My heart is awash in billows of gratitude. Finally, after so many years of my ‘gypsy life’, movement hither, thither and yon back to Destiny’s Consent.
I am once again at work birthing the sequel.
This is Laura Shepard Townsend’s space in the jungle. It is my 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? She is a flyer…yes!!
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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’.