Rachel Naomi Remen This month, I wish to celebrate Remen (86 this Feb) a pediatrician, wounded healer (she has lived with Crohn’s disease for some 70 years) and teacher of integrative medicine. She breathes and lives the tradition of medicine people, such as William Carlos Williams, who are also sages, writers, poets, storytellers. Through her story-telling in My Grandfather’s Blessings and Kitchen Table Wisdom -Stories that Heal, this giantess has influenced my living breathing telling (treat yourself to her You tube videos on story.)
In Getting Real, Renen tells of a client, Clare, waiting for five years after a mastectomy for a breast reconstruction. After many lovers, before what had happened to her body, she now had chosen celibacy. When she met an artist Peter, she was apprehensive about sharing her scars with him.
A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves… Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger. (Ben Okri)
Part of my joyous encounter with people is creating, telling and sharing a story every Saturday morning on a what’s app broadcast group. Around 3 minutes. It arrives with a quotation that plays off and with the story. generating yet another conversation. During COVID it came out daily and now once a week.
I delight in the responses. Though it goes forth to some 500 people (a groupsend yet it arrives one-on-one.) Every week some 20 to 25 folk share how the story touches on and impacts on their lives. Some send images evoked. I cherish these creative responses.
So this month’s letter features this communication. A story stone dropped in the pond and the ripples circle out to lap on distant shores. A touch of Rilke here:
I am circling around God,
around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know
if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.
I wish you courage in a year of choice change in search of the happiness bird that alights on unexpected limbs.
[John Donne – Abiding Presence Priest and Poet Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail. Love, built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies. Death is an ascension to a better library. (John Donne 3 quotes)
We often know the works of a writer or poet and little about their lives. They are obviously connected although the writing stands alone. Take John Donne, born this month in 1572 dying at 59. Illness, doubt and death were ofttimes his companions. His father died when he was four. And then, as
a Catholic, he experienced prejudice to the extent that when he studied at Oxford and Cambridge he was not allowed to graduate. He was a soldier in the Spanish- English prolonged war, then became a Member of Parliament.
When 29, he eloped with Anne More a 17 year old against the father’s wishes. Donne was imprisoned together with the priest who
married them. His wry response? John Donne, Ann Donne, Undone. She bore 12 children, dying in childbirth when only 33. Two of them stillborn. Three dying before the age of 10. The couple often struggled with the grip of poverty around their throats. He converted to the Anglican Church and became Dean of St. Paul’s, well-known for his sermons. This playful, erotic, spiritual metaphysical poet bore the touch of the mystic in him.
A Meister Eckhardt Meditation
Become aware of what is in you. Announce it,
pronounce it, produce it, and give birth to it.
This month I found for R10 this book (2012). Living in rural Ireland, James Bremmer, interested in spirituality, mysticism and philosophy, teaches creative writing. The title plays off Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A
Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (2004). The shoulders of the giants on which Bremmer stands include Thoreau, Dame Julian of Norwich, Jung, Hildegard von Bingen, William Blake, Rumi, Krishnamurthi and Diogenes.
(I based a Saturday morning story for 5 Nov on Diogenes. What’s app me if you wish to receive the stories) I began thinking of my giants of the past and Meister Eckhart (c. 1260 – c. 1328 ) suddenly knocked on my door. This letter is about how I have experienced him, partly filtered through Matthew Fox’s, creation spirituality.
Igno van Niekerk and Tina Konstant (story mates)
kindly recorded the zoom launch. Here tis.
Dear writer, storyteller, reader, lover of words,
Thank you for those who have subscribed to the
monthly letter (R240 per annum) I cherish your
support. You can still do so if you wish. The letter
remains open to all.
Why do you live on the bank of the river?’ ‘Because a
poem is a revelation, and it is by the brink of running
water that poetry is revealed to the mind.’
(The Salmon of Knowledge)
Sure they called it Ireland
I wonder what Ireland conjours for you? The country has been in the news,
given the 2023 Rugby World Cup. While I share no blood ties, as it does for
many, Ireland inhabits my psyche and imagination. This month John Gnodde, singer and song writer and I offered a late Sunday sundowner in Pringle Bay.
John’s repertoire included Rare old Times, Molly Malone, Carrickfergus,
Maggie, Wild Rover, Parting Glass and Danny Boy. (a police officer Charlie
MCKenna said ‘Danny Boy to be sung at my funeral mass. If not I’ll get up
and walk out.’)
I interlaced the lyrics with poetry, myth, (Finn McCool and the Salmon of
Knowledge) and excepts from novels. We both sprinkled in the odd classic
Irish mirth. I included stanzas from the Irish greats. (Do yourself a favour
and look up the poems, whole and entire unto themselves)
Thank you for those who have subscribed to the monthly letter (Aug 23
– July 24 R240) I cherish your support. You can still do so if you wish.
The letter remains open to all.
Although we seem to be separate individuals, in reality we are all
expressions of one primal imagination (Timothy Freke)
One or Two or One-Two?
Living in Pringle Bay in a biosphere brings many blessings. Baboons live
here too and often forage fynbos berries in the village. The odd rogue
can be a food snatcher. A long-lived controversy. Are the baboons
welcome or not? How do we keep our houses safe from rogue baboon
There are those openly hostile. There are those who welcome and name
these creatures though don’t wish to offer hospitality. So, how does
this difference manifest? It seems the one side might emerge from the
Biblical injunction, that we are lords of creation. Gen. 1 26-31. ‘And
God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the
air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every
creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’
The wider view perhaps links us to First Nations such as the Bushman
where we are all one, part of something bigger and that the human
being does not have any elevated status in relation to all the other
fauna and flora. That spirit of life is in everything. We are ecosystem
To a few fam and fiends
Wrote this Rainbow poem as part of the film music concert this and next Sunday afternoon.. I read it and then the song follows on clarinet cello violin piano
The other poem, Swing Time written many years ago, will start the programme.
These musicians are something else
Heartspace Publications, Australia invites you to the zoom launch: …’a biography and poetic travelogue; it is wisdom; it is esoteric; it is funny. Spirituality gets Dorian’s attention, as does nature, philosophy, psychology, animals, dreams…This innovative approach also serves as a creative writing manual, a sequelto his The Writer’s Voice -1998 – backblurb
RSVP Dorian 27 82 873 6802 for link Sun 4 June noon SA time
firstname.lastname@example.org Tel; +61
450260348 434 pages R395
Gratitude for Gravity and R for Research
One of the many illusions we live by is that earth and sea are layered in 3-
sky earth and underearth. Not a land and water ball whistle-whirling
through space. We seldom think of us as stuck sideways or upside down on
our planet or of the seas (apart for a touch of moon-tidal tug) stuck to the
revolving earth. Nothing falling into space. I think of the word gravitas and
grave and all the derivatives.
Pat Grayson invites you to a launch
1.Pringle Bay Sat 6 May @ Menucha 16.00-17.30
2.Somerset West Fri 12 May @ The Playhouse 15.00- 16.30
3.Zoom Sun 21 May 12.00-13.00 SA time
wine and snacks (not on Zoom alas)
RSVP Dorian 27 82 873 6802
The Anatomy of a Story
This letter arrives fresh from a ZenPen retreat at Temenos in McGregor
with its Garden of the Beloved. Participants created a 7 bead bracelet, each
bead representing a stage in the writing process. Each begins with the
letter R. (adapted from Henriette Klauser, a writing teacher’s 5 R’s.) I
thought to go for 7.
People often ask where I get stories so I’m sharing my approach – the way a
story builds in the hope that this might clarify your story process. Creating
then Crafting. Here is the story that arrived via these seven beads:
Stop Press- Zen Pen: A Writing, Being & Meditation Retreat
@ Temenos McGregor 31 March – 3 April 2023 (see end of letter)
The World is made of Stories
The universe is made up of stories, not atoms (Muriel Rukeyser, poet)
“Of course it is made of atoms. That’s one of our important stories… What other stories make our world?” (Loy) This month I wish to pay tribute to David Loy, a Zen teacher, author of The Great Awakening, The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons and this book (2010), my Story Bible bought six years ago.
Many of us know the story of two small fish swimming along encountering the big fish, who asks Are you enjoying the water? When he
passes, one whispers to the other what is water? We, immersed in stories, confuse our chosen story for reality. Here is Loy on this all-
encompassing world:“ The limits of my stories are the limits of my world. Like the fish that cannot see the water they swim in. We do not notice the medium we dwell within, unaware that… we experience them as the world, but we can change the water. When our accounts of the world become different, the world becomes different.