Thursday, 23 December 2010

Animal Dreams

In Rubin Naiman's Healing Night I read an account of someone's dream. In it, she was very afraid because a wild black stallion was kicking at its confining stall. The dreamer was on the other side of the stall, frozen, unable to move, and afraid that the horse would kick through – she felt as if she was about to die. Eventually she began to wake up and realised it was a dream but

the image haunted her and she told the author about it. She told him that she felt boxed in, in her present life circumstances. It's not hard to see the connection between her comment and the fierce wild stallion, and with the author's help she came to recognize the horse's energy as her own.

Reading about this reminded me of a vivid dream I had many years ago, when I was in Paris. There were two animals In this dream, a bull and a sheepdog, and at first I was simply observing what was taking place between them. The bull was being driven by the sheepdog who seemed to think that the bull should act like a sheep, and be rounded up or at least go in the direction the dog wanted it to go in. The bull put up with this for a while and then lost patience, broke away from the nagging dog,

turned right around and charged towards me. I think that I felt unable to move and felt too, that it would trample me and possibly kill me but I woke up before it reached me.

Like the woman with the stallion dream, I too felt confined in my life at the time. But it took this unexpected, spontaneous visit to Paris, on my own, to provide me with a dream that clearly pointed out my situation to me. I spent the next two days walking through the streets of Paris, mainly, though not always, on my own. A sense of freedom came gradually, it stole up on me and then seemed to take hold of the edges of my perception and prised them apart. I stepped through, into a different world.

After such an experience, you cannot return to what you were before. I made changes in my life, that gave me more space and freedom. I also wrote my experience in Paris into a story, The Number of the Dream. The dream of a potentially destructive force had initiated an experience that broke through my sense of intense frustration and the limitations of my perceptual reality. This potential opponent that can turn into a helping, creative energy is what Arnold Mindell in Shaman's Body calls both 'the daimon' and 'the ally'.

I wonder what happened to the woman who had the dream of the horse. It seems to me that both of us were afraid of our own powerful selves, both of whom were enraged at being confined or controlled. The author does not say what happened to her, perhaps did not know. He mentioned that she had been considering a move to the country as she thought she might feel more free there, with more space, but she did not make this move. But there are many ways of making changes in our lives and re-routing our creative energy so that it is not self-destructive. Wherever they are, I hope that she and her magnificent black stallion are working well together.

Sculpture by Eoghan Bridge - Horse and Rider

Friday, 17 December 2010

Release of Julian Assange

Last night
The new snowfall still lay on gardens, but had melted on the streets. Some pavements were still encrusted with inches of slippery ice that had not melted after the last severe fall. The cobbled road on which the US Consulate is located is blocked off with concrete bollards, so it is not possible for cars to pass or pull up in front of it. But the pavement is unobstructed and as we walk towards it, we see a lone person standing in front of the doorway. It's H. She tells us that soon after she arrived someone came out to tell her that he is the chief security officer and he can have her arrested if she tries to obstruct his work in any way. She tells him she is not there to cause any obstruction, she is there to protest.
M and I take photographs and H asks who is going to hand in the letter in support of Wikileaks. It quoted from a letter published in the Herald by Scottish PEN's President. After mentioning how the Chinese Government put pressure on countries not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony last week, he says:
'We have no room for complacency in democratic societies. Laws can be changed and individuals can be persecuted, slandered and marginalised at the point where they appear to pose any threat to powerful interests.'
I've never protested before H says. Do we have to ring the bell I ask, or can we just put it through the letter box? While we are discussing this a man comes out, goes up to M and asks him not to take photographs. While we say that we do not think it's against the law to take photographs he says that if we continue he will have to call the police. There are certain places where you are not allowed to take photographs because it's a security risk and this is one of these places. Eventually M says ok he won't take any more. The man heads back towards the door. Will you accept a letter? asks T. No he says, and goes back inside.
That's the one who said he could have me arrested says H. We stand around talking. The moon shines between the trees, and Jupiter becomes ever clearer above the dark shape of Arthur's Seat. About half an hour later the man comes out again, and, his manner affable now, says if we're waiting to deliver the letter, he will accept it. We hand it over and he goes back inside. He must want to go home we laugh, that's why he's decided to accept it. Maybe he wouldn't be able to leave, if we were still there.
We left the Consulate around 5.40 or 5.45.
I read in the paper today that that was the time Julian Assange was released and appeared in front of the court house – 5.46 – to a barrage of flashing cameras. One of the things he said was -
during my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison I had time to reflect on the condition of these people around the world also in solitary confinement also on remand in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. These people also need your attention and support.”
International PEN supports writers in prison throughout the world. The Scottish branch of International PEN currently has an exhibition at the Writers Museum in Edinburgh featuring the work of their Writers in Prison group.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Life in the Snow Lane

Normally I hardly ever see the people who live in the same street as me. They get in their cars and drive off. But the past few days, I meet people out walking, or clearing snow from their driveways or digging out their cars.
This morning I shovelled snow from the path again, and also from the path going round the side of the house to the back, where the coal bunker is located – though I doubted that the coalman would make it. On the way down the hill to take some photos, I met a neighbour also equipped with camera. I'm taking photos to send to my friends in the south of England, they're complaining about an inch of snow and I want to show them what real snow looks like, he says.
I meet the postman, walking up the hill, laden with a heavy sack. I take my mail from him, commiserate, and thank him for making the effort. I meet a couple of other neighbours out for a walk, and later, the one who gave me a lift yesterday. As we speak, flocks of geese are sensibly flying in a southward direction, and he tells me how he likes to get up close to geese [he's a professional photographer] and so he lies down in the marshy places where they congregate, and he says he gets to within a couple of feet of them.
After I get back, a neighbour asks me if I need anything, as they're driving to the shops. Another phones to say the coal lorry has arrived. I hurriedly make a better job of clearing the path. But the truck has only made it half way up the hill and the young man has to carry the bags of coal the rest of the way. It's not so bad here he says, over in Duns there's about four feet of snow. He thanks me for clearing the path, I thank him profusely for bringing the coal.

Saint Andrew, the Pilgrim

November 30th, St. Andrew's Day
I woke up this morning thinking about journeys and travel – not just because of some travel writing I'm working on, or even because I enjoy travelling so much, but also because of how much better I feel, in general, and how much more easily my thoughts seem to flow , when I'm in movement.
Fired with enthusiasm, I thought how journal and journey have the same root, and the image in my mind was of someone on a journey, and the scallop shell symbol of the pilgrim.
I determined that I would make an early start and would have a successful journey today, unlike yesterday, when I dug a path through the snow to my garden gate, and walked the half mile or so to the bus stop. I stood there for some time, chatting to a neighbour, but there were clearly no buses running, although the road was passable, demonstrated by a few slow-moving cars. Because of the persistent snow and the fact that it would soon be dark, my neighbour and I walked back.
But today I felt sure of success. I started early – after checking the website of the bus company, to be told no buses were running. I'd barely arrived at the bus stop when a neighbour stopped and gave me a lift to the local supermarket, waited while I did my shopping, and drove me back home. The snow-covered trees, fields and hills were breathtaking – and though my journey was not strictly necessary, [as the BBC exhorted us not to go out unless this was the case] I was running very short on bird seed and nuts. Back home, sparrows, chaffinches, blackbirds and a robin darted around the bird table , while blue tits and coal tits pecked at the nuts. I only remembered while we were driving slowly along the snowy road that it was St. Andrew's Day, but according to Kenneth Roy's article in the Scottish Review [which made me laugh out loud] Andrew was a travellin' man. Maybe it was his image I saw in my mind this morning, cape over his shoulder, held by a clasp in the shape of a scallop shell.