30
Sep

Musings

girl-in-key-hole-sunset-the-muses-inspire-the-spells-imbue-the-bones-of-story-evolve
                 
             A Dawning…
             Muses Inspire…
             Spells Imbue…
             The Bones of Story Evolve…..
8
Sep

Dharma Do

My heart is awash in billows of gratitude.  Finally, after so many years of my ‘gypsy life’, movement hither, thither and yon that hindered progress on Destiny’s Consent, I am once again at work birthing the next sequel.

This is my special space here in the jungle. It is Laura Shepard Townsend’s space. It is her room. It is my writing room.  Everything is here…my books, my notes….my boxes and boxes of 3X5 cards. They sit on the floor beside me awaiting the creation of scenes. Who is Angelica Grastende in 1926 to 1932?  She is a flyer…yes!!

laura-in-office-wide-edited

It is here that I live within my story: the next part of the dream I dreamt so many many years ago. I now live among the Mysteries.  I summon the Muses for assistance.

I look to the walls; Pat and my Mother smile inspirations upon me. Delores Hanney is there in a review published in The Venice Beachhead.

The desk at which I sit is a Chinese altar bearing talismans for lyrical clarity: a quill pen carved with mythical symbols leaning amidst crystals; an antique brass ruler engraved with dragons; a pen studded with jewels; amulet stones gathered from many places.  Beside me is a lacquered screen with carved gemstones in the shapes of flowers……mmmm….all of my treasures.

A pig with wings…’when pigs fly’ and I am at work. I am doing my work, with the gift I was given upon arrival here. It is my dharma. It is my quest.

This is what I believe and what I know.

2
Nov

Storytelling II

I was seventeen, madly in love with Bobby, a Hotchkiss Prep School hunk. When he invited me to accompany him to see Mourning Becomes Electra in Stratford, Connecticut, I immediately accepted.  I had never heard of the play, but was enthralled that I would be next to (gasp!) Bobby, my true love, for many hours.  Well, Bobby has long since come and gone, but not the impact of Mourning Becomes Electra

I sat through the performance, riveted, in complete identification with the contempt of the children for their parents.  That is, until the play’s final scene….I watched its entirety, aghast, with mouth wide open, feeling as if I had been bludgeoned by a sledgehammer.  Though utterly incomprehensible to me, I recognized that something mind-altering had been delivered, but I was unable to use it at that time in my young, self-involved psychology. 

Not so my soul, which knew it to be the key to a lock I needed to open within my psyche.  Fortunately, this priceless key was encapsulated in story form, like a secret code, until I happened upon the tools necessary to unlock the lock.  What I experienced in Stratford has been succinctly stated in an Alice Walker interview about her work:

         “Storytelling, you know, has a real function.  The process of the storytelling is itself a healing process, partly because you have someone there who is taking the time to tell you a story that has great meaning to them.  They’re taking the time to do this because your life could use some help, but they don’t want to come over and just give advice.  They want to give it to you in a form that becomes inseparable from your whole self.  That’s what stories do.  Stories differ from advice in that, once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul.  That is why they heal you.”

 Mourning Becomes Electra’s story had been woven into the very fabric of my soul, until I would be and could be healed —

Now that’s truly a work in progress….

2
Nov

Story Telling

As a young girl, it was my grandfather, an artist-adventurer, barrel-chested like a grizzly, who escalated my story telling bar to skyward. 

 Summers, cousins and siblings, five of us in all, were shipped off to fifty acres of Eden for a month.  Each night, Grammy would hear our prayers in a bedroom wallpapered with jaunty yellow tulips with real lips before bidding us a cheery “good night” in a voice that rang like bells. 

 Now it was Grampy’s turn.  He would settle himself comfortably on one of our beds and begin.  He never told us the same story twice.  One of my favorites might have been titled, “How I Lost my Eye in the Beer Bottling Factory in Munich”.  When pressed as to why they didn’t just put the eye back into his socket, he slyly confided, “because they never found it”. 

 I always wondered how that bottle of beer tasted.

1
Nov

My Horse in Costa Rica

Recently, we were in Costa Rica for three months, splitting our stay among three houses. Our second bundalow was in Solyluna, midway between Montezuma and Cabuya, a verdancy of cashew trees and bamboo to support an exotica of creatures.  Howler monkeys along with the white-faced monkeys demanded attention with their vocalizations, but there were  sweet coatis, iguanas, and raccoons running about the grounds. Blue butterflies darted, like pieces of sky falling to the earth. Flowers bloomed everywhere.  I could lie in a hammock and meditate upon it all. It was beyond lovely.

One day, walking to the beach, I spotted a white horse, solitary in a field that was growing drier by the day. I saw him again the next day. He was very thin and very alone. I began to worry about him. Howler monkeys along with the white-faced monkeys demanded attention with their vocalizations, but there were  sweet coatis, iguanas, and raccoons running about the grounds. Blue butterflies darted, like pieces of sky falling to the earth. Flowers bloomed everywhere.  I could lie in a hammock and meditate upon it all. It was beyond lovely.

That Saturday, MT and I went to the organic market in Montezuma, a happening of local artists in the very small community.  I spotted a bag of carrots.  “For my horse,” I thought, and hoped they were sweet.  When checking out, I said to the man, “these are for my horse”.

“Organic carrots for a horse,” he chided me.  My difficult nature caused me to add, “the apples, too.”  He shook his head, baffled at the extravagance for a horse.

“Here, they eat bananas,” he said.

“Not my horse,” I did not have the nerve to say it aloud for I never owned a horse.  I said it to my self.

Now began the coaxing of the horse to come for my treats.  I don’t whistle well. No, that’s an understatement. I do not whistle at all.  I clucked, I clapped. No response, of course.  I was discouraged, and crunched on one of the apples to solace the disappointment in my soul.

That night, after a sunset stroll to loll about the sky’s warmth, I saw the horse again, quite close to the fence. HURRAH! I raced and returned with my carrots and apples, standing in powdery dust, scrapeded by barbed wire, clucking and clapping like a mad woman.  The horse raised his head at the ruckus, decided I was no threat, and then buried his head and snout in what looked to be thistles. I took a bite of the apple, and crunched on it noisily.

When my mother was dying of cancer, and she would not eat anything, I would sit close almost on top of her, eating a sandwich made with honeyed ham, condimented perfectly for her palate and “mmmmmed” happily. Mom would watch me, and then decide to try “just one bite”.  How my heart brimmed when she would eat the entire half, and then ask for another. I hoped the same trick would work for the horse.

He raised his head again to look at me.  His nostrils tightened and then flared.  He had smelled the apple.  He approached me tentatively. He got bigger. His teeth got larger. I did not know this horse. I tried not to be afraid.  After all, I had started all this. I extended my hand with a piece of apple. I hoped he would not bite me. With great gentility, he nibbled it up. Triumph!

So for my next month, twice a day, I went and fed my horse.

me bending down to horse
It was not easy to find him in his large field, and he was not used to my routine.  But he got fed at least once a day.  Finally he knew I would come, and I would catch him watching for me, and at first,  just for my carrots.  But as the days passed, I felt his heart unite with mine. He still was tentative about my petting him, and I wondered what traumas his sweet spirit had suffered.

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When we moved to our next house, about a mile away, I would rise with the dawn and half-trot, half walk in the early coolness on the dusty road, marveling at my incredible life, my knapsack heavily loaded with carrots and apples.  Now, the horse not only looked for me, he would gallop with glad at my approach.  I worried about what would happen to him when we would leave and return to the U.S.  I began to talk  to everyone about ‘my’ horse and what to do about him.

Vampire bats had found him and fed on him at night. I was appalled to see lines of blood running down his body and flanks; ticks were thirty rounded monstrosities of distended tissue in his ears.  I talked to more people about my horse. My new landlady, Claudia, horse lover, promised to speak to the owner and get him moved close to another horse for company.  And to get those ticks out of his ears.

As a last resort, I even urged the local ruffian to kidnap the horse. Though a ruffian, he had a heart of gold, and in his keeping, I knew the horse would be in better hands than just abandoned in the field with no love, no care, no food. As a homeless person, he knew about all of that.

It was time for me to go, and I left, with an inconsolable heart of worry. I emailed everyone for a report on my horse. Patricia and Simon, the owners of Solyluna, reported that whenever the gate opened, my horse would rush toward the passerby. Of course, they had to buy huge bags of carrots to feed the horse.  they assured me that it was only in self-defense, but this is what many people do when they live in that part of the world. They become its caretakers. To one of my emails, they told me my horse had vanished. They knew not where. No one else did either.

In two weeks, I am returning for Costa Rica. I have been waking up thinking of my horse.  I am going to find him. And I am going to feed him lots of organic carrots!

I have decided to call him Pegasus.interesting light

 

Isn’t he a beauty???

 

 

 

 

30
Oct

Vanquishing Artistic Doubts

This is a very personal tale of my vanquishing artistic doubts and angst.

Once upon a time, I awoke, in possession of a dream of Gypsies and Oracles in Venice, an inspiration for what was to become the series of books, I call Destiny’s Consent.  Years passed. And then more years. To be exact, eight year between all of the research and the subsequent writing of the first two books.

My friends, were, at first, supportive, but over time, though they endeavored to be polite, their mouths constricted with their doubts whenever I brought up Destiny’s Consent. At first I shrugged off their reactions. After all, the ideas came to me in a dream directly from my psyche, I believed. But after eight years, I have to admit I began to feel foolish. After all, who was I to try to write such an epic tale?  I certainly wasn’t making any money, and the effort was eating up my life – five hours a day, five days a week. I loved the writing; the connections of fact and fiction; the way the story integrated all aspects of my life….miracles occurred, but…

And so the debate about my art began, fanning into a tempest of uncertainty.  Thee was constant discussion and counter-discussion in my head. There was much self-examination, increasing in tempo and frequency until even my artist’s mind got dragged into the fracas.

Like the princess in Rumpelstilskin, I decided to ask my questions to the night, and perhaps spin straw into gold.  Here goes nothing, I thought.  But okay:  “So, am I supposed to keep on writing this book?  Is this my task?”

 And then went to sleep.  Here is the humdinger response in my dream that night.  See what you think.

I am in New Orleans. It is Mardi Gras.  The streets are not only jammed,
but in many cases, blocked by celebrants.  I am not able to go in a
straight line to my destination, but must retreat to alleys, going
this way and that.

I am carrying a present given to me, but it is wrapped in a box, so
I cannot see is what it is.  I make a stop, then continue 
on to a party,
comprised of artists. There I am speaking to an aged man seated in
a chair, 
and realize in a panic that I have left my present behind.
I jump up to leave. 

A radiant crone, her face alight with beam, comes toward me.
She carries a huge pen, bejeweled with all colors of stones, so large
she must carry it like a queen would a scepter.

I recognize the pen as my gift, that what was wrapped up in the box.

Jeweled pen better

WOW!  I awoke, my uncertainty converted to surefootedness.    I was to write!  The universe’s gift to me for this lifetime is a pen, the most precious and magical pen.

And here is the corker for me.  It answered another question I had not yet formulated about whether to continue writing stories. Well, this dream spoke directly to my soul in story form.  Stories are great solace for the human soul, for they are gentle guidances whispered to submerged parts of the psyche.  I know this to be true, and greatly heartened by my dream of jeweled pens, continued on with my writing.

This experience is what I call Destiny’s Consent in action.  But remember, I had to ask.  My faith in my path was reignited.  I have gathered community around me and try to hold each artist, whether poet or writer of prose, within my heart.  I have begun reading my poetry OUT LOUD; I am reading from my books with sweeping gestures.  I am about to begin Book III in the Destiny’s Consent series. And when I saw a jeweled pen, I swooped it up as a talisman to remind myself of my own destiny….

I am not on the NY Times Bestseller List (as yet), but rest assured, I am a writer who loves to tell you stories.

4
Sep

On the Writing of Nonfiction and Fiction

Storytelling, really?

 In the current book market, nonfiction and self-help writings certainly manifest more attention than fiction.  There are more nonfiction books published; more agents for nonfiction writing; more profit. One can self-publish; start lecturing in seminars; go onto radio shows and on stage and give speeches, dispersing advice to the masses. 

 It is touted as easier to get going in the nonfiction arena, and I assure you that with each rejection by agents/publishers, I had been sorely tempted to take a few more courses to alter my degree from a BA in Sociology to a BA in psychology and write a book on let’s say, True Love. 

 A valued friend suggested I write self-help books, because from her perspective, she feels I need to enlarge the arena of those I help, having been on the receiving end of the wisdom I have shared with her over the years.  Because my friend is quite prominent in the field of psychology, earning tens of thousands of dollars for each one of her lectures in her field, I was, of course, flattered.  I took it so much to heart, I began journaling for an insight and answer. 

 However, my Psyche, my very cantankerous Psyche, apparently not at all interested in revenue, chose storytelling.  One morning I awoke, with a complicated and important dream in my possession.  I wrote it down immediately, capturing the life adventure of Angelica Grastende, a woman of Rom.  It was thus that Destiny’s Consent was birthed.

 I take solace for the small amount of coins in my pocketbook from a few sources: Alice Walker, Clarissa Estes Pinkola and Joseph Campbell and the Twelve Steps. Not too shabby of company, I might add.

 Alice Walker stated this beautifully in an interview about her work:
“Storytelling, you know, has a real function.  The process of the storytelling is itself a healing process, partly because you have someone there who is taking the         time to tell you a story that has great meaning to them.  They’re taking the time to do this because your life could use some help, but they don’t want to come over and just give advice.  They want to give it to you in a form that becomes inseparable from your whole self.  That’s what stories do.  Stories differ from advice in that, once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul.  That is why they heal you.”

 In Women Who Run with the Wolves, the brilliant cantadora, Clarissa Estes Pinkola, relates stories women have shared with one another through the ages to assist in life’s transitions.  I know that story has the ability to penetrate into the reader’s heart and soul, in the solitude and the quiet, dislodging deep injuries and the resulting toxins, to be a balm—and to heal calmly on a profound level. 

 Joseph Campbell refers to stories as a deep well-spring of enduring truths that run through the human psyche and resonate within the core that runs thru the human psyche. 

 Twelve Step groups act in the same way: they share their stories, their mythologies with one another, with the directive, “take what you need, and leave the rest”.  There is no attempt to tell the other person what to do, but just relate our experiences.  If the other person wishes more information, they can speak with the person after their meeting.  From my experience, for the addict psychology, but for the young as well as any strong minded individual, advice given will not be heard, or if heard, will be rebelliously discarded.  

 Since, I myself, became so lost, so misguided in my own life, by society’s directives, I am choosing to pass on what I have learned. The Buddhist say, “you don’t get to keep what you don’t give away.”

Destiny’s Consent is my ‘give away’.

 

10
Nov

Mystic Journey Bookstore Blog

GYPSIES & ORACLES IN VENICE
by Laura Shepard Townsend

One morning, I awoke, my mind swirling, still enmeshed within an extensive dream. As I do not remember many of my dreams, I immediately began writing it down so as not to lose any of it to reality and its weight. And as I wrote, my story about gypsies and an oracle in Venice, California emerged. I knew my psyche had delivered something essential to me, and even more so, perhaps to the world.

Up to this time, screenplays had been my chosen writing form, with their drama and conflicts. However, my intuition told me that this story was a book, or rather a series of books. For more than a decade, the phrase, Destiny’s Consent had reverberated in my subconscious; I now had the story to illuminate the phrase! I knew I did not know the first thing about how to write a book, and enrolled immediately in UCLA. Here is where the miracles to support my adventure began, both financial and inspirational — they were plentiful and dramatic enough to capture my attention and fire my imagination.

People often say that when we are doing what it is that we are meant to do, that the universe supports us with abundance, that we are guided this way and that. From my multitude of experiences with the writing of Destiny’s Consent, this is absolutely true.

Here is just one: my dream involved gypsies, or the Rom. When I began my research on gypsies, all of the texts discussed their uncleanliness, their thievery, their chauvinism. Well, I can dismiss the other characteristics, but not chauvinism since women have fought so valiantly for their progress in this country; I seriously considered abandoning what I had dreamed. But since I wished to be true to my psyche, I continued to search for answers, holding the question out to the universe. It was difficult to find information on the Rom, for they are a group with secrets, regarding everyone other than themselves to the gadje, the ‘others’.

One day, I traveled to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, to find a Tarot deck for my research. As I gazed at the colorful card decks, a small voice inside of me wondered if there might be a book on the Rom that would unlock their secrets. I asked at the desk, and was led to the perfect to understand the Rom. It was written by an ‘outsider’, a man who had come to know the Rom, and who loved them. He was privy to their secrets only because he had run away with the ‘gypsies’ but as a young boy, and was allowed access to a klan.

With this new information, I was launched onto my new path to write Destiny’s Consent by ‘destiny’s consent’.