The Twelve nights of Christmas – Night Six: Don Quichotte and Sancho Panza

FotoIt did not quite surprise me when these two made their appearance today, half way through the twelve nights, when mind and hand start to relax and thereby the line dances over the paper playfully and feels free to follow the imaginative mind: Don Quichotte and Sancho Panza. If you’d asked me which fictional character I would most identify with the answer would have to be Don Quichotte.

Though tonight’s version of the noble looser rather resembles a chimera, offspring by Typhon and Echidna, the mother of all monsters, a creature living and fire breathing, composed of multiple animals. Typhon, last son to Gaia, mother of all creation and creative forces. From Greek mythology to Cervantes 17th century parody to, I am sure, David Foster Wallace, the questions remain essentially the same: how to put together the fragments observed by a mind estranged from its own experience by the very act of narration, reassembling life very much like a chimera through a thousand eyes of literary characters and thereby celebrating the wondrous ability of humans to invent their own reality and then – quite bravely or quite cowardly but in all consequence – live in it.

 

The fifth Night of Christmas – Dragons in their lair

 
During the night, while I draw, I do not necessarily know what it is that I am drawing. I wait until the morning before I add the collage elements and complete the drawing. By that time I see what I have done the night before with different eyes. Every drawing seems like a message send to my future self. As often as not, I am actually surprised what it is that I have been focussing on. Like many artist I confess not to know what occupies my mind while I am drawing, I am just drawing.

The twelve nights allow me to focus on drawing despite the continuing demands of my other work. I made it hard for myself this year by choosing a technique that requires a couple of hours for each drawing – but it quite satisfying as well.

Writing and drawing have been part of my life for as long as I can remember – I’d like to think that the dragons in their library lair are an inside view of that dominant part of my brain that won’t let go of ART despite incentives offered to lead another life altogether.Foto

The Twelve Nights of Christmas – die zwölf rauen Nächte

Image 2The raw nights are the twelve nights of an older Christmas than the one people might remember today, pointing back to traditions and rituals even older. The modern annual ritual of shopping seems somewhat pale in comparison.

These December nights are the darkest nights in the year here up north. Just after winter solstice when the North pole is tilted 23,5 degrees away from the sun and all places with a latitude above 66,5 degrees North (Arctic Polar Circle) are in complete darkness, even in locations down at, let’s say, 54 degrees North, day light is scarce and valued. It was common knowledge to the old ones that they were at their weakest in this part of the reoccurring cycle of the year, prone to sudden grave illness and mental darkness. A dangerous time for the oldest and youngest of the communities, a common cold potentially turning to raging fevers and death within hours. Short the days and short a life!

Dating bad 4000 years, celebrations held during this time of year, lasting days, twelve days, ranged from drunkenness, carnival, debauchery to watchfulness, soberness and contemplation. How to address your own mortality or that of those dear to you, how to defend your mind against the equally luring and threatening  darkness, how to celebrate the return of the sun, how to trust the old covenant that there will indeed be another year? From Saturnalia to Christmas to northern pagan winter solstice traditions – the quest between forgetfulness to prayer to sober acceptance – cultures and people have proven to handle the same basic human fear very differently. But in the darkness up North, the projection of fearful images of the mind into the impenetrable darkness of the night has led to its own tradition of keeping the demons at bay. Making visible the creatures of darkness through watchful contemplation while guarding the night is a time tested way to navigate through the twelve days of the ascending sun light hours, defending what you love and believe in against the already receding tide of darkness.

This is what I have chosen to do for years now with the raw nights: defending what I believe in against the already receding tide of darkness by illustrating, making visible the creatures the darkness projects into the mind. The modern mind, as the Romanian philosopher and historian Mircea Eliade pointed out in his book “The Sacred and the Profane”, may be but a thin veil to the archaic mind that is still bound in fear and intuitive defenses against the danger lurking in the dark even if the dark may be no more than the fear of monsters hiding under the bed in a well tempered room today. But I feel that reenacting  the custom of the night watches by picking up pen and paper for 12 nights is more a sober and mindful transformation of old human knowledge into my own experience of time than a regression into the archaic mind.

deep blue pride / from my new novel (nasciturus pro iam nato habetur, quotiens de commodius eius agitur)

IMG_2442One day Aunt Melissy, Uncle Joe and a I had been invited to an assembly on a Sunday after church to the church elder and his wife. The men and boys were gathering in the meeting hall of the church while the womenfolk were expected to assemble at the church elder’s house. His wife was entertaining us with cake and good strong smelling coffee in her dining room that was big enough to fit at least twenty people at the table and then some around the benches placed at the wall. Even at such a gathering  there was no idle chatter but the women discussed who in the community was in need of support or charity and how the community should cooperate to provide it. The girls were clearly as bored as any girl at any time would have been even though I was sure they were working as hard and obediently as I was. We were all seated alongside the wall on the benches, holding on to our mugs and a piece of cake. I exchanged glances with a girl about my age who was seated across the table at the other wall. The girl seemed strangely familiar but I could not place her face. She was dressed just a bit prettier than the other girls and in fact she was a bit prettier than everybody else.  After we had finished our coffee she got up, left the room and returned with a tray to collect our mugs and the dishes we had been balancing on our knees. When she took mine she made a funny face at me, and the girl next to me giggled. I couldn’t tell whether she had been laughing at me or about me but the pretty girl had already filled her tray and carried it out of the room. When she came back into the room she did not reclaim her seat on the bench but stood next to the state elder’s wife, her hands neatly folded in front of her apron and  waiting to be allowed to address the woman sitting at the table. Finally, her mother decided to look up and notice her. As soon as her eyes found her daughter’s smile you could see the smallest glimpse of pleasure and pride you will ever catch in another person’s face. I looked at Aunt Melissy. Nothing much escaped her sharp birdlike eyes and, sure enough, she was squinting her eyes in the familiar way she displayed only when she was alarmed by some misbehavior while observing elder’s wife intently. The lady was well trained though and the moment of satisfaction with her daughter’s beauty and well-displayed training had passed quickly and had been replaced with the usual sober inquiry she met everyone in her church with, never letting on that she was the first lady of the community. I think that in this moment though I knew that behind all of this admirable display of virtue people were as they are through all times – well meaning at their best, proud and ambitious underneath, full of insecurity and doubt. Maybe even Aunt Melissy knew some of these feelings. I looked at her. Nah, not Aunt Melissy, I corrected myself. Maybe every hundred years or so somebody came along who was actually virtuous and good to a fault. In this room I knew this one person not to be the church elders’ wife  but Aunt Melissy.

the day the shadows disappeared

Mahabaratha, detailthe shadows were moving slowly, swaying like branches in a light breeze or high buildings on a windy day. to detect purpose in these gentle movements required a slight degree of paranoia, and yet there was no apparent natural cause to explain the shift of the shadows away from their corresponding objects and towards the center of the village like water draining from upset glasses.
finally, there were just a bits of shadow left, like drops in a sink adhering to the enamel by their surface tension. these droplets of shadow were sparkling like rainbows, no grayness reflected. the air was still and non-expectant, noon in a depressed small town, and the realization that the world was without shadows had not yet sunk in. in a dirty jeep, parked close to the village center, a woman lit a marlboro
even those who had dismissed the shadows as inessential, felt disconcerted when the birds ceased to sing. on the morning of the third day, after a dawn without luminosity had given way to dull day light, small insects began their crawling procession towards the centers that had swallowed the shadows.
and someone laughed at the gray man in his wrinkle free woolen suit who solicited signatures on retro-active insurance policies. “one day only”, he implored, “an amazing offer”, but they shooed him away while watching the myriad of tiny, scarlet colored spiders tie a living ribbon between the outskirts of the village and the shadow drain.
and yet, the spiders said, too easily do you accept that we form a living ribbon, and wander into oblivion. one by one. what to your eyes a living ribbon is, to ours is a band of pain, and joy, and hope against all odds.

Coloring a map of the United States with Sennelier pastels

My mother was busy preparing dinner and answering questions my sister had while sitting at the big wooden table and doing her homework. This evening she was coloring and cutting out the states and gluing them in the right place … Continue reading

the nonsense dictionary of lifeforms on Helium-3 and other insignificant by-products of music-poisoning

English: Spectrum of helium

English: Spectrum of helium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

or: when will we start to harvest the moon …

surprising studies show that if the anti-venom of bureaucratic correctness  is not injected in time and the victim instead continues to breathe slowly through the nose, the seemingly alarming condition develops from a hallucinatory episode to a temporal ability to find one of the hidden doors into the helium-3 universe. the first sign of this conversion from the three-dimensional limitation into a full comprehension of the “it” including helium-3 is a steady stream of blue light from the nostrils. this oscillating string of conscious matter should not alarm the victim nor bystanders as it is not a loss of matter but a reconfiguration of the same. slightly nasal intonation after readjustment not uncommon but overall harmless. for reassurance the progress of the victim’s condition can be  measured at a frequency of 8.665 GHz (3.46 cm), which is emitted naturally by ionized helium-3. the comprehension of the fact that most of the matter in the universe is non-baryonic, that is to say not made of any subatomic particle that include neutrons and protons, and that this matter is thought to be the primary source of gravity recording the constellation of the universe like the grooves on a record record a song, allows the observer to deduct from the state of rapture that the poisoned mind is – for a moment – privy to nothing less than a fusion of dark matter with consciousness, the first music of time.

an intervention at this point seems not indicated.

from: the dictionary of lifeforms on Helium-3 and other insignificant by-products of music-poisoning