and elves sang sweet melodies in the trees. After an eon this was replaced by another reality where tall beings clad in white moved among the trees holding ceremony and murmuring incantations. Then, like the clarion call from the devil’s trumpet, came the Iron Age – the Kali Yuga – the times of war and mayhem. Blood lay thick upon the ground as the wounded moaned and  death wraiths streaked  across the desolate plains.

Mirabelle cringed as men felled the trees and mined the earth to find the raw materials to build their weapons of war. As the battle cries and the whine of machinery intensified she broke free from the woman’s gaze.

‘What are you doing to me,’ she whimpered. ‘I know nothing of these things. They are not the world I walk in. I just want to get home to my family.’

‘Perhaps it is that we have all lived many lifetimes and been many things,’ the woman replied. ‘Perhaps it is that these memories are encoded in our DNA. We are all involved on some level or another.’

Mirabelle nodded. ‘I’m doing what I can to live a better life,’ she said earnestly, ‘but I’m just an ordinary person living an ordinary life. All I can do is can change my part of the world. I am endeavouring to live more sustainably and I am working on my consciousness.’

The gypsy woman remained silent as Mirabelle looked out across the wasteland. Here and there she noticed new life burst forth amidst the weeds. The new growth looked puny against the vastness of the devastated space. ‘It just doesn’t seem to be enough,’ she said forlornly.

Still the woman said nothing but instead, rummaged through a cloth bag slung over her shoulder. She pulled down out a tattered manuscript and passed it over. Opening it Mirabelle saw it was an illustrated map engraved with strange directions. Bemused she glanced to where the woman had sat only to discover she had disappeared. For a moment she looked out to open land and noticed that although the new growth was small, it was vibrant and healthy. Returning her eyes to the map she read the directions – perhaps they would lead her home.

Look for beauty
Use discernment – question everything
Create our own path
Be courageous but harm none
Seek freedom012


Misc’s Emporium

About half past midnight or maybe even later Allie came across a ramshackle store on the edge of town.   The moon hid behind a veil of cloud and a shadowy half light lay across the world. Strangely, given the late hour, the store was open. MISC’S EMPORIUM read a faded sign above the door.


Entering, Allie discovered the placed was packed with an unlikely selection of consumer goods from the last hundred years or so. She noticed a selection of Glo-mesh handbags artfully displayed beside some green and orange curtains from the 1970s. Large Victorian jardinieres stood nearby. A network of cobwebs lay over everything.

“Can I help you?” asked a dishevelled woman emerging from deep in the interior.

“You look familiar,” Almurta said. “Have I met you before?”

“Everyone asks me that,” the woman said with a dispirited sigh. “It’s because I’m Misc.”

“Misc? What do you mean? I’m not familiar with that word.”

“Misc is short for miscellaneous,” the woman said with another sigh. She had obviously explained this many times before. “It’s my name. It comes from the label my father scrawled on the jar in his shed where he shoved all the loose bits and pieces he came across whenever he cleaned up. I’m number ten in a family of eleven children. No one had any idea what to call me. All the best names were already taken. I was a bit superfluous really.”

“Oh dear,” Almurta said sympathetically.

“Oh, I was loved and all,” Misc explained. “It was just that I never had a clearly defined role. I was the youngest for a bit but then my little sister arrived. She was unexpected so everyone made a fuss of her and I got overlooked in the crowd. When I grew up I decided to set up this Emporium as a storehouse for discards and rejects. I do a roaring trade. Some people come here searching for items they accidentally misplaced years back. Others come when they seeking out particular items they had always planned to get but somehow never got around to.  In a way you could say this place is a repository for forgotten aspects of the self. If you poke around in the stuff here you’re bound to turn up parts of yourself you have discarded or forgotten about.”

Allie began flipping idly  through a box of old vinyl records in front of her. ‘Rubber Soul’, she read, ‘The Planets by Holst’, ‘Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition’, ‘Kraftwerk Autobahn’. “These are Avid’s records”, she muttered to herself as read the familiar titles.

Avid – just the name was enough to turn her mind to memories of the time she had rented a room in his house when she was clueless kid just arrived in the city from the southern town of Bland. Avid was an older man. A friend of a friend of a friend. He’d offered her a room for the year while she worked two jobs and saved enough money to go overseas.

She still remembered the evenings she’d spent curled up in an armchair in Avid’s study reading through his library. “Listen to this,” he’d say as he carefully unsheathed a record and placed it on the turntable. He would give her a short lecture explaining where the music she was about to hear fitted into the world of music before filling the room with sounds she had never heard before. On her free weekends they would go to art galleries and art house movies. Over coffee they would discuss what they had seen and heard. She was a bit in love with him but they both dated other people. She got drunk with silly boys while he courted sophisticated older women. Neither of them ever succeeded in developing a lasting relationship. When she’d saved enough money she shouldered her backpack and said goodbye.

Years later she heard from a friend of a friend that Avid had put all his possessions in store and gone travelling himself a few months after she’d left. The news surprised her. He had been so settled and had told her often enough, travel did not interest him.

Many times over the years she’d wondered what it would have been like if things had been different and she and Avid had become a couple.  One lonely night she’d searched his name on Facebook. She found others with the same name – football stars, head honchos of corporations and young kids holding up beer bottles in their profile photos but not him.

As for herself she had moved states several times and her name had changed when she married.   She hadn’t bothered to change it back after her divorce.   It would have been too complicated at work.    It would be hard to trace her unless your were a detective.  Besides, she reasoned, why would Avid search for her? He had made it clear that sophisticated ladies were more to his tastes.

So many years had gone by now. Avid would be an old man. It was too late to even consider trying to find him. Still as she fingered the old vinyls she wondered why she had stumbled upon them in Misc’s extraordinary store. What discarded aspect of her life did they represent? Whenever she thought of that time she always thought of everything Avid had given her. Now as she stood in that dingy interior it came to her that she had bought something to the equation too. She’d bought a fearlessness and an adventuring spirit. Somewhere over the years she had misplaced that.

“I see you found what you were looking for,” Misc said suddenly reappearing from a dusty alcove. Almurta looked at her in surprise.

“That fearlessness you’ve just discovered,” Misc said by way of explanation. “Grasp that and you’ll find your way forward.”

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The Reading Room

I received a friendly email from asking me if I would like to write a post about my ideal reading room.

I thought about this offer but decided I probably  wasn’t the right person for the job for I don’t read much mainstream fiction.   The enquiry did make me look at my own reading habits though.

Personally I like reading novels that help me understand the contemporary world.   I usually read at the kitchen table and have a notebook beside me where I sometimes jot down passages from novels.   I began this notebook in 2014.  I rarely go back and refer to it but the enquiry from Arhaus led me to take a look.  I discovered that many of the entries I’ve made follow a theme  –

The first entry is from “Lost for Words” by Edward St Aubyn.

“We are at the point in history where it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism…

We would rather watch a movie about the threat of a meteor from outer space than contemplate the actual impact of the Capitalist meteor on the Earth…

Finally this is of no importance because both catastrophes, the fantastic and the actual, are deployed to distract us from the desert of the Real into which we have marched the exhausted culture of the West.   In this desert, it is forbidden to think.

Even if Capitalism is the crisis, Capitalism must be the solution.”

From “The Circle” by David Eggers

“The Human Rights of the Digital Age

  • We must all have the right to anonymity
  • Not every human activity can be measured
  • The ceaseless pursuit of data to quantify the value of any endeavour is catastrophic to true understanding.
  • The barrier between public and private must remain understandable.
  • We must have the right to disappear

From “Why are you so sad?”   Jason Porter

“Have we all sunken into a species-wide bout of clinical depression?   We are symptoms of a grieving planet.”

From “Open City” by Tesu Cole

“a cancerous violence had eaten into every political idea, had taken over the ideas themselves, and for so many, all that mattered was the willingness to do something.  Action led to action, free of any moorings, and the way to be someone, the way to catch the attention of the young and to recruit them to one’s cause, was to be enraged.”

From “The Beach beneath the pavement” by Roland Dinning

 (the narrator of the novel thinking about another character) –   “Kepler seemed to be claiming the world was deliberately flooded with contradictory conspiracy theories creating maelstroms of confusion…  Complexity, fear, uncertainty…   these are essentials conditions for Post Credibility.

“they control us by giving us what we want so we have to stop wanting things.   They want us to think life’s a supermarket and the longer the shelves are, the more free we are.”

and – “he’s internalised the system.   It’s what we all end up doing, not what we think we’re doing…   The silent copper in the head policing us from within.”

From “The Restoration Otto Laird” by Nigel Packer

“Everything has become a commodity nowadays: and maybe every person too.   All of us have become commodities to each other.   The profit motive has entered every sphere of life and its hegemony is complete.”

From “The Age of Magic” by Ben Okri

“ he felt momentarily free of the law he had invoked and set in motion:   the law that says you are what you think you are.   He also felt free of the other, more pernicious law:   the one that says you are what the world thinks you are.

For a moment Lao felt free of the prison of the constructed self, free also from the tyranny of the attachment to things.

The first freedom is freedom of mind, he thought”  maybe even, freedom from mind.”

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If I were to describe my dream reading room I would have to say it would be a warm, bright kitchen with large wooden table.  Cups of tea would magically appear when wanted and the coffee would be the best.    People people from all over the world would be free to enter this room and discuss ideas found in books they had read.