This morning I came across a taster which I made three years ago for The Dancing Floor, then called The House of the Waters. I edited it with Windows Moviemaker software on my PC, so it’s a bit rough but it does give a strong sense of the film, and the mystery underlying it. It also has a strong ‘solstice’ feel to it and the Mabinogion connection is clearer than in the pilot. Gill and Dylan’s music is on there and sounds as good as ever. You can see it here
It shows how the ideas behind the film have developed over time – and no doubt will continue to develop. Meanwhile we have been busy making contacts and thinking about the next phase – getting some serious finance for this microbudget film. But we needed a break to allow the darkness of the solstice to seep into body, mind and spirit and invigorate us anew for the next push, so more news in the New Year!
Meanwhile, enjoy the soft solstice dark, soft and damp solstice dark this year. And do take a look at the old taster – it’s only two minutes long, and share if you can. We need to create an audience for the feature film, and your help and support is needed and appreciated.
The pilot-teaser film has had its first previews, and so far the reception has been warm and enthusiastic. ‘Beautiful’, ‘so intriguing’, ‘fabulous music’, ‘extremely atmospheric’, ‘I can’t wait to see the long version’ are some of the comments I collected along the way. The first preview was for my Samatha Buddhist friends in Manchester. We set the screen up to one side of the big golden Buddha, and the room glowed with anticipation. I was surprised and pleased when I heard the audience make little gasps and snorts of recognition at key moments, such as when Sita, the heroine says ‘it’s the nothingness between the somethingness which holds the key’. There were many meditators there, and since meditators spend a lot of time exploring nothingness, it is not a scary thing for these guys, as it is for some people in our highly over-wrought and distracted world. The second preview was for my Welsh-speaking and learning friends, at Brechfa Chapel where I live.
It was prefaced with a talk in Welsh by me about the Mabinogion (be very impressed) and a chunk of story from the Mabinogion by Marion Oughton (be impressed again), a learner-friend. I watched my audience watching and could see that the spell of the film was working on them. Their attention was steady throughout and did not waver. They responded particularly strongly to the atmosphere and the uncanny beauty of the drone shots of my pool. The mythic resonances from the Mabinogion also appealed. They liked the actors, and were the first audience to understand the bits in Welsh! The third preview is still to come: if you live near Brecon come to the George Hotel at 7pm on Monday May 18 where I will be giving a talk for Brecon MIND (Exploring the Edge of Reality)
and showing the film, followed by a discussion, I hope, about creativity, meditation and mental balance. All are welcome and this is a great group of people who put on interesting talks every month. Other news is that I have found a couple of people with skills differing and matching mine who may be going to help me with the next phase: financing and producing the feature film. I won’t name them yet because I don’t want to tempt fate, but I hope very soon there will be a showing in Hay on a big screen, maybe with live music to follow. A London screening will follow soon after that one. If you can’t get to a screening, leave me a message here or on FB and I will send you a special secret link. A crowdfunding campaign will be the next stage, plus the filling in of many forms and the canvassing of more serious investors. There’s a way to go!
My friend, Mollie, says she is going to start a ‘Death Cafe’. You eat cake, talk about death, and drink pleasant beverages, but no alcohol. Apparently they are spreading like wildfire, and Mollie seems a good person to be in charge, since she has had many a brush with Dr Death in her life, and seems to have less fear of him than most of us. Having just been sun-bathing on a grave in my graveyard, I know my own attitude to be more ambivalent: on the one hand I feel death to be the end (I have always felt that the people in my Welsh graves would have been so exhausted from a life of toil on the farm that blot-out would be a relief) whilst on the other, I often sense the presence of dead people in my life – in dreams, thoughts and funny feelings while at certain places. Before I bought the chapel I felt sure that the people in the graveyard wanted me to have it. When a friend announced that her boyfriend was interested in buying it, I retorted: ‘oh no, they want a woman!’
Anyway, as I drift towards old age myself, I think about death a lot more, and today I was remembering an old lady I used to visit in my youth. Her name was ‘Miss Norris’ – in those days 17 years olds would not have addressed 80-somethings by their first names. My school had a project whereby sixth-formers could volunteer to befriend a lonely old person. Miss N and I liked each other. She lived near the Crystal Palace in South London, or rather near where it had once stood. This impressed me from the start, since I already had a romantic feeling about the place. She told me she had been to school there, had even played the violin in an orchestra there. But, although she watched it burn down, in great dismay, on that terrible day in 1936, she was not actually in it. The smoke hung around for days after, she said. Furthermore, she had been an independent woman from the start, flying around the countryside in the sidecar of her brother’s motor-bike and not bothering to get married. She had a career too of course, though now I cannot remember what.
Now in her eighties, her eyesight was failing and she would make me very strong tea in grubby cups. I drank the tea of course, and ate the cakes, but made myself a mental note to clean my cups properly when I got old. However nowadays, when my glasses are not to be found, I fail to notice the cobwebs and dirty windows in my own house, so am obviously going the same way as Miss N already.
The last time I saw her I was about to go off to university. She confided in me that ‘they’ (the doctor maybe, since she appeared to have no family) wanted her to go into a home, since her poor eyesight was making life dangerous for her. ‘Do you think I should?’ she asked. ‘Oh no!’ I instantly replied, appalled at the thought of my heroine being constrained and controlled in such a place. When I came home after my first term, ‘they’ told me that she had walked out into the road without seeing a bus coming and fallen under its wheels. She died soon after in hospital. With all the conceit of an 18 year old, my sorrow was shot through with guilt: was I to blame? Of course I was not – she only wanted me to confirm her own instinct. I often think of her, and what she taught me about being old.
And the Crystal Palace? Later in life, it gained a mystical, even metaphysical importance for me – you can read about that in Becoming the Enchanter if you want – but I am not going there now since this post is in honour of Miss Norris, her inspiring life and her intelligently engineered death.
By popular request (well, Rod actually) here is my poem in Welsh, with an English translation. The ‘canolfan/centre’ mentioned is the Samatha Meditation Centre pictured above. ”Cwtsho’ is a wonderful Welsh and Wenglish word meaning ‘cuddle,embrace’ but with more of a warm, squeezy feeling.
Mae’r coed’n cwtsho’r canolfan yn y cwm,
Yn y niwl mae’r hen dduwiau yn aros – amdanon ni?
Dyn ni crwydro ar rosydd mawr, yn dilyn y ceffel gwyn,
Brwydr dreigiau yn digwydd dan ein traed trwm.
Am beth dyn ni chwylio? Un peth neu bethau gwahannol?
Wyt ti fy mrawd i – neu fy heriwr?
Gweidda’r dderwen: wedi dod mae’r duw glas!
The trees are holding the centre in their arms,
In the mist the old gods wait – for us?
We wander on the wide moor, following the white horse,
And under our heavy feet, the dragons fight.
What are we searching for? The same or different things?
Are you my brother – or my challenger?
The oak shouts out: the blue god has come!
I wrote it on a weekend at Greenstreete, the Samatha Centre, while out walking with my Buddhist friends. It’s about the relationship of the British land and gods with the new ‘gods’ of Buddhism, who have brought marvellous meditation techniques to these islands.
I am ridiculously pleased that this poem has been published in the Welsh learners magazine, Y Ddraig Werdd (it’s on page 16 of the pdf) and is going to be published also in the Samatha Journal.
It was death that sent me back to St Margarets, the brutal death of a friend’s brother by suicide. The thought of this man’s suffering haunted me all day so I wound up the tiny narrow lane, past clumps of meadowsweet waving in the warm wind, to the old church, to say a prayer for him.
St Margaret’s was my place of pilgrimage at a transition time in my own life. I’d hike up through the fields to it, a couple of times a week, to sit and gaze at the blue-infused stained glass windows showing Saint Margaret at the gates of the Holy City. Here they are. Go and see them, it’s in Herefordshire, miles from anywhere really, but worth the effort. It is a special place, a thin place, it has a quality of stillness and timelessness which never changes.
It sits on a hilltop, surrounded by farmer’s fields and graves which have quatrains of verse on them, in the border tradition. The sheep who nuzzle the girl saint’s legs are the same sheep who graze in these fields, and the roses and lilies in her meadows are growing in the farmhouse gardens too, just next to the churchyard. The river flowing from the City could be the sparkling Dulas brook or the fast-flowing Wye, both not far from this place. Her name, Margaret, means ‘pearl’ and the gates of the Holy City are made of pearl. In the centre of the City is the Tree of Life, with Mary and her baby in it. It’s an image of innocence, renewal, a reminder of the radiance always pouring through the everyday scene, if only we can open the ‘doors of perception.’
iYou can see what the church looks like because Margaret holds it in her right hand. Like most saints she died a horrible martyr’s death. She would understand that poor man’s pain and desperation. She’d hold it and dissolve it away. As for me, when I learned to love this place, I had run away from London, my marriage and a right old mess in my life. I was living in a showman’s wagon, without electricity or running water. Badgers snuffled outside it in the dark, dark country nights. When the moon was full, I could hardly bear to go indoors to sleep.
Gradually my old self, the old mess dissolved and new love wakened in me, for this land, this debatable land, which had been Welsh and was now English. Now I live in Wales and no longer make my regular visits to this old friend – because this place, infused with the radiance of the idea of the Holy City, was a true friend to me, cooling me down when I was agitated, inspiring me when I was dull, comforting me when I was sad. I took a lot of friends, Christians, Pagans, atheists, Buddhists, there and they all loved it, they all noticed the special quietness.
My brother, Steve, who is a meditator too, talked the other day of ‘that emptiness you reach which seems nevertheless full of the most wonderful things,’ (sorry, Steve, I paraphrase!) If you need to restore your connection with that, visit St Margaret’s.