There’s an old Siberian story called The Moon Palace. When a girl’s unusual boyfriend is attacked by her father, and told that their love cannot be, she rockets free of her body and takes up residence on the moon. There it is safe to watch life on Earth without feeling its pain. Or the intensity of its joys. That’s the catch. Many of us live there though don’t realise it. I’m referring to our psyches, the greater part of them. While megalomaniacs scramble to take their bodies there too and colonise space, younger generations yearn for the inner-marriage that will bring their own psyches back to Earth. Their inner-king married to their inner queen, action and feelings reunited. The metaphor rises to the literal world and adds complexity to a complex time. I write from a cabin in Wales. The river has burst its banks and is getting closer.
The world can feel chaotic. Yet there’s a conductor to this strange orchestra, I’m certain of it, though not a conductor as a dictionary would define it. More like a force. And I trust it. This intuition commands my proverbial pen and permeates all I write. The more-than-human audience surely senses this conductor, this guide, but we the discordant orchestra do not, not yet, perhaps catching glimpses when we truly pay attention, when we realise that we’re in this together. Who is this mad-feeling, sadistic-seeming conductor? An old-world priest, desperate to make sense of suffering, might have called it evil. A savvy psychologist perhaps would label it negative-pleasure, the reason why we struggle to change despite our best intentions. Others might call it a conspiracy. To the storyteller, its family name is Trickster – sometimes coyote, sometimes raven, sometimes hare, sometimes something else entirely. There’s one in all of us, stretching its wings through our inexplicable torments, nuzzling our fraying patience. Trickster knows the art of timing – is the grand master of it. No shortcuts. No microwave cooking. Everything plays its part. Perhaps the rocks know what Trickster is up to; have vast enough hearing to lick the beauty from the deepening timbres of its music, like dew from plants that take millennia to grow.
Martín Prechtel in his book The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun writes that only when love has been matured through grief do we become trustworthy and useful to something unknowable, far beyond human imagination. I have a feeling it has something to do with dragons – a depth of intelligence not exactly of this world though forming the foundations of it, blazing through the core of every atom. Maybe it’s a shadow side of love in utter rapture with its own, ever-deepening mystery. Perhaps trickster is its agent on the ground.
This winter in Wales is a gorgeous gift. I’m here by the sea to complete a story. It’s also a test I can’t escape, my own journey echoing everyone else’s. Crunch time has arrived. It’s about will-power, to resist distractions, to disown and let go of all preconceived ideas. To free up space, wild space in our shared psyche. To court my indigenous soul through listening to nature. To land and sink my paws into the mud. To accept that I, like you, am an ancestor surrounded by ancestors in every living thing. To know our roots is to be rooted, to know that our true voice comes through the earth. Faith becomes iron cast. This test asks: how serious am I? Will I treat all that I have been shown as just an experience, or will I treat it as real and be duly humbled? Seriously humbled.
How serious are you?
I’m stalked in my dreams by a crone. (I secretly like her. No, I love her.) The other night she emerged at the top of the stairs, glowing green, eyeing me sideways with a look of mischief. Many dreams, many images follow. James Bond is there, tied to a post. His lips are chewed off by angry tribesmen. It felt necessary and deeply symbolic. At the bottom of a tightly-spiralled staircase is a group of hearty men, singing beautifully outside of a shop. It’s actually a portal. Through it I find a serene woman. It’s suddenly clear that it’s all about her and what she is – my soul. No doubt about it. On a hill is an old-looking city. I must take her there, though I am warned the welcome may be hostile. The return journey is the most delicate, most dangerous part.
That’s a heartening dream I like to wake up to. Soul language. One minor-seeming distraction, however – a crap film watched, compulsive thinking, anything less than what is real – and the dreams are brutally-clear warnings: a grey, unconscious man stabs a grey, unconscious woman in the side who receives the wound without flinching, without a murmur. They sit together in the back of a car. Elsewhere, a good man is shot in the back of the head and I’m scrambling to retrieve his soul. A raven crashes to the ground. But if I clear my mind of thought, I’m flying out of the cabin, lucid, landing beside a conclave of iridescent crows, understanding what they are saying until they sense my presence and fall silent. I enter a cave where I’m told a tribeswoman has died. I discover she is still alive, just. She transforms into a young girl – indigenous, healthy, shy, utterly beautiful, who tells me her name is Phoenix. My heart swells with love, like that of father, and I know I will take care of her forever.
In one scene of the story I am writing is a winged girl. She’s seriously pissed off. Her parents’ love was conditional though she doesn’t understand why. Not yet. In other words, their positive sides were largely absent. She idealises males and females, and demonises anything that falls short of perfection, that great suffocater of life. Her parents were not comfortable in their bodies and so neither is she, nor comfortable in her greater body, planet Earth. Perhaps she would prefer the body of a robot. To be normal rather than natural. Mechanical rather than something deeply mysterious. She lives inside all people – our most tender feelings disowned, severed, abandoned, embittered. If only she realised that tender feelings connect her to the great mystery of life and the ever-unfolding, ever-more-subtle depths of reality here on Earth. Immensity in the minutiae. It’s all here, beauty so breath-taking, so boundlessly intricate that if we felt it all at once it would blow our circuits. Scare the living shit out of us. Just a glimpse is enough to know that. It’s why time is raven-feathered. And so I shall have to land her gently on the page, sit with the wolf that awaits me in a dusky clearing and call to the girl through a stillness she can trust.
The Moon Palace, as told by Dr. Martin Shaw
The Maiden-King, Robert Bly and Marion Woodman
The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun, Martín Prechtel