Sunday, April 22, 2012

On Imagination... and Indulgence

Starry Night over the Rhône, Vincent Van Gogh

Who could be so lucky? The one who comes to a lake for water, and sees the reflection of moon. ~ Jalaluddin Rumi

* * * * * * * * *

What drew me to the kitchen table, this morning? And what pulled me away from it?

Every morning, before even the sparrows have awakened, I rise from bed and stumble in the dark from the bedroom to the kitchen. I fill the kettle with water, set it on the stove, and wait. In the instant before the kettle begins to whistle, I turn off the heat, give the water a few seconds to settle, and pour it into my cup filled with tea waiting to steep. Then, teacup in hand, I walk to my office, sit at my desk, and do my morning journal. Perfectly normal. Perfectly predictable. It was. Until this morning.

After I made tea, I didn’t go to my office. I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay in the kitchen and do my morning journal there. Who’s to say I have to do my journaling in my office? So I made a conscious decision to go to my office only to get my journal and my pen. I also made a decision to leave my cup of warm black tea on the kitchen table as bait. I was afraid something in my office would compel me to stay: a book jutting out from an otherwise orderly shelf, a research study edging out of my high stack of paperwork, my laptop, orcurse of all cursesmy “TO DO” list, scribbled in ALL CAPS, as if no single task is more important than the other.

When I got to my office, I felt for the light switch. But at the last moment, I pulled back my hand. I didn’t want to turn on the light, after all. It was too early for all that brightness. I walked to my desk and turned on my desk lamp, instead. My cheeks smarted with quivers as stars exploded inside my head. I shut my eyes to dampen the visual noise. And then… I opened them slowly.

Colors danced on my wallslucid projections of painted glass. Ruby. Amber. Emerald. Amethyst. Sapphire. As my eyes scanned the peacock-like landscape, I was distracted from my mission. The colors were living, pulsing with definition and absoluteness. I found it impossible to ignore this elaborate mosaic that was spreading out before me. An anxious voice forced its way inside my head: You’re here to get your journal and pen. But I swept that voice out of my field, pushed it behind my curtainsmy oh so glorious curtains that had gone, by the simple flip of a switch, from taupe to Tiffany. A new voice nagged: Your tea is getting cold on the kitchen table, Nevine. Tea? What tea? Oh, and… your journal and pen. Remember? No, I didn’t remember. I didn’t want to.

Trees with forbidden fruit studding every limb and appendage were beckoning from my walls. The sepia-toned framed photo of my husband that hangs beside one of my bookshelves had become a silver screen, pearlescent with regalia. The enormous oil-on-canvas reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhône that dominates my main wall had taken on electric hues. And. It was moving! The water was rippling in cascades of liquid amber and blue topaz, tinged with the occasional shock of tanzanite. The couple standing on the bank of the river looked at me from behind the glow of a royal purple dragonfly wing and said, Come, Nevine. Come walk with us inside the audacity of this fantasy. And I said, Wait for me. I’m coming!

Was that a hallucination? One could say so, yes. And yes, hallucinations are, technically speaking, pathological experiences. But only involuntary hallucinations are pathological. And by the way, I’ve got my thoughts on that as well, but I’m not going there right now. So, what about the hallucinations that we choose to create by torqueing our inner psychethose hallucinations that imbue our spirit with the magic of fantasy? Why is it that we indulge fully in those hallucinations when we are children, only to abandon them when we get older? Is it fair that only children get to play?

We set boundaries to what we can see… and feel… and imagine… and we call them norms. And then we do everything we can to bend those norms (because they stifle us and we hate them) without actually breaking them because then we’d be called abnormal. I acknowledge there are norms that should never be broken, and we all know what those norms are. In fact, they’re not called norms; they’re called laws. But, beyond the reality of everyday life, other possibilities exist, hiding in plain sight but never seen because we don’t allow imagination or intuition, but only inhibition, to flavor our perception. How many polarities are enough? And how many parts of ourselves do we marginalize when we inhibit a new thought, a bold passion, a daring beauty? It is ever so simple for us to lose touch with who we are when part after part of us is cast to the side and told, “You are not allowed.”

As I write this, I recall something Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, once wrote: “The very moment you get in touch with yourself, growth begins. This is the decisive momentthe difference between the old stale routine, always the same, in contrast to the discovery, which always means something new, adding something to your life, adding something to your knowledge, adding something to your growth. There is something in this world that wasn’t there before.” I am also reminded of something I read from Carl Jung, and which I always write into the first page of a new notebook or journal: “It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how they are in themselves. Without this playing with fantasy, no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.” Thank you both, Fritz and Carl!

And what about my tea? I knew it would get cold, and I'd have to pour it down the sink. Later. I had the Hanging Gardens of Babylon teasing my lips with bulbous figs and grapes... massaging the hollows of my eyes with silver dust... breathing spectrum waves down the rungs of my spine... and clasping my waist in an unrelenting snare of metaphysical glory. Those gardens were calling me to indulgence in a haunting serenade, and I wasn't going to turn down that invitation for anything in the whole damn world!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Something, and Other Unknowns

Golden Head by Golden Head, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

We lie still but awake, horizontal
on the antique bed we bought from
that old country in The Old Continent.

The moon hangs
over the garden, its
beams roiling like electric eels
inside the sanctuary of the artificial pond.

This is a night of flickering constellations,
and raven leaves cascading
in a deep lavender sky.

This is a night of quivering willows,
weeping, while they tease
the zealous clouds.

This is a night of hands possessing
a knowledge of their own
a knowledge once thought forgotten.

This is a night of wakefulness, yes
and anxiety,
and desire.

We look around us, searching
the darkness for something
we can never find outside of us.

Something calls us,
then falters like a bird in doubt.

Something hangs in the air
as if in the aftermath of
something… someone
awaiting last rites.

Someone, someday, will try and tell us that
blood is blue so long as it is unexposed,
so long as it is inside our bodies.

That is a lie.

Blood is ever living,
ever red,
never blue.