Castle Dreams and Birds

Back in March I took two painted boards to Herstmonceux Castle for Waterweek as I had been invited to contribute some creation. When I took them in on the second evening, one of the artist organisers looked as though to say what on earth have you brought us! I left hurriedly without attending the evening talks, embarassed as I am about these things and made off into the night across the misty Pevensey Levels. I had dared to show something, I had taken the risk! I didn’t see any of the week’s events as I desperately needed to escape the clamour of Brighton and spend the week cosied up beside a roaring woodburner in a shepherd’s hut down in Dorset.

When I returned to pick up my boards, we – Kevin and I – were taken up through the castle corridors and shiny-floored halls to a main room by a friendly caretaker who knew all about my boards. And there they were placed up in a bay window which I thought was a lovely prominant position.

d Painting at Herstmonceux

Why I’m writing this is that I’ve recently had a dream about Herstmonceux Castle. It is perhaps strange that of all the wonderful things that happened that week, all I can write about is my dingy dream. But the castle definitely made an impression on me.

My dream:

I was at Herstmonceux Castle working on my Memory Tree story in a library there. From the windows I could see the fresh green growth of the trees. I was with my mother who was lingering and wasting time when I wanted to go into town with her. I decided to leave her but felt torn. I have many images of her beside a window, sunset without, feeding the birds.

Life is rich on deeper levels. I reach back into a distant past within the walls of the castle of my mind or being. Mystery, intrigue and beauty are words that come to mind and darkness too, which is strange as we are now tipping into Spring and light streams into newly unearthed spaces. I am feeling the desire for life with Spring but also a resistance after Winter.

Castle Dream

I shall not forget
The open window
You with your gifts of bread and love
leaning out with your familiarity
At one with the birds

They came in numbers
And you named them
Each and every one
Native American names
I thought of your gift with them
Those that came in numbers
To feed in your presense

I shall not forget
And shall stand now
At my open window
Inviting in the birds
And I’ll call them by names
Each and every one
To be at one with the birds.

Pigeons

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Dreams, Crypts and Grottos

A few nights ago I had a dream that made an impression on me. In the dream, I was involved in a centenary project concerned with a crypt. My role was to update the crypt website. The crypt had a story, a legend involving a seventeenth century woman who would steal down into the crypt perhaps to meet her lover (?) One night the crypt flooded and the woman persished. Her ghost walks the crypt to this day.

Dream Ghost in Grotto

The woman in the dream is, perhaps, a part of me, the crypt may symbolize or the unconcious, the hidden vaults, rooms, labyrinths of my mind. And that it is flooded? – I often dream of water – the sea, rivers, estuaries, swimming pools – emotions, the unconcious or memories. Centenary? … well, a hundred years ago, the First World War had just begun.

Dream Ghost in Grotto 2

Shell Grotto Lizard

I made some sketches of my dream but what illustrates it best are a couple of montages I made with an old illustration and photographs that I took when visiting the Shell Grotto in Margate in 2012.

The Shell Grotto is an amazing and mysterious place with an unknown origin. It may date back 3000 years. Some wonder whether it was made by the Knights Templar. The shells decorating the walls are all of local origin but some of the designs are similar to those of ancient Phoenicia and it is thought that the name of the Isle of Thanet, once an island where Margate now lies, derives from the Phoenician goddess Tanit. Could this be a temple to the goddess?

The grotto walls are encrusted with shells in patterns of turtles, flowers, Gods and Goddesses, phalluses, planets, wombs, skeletons and there is what looks like an altar and a skylight, the only source of natural light. One theory proposes that the Grotto imagery symbolizes a journey from Birth through Life and Death to the Afterlife. One walks down into the grotto along passageways until one arrives at the main Altar Chamber. It is mysterious, magical and quite overlooked in a way.

Shell Grotto Altar

The grotto suits the dream well although it’s not a crypt. The woman ghost or goddess of my dream wanders sea shelled passageways throughout the centuries.

Sound II

I googled flooded crypts and seventeenth century ghosts to build a story. I found lovely images of Winchester Cathedral crypt that floods at certain times of year. In Winchester Cathedral crypt stands an Anthony Gormley sculpture of a man contemplating water in his cupped hands; it’s called Sound II. Anthony Gormley believes that there is a connection between memory and the basic physical elements of the world. He wondered whether it is possible to make something fresh like dew or frost, “something that just is, as if its form had always been like this”. I think the flooded crypt and sculpture beautiful. (Image of Sound II by David Spender.)

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Marine dreaming

Water: Origin of Life by Diego Rivera

Marine DreamingA recent television programme, Timewatch: Atlantis: The Evidence has fired my imagination. A summary of the documentary is as follows:

‘Around 1620 BC, a gigantic volcano in the Aegean Sea stirred from its nineteen-thousand year slumber. The eruption tore the island of Thera apart, producing massive tsunamis that flooded the nearby island of Crete, the centre of Europe’s first great civilisation – the Minoans. This apocalyptic event, many experts now believe, led to the eventual downfall of the Minoans, and provided the inspiration for Plato when he later wrote about the people of a mighty island, Atlantis, which sank beneath the waves and was lost forever, ‘in a single day and a night of misfortune’.

Minoan ceramic jar after Thera explosion

I’m once again back into drawing. I wanted the woman in my picture to be “awash in a pearly dream” of sea creatures – just like the sea creatures on the Minoan ceramics after the Thera explosion that caused a tsunami to reach the shores of Crete. I thought I could perhaps use the idea in my Turtle Dreaming story.

I have been inspired by other art namely Diego Rivera’s Water: Origin of Life mural, my favourite mural that sadly no longer exists as it was painted in Mexico City’s water system and has now been washed away. The theme was homage to the life-creating power of water. I like the hands, the myriad of protoplasmic life forms, the crabs, lobsters, representations to people and god-like figures and the cross-section nature of it.

And recently, I have dreamt of boats leaving their moorings and the arms of the harbour, setting out to sea on voyages into the unknown. It is good to feel as though I’m once again going somewhere :)

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Fleeting wildlife encounters

I’ve been wanting to photograph the elusive and fleeting wildlife encounters I’ve experienced recently around town — the sparrowhawk that flew straight across the road in front of me making a peeping noise and with a starling or blackbird in its talons. Or the fox which slunk past me on the pavement within a metre the other day, or the one glimpsed crossing the road and disappearing over a garden wall as we were returned from a walk on Hollyberry Hill Fort. My photo of him was too poor to show here, but I’m going to try and feature an urban wildlife photo each week from now on. That could be a challenge.

Birds in overcast skies

Last night I had a dream. I went into a room that was my room in the house I grew up in. The room was dimly lit but I could see that there were pictures, photos and shapes of birds all around the room. In the dream I was studying nocturnal bird migration. When I woke up I wrote it down and felt inspired to do a sketchy picture of migrating birds. I had distinctly seen swallows in my dream, but they’re more like starlings in my picture. The sky is overcast, not quite like the lovely sunny weather we’ve been having! Still, it’s been a bit dull today and I’ve been wrapped up with a cold — just like autumn! I need to do something colourful to welcome the better weather!

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Turtle Dreamings – Churning the Ocean of Milk

Turtle rock artI’ve been trying to continue with my children’s story. I know that I want it to about turtles and a girl named Christine, who lives on a cliff overlooking the sea. I’ve been thinking a lot about turtles in the last few days and remembered a dream I had last year that involved my sister nurturing a wounded turtle. I looked up turtle symbolism in dreams and here are some examples of meanings I found:

Longevity, patience and persistence, self-protection, hiding, withdrawing and fear of social interaction or showing one’s true self.

Turtles convey steadfastness and caution, moving and changing slowly and they have strong protective shells, which may also be symbolic of a defense mechanism or real life protection with which one has surrounded oneself.

Oh well, perhaps my dream meant that I just needed to nurture wounded parts of myself.

Turtles are often depicted in popular culture as easygoing, patient, and wise creatures and are an emblem of longevity and stability in many cultures. In some creation myths the turtle or tortoise carries the world on its back or supports the heavens. In Aboriginal rock art in the ancient turtle totem, the dome-like curved shell symbolizes the sky in relation to the square flat underside, symbolic of the earth. More turtle symbolism can be found here.

Churning the Ocean of MilkWhilst looking up turtle myth, the story that I found most interesting and evocative was ‘The Churning of the Ocean of Milk’, a famous episode in a Hindu text, the Puranas. It involved a mountain entwined by a serpent whose head was held by demons and whose tail was pulled by the gods to rotate the mountain and so churn the ocean. All this was done to retrieve the “Nectar of Immortality” from the ocean. However, once the mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink, so Vishnu in the form of a turtle Kurma, came to the rescue and supported the mountain on his back. This bas relief is at Angkor Watt in Cambodia. I failed to see it when I was there (to my annoyance now), but I think its beautiful and I especially like the ghostly white turtle form at the bottom.

A few years ago I volunteered with the Sea Turtle Protection Society, Archelon on Crete, patrolling beaches to protect breeding turtles and their eggs. I longed to get just a glimpse of a turtle or turtle track, but unfortunately they arrived the day after I left.

Anyway, with my interest in turtles returned, I wanted to see one somehow.Green TurtleAt the turtle tank
Figurehead

So yesterday I visited the Sealife centre here in Brighton to do some “research” and commune with these creatures even if it was from just behind glass! Here are some photos that will help me with my story:

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