In Defense of Insanity

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this is a writer’s story….sort of

When my Grandmother would write, Insanity Jones, her cat, would sit on her shoulder and ” Inspire Her “.

Most of us hated it when she said told that story to the press because Insanity only inspired one thing in our family and that was loathing.

When he walked through a room the lights would flicker the air would turn cold and if  Insanity  looked up at you your first reaction would be to cry.

To be honest, it’s hard to love something that holds you in such low regard. I’m talking about our Grandmother, not the cat.

Or whatever it was.

As I started to tell you our Grandmother was a famous writer in her day and presently if you’ve ever been a student of literature you’ve probably stood in line somewhere buying a copy of ” Cliff’s Notes ” to one of her books.

In case you’re not familiar with them, my Grandmother’s books looked simple they sounded simple but they were far from being considered light reading.

Over the years there was lots of speculation about what inspired her to create her characters and what they really meant and of course she was famous for her ‘unique perspective’ about human nature and relationships.

People took this discussion very seriously.

There are College Classes dedicated to studying the works of Estrella Derrick. I’ve even heard that there are Estrella Derrick Societies and all they do is sit around and talk about the ‘true meaning’ of Grandmother’s stories and they even talk about how her life played a role in her writing.

I wonder then how these diligent students would feel if they were to find out that the reason for ‘unique perspective on human nature and relationships’ was coming from a cat.

It would explain a lot.

But it’s true- every book, every play every lecture ever written by Estrella Derrick- were all authored by a cat. When I started to put that idea to the rest of the family they said I was crazier then Insanity, but I was right all along.

I’ll prove it to you.

Our Grandmother threw Halloween Parties twice a year- one for the holiday itself and the other for her birthday which was actually in December.

Coming in from the outside you’d be impressed- Grandmother was an avid collector of skeletal remains- human skeletal remains and she even had two mummies- one from Egypt and the other from South America.

So along with the bones she had body parts in jars and lots of candles and lots of photographs of people all over her house.

Those photographs weren’t of us (of course). They were all dead people in coffins so I guess that looking back on it now it’s a relief that we weren’t in any of those pictures.

So anyway, Grandmother’s house was dark and moody and on the surface you’d think she went all out to welcome her guests.

Really, all she really did was to bring in a cleaning staff to dust and polish and she brought  caterers in to do the food and  the serving because domestic things had never been Grandmother’s ‘thing’. I mean her house always looked like Halloween anyway so it wasn’t a lot of work on her part.

But it certainly was on everybody else’s.

Just last Halloween it became pretty obvious that Grandmother and Insanity Jones were getting along in years. They both slept a lot and they both seemed too quiet and when they walked that Pirate Swagger they both had was gone.

I figured this conversation had to happen now because time was obviously working against us. So that evening I waited for Grandmother to go into her study and when I heard her chair slide up to her desk I went in without knocking.

She was reaching down for Insanity and she carefully put him up on her shoulder. When she saw me standing there and realized I had seen her lift Insanity up they both looked like the cat that had eaten the Canary.

Or the Eagle as it was in their case- neither one of those two ever did anything small.

” He’s the writer here, isn’t he? ”

” Excuse me? ” my Grandmother snapped- and I do mean snapped I could hear her teeth click together and no- she did not where false ones.

” Don’t be an idiot, he can’t write, for Pete’s sake Akela he can’t even read.”

” So that line about him being your inspiration…”

” That is true. Insanity if very inspiring, or haven’t you noticed that yet?”

“So he didn’t tell you what to write.”

” He most certainly did not…the idea”

I guess I should have known better, my Grandmother who loved herself way more then anybody else ever did simply because she thought no one else could do that as well as she could was not exactly a candidate for the role of being a Ghost Writer.

” So a cat didn’t write your books…” I said as my face turned hot.

Suddenly I could see how foolish I must have looked to everyone I’d been talking to. On top of that my dear Grandmother would probably find a way to work my idea into one of her stories and now anyone I hadn’t got around to telling my idea to would know how nuts I was.

I figured on my way home tonight I’d take that Bridge, the badly lit one home and the next day they’d find me…

My Grandmother turned around in her chair and looked up at me with the perpetual smile that she always seemed to have on her face, even when she was angry. Then she turned around and went back to her writing and she said with that smile in her voice:

” I never said that Akela.”

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Lightning Bolt

 

Lightning, whose electricity,
Held the universe together,
Scowled malevolently
Through sword shaped eyes
That pierced the void as
Ravenous Raven, lady of birds and beasts
Erotically danced with promiscuous Wind

Emboldened
Charged by atoms, electrons, protons
Lightning hurled a bolt along a wire of air molecules
That collided upon earth’s stage
At the very spot in Dodona where
a single oak tree stood
Igniting fire.

Raven who lived on peaks of mountainsides,
Who lived in caves
Who rested on the boughs of this very tree
Looked up in wonder
Captivated, mesmerized by
Capricious Lightning’s audaciously bright, flashy show

The gift of fire, of electricity
Bought by Lightning to this most sacred place
His fired passion for Raven
Lives on in the bowels of
the mountains, the caves, the trees
Is told by birds and beasts
Lightning man’s imagination

Metaphor Seeds Imagination

 

From the formless void
Motes, particles, miniscule molecules of matter
Slowly began to stir
Drawn by an invisible procreative,
Primordial force
They gravitated
Clinging together tenaciously
Swelling into a giant cluster
A sensual shape with
Dark raven wings

Inflaming, arousing desire, Raven
Spread her wings
Dancing, gyrating provocatively
Upon Wind’s fingertips
Wind and raven’s coming together
Borne of frenzied passion
Was a union, an act of love?
From which was birthed
An exquisite silver, moon egg
Swollen with life.

Curled within the silver womb
Amid deep silence
Lay the Goddess of Love,
Goddess of erotic love, fertility
Wrapped in the very wings
Upon which would ride, ravenous
Procreative inspiration
The all powerful
Creative energy
That fuels the universe

Visiting the Isle of Ancestors

Fallen

The Fallen by Heather Blakey January 2007

I had let the others go to the Isle ahead of me, had deliberately lingered in the Tavern of the Inn, sharing a night cap with the old woman who ran the place. We talked about the group I had bought to Duwamish and she marvelled at their implicit trust. “You do have a gift child” she said as she poured me a smooth musket. I laughed out loud and cynically told her that I most certainly had a gift for waxing lyrical. She looked at me with knowing eyes and said that she thought I needed to take the trip to the island instead of sitting here by myself trying to avoid truth.

So I got up from the bar stool and as I rose I heard footsteps behind me. As I turned I gasped. There, right before me was Dad, looking just as he had looked when he last stood at my door with his basket of homegrown vegetables in his hand. I dropped my glass as I stepped forward to greet him and glass splintered across the floor. I hugged him and held him tightly for ages.

“Come Heather! I have come to take you to the ferry woman. My grandmother will take you across to the island.”

“But Dad! Can’t we spend some time together?” I pleaded.

“Shush little one” he smiled, putting his finger to his lips. “There will be time for that later, after you have been to the island.”

With that my father led me to the quay to journey to the Isle of Ancestors, led me to the boat my great grandmother steered. It came as no surprise that her boat was shaped as, was in fact a black mare.

Dad gave me a leg up and my great grandmother and I rode bareback without speaking to the Isle of the Ancestors. I knew that she would be by my side while I completed the journey, that she would witness a rebirth. She smiled, nodded in agreement with my thoughts and led me through the moonlit apple orchard towards the stone doors, carved curiously in the shape of a vagina.

The doorway was open and we walked together down the labyrinthine passage way. Memories of Chartres Cathedral swarmed back. Memories of walking the labyrinth gripped me.

On we walked, my great grandmother and I, her warm hand guiding me until finally we entered a space that looked like it had been woven by a raven. A raven’s nest? But then, as we circled and approached the hooded figures who were waiting for me, I realised that this was the womb I had lain in all those years ago. For a moment I thought I could hear my mother’s voice, feel her movements, hear her feel the quickening as I moved. But then there was silence and I looked at the women who had gathered to greet them and gave them the raven feather I had had tucked in a pocket for protection.

As I sat tears welled and I began to sob in the arms of my great grandmother. The tears I shed were tears that I have resisted shedding. They came in torrents, flooding, drenching us.

“Why?” I blurted almost incoherently. “Why have I had to carry such a burden of grief and loss? Why can’t I know unbridled joy?”

The women rose as a collective, revealing themselves to be my grandmothers, dating back centuries. I had never known one of them in my physical life yet I knew them to be my grandmothers. These women embraced me, as a collective and held me until I stopped crying. No one spoke. I felt their empathy, their knowing and I knew that they knew my agony of isolation.

It is a blur now but at some point I realised that they had wrapped me in a cloak of their collective knowing, that they were the cloak, that they had transformed themselves and were a part of me. My great grandmother, the Ferry Woman, sat me on a throne, wearing my specially woven coat.

Bells sounded, announcing that it was time to lead and my grandmother led me out of the throne womb, back up the labyrinthine passage, through the stone vulva and we rode on her mare back to Duwamish.

I held her warm hand briefly, pulled the collar of my new coat up to block the dawn chill and, singing with joy danced towards the inn. The Innkeeper told me the others had been down at the bathhouse and hadn’t noticed my absence. So I slipped quietly to my room and slept, still wearing my coat, a coat that will always distinguish me and name me wounded healer.

The agony of isolation is over. Praise be!

Mystery of Goya’s Saturn

The Mystery of Goya’s Saturn

The painting known as ‘Saturn Devouring One of His Sons’, by Francisco Goya, presents us with a terrifying cannibal god, Kronos, whom he depicts as a wild, revolting figure, consuming his offspring. The ancient deity looks crazed, his eyes are atrocious and the painting is one of those which imprints itself on the psyche of those who examine it closely.

‘Saturn Devouring One of His Sons’ springing from the Kronos myth, was a part of Goya’s ‘Black Painting’ series when Goya ‘carved his fates and inscribed his nighmares directly onto plaster.’

The earliest version of the Kronos myth–Saturn is the later Roman name–was written down by Hesiod in his Theogony, around the eighth century, B.C.E.

First comes Chaos; then Earth/Gaia; Tartarus in the bowels of Earth; and finally Eros. Earth gives birth to Heaven, also known as Ouranos, and then bears twelve of his children, the last, “most terrible of sons/The crooked-scheming Kronos.” Earth and Ouranos have three more sons, so fearsome and mighty that Ouranos forces them back inside their mother, burying them alive. She forms a sickle, and asks her other sons to use it against their father, “For it was he/Who first began devising shameful acts.” All are afraid, except Kronos. She gives him the sickle, hides him in her, and he castrates his father, preventing him from having more children, then assumes power among the Titans. But fear lives in his heart; a usurper himself, he learns that one of his own children will usurp him, and he devours them at birth:

As each child issued from the holy womb
And lay upon its mother’s knees, each one
Was seized by mighty Kronos, and gulped down.

Through a ruse by his mother, the last born, Zeus, survives, leads a war against Kronos, and casts him down to Tartarus. Even gods cannot overcome Fate.

Reviewers have asked what it was that Goya recognized in himself that charged the work with such raw, wounding power? Jason Scott Morgan, for example, alludes to the traditional father and son narrative which has been presented in, amongst other documents, the Bible.

Maybe Goya was painting this narrative but I suspect not. Before he began the Black Paintings, Goya survived a near fatal illness, documented in his Self-portrait with Dr. Arrieta. Goya depicts himself as a “pained and weary artist, surrounded by dark, phantasmal faces.” It is plausible that Saturn was painted as a way to express the lonely terror of mortality. Since my husband’s body has been ravaged by a third round of bowel cancer, and we have faced the lonely terror of mortality, I have every reason to think that this is likely. If I could paint I would paint Atrophe, towering like a giant, scissors in hand, tormenting us with the reality that she has the power to cut the thread at any moment. Goya’s Saturn touches me deeply because it expresses shared pain and his Atropos paints the dark dreams that haunt me.

So what charged Goya’s painting of Saturn? As his health declined, as he stared creative impotence in the eyes – Saturn’s eyes, Atrophos’s scissors his work gathered momentum and a dark force. It doesn’t really matter if Goya threw away his pastels and used someone like Saturn as a metaphor to represent the terror of creative impotence. Who cares if Goya used Saturn as a metaphor to depict the ‘black dog’ that consumes artists offspring — that hungrily devours work deemed, for whatever reason, not to be of any merit, not to fit the stereotypical mould. The main thing is that Goya went right outside the square and painted with force that speaks with passion today.

I imagine Goya must have smiled wryly when he realised that he had captured the demonic figure who had lived with him all his life. But most of all I am grateful that he has so powerfully captured the demon who lurks in my nightmares, for I know now that I am not alone.

Raven Mythos

“Raven gave birth to wind’s egg. From this egg rose the Goddess of Love, the one who arouses desire and fuels creation. This Goddess who represent the spirit of love, fertility and creation, was the oldest and at the same time the youngest of the Goddesses. It was the Goddess, the matchmaker, who agitated(libido) and paired heaven and earth, ocean and and the land. Before Her no immortal beings existed. From the Goddess of Love came libido which in turn birthed the immortals who sprang to life on the wings of ravenous love.”