Nick Cave’s Weather Diaries

room on via Garibaldi

It was our first night together in the big room with a little bed on via Garibaldi.  Nick Cave and the Seeds provided the background music.  Hugh found it all so poetic but, to tell the truth, Nick kinda unsettles me.  There’s always that deflating element of sadness and tragedy.  Take, for example, The Weeping Song where a father tells his son to go to the water to see the women weeping then to go to the mountain to see men weeping, too.  The women are weeping for their men and the men are weeping back at them. So many tears that have nowhere to go.

everyone was weeping

What I do like about Nick Cave is his handwritten dictionary. It’s like a loose leaf address book but instead of names and numbers, it has words and their definitions. Words like amuck, avouch, and avast. Or  murk and mort and moot. I also like his Weather Diaries.  Well, actually, I’ve never read them but I do like the idea of writing a diary based on weather.

the sky was crying all the time

Nick is from Australia but moved to London. That could explain his concern with the weather. I mean, he’s got a skylight in his home and is forced to see the sky crying all the time. The only thing, he said, that gave him hope was spring but one year spring let him down. It depressed him and, as many of us know, there’s nothing like depression to make you start a diary. That’s when Nick began documenting the weather. He bought a trendy little notebook and a rubber date stamp. Everywhere he went, he’d jot down the fluctuations in the weather and soon began to prefer bad weather to good weather because it gave him more to write about. The intention was to write about the weather for  a year then publish the diary.  But the birth of his twins changed all that. However he did conclude that “I can control the weather with my moods.  I just can’t control my moods.”

even on TV it was raining

We all know there’s a relationship between weather and mood.  Even Stefano of Dolce & Gabbana said “I love the Weather Channel because my mood changes a lot according to the weather!” That’s why I was somewhat surprised when Hugh said he wanted to go to Bordeaux to meet Montesquieu, the philosopher who’d become famous for his theories on how  climate influences people and the society they live in. His theory was that people coming from warm climates tend to be passionate yet laid back when it comes to work whereas people from cold climates have rigid personalities but a stronger work ethic. Well of course! If I know it’s going to freeze during the winter, I’m going to work my butt off to prepare for the cold. But if I live somewhere where the sun always shines, I’m going to spend my days on the beach in a red bikini! Really now, it always amazes  me how men can write about the obvious and call it philosophy.

wine with Montesquieu and his wife

My friend Mona had rented a villa in Bordeaux and immediately organized a big fête with liters of Château Margaux. That’s where we met Montesquieu and his wife, Jane. I was dying to ask her what she felt about her husband’s belief that women were not equal to men and, being weaker, should obey their husbands. But Hugh, afraid that the wine had unleashed my tongue, quickly led me away. Peccato, I said to myself, that Hugh didn’t know about The Champion of the Weather.

the magnolia tree on south presa

Even a block away you could see that big lusty magnolia tree on South Presa Street where my best friend Laura lived. Every Sunday morning I’d go to her house for coffee and pie. Sometimes her neighbor, a writer named William, would be there, too.

Will, as we called him, had a terrible cough. He’d moved to San Antonio hoping the climate there would dry out his lungs.  Laura and I truly enjoyed his company because he always told us interesting stories with unexpected endings.  Unfortunately, Will had the bad habit of touching Laura’s magnolias and making them turn brown.

he touched her magnolias

San Antonio had a good effect on both Will’s health and his writing. But, afraid of collecting dust, Will was always on the move. Luckily, he was a writer and often sent letters. That’s how we knew  he’d moved to Austin, was married and working in a bank. Pity that Will was good with words but lousy with numbers. After being fired for missing funds, Will fearfully ran off to Honduras but was forced to go back to the States when he learned of his wife’s illness. Arrested for embezzlement and sent to prison, he took advantage of his free time to develop his writing skills. It wasn’t long before Will was sending short stories to publishers. Afraid no one would publish them if they knew he was a convicted felon, he used the pen name O. Henry.

he spent his time in jail writing

Once out of jail, Will moved to New York but came back to San Antonio one summer for a  visit. Like old times, we sat at the kitchen table for coffee and pie.  Laura and I pretended not to notice when he’d whip out a flask of bourbon to spike his coffee. Such a waste of time, too, because  his stories were such a hoot  that we would have given him all the bourbon he wanted just to keep him talking.

he poured bourbon in his coffee

When we asked Will what it was like to live in New York, he replied that it was a great place for his writing career.  But making friends was difficult as New Yorkers were generally aloof and distant. To give us an idea, he told us the story of Bud or, as Will called him, The Champion of the Weather.

Bud, a man who enjoyed the pleasures of sociable vocal intercourse, never had had any problems  striking up conversations with strangers until he went to New York. Trying to converse with a New Yorker on the street, he said, was like talking to a lamp post.

he talked to lamp posts

He frequented the same café and was quite surprised one evening when the manager came up to him and said “‘Nice day!”  Bud, hungry for dialogue, immediately  started talking but the manager just turned his back and walked away.

he turned his back and walked away

Bud was incensed. A few days later, he went back to the café with the intent of  giving the manager a lesson in the art of continuous conversation. He cornered the manager and showed him his pistol before calling  him something like a frog-hearted muzzled oyster. The manager, fearing for his life, forced himself to make small talk. Satisfied, Bud told the manager to go back to his job but warned him to keep his hands off the weather unless he was ready to follow up in a personal manner.

he showed him his gun

So why is talking about the weather so important? Because the weather affects us all. Knowing we have something in common shortens the distance between us.

So have a nice day!

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

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Eudora Welty (1909-2001)

the fan was blowing full blast

Even though the fan was going full blast, I was suffocating.  It was a night in June of 1963 and I was in Jackson visiting my friend Eudora.  There’d been much tension in town due to the demonstrations. Nerves were so frayed that their fibers easily tangled.  Eudora and I  were watching TV when we saw the news about Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who protested against segregation.  I’d seen Medgar in town a couple of times.  He was a nice looking man who walked with his shoulders held high.  But his furrowed brow gave him away.  I knew from Darwin’s book on facial expressions that that corrugation meant only one thing—Medgar was chronically stressed out.  I would be, too, if the KKK were threatening to kill me.

he was murdered in front of his home

Medgar and his wife, Myrlie, feared for their family. But fear offered them no protection.  Just a few hours after JFK’s Civil Rights Address, Medgar returned home from a meeting only to be shot in the back before arriving at his front door. His wife rushed him to the hospital and was told that blacks were not admitted. Maybe fearing retaliation, they finally took him in but it was too late.

The news of Medgar’s death devastated Eudora.  She cried and cried until her eyes looked like muffins. Then she went to her bedroom and closed the door. The next morning, while I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, a ragged Eudora walked over to me and handed me a bundle of densely written pages.  It was the draft of her short story ““Where Is the Voice Coming From?”

she showed up with a manuscript

Eudora told me that after  initial outrage and sadness, she felt bewildered as she couldn’t comprehend such deprivation. Why would someone gun down another human being in such a vile and cowardly way?  Needing to understand, Eudora tried entering the mind of the murderer and did so by having him be the narrator of her story, a story about a white man who needs to believe that he’s better than blacks. Because the idea of having someone inferior to him is the only thing that gives him status.

Writing had calmed her down some but Eudora continued to be depressed so I decided to prolong my visit–sometimes having someone around who’ll listen to you express your pain is better than valium. We spent the next three days talking non-stop taking breaks only to make meals. Eudora even made a crabmeat casserole and served it with bourbon and water.  The bourbon made us giggle and talk even more.

they ate crabmeat casserole and drank bourbon

Eudora came from an intelligent and warm southern family. But her sheltered life didn’t keep her from being daring. And empathic. Before writing stories, she listened for them. Listening for a story is not the same as listening to a story. Listening for a story is an awareness that stories exist and you just have to be ready to pounce on them when they appear. Like waiting for a mouse to come out of its hole.

she waited for the mouse to come out

Early on, Eudora got a job as a publicity agent for the WPA which gave her the possibility to travel around and take photographs. It was photography, she said, that taught her how to write.

A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away. Because life doesn’t hold still, to capture transience, you have to be ready at that crucial moment. Like a photographer, the writer must stalk his existence.  And when that existential truth appears, he must follow it in its tracks until a story worth telling is constructed.

Storytelling is  a form of perception.

she exhibited her fotos in NY

In 1936, Eudora exhibited her photographs in New York next to the Julien Levy Gallery featuring Surrealists. Mesmerized, she bought the catalogue Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism and even experimented with surrealism in her writing. In an issue of the surrealist magazine View, she saw a reproduction of Joseph Cornell’s A Crystal Cage, and was so impressed that she wrote him a fan letter. Cornell, in turn, wrote back stating his admiration for her short story “The Winds” and even sent her a collage that she hung in her dining room.

When Eudora was about 28 years old, she met Katherine Anne Porter.  Apparently the outwardly shy Eudora and the glamorously animated Katherine had nothing in common save for their interest in Jane Austin, Virginia Woolf, and the idea that a good short story was a journey towards self-awareness. But after meeting in the mid 1930s, they knew they were kindred spirits. And when the two spent a couple of months at an artists’ colony in upstate New York, they got little work done. Eudora taught Katherine how to drive and the two roamed the countryside enjoying what women love so much—companionship.

together they drove around the countryside

Katherine, like me, grew up in Texas. Her mother’s death when she was only two inaugurated a troubled childhood. For years she bounced around people and places.  In 1920 the magazine she was working for sent her to Mexico to write about the current political situation. Her experience with Diego Rivera and the Viva La Revolution lifestyle inspired several  short stories.

they drank together at the cantina

Both Katherine and Eudora created characters inspired by people they’d met. Both were keen observers of the élan vital. When I asked Eudora what makes people the way they are she replied: “People are mostly layers of violence and tenderness wrapped like bulbs, and it is difficult to say what makes them onions or hyacinths.”

One evening Eudora and I ran out of bourbon so our conversations became more anchored. I asked Eudora about Delta Wedding, a story set in 1923 evolving around the Fairchild family and their southern lifestyle. Why was the character, Shelley, so fixated with writing in her diary?

Reading, explained Eudora, opens doors but writing gives you wings. It’s a form of emancipation and Shelley, who doesn’t want to end up like her mother, uses her diary to set herself free. Sitting on her bed dressed in her pajamas, she initially uses her diary for daydreaming. But when she starts to use  her diary as a tool for self-examination, Shelley learns to fly. The diary makes her world bigger and gives her a personal space she can’t find at home or in her milieu.

she sat on her bed and dreamed of flying

But, confessed Eudora, it took a pincushion to write Delta Wedding. Her writing method was basically that of eavesdropping on conversations then taking notes on what people said and how they said it. These notes made it ever so easy to write a short story but writing a novel was much more complicated. So for Delta Wedding,  Eudora would type a chapter then spread the pages out on her bed.  If a paragraph or sentence seemed out of place, she would cut it out and move it around. Then, once she’d clipped  and moved all that was necessary,  Eudora would fix everything into place with straight pins then re-type the new arrangement. Like Jane Austen, she used straight pins to edit her manuscripts.

a pincushion helped her keep it together

I told Eudora that this seemed like a very time consuming process to which she replied: “it doesn’t matter if it takes a long time getting there; the point is to have a destination.”

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

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I’m nobody and so are you

she watched the leaves fall

It was the fall  of 1884 and I was in Amherst watching the leaves fall to the ground. The maple trees were dripping red and yellow foliage. In awe, I signed up for a watercolor class with the intent of immortalizing their beauty forever.  It was here that I met Mabel, the wife of an astronomy professor who was often away to look at stars.

he looked at the stars, she looked around

Mabel and I enjoyed taking long walks together. As our walks grew longer, so did our exchange of secrets. I told her about the exasperating crush I had on a local philosopher. In return, Mabel confided that she was having an affair with a much older and married man named Austin.

Being an accomplished piano player, Austin would sometimes invite Mabel to play for his reclusive sister and invalid mother.  The sister, Emily, was a strange type.  While Mabel would play, the sister would listen near the stairwell hidden by the shadows. And when Mabel would finish playing, Emily would have a glass of sherry sent to her as well as a poem she’d written to express her gratitude.

first the piano then the sherry

Mabel kept a diary but, fearing someone would find it, she could never be as explicit in her writing as she could when talking with me. Nevertheless, Mabel truly enjoyed writing in her diary as it was here that she was always the protagonist.

Her husband, although often nice and naughty with her, did not give her the feeling of uniqueness  Austin did. And Austin, whose wife was a frigid nag, adored Mabel because she was sexually uninhibited and called him her king. Their fixation with one another did not go unnoticed and inspired much gossip.

Mabel and I kept in touch even after I left Massachusetts.  Of course she was always writing about Austin. But it was the stories she told me about Emily that interested me most.   Even though practically neighbors, the two never visited vis-à-vis communicating only by letters. Emily’s agoraphobic nature had given her an incredible mystique. Curious, the townspeople turned into amateur sleuths collecting info about her as if collecting clues for a whodunit.

They knew only that she wore white dresses with pockets sewn onto them for her poems, liked to garden and to bake bread, and spent much of her day in her rose papered bedroom writing poetry. Sometimes, from her window, she would lower a basket tied to a rope with little treats for the neighborhood children.  Mesmerized, the children would stare at her window to see those skinny little arms lowering and raising the basket.

she lowered the basket full of treats

The first time Mabel  actually saw Emily was in her coffin. After her death, Emily’s sister, Lavinia, asked Mabel to help publish Emily’s poems even though there was much bickering in the family as to their ownership.  Once they were published, Mabel sent me a copy. Although I struggled to understand many of the poems, the one that starts out “A charm invests a face” intrigued me. Basically it’s about Emily standing in front of a mirror asking herself whether or not she should lift the veil covering her face. Metaphorically or not, she knew that veils are provocative as the imagined is more erotic than the real.

she looked at herself in the mirror

Throughout history, sculptors have used the Wet Drapery Effect to create veil covered  bodies. The cloth clings so tightly that it becomes part of the body itself. Naked is no longer nude. My favorite such statue is that of St. Cecilia in Rome by Stefano Madero.  Lying face down, the recumbent martyr has replaced the veil with the ground.

she no longer needed a veil

Female slaves and prostitutes in ancient Greece, as opposed to aristocratic women, were prohibited from wearing veils.

In the Koran, it’s written that the most tempting part of a woman’s body is her face. Thus, to avoid lusty desires, it’s covered.

Traditionally, women wear veils during their wedding ceremony. But, once married, the groom lifts the veil–maybe to be sure he’s gotten the right bride.

he lifted her veil

When the Countess of Castiglione, Virginia Oldoini, aged and her beauty disappeared, she acquired an appreciation for veils.  But instead of wearing them, she put them over her mirrors.

she put veils on her mirrors

Itching to see beneath Emily’s veil, I abandoned any sense of discretion and pumped Mabel for information. She told me that, an avid gardener, Emily spent years collecting and pressing flowers for her Herbarium (she had over 400 specimens!)  Often she collected plants while taking long walks with her dog, Carlo, named after the dog in Jane Eyre.  Her father was very strange and would give Emily books he’d then prohibit her from reading.  But he did build a conservatory next to the house where Emily could care for her plants all year long. She referred to flowers as “ the Beautiful Children of Spring”.

she cut flowers for her herbarium

Emily’s knowledge of horticulture influenced her writing.  Via her knowledge of floriography,  she used flowers as metaphors to describe emotions.  Since every flower was symbolic of a particular sentiment, it was very fashionable in Victorian times to use little bouquets to convey feelings. These nosegays were also used as fashion accessories.

Some floriographic examples: roses = beauty, irises = eloquence, violets = faithful love, larkspurs = levity, daisies = innocence, foxglove = insincerity, daffodils = rebirth, sweet peas = delicate pleasure, etc.

their flowers spoke to one another

Emily, taught as a young girl to embroidery, used her sewing skills to make little books of poetry. After editing then recopying a group of poems several  times, she would  sew them into little fascicles.  More than a seamstress, she was a self publisher.

she sewed poems together

Raised in a Calvinistic household, Emily was very frugal and often wrote on scraps of paper including used envelopes. Her pencil, like a loaded gun waiting for something to shoot at, wrote whenever and on whatever it could. Visually, Emily’s envelope poems are quite lovely and gave me the idea of creating an envelope diary. By punching holes in envelopes from invoices to be paid, I can create little pockets for paper souvenirs that are held together with notebook rings then cover the envelops’ surface with cryptic phrases.

Envelop book

 

 

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

 

 

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Every day is a short story

One should count each day a separate life. Seneca

A short story is a work of fiction limited in length and meant to be read in just one sitting. It is based on a plot, that is, a series of events provoked by a conflict. Generally the conflict is that of man against himself, man against others, or man against nature. The story evolves around how the conflict is affronted.

I would like to transform my diary posts into short stories. Like the short stories of Lucia Berlin.  Because by simultaneously contracting and expanding the world around her, Lucia has this way of turning subtle observations into motion pictures.

Lucia’s stories are populated by The Marginalia—people who, not part of the main text, are forced to live on the edge. People who suffer from terminal illnesses such as fear, poverty, alcoholism, and loneliness. People who are loitering in their own lives. Just like the Statue of Liberty, Lucia’s stories say:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

they looked toward the Statue of Liberty

Straightforward with bumps, Lucia  says “I don’t mind telling people awful things if I can make them funny.” And in the middle of this deadpan drama, Lucia throws around metaphors as if they were  carnival confetti.

The point of departure for Lucia’s writing was her difficult upbringing. Her childhood featured an absent father, an alcoholic  mother, and an abusive grandfather.  Lucia also suffered from sclerosis.  She married three times, had four kids she raised on her own, worked numerous jobs, and continued the peripatetic lifestyle of her childhood. What else could she write about if not her own horror vacui reality. As to her auto-fiction, Lucia says  “I exaggerate a lot and I get fiction and reality mixed up, but I don’t actually ever lie.”

sights to see near the station

December 30.

I woke up feeling sad because, later in the day, Chloé was going back to Paris. Which meant waiting all day for her departure. Waiting is like holding your breath so we spent the day in apnea until it was time to go to the train station. It was a 20 minute walk and luckily the weather  was good. The walk included visuals of the Angiolo Mazzoni Tower, the Aurelian Wall, Porta Tiburtina, the Arch of Pope Sixtus V, and some unidentified caged archeological remains.  We said little on the way but our silence was camouflaged by the wheels of Chloé’s trolley that went clink clank clink clank clink clank on the uneven sidewalk.

she pulled the trolley towards the station

Termini is Rome’s largest train station. Constructed mainly during the Fascists period, it has a series of arches like those of the Colosseum  only severely geometrical.  Mussolini was fixated with the idea of a Born Again Roman Empire and tried imitating the look.

Once we arrived at Termini, Rome’s main train station, we waited again. This time  in line for the automatic ticket machine.

Many many years ago De Sica made a film there, Stazione Termini.  It was about Mary, a married American in Rome visiting her sister.  While walking around Piazza di Spagna, she meets an Italian teacher, Giovanni.  The two become lovers but, at a certain point, Mary must return to the States. Giovanni doesn’t want her to go.  He meets her at Termini in hopes of convincing her to stay in Rome. The couple walks around the station discussing their situation.  They’re caught grubbing in an abandoned train car and taken to the police station for improper behavior.  There the Commissioner, who undoubtedly knew much about infidelity, resolves Mary’s conflict of “should I stay or should I go” by telling her to leave Rome or risk a scandal.  Forced to depart, Mary promises Giovanni her eternal love. Abandoned and overwhelmed, Giovanni leaves the station.

they grubbed in the dark

The film wasn’t considered much of a success. An Italian Neo-realistic film with dialogues written by Truman Capote, in my opinion, didn’t have much of a chance.

Termini has radically changed since De Sica’s film. Demographics and security measures have modified the look and spirit of the place. Once I could have accompanied Chloé directly to her train but now there are barriers and guards and ticket checks. So we said our melancholic goodbyes in front of the plexiglass barricade before she turned and left me standing there alone. My last image of Chloé  is that of her walking away pulling her trolley. I watched and watched until she became a blur engulfed by other blurs.

lucia5b

Termini makes me think of Lucia Berlin’s stories. Both are full of transient people—some with a destination and some without. The ones without look frayed like unraveling rope waiting for the final tug.

Lucia writes about overwhelming and depressing situations with great buoyancy. But I don’t have her talent. The train station ambience just brings me down and all I wanted to do was to go home.

train stations are full of stories to tell

If it’s true that everyone has a story to tell, then Termini is a library. And today I feel like a book.

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

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Sabina Spielrein (1885-1942)

the Burgholzli Psychiatric Hospital

My friend Carlotta had been committed because, said the doctors, she suffered from hysteria. That’s why one August morning in 1904 I went to the Burgholzli Psychiatric Hospital loaded with drawing supplies.  Carlotta was a wonderful artist and I felt sure that  art would help her more than  any shrink could.

she witnessed Sabina’s arrival

While waiting to see Carlotta, an attractive young  woman was brought in. She looked fine to me save for the two cement faced men holding her arms down.  Later, thanks to Carlotta, I would find out that her name was Sabina and apparently she, too, suffered from some form of hysteria. Really, any time a woman rebels against the lifestyle she’s forced to live, the boys call it hysteria. Hysteria, as far as I’m concerned, is simply a reaction against restriction and repression that women are subjected to even in their clothing. Just think of those horrible corsets we have to wear.

Corsets Helped Restrict Her

Corsets are like sculptors that mold your body into a certain position and freeze it there. Not only do they make the waist abnormally small, they also restrict movement and impose a certain kind of posture. Corsets compress your lungs making breathing difficult. They also crush organs and can even fracture ribs.

And if corsets aren’t enough, legally, women have few if any rights, can’t vote and are treated like chattel. And let’s not even get into how women are treated in the bedroom because I get hysterical just thinking about it.

Granville’s Hammer helped calm her

In the late 1880s, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville invented an electric vibrator meant to relieve muscle pain. But those naughty Victorians decided to use it, instead, to treat women diagnosed with hysteria. Commonly known as “Granville’s Hammer”, women were vibrated until they reached “hysterical paroxysm” aka orgasm.

Everyone knew that Queen Victoria had a wild libido and sexually exhausted her poor husband, Albert.  She wrote in her diary how they’d press their lips together over and over again, make love and feel bliss. No corsets for her!

their treatments were like torture

In the past, asylums seemed more interested in torture than treatments often using their patients as guinea pigs for extravagant theories. In France, neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot was fixated with hysteria and hypnosis. Thanks to Augustine, a patient, he became famous.  After years of abuse including being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Augustine was sent to Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris  at the age of 14. Photographs were taken of her and they must have been something as Freud and Degas went to see her.  Tired of being treated like a science fiction character, Augustine disguised herself in men’s clothing and escaped from the hospital never to be seen again.

Thanks to Eugene Bleuler, the director of the Burgholzli, Sabina was luckier as he encouraged psychoanalysis and the study of the unconscious mind. On his staff was the young Dr. Carl Jung who became Sabina’s doctor.

Carlotta spent her time in the asylum painting

As for Carlotta, after a couple of months of non-stop drawing, she felt much better and was released from the hospital.  Sabina stayed behind but by now she and Carlotta had become good friends and shared secrets. Sabina confessed that she and Jung had gone beyond a doctor-patient relationship and that Jung had written Freud asking for advice.

he said she was naughty and spanked her

If Sabina acted hysterically, it was only because of her dysfunctional parents. Her mother was cruel and her father, well, he would often whip his daughter’s naked buttocks. So it came as no surprise when Sabina decided to stay in Zurich and study psychiatry. Jung was her dissertation advisor. Of course everyone started to gossip especially considering that Jung was married with two kids.  Eventually word got to Freud and Jung tried to justify himself by saying it was all Sabina’s fault. Afraid for his career, Jung dumped Sabine who was, obviously, devastated.

Siegfried was in their dreams

One night, just a couple of years after his split with Sabina,  Jung had a dream about ambushing and murdering someone named Siegfried. He woke up feeling guilty. A voice inside told him to make sense of the dream or die.  Since he kept a loaded gun in a drawer next to his bed, he was afraid his subconscious was going to blow him away thus came up with a distorted explanation for himself.

While they were together, Sabina was so in love with Jung that she wanted to have his child and name him  Siegfried. Was the Siegfried in Jung’s dream actually Sabina’s dream baby?

Sabina left Switzerland and went to Vienna to ask Freud’s help.  The doctor was quite taken by her and considered her a brilliant mind.  So much so that he appropriated  some of her theories (as did, it seems, Jung)  and transformed her “destructive drive” into his own “death instinct”.

Stalinists killed him, Nazis killed her

In 1912, Sabina married a Russian doctor and had a child. She wrote numerous articles and was especially interested in child psychiatry. In 1924, she returned to Bolshevik Russia to practice psychiatry. Here she was active at the White Nursery, an experimental home for children with psychological disturbances. Stalin’s son, Vasily, was one of the children she worked with. The Russians, such as Trotsky, supported psychoanalysis for children but only to produce the “new Soviet toddler.”

 In the 1930s, Sabina’s husband and brothers were killed by Stalinists.  In 1942, Sabina and her daughter were shot to death by Nazi goons. As a result, Sabina and her work were forgotten. Not so for Jung who outlived Sabina by c. 20 years. And during this time had the possibility to write about a variety of subjects such as flying saucers.

 

flying saucer vision

In his “Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky”, Jung  is concerned with all the people who think they’ve seen a flying saucer. These sightings, for  him,  are the imagination that’s been activated in an attempt to understand something not easy to understand.

Active imagination is  a means of giving the unconscious a visual narrative.

Tulpa Party

Carl Jung may not have believed in flying saucers but he did believe in tulpas. A tulpa is a person of your own creation who lives in your head. It’s very easy to give birth to a tulpa…all you have to do is to imagine someone living in your head and then to treat that someone as an actual person.  You can interact with your tulpa by giving it a form and visualizing it.

Jung’s tulpa was named Philemon with whom he would often take walks in the garden and, since Jung believed Philemon’s insight to be superior to his own, Jung would often ask Philemon for advice.

In Geneva in 1977, a bundle of correspondence between Sabina, Jung and Freud  as well as Sabina’s diary was found  and later used by Jungian analysis, Dr. Aldo Carotenuto, for his book A Secret Symmetry (Roberto Faenza’s film about Sabina,  Prendimi l’anima, is based on Carotenuto’s book).

Years ago, Carotenuto kindly agreed to participate in my Image & Text project where I provided a drawing then had others write a related test. His studio, not far from Viale di Villa Massimo, was  full of books and smelled like the potpourri from Santa Maria Novella.  What a pity that his words have faded with time.

Aldo Carotenuto

Related:  Female Archetype of Sabina Spielrein – queen or wise women? + My name was Sabina Speilrein, Ich hiess Sabina Spielrein (2002) Vimeo + The Willard Suitcase Exhibit + Tulpas + Flying Saucer Vision + Jung’s Siegfried dream  (Excerpt from C.G. Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, 1961, ch.VI) + Sabine Spielrein nel film Prendimi l’anima + Augustine Official Trailer + 13 shocking pictures showing how we used to ‘treat’ the mentally ill

Around the age of 20, Albert Einstein’s son, Eduard, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and interned at the Burgholzlj. He was given a lot of drugs and electroshock treatments. After suffering a nervous breakdown, he told his father that he hated him.  Albert Einstein emigrated to the U.S. and never saw his son again. Eduard liked music and wrote poetry.  He had a picture of Freud hanging on his wall. He died in the Burghölzli clinic at the age of 56.

 

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

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Walking with Thoreau

Years ago, Lydia Jackson and I were pen pals and enjoyed sharing secrets.  She confided that she’d met Ralph Waldo Emerson at a social gathering held after one of his lectures and, BOOM, immediately got stars in her eyes. A short time later, she had a dream about him which, considering her infatuation, was pretty normal. But I was blown away when she told me he’d written asking her hand in marriage.

Henry David Thoreau

Immediately after the wedding, Emerson changed Lydia’s name to Lidian, a name he found more exotic.  She, in turn, didn’t call him Waldo like everyone else.  Instead, she called him Mr. Emerson. That, to me, was already a warning. Even though, insisted Lidian, there was much mutual respect between the two, there was little tenderness.  Not only did Mr. Emerson still grieve over his first wife, Ellen, he also took long walks in the woods with the activist, Margaret Fuller, claiming they were simply trying to transcend the empirical.

Henry David Thoreau

At the time, Henry David Thoreau lived with the couple.  In exchange for room and board, he did all the manual labor on their property. So it was no surprise to me when Lydia and Thoreau became close. Just as it came as no surprise to me that Mr. Emerson and Thoreau began arguing–there were too many roosters crowing in the same house. Emerson gave Thoreau a small plot of land and told his handyman to go build a cabin and move out. In 1845, Thoreau went to live at Walden Pond. Here he began writing about the transcendental experience of living surrounded by nature. Every day he would take long walks then write about them in his diary. Thoreau truly loved being surrounded by trees because it made him feel better. It’s what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku aka forest bathing.

Henry David Thoreau

Wood emits an essential oil, phytocide, that naturally restores and rejuvenates us.  Not only does it lower heart rate and blood pressure, it also lowers the concentration of cortisol (stress), and improves the immune system function.

We are a part of nature.  So being surrounded by nature is like going home.  Nature can live without us but we can’t live without nature.

Henry David Thoreau

 

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa © )

Related:  The Ingenious Pencils of Henry David Thoreau + Margaret Fuller, American’s first true feminist + When a Poet Tragically Dies: The story of Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson + “Humanity is divided into Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller” – Edgar Allan Poe

Bibliography: The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861

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My Friend Agatha

she looked at her thighs then took a train

My thickened thighs made me frown and since frowns cause wrinkles,  I decided to check into the Old Swan at Harrogate. My friend Mona told me that their hydrotherapy could easily blast away fat and even more.  It was a cold evening in December of 1926 when I arrived. The train trip from London had been fatiguing so I was glad when the bellboy quickly helped me to my room.  After a good night’s sleep, I got up the next morning ready to explore the hotel facilities.  Exploration accomplished, I made my way back towards my room. Or at least I thought so.  But when I opened the door to the room I thought was mine, I saw a woman in her mid-thirties sitting at the desk writing. She looked at me with such a fearful expression that I quickly said “Sorry” and left the room. You can imagine my embarrassment when, later, I went down for breakfast and found that we’d been assigned the same dining table. Immediately I started apologizing, excessively so embarrassed that I was. But she gently said to me, Please, what’s done is done.

at the Swan they exercized in the pool

While waiting for our breakfast to arrive, we stumbled at conversation. There was something somewhat sad and mysterious about this woman who said her name was Teresa Neele. For the next few days, we shared meals together and often saw one another while exercising in the pool but without making any overtures of camaraderie. That’s why it came as a surprise when one evening I answered the knock on my door and found Teresa looking at me her eyes full of tears. Of course I invited her in and offered her tea (thanks to the cozy, the pot was still warm). She shook her head no, sat down, said “there’s nothing like love for getting you down” then started to cry.  If tears were a form of hydrotherapy, she would have been cured of any ails right on the spot.

Teresa said her heart was broken and she needed to talk. I knew from experience that a good talk helps the emotions more than any drug can so I made myself available. She burst like a badly built dam and told me the most incredible story. Her husband had dumped her for another woman and the trauma was so great she often felt she was losing contact with reality. So much so she didn’t even really understand how she’d arrived at the Swan.  And, are you ready for this, her name wasn’t Teresa Neele but Agatha Christie! I squinted my eyes to scrutinize her. Slowly I began making out the features of the woman who’d been front page news for several days now. Yes, it was her, the author of my favorite novels. The missing writer who many feared had met foul play.

the newspapers suggested disguises for Agatha

Sometimes we are embarrassed about the revelations we’ve made in a time of despair. Maybe that’s why the next morning at breakfast Agatha seemed awkward as if she wanted to avoid me.  But I let her know that I understood and that her secret was safe with me.  Pity that Bob Tappin didn’t feel the same.  He was the hotel’s banjo player and had recognized Agatha one night wearing a lovely Georgette frock dancing the Charleston.  He notified the police who notified the husband who showed up only because he wanted to take Agatha home and stop the sensationalism.

she danced the Charleston in a georgette frock

A few days later I, too, left the Swan and normal life went back on the rails. Every so often I’d see Agatha’s name in the newspapers as her books sold with great success. It must have been early in 1929 when Agatha wrote and invited me to her home in Chelsea for the weekend.

After tea and cucumber sandwiches, Agatha told me she had a new man in her life.  His name was Leonard and he was an archaeologist. You know, she said laughingly, an archaeologist is the best kind of husband to have because the older a woman gets, the more her husband is interested in her.

they went from thunderclaps to a fireplace

The next morning after breakfast we took a long walk around the neighborhood (Cresswell Place is so lovely).  But at the sound of thunderclaps, we rushed back to the house and eagerly sat down in front of the fireplace for a long talk.

Agatha was one of my favorite authors (and Miss Marple my favorite psychologist) thus I was really curious about her writing habits. She said she didn’t any particular work routine but when ideas came into her head, she would pick up any one of the many notebooks she had lying around, and jot them down.

Much had been written about what had made her so successful. One theory was that, by keeping things simple via the use of plain language, short sentences, and much dialogue, she made it easier for the reader to follow the plot. Even experimenting neurolinguists had their say and said Agatha owed much of her success to repetition. If the author repeats words at least three times in a paragraph, the reader becomes more easily convinced.

“Dash it all!” said Agatha. “My success doesn’t come from all these techniques they say I use. My success comes from the story. And the story comes from my imagination.”

Agatha Chrisite and The Girls

One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life, Agatha continued, is to have a happy childhood that permits you to develop your imagination. Her childhood had been rather unconventional as she had no formal education and her older siblings were away at boarding school. So, not having playmates,  she made up imaginary friends. When playing with The Girls, as she called them, Agatha talked for herself and for them as well. This is probably where she learned to become so good at dialogue.

 A child’s world is far more exciting than that of an adult because the imagination has yet to be dulled by reality. A child can put on momma’s heels and become an adult.  Or ride on a broomstick that becomes a horse. Or hold a bottle to a doll that becomes a baby.

she put on  heels, he rode a broomstick

Imagination was Agatha’s best friend and frequently appeared unexpectedly. Often, she said, a plot would come to her at such odd moments such as when she was walking down the street or examining a hat in a shop or even while washing dishes.

plots unexpectedly arrived

Later, alone in my room I reflected on my day spent with Agatha. Because my memory was like snow upon the desert, I wanted to write in my diary the lessons I’d learned:

  1. Make friends with your imagination. Your imagination will not only keep you company but will continually supply you with options and solutions.
  2. Learn from Miss Marple and observe, observe, observe. Then, like Miss Marple in her chintzy St. Margaret Mead drawing room, use these observations to discover something new about others, about yourself.
  3. Listen for the facts. Like Hercule Poirot sitting in his armchair (hopefully with an antimacassar!), you can find solutions without going anywhere if you have the right information.
  4. Read aloud as often as possible. Agatha, like many young children, was often read to. Reading to children increases their vocabulary, develops attention span, helps pronunciation, and imprints the value of books. But reading aloud is good for adults, too. It helps our memory because we create not only visual but auditory links to our brain as well. Sounding out a word is a physical process because you must use your lungs, your diaphragm, and related mouth muscles forcing mind and body to collaborate.

Was silent reading an anomaly in the classical world?   Marshall McLuhan says that in antiquity and the Middle Ages, readying was necessarily aloud. However, other scholars disagree.  But have you ever seen a small child reading to himself who doesn’t move his lips? And Hugh told me that many throat cancer patients have difficulties reading after surgery as if words can only be expressed with the voice.

And what about poetry? What is the need for meter and rhyme if poems are not meant to be read aloud?

As for myself, I plan on taking the word off the page and into my lungs by reading my diary aloud the first Sunday of the month…will I sound the same to myself aloud and I do in silence?

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa © )

Related: Agatha’s Disappearance + guided walk of Agatha’s London  (see, too, her house at 22 Cresswell Place in Chelsea   and 48 Swan Court where Agatha Christie lived with second husband, Max Mallowan)

Bibliography:
Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography. William Morrow Paperbacks. New York City. 2012.
Maida, Patricia and Spornick, Nicholas. Murder She Wrote: A Study of Agatha Christie’s Detective Fiction. Popular Press 1. 1982

 

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