Posted in Old Hand's Indonesian Voyage, Saturnius McWhirr stories

Old Hand’s Indonesian Voyage–episode 1

The bewitching breezes that had vexed our northerly course along the bleak, rocky coast gaveway to an absolute calm as we steamed into Sunda Kelepa Harbour and brought up under the ornate, lofty spires of Jakarta.  It was as though the anchorage were under the spell of somevengeful deity that held the stagnant seaport in irons– a fitful sleep of waking dream.I gazed up at Jakarta’s towers and heard, high on the ramparts, Rama’s  gong-struck plea to deliver a flute-weeping Sita from Ranga’s jangling curse.  A sword held against a blood-red sky by masked Barong tragediennes brought down the threadbare, red curtain in the ritual re- enactment of the primal leave-taking and arrival; when carved gods glared from the bowsprit, holding vigilant watch against marauders while we were moored off the savage isle of dreams.  I too, have sat hungry around those ancestral fires, a villan, hero or common swab, subject to the changeable turns of karmic law..

.“Skip lively, Mister Spencer.”

The resonant voice was hoarse, as if weathered by eternal watches on the Greenland ice, or worn ragged from hurling oaths into the teeth of a gail.  I flaked out 5 fathoms of chain from the locker with hamfisted elegance.

“Nicely done, lad. Ye’ll be a sailor before long.”

McWhirr is a pain in the ass sometimes. He’s a relic of working sail and can be as dark as Ahab in rehab on a bad hair day.  He stood stark against the red sky like a weathered piling on a  rocky cape.  Light flickered through the dark shrouds, his shadow looming on the limp stays’l behind him, as if projected on a movie screen.  The  harrowing passage through the Sunda Strait had frayed my nerves and I groped clumsily the 3/8ths chain from the locker.

“All right, Mister Spencer.”

I let go the anchor. There sounded a low rumble as I paid out 3 fathoms of chain into the muddybottom of Sunda Kelapa Harbour.

“Have you paid out enough scope, lad?”

“I cast the anchor in 6 fath…” I said.

“Avast, Ya greenhorn! You don’t “cast” anchors. This isn’t fly-fishing! My gorge rises at suchlubberly misuse of sailing language.”

His wrath, like a line-squall, subsided as rapidly as it came.

“Did you know that to raise an anchor you must first let it go?”

“That’s true, sir.”

He always makes these pithy pronouncements like they were scripture.  And, for McWhirr the act of sailing is a religious rite. He hails from Zoroastrian, Quaker stock and, for him, a ship is a vessel to carry his weary spirit ascending through the 7 concentric spheres of corporeality to the final landfall of essential being. He has seen the beatific vision reflected on the sea’s mirror and it draws him ever northward in search of the true face of divinity behind the mask of appearance.

Posted in Paintings in Progress

The Memory Theatre-an artwork in process

I’ve made some memory stations and begun the memory practice.  Maybe I’ll try to memorize Jerusalem (at least parts of it) by William Blake.  The organization of the space and creating the stations is not separate from the work of sketching out the composition on the canvases.  The placement and spacing are important. DSC02838memory stations 3

I imagine the paintings might take the form of a still life that opens onto a vast landscape. Blake had a vision that beheld the universe in a grain of sand, infinity in an hour and the celestial city built on the rolling green English countryside.  I want my art to share some of this all-encompassing perspective.

The fields from Islington to Marybone,

To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood,

Were builded over with pillars of gold,

And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood.

I’ve found that memory practice leads to amazing experiences.  It is a way to attune to subtle influences and bring to conscious awareness the too-often suppressed messages from the unconscious.  In her brilliant book, the Art of Memory, Frances Yates quotes Cicero’s recollection of the poet Simonides, who was said to be inventor of the memory art:

…persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.

DSC02844memory stations 9 white