Inheritance tracks Part Two

Art, daily living, Life, LOVE, poetry
epsein

Baby awake . Walsall Art Museum

This is the second poem I want to share .Motherhood is such a large part of my persona that watching my sons develop into young men brings their absence from my daily round into sharp relief. Nevertheless it is an experience that has shaped me and tested me . As a young woman in my twenties there was virtually no consideration of the possibility of me having children – life was simply busy, and I had none of the maternal cravings that others seemed to feel.  I had never been around babies – I was the youngest – and had no extended family that included them.  I lived to work and to play , and did both probably harder than was good for my well being. So motherhood arrived in my early thirties – a biological imperative kicked in which I could neither explain nor ignore.  I was ignorant of all things to do with being pregnant and  further on ,of small human beings that had lots of demands. I was adrift in an alien landscape without a map.  I struggled. I loved this little stranger with a ferocity I had never experienced. He was a baby in pain during the first few weeks, and was not thriving. I was encompassed totally by my responsibility towards him, and increasingly tormented. It was not a happy time, and yet it was full of wonder and awe  and deep, deep love.

This poem by Sylvia Plath suggests the alienation that I felt at that time.

Love set you going like a fat gold watch. 

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements. 

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue. 

In a drafty museum, your nakedness 

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls. 

I’m no more your mother 

Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow 

Effacement at the wind’s hand. 

All night your moth-breath 

Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen: 

A far sea moves in my ear. 

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral 

In my Victorian nightgown. 

Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square 

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try 

Your handful of notes; 

The clear vowels rise like balloons.

My first outing without my baby was instigated at the insistence of my husband and mother, and I was literally harangued into making an attempt to rejoin the world. I went to Walsall art musuem , where I was moved to my core by an Epstein bronze of a baby’s head. It inspired me to write my own poem. Its not a good poem, but it reminds me.

Bronze baby

Bronze baby, Epstein’s child.
Perfect depiction of infant
beauty, human fragility.
Lovingly carved, sculpted
polished, held. Immortalised
infant head of exquisite
timelessness.  How I want
to secrete you, cradle you.
placed so unprotected
in our midst.
You spoke to me that day,
slashed through silence,
touched a delicate, fragile
part of me, the voice I was
so unsure of. In the newness
of my motherhood,
you showed me what it means
to be a child.

I took your message away,
kept it safe, inviolate,
next to my heart. Today,
a decade late, I know
the voice I heard was not
the sound of my  newborn
but my own, untended
and unheard.

An inheritance, Part One

blogging, daily living, Life, LOVE, poetry

YeatsI think of death and it reminds me to consider how to live.  I contemplate the brevity of a lifespan and know that choices are important. I am not ready to die, nor possibly will ever feel so, but I am ready to consider what I want to pass on.

As Hamlet replies to Polonius , when questioned on what the matter is that he is reading …’Words, words, words.’

Language is the river we swim in daily, the route to communication, miscommunication, love and hatred. It is paradoxically the most powerful of medium and the least effective.

There is a radio programme on a Saturday morning that delivers inheritance tracks – those pieces of music that the particular contributor wants most to pass down to their loved ones – in  a similar manner I give you my inheritance tracks – written ones.

I begin with Margaret Atwood, a writer who always has something of note to say and always with style. I love her novels, but this is a short poem that for me describes the atmosphere of a new relationship perfectly.

Habitation — Margaret Atwood

[1939–current, Canadian]

Marriage is not 

a house or even a tent 

it is before that, and colder: 

The edge of the forest, the edge 

of the desert 

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat 

outside, eating popcorn 

where painfully and with wonder 

at having survived even 

this far 

we are learning to make fire

Source: Atwood, M 1970, Procedures for Underground, Little, Brown.

The line  ‘it is before that, and colder:’  has the perfection of a musical note precisely measured – with just the right element of surprise to quicken the curiosity.

I chose this poem because the five boys that I have the privilege of loving – two my own sons, three from my husbands first marriage, are all embarking on long term relationships. It is this fundamental relationship with a partner that has been the central impetus to my own life – I am introverted and have little need for a wide circle of friendship, but without the anchor of a committed loving relationship I feel adrift and anxious. And I like fire.

Advice from an old hand, father to son.

blogging, books, history, Life, Parenting, United Kingdom

introblog

Here’s a thing, I have stumbled across some paternal advice from the chief minister to Elizabeth 1 to his eldest son, which rings its good sense across five centuries right into my own life, since my sons are of that ‘coming-of-age’ time in their lives, and my three stepsons. Five boys between 18 and 23 between us, and I can say without turning a hair that I couldn’t be more proud of them.  Nevertheless, some of these lessons ring true, and how do you start those difficult conversations?  The answer is clear – let Lord Burleigh do the hard work, he’s wise and pithy and says most of the things I want to say.  Besides, this is what Queen Elizabeth said about the man

“This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state.”

This is my modern day version of his sagely advice – I am producing one of my handcrafted books with both the original versions and the transcription, but you can read them here!!! Pass it on!

Choose your wife carefully , because your future depends on it and it is an occasion in your life, as in the strategies of war, that you cannot make any mistake. If you come from a decent background then choose from near home and take your time. If you come from a dodgy background go further away to choose and do it quickly. Ask around about her character and what her parents were like when they were younger. Don’t choose a poor wife no matter how sweet, because a man needs money to live, but don’t choose a vulgar or ugly woman just for money, as no one will respect you and you won’t respect her. Don’t choose a dwarf of a fool, because you will raise pygmies with one and a fool will disgrace you; you won’t tolerate her prattling and you will find nothing more irritating than a foolish woman.

About your household, be moderate entertaining, be generous rather than mean but don’t get carried away beyond the means of the estate. I don’t know anyone who grew poor by being careful, but some people have bad habits. Banish swinish drunkards, I have never heard anyone praise a drunk except for holding his drink, which is not a recommendation for a gentleman. Don’t spend all your income – save between a quarter or a third. Only spend a third of your expenditure on the house as the other two thirds will be easily spent on other living costs. If you fail to do this you will be continually in debt, dreading every disaster which threatens to bankrupt.

2. Educate your children and maintain a discipline but without being authortarian. Praise them openly and reprehend them privately. Spend on them what you can, because if you leave all your wealth till they inherit , they will be grateful to your death, and not to you. I am convinced that many parents make poor decisions because of either being too proud, or too stern, rather than being vicious. Arrange your daughters partners before they make their own choice. And don’t let your sons go off gallivanting in foreign lands, because they won’t learn anything valuable. And don’t send them into the army because I don’t think war is a good trade for a gentleman, and anyway we are going to have a time of peace so they won’t be needed.

3 .Don’t live in the country without keeping your own crops and animals. It’s expensive to buy in , and its better to understand how to live on what is in season. Don’t employ relatives or friends as they want a lot for not doing much. Avoid those who are in love because they don’t think straight, and employ too few rather than too many. Give them good terms and conditions and you can expect their service.

4. Welcome you relatives and friends to your home. Be generous and kind with them, they will repay your kindness with loyalty and defend you; but get rid of insincere acquaintances who will stab you in the back if times are hard.

5 .Be careful who you help out financially. It can lead to your own demise. Don’t borrow from friends or neighbours, only from strangers, and be careful to keep our promises of repayment.

6 . Don’t take a poor man to court – it’s not worth the trouble. Don’t get involved in any law suit unless you are confident you are in the right, and then be sure to get the best advice. Win a couple and less suits will follow.

7. Make sure you make a friend of someone of importance, but don’t worry him about petty things. Keep him close by complimenting him with small gifts, and if you can bestow a decent present, give something they will see every day. These are ambitious times and you don’t want to live in obscurity.

8.  Be humble with your superiors and generous, and remain respectful and familiar with your equals. Be compassionate with those who are not in as fortunate a position as yourself. The first prepares you for advancement, the second shows you to be well bred, and the third gains respect. Don’t be scornful of popularity nor affected by celebrity.

9. Don’ t trust anyone with your life, your house or your money.

10 Don’t bad mouth and don’t be too satirical. One will make you unpopular and the other will provoke quarrels and bitterness amongst your friends. I have seen many keen to make a joke, and lose a friend rather than the jest.

Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and tAnecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and tAnecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and t

Excerpts from  ‘Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of … v.1. Seward, William, 1747-1799.’

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t82j6cp3c;view=2up;seq=367

Pint size and growing.

Art, blogging, Life, Thoughts

 

childhood  Anne CorrI have been remembering  a feeling from my childhood,  one that created deep impressions on my psyche, at least that is how it appears to me now, looking back on what would have been a life not that long ago, but now is probably about half of one.  ( If you can work that out , you will know I have passed the fifty mark – just.)  What was it then, this echo of reminiscence? In a nutshell, and that is an appropriate metaphor, it is feeling small.  I am half the size of the adult in close proximity to me, and having to half walk, half run in order to keep up.  I am feeling a curious mixture of humiliation and challenge –  I can’t keep up, I know I can’ t keep up and I know I will meet with a disapproving remonstrance, and I don’t want to give in. This is a feeling that will cover me like an unwanted coat for the next thirty or so years.  Everything I ever attempt is just a little too much, somewhat out of reach.  I work in a fast paced environment that I simultaneously love and hate, I know I am good, I know I can’t keep up with the ever increasing demands.  I finish that after a decade and a bit of telling myself I won’t expire, and move on to raising a family, throwing myself into the domestic arena.  I am exhausted to my marrow.  I can’t keep up with the demands of two challenging boys and be the wife I expected to be.  Bodies fail when the essence of what you need is missing.  We are extraordinary animals, our thinking brains consider the answers lie within the rationale of the mind, but they don’t. Not all of them. Sometimes the spirit has to assert itself, and it may do this by sending messages through the gut, across the heart, inside the veins and arteries.  It may take a lifetime to understand this. I hope it doesn’t for you.

My tale?  My spirit came and invited me to make a bold change, one that would resonate through the family and friends and offer new challenges.

I did make that change and though my body never repaired fully,  my life expanded and life continues to throw out its hurdles.  The difference I can report is that I am less belittled by them. By meeting my spirit, and answering an opportunity I began to grow. I am still growing.  Sometimes that little girl that is not being seen or heard is still there.  I take her by the hand, and I show her she can keep up, or stop if she needs to.

 

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see that are delicate cages…
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand.

Robert Bly

 

Lacking simplicity, some goodness and mostly truth, who’s the father?

Art, illustration, Life, LOVE, poetry

tolstoy quute, illustrated by anne corr

Tolstoy was on my mind this morning, waking from a troubled dream of being bitten by fleas, leaving a home, my dead father ignoring my pleas for him to remove a mosquito sting from my finger (fatal) and making choices about what to abandon.

I draw nothing from the dream except the recurrent disquiet about a father who died over a decade year ago having a greater presence in my life than the father who lived and chose to have very little to do with his offspring once we had left the parental home.

The biggest legacy my father left me was the doubt he placed in my heart that I am capable of loving.

In response to his approach to parenting, I have held it forever in my head that the only real success is to love and be loved.

Where does Tolstoy come in?  He has replaced the parental authority with the narrative of a faithful, dependable mentor.  His attempt to understand how to live a meaningful life is not my answer, but it resonates with me that others have the same painful search for meaning in their lives.  He is more than a collection of quotable phrases; he brings us back to our own wrangling with the complexities and paradoxes of being human.

I recognise this may seem tough on my own father, maybe. I don’t know. I am both grateful to him for his fathering when I was a young girl, and angry with him for his refusal to have any intimate connection after I had grown into a fully fledged adult.

My father whisked hair
from teary eyes,
soothed my nights,
stuck as I was
in fright of darkness,
and unknown.
Never the mother,
then remote,
submerged and distant.

His was a lighter touch.
Lighter, and more temporary,
lasting the length of  moments
preceding infant slumber.
It didn’t last the journey,
away from childish
delightedness.
His sorrow grew,
years adding inevitably
to his progeny. It was
our innocence he loved,
and not our selves, cloaked in
mysterious adolescent armour
of insouciance, sex and rock
‘n roll.  His loss, our youth, his
own undiscovered clamour
for rebellion, and lost cause.

I know more the man, and as
I grew, so did the distance. It
was not his death that parted
us, but time and choice.
I spin in orbits outside his own,
but missing the shadow of
his sun.

Anne Corr

Walls fall down

Art, blogging, earth, Life, Thoughts

Sadhana the realisation of life by Rabindranath Tagore v 2

 

In the 1500’s an illustrator of a manuscript showed an Angel flying over the ruined cities.  Life was seen in the context of an all encompassing God.  I took out the Angel, I have no belief in them, and added the skyline of Paris, along with the opening lines of Tagore’s important text Sadhana, The Realisation of Life.

Our world is constantly being blown apart, and rebuilt.  The hope I have is that each subsequent generation continues to further the knowledge that our species is beginning to explore, and does not neglect the value of wisdom to accompany that knowledge.  All is flux, and within that world of constant change, I think that men and women need to maintain some sense of what it means to be human.  Connection with one another, and connection to the Earth and all its creatures. If we are connected, we are less likely to harm one another. Just a thought.

A writer’s view of falling in love.

Art, books, culture, Life, LOVE, Thoughts, United Kingdom
Quotation from Jeanette Winterson

Quotation from Jeanette Winterson

Thanks to brainpickings for showing me Jeanette’s great response to being asked to write for young people on big topics.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/12/07/best-childrens-books-2012/

Bloody Valentine

blogging, culture, LOVE, Thoughts

st valentines day massacre

Are you building up an expectation around Valentine’s Day? It may be misplaced, historically speaking Valentines frequently referred to martyrs, rather than a lusty hopeful courtier. Nevertheless, taking the more prosaic view that Valentne’s Day will provoke in you either butterflies of eager anticipation, or the dismissal of the disinterested, there exists the cold brutal truth that Love will not actually help you. That isn’t to say it isn’t worth throwing your hat in the ring, but if you want to be happy or rich or satisfied, then love isn’t the equation you thought it was. Look around, trawl your memory bank and reflect on your own and your friends experiences. A more realistic contemplation about the nature of love may propel you into a possibility of a future with a loving partner. Firstly, when did Love really make you happy? Feeling the emotions around a partner that excites may lead you to feelings of anticipation, thrill, joy but just as likely, promotes anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, lack of control. Love, when it works , brings about the conditions that allow you to feel bolder, brighter, smarter. You end up being bolder, brighter , smarter, not because of love, but because loving a partner that supports your qualities enhances them. We all know about loving a partner that brings you down, it’s a spiral of descent into Hell. So know that when Love works, it doesn’t look ugly, or spiteful, jealous or violent.

Mmm, that ‘being in love’ that is mimicked across billboards, posters, films, songs, cartoons, what is that all about? Well, it exists. For a time. Give it say, eighteen months or so, and the chemical cocktail that has exploded in your brain will start to have less power. The torrent of emotion quells , and knowing that just may propel you both into preserving a loving alliance that relies on companionship and friendship as well as the heady passionate embrace. It’s the reason some people are addicted to serial monogamy, finding it difficult to move away from the thrill of the chase, the power of the early tumult. And it is also possibly the reason arranged marriage has been an alternative model for choosing life partners in some cultures. Therein lies an understanding of the long haul.

But the cocktail is an enticing one, perhaps the recipe for which will never be known. Of all the mysteries of life, Love is surely the greatest? Indefinable, incapable of being imitated, love is hand in hand with truth. If we kid ourselves we love, the truth invariably raises its head. Of course we kid ourselves mainly in ignorance, wanting to believe in the love object, desperate to be completed by the other. Yin to the Yang. To love well, we have to be as truthful with ourselves as it is possible to be. Often in the course of living and working , getting up and carrying on we veer away from ourselves, somehow alienating ourselves from the parts of ourselves that need to be cultivated and nurtured. That’s why it can feel as though you have come home when you meet the person who brings out the youness in you. Not very scientific I know, but to love healthily, cultivate the youness in you. Inhabit that space and love finds it. Bearing in mind that Love comes in lots of shapes and sizes, and not necessarily as a homo sapiens holding a ring or red roses. It might be piano shaped, or abstract , equations that hold the answers to the universe. Enjoy Valentines Day, without the hocus pocus thrown out by the restauranteurs and card manufacturers. And without the massacre (please).

Illustration from http://johnbroadley.blogspot.co.uk/2012_02_01_archive.html

 

Glory – ‘the bow that is stable’

Art, LOVE, philosophy, poetry, Thoughts

Glory   Digital media Anne Corr

 

More botanical illustration adapted for a more contemporary audience.  Mulling over what to do for my next project whilst prevaricating over the ironing.  Mulling is a preoccupation of mine.  This is probably self evident in the blogs.  Not much of my time is spent with others, and that allows the mind to wander, to meander and to explore.  Then the dilemna arises when the others do appear and more domestic chores rear their heads demanding attention.  Part of the human condition is the need to be employed in service.  Servitude is a default setting. You might not recognise that and think ‘hey, I serve no one mate’, but take a moment.  Its when you are in service that you probably feel most acheivement, whether you’re serving your family, a corporate boss, a God, or the Army, even a rebel leader.  When we serve, we transcend our own needs.  I serve my family. Sometimes with joy and grace, and sometimes with an imp on my shoulder pressing me to jump.  Mostly with a sort of resigned shrug and a contentment that they are all healthy and living a life they like, even if that means at a distance.  They are growing up and away, and I find it inevitable and a little bit sad.  Nothing unusual there. Listened to Kahlil Gibrans verse on the same theme from the Prophet on Sunday, driving across the country and leaving my 17 year old alone to manage his own breakfasts etc for the first part of the week.  He is delighted to be in charge , I am missing him already.

 

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Truth on Love.

blogging, Life, LOVE

quote john Steinbeck by Anne Corr

When I was very young I became engaged, to the horror of my family, whom I was attempting to separate from, living in a pretty dysfunctional home where tension and a level of continuous discontent murmered in the background.  No physical violence, but the stench of discord, disappointment, dislike permeated my teenage years growing up.  It scarred me, and I reacted by hooking up with basically the first person who was willing to take me on hook, line  and sinker.  He was older, and completely unfit to be in a relationship himself, but I was young and unable to make the judgement call before he started to hit me.  Luckily I woke up before the wedding band went on the finger, and though it was ugly, I did manage to remove myself.  Even then I found myself feeling sorry for him, listening to his need to have me there, contemplating re-entering the relationship. Not because I wanted him, but because I hated the responsilbility of hurting someone.

Later relationships threw up further challenges for me,  I was to perpetuate this cycle of staying in a partnership in order not to damage the feelings of the other person, and lamentably it always ended up in eventual break up.

Learning to love healthily is the greatest lesson we take on, it is a lifelong pursuit of trying, falling down, picking ourselves up and trying again.  I listened to a woman a generation above me when she told me how one friend had gone to her asking whether she should stay with her partner or not.  It is never easy to give advice to another on relationship matters, what works for one may not work for another, but I liked her advice.

” Ask yourself is he for or against you?!”

At that time I felt that I was deeply involved with a man that appeared at first very committed to me, but had lately seemed more distant. I was in my late twenties, looking to settle down.  I looked at our relationship, and decided he wan’t ‘for’ me. When we were out with other people, he wasn’t attentive, he belittled my working life, he was inconsiderate of my needs, yet selfish with his own. He always put himself first.  It hurt to see it, to admit it, and when I finished with him, I was still in love. But I was right.

I was to make more mistakes, I was married twelve years to a wonderful man, just not the right man for me.  He was a friend, and I was so fed up with making bad mistakes romantically, that I married for friendship, thinking it would be a better , more lasting enterprise.  It wasn’t awful, and we had two amazingly beautiful sons together, but it wasn’t what I was looking for either , it didn’t complete me in the way I needed from a man. So Steinbeck says it better than I do, and I think he was writing to his daughter. Love well,love healthily- if it feels good, then it probably is good.  If it feels dull, or painful, or selfish, or hurtful , then it probably is. Don’t feel that a broken relationship is the fault of one person in it, it never is.  It is all about the dynamic between  the two people, not whether one is good and one bad.  When we separated , the unravellling of a marriage was the hardest thing I had ever had to manoevre through,  the one thing  I was convinced about was that both he and I were the same people we had been when we chose one another, and he deserved my respect and affection.  He showed me the same respect. Consequently we were able to maintain a relationship of co-parenting.  It hasn’t been easy, but neither would have been remaining married to one another.