The week I decided to write my book as a blog, I came full circle back to what I was as a child.
My favourite times were spent at my grand-parents’ house in Blackheath, London. Although it was in the city, Heath Lane – where they lived – was tucked away in what was virtually a rural area very close to Lewisham. My grandparent’s house was large for a working-class family – three bedrooms, separate toilet, large bathroom, living room, dining room with French verandah doors, and kitchen. But, best of all, there was a big garden and you’d go through a gate at the bottom to MagicLand.
MagicLand consisted of fields if you walked to the right as you went through the gate, or woods if you turned left and went slightly down the hill. If you went right to the bottom of the hill and down some steep steps, you’d come to the big, cleared area for the storage of lorries and building materials. This place too was surrounded by trees, bushes and flowers, a treasure trove for a child who loved nature as I did.
My grandfather was the caretaker of the “shoot”, as it was called. I still have no idea of the spelling, whether it was “chute”, “shoot” or some other spelling. Like most kids I accepted the name, much as I accepted the name of “playing on bomb sites”, not realising that the pile of bricks in reality was the result of a bomb hitting someone’s home and demolishing it.
During the day, I’d play in the garden on my own. I was an only child, quite solitary, shy and very content with my own company. So I’d have make-believe friends in the garden, or I’d sit still and watch the various birds fly in and out. One day I can remember my absolute delight when a jay landed – a blue of bright blue and other colours like an exotic bird from faraway places.
If I left the garden, I’d wander the fields which were overgrown and neglected. I loved forging a path through the long grass and enjoying the solitude. But at certain places I’d feel a shiver, knowing that some sort of dark energy was present, and I’d quit those places quickly, hurrying back to my grandmother for reassurance.
If you went left at the gate, I’d go to the little wood the other side of the house adjoining my grandparents’ home. I’d wander around there, playing with the leaves, fallen twigs, feeling the safety of this place as I never felt dark energies at work here. In spring I would love to walk through the thick blanket of bluebells, taking it all for granted.
In the house itself, there was one room where I again felt discordant energies. It was my aunt’s bedroom and she had a dressing table with a central mirror and a moveable mirror each side. I used to feel as if the rest of the world was cut off when I entered this room, it always felt cold and morose, and I’d sit at the dressing-room chair, peer into the mirror and feel fear that there would be a time when an alien face or energy would be reflected back to me.
It never was. Funnily enough, I mentioned it to my father decades later, just before he died, and he said straightaway: “That’s where Maureen died”. Maureen was my aunt who died around six years of age of diphtheria. She choked to death on the mucous in her throat after she was misdiagnosed by a doctor. And I was named after her as my mother promised my grandmother she’d name her first daughter after her dead sister.
It is, by the way, why I now use the name “Mo” because I never, ever liked being called after a dead person. It was as if I didn’t have my own, personal name but was sort of caught up with someone else’s life which had finished so early.
I decided to use the moniker “Mo” as it’s the English short word for Maureen and my husband Bryan, called me Mo from the very first time he met me. We lived in the UK from 2002-4, where everyone called me Mo, so I decided that it was a good time to adopt something personal to me.
A couple of years after we returned to Australia, I was creating a painting in Woodenbong, which is to the north of New South Wales on the Queensland border, when I felt very strongly the urge to carry out a ceremony to honour my dead aunt. In the days when I was young, children who died at an early age were seldom mentioned and sort of swept under the carpet. It was a time of stiff upper lips and no maudlin’ sentimentality if you lost a child. So I set up the ceremony to honour my aunt’s presence on earth and her short life. As the ritual concluded, I felt a warm wave of gratitude sweep over me which I knew was my aunt thanking me for acknowledging her life as a living being on earth and, perhaps, finally being released from earthly ties. Whether this latter happened, I’m not sure but I do know that the feeling of thanks and love was something I’ll remember all my life.
So what happened this past week is that I suddenly reconnected with the knowing I have within me of the energies within plants, rocks, trees, flowers and the fact that I can now bring that energy into formal form through digital art.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really considered digital art as “real” art. I thought “real” art was what you sat down and painted at an easel and on canvas. That was, until I suddenly discovered the various bits and pieces I’d missed on Photoshop and found a tool called “liquefy” which allows you to pull and push images into various shapes and colours. I suddenly realised that I was bringing to life all the images that have been whizzing around my head and which I’d never managed to get out onto canvas.
Last week the hotel near where we now live in Alsancak, North Cyprus, put on a couple of fireworks displays. We get a box office, and totally free seat, as they go off on the sea front right in front of us. The photo on the left is digital art created from a photo of one of the exploding fireworks. I was going to call it “Dancing Faery” but for some reason felt the urge to change it to Dancing Deva.
For the life of me I couldn’t remember the spelling so checked it out on Google and underneath was reference to a book called “Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth”. I checked it out and found the author, Thea Summer Deer, was talking about communication with devas. And suddenly I realised that this is a gift I possess: I can communicate with crystals at some unseen level, something I’ve been aware of since the mid-1990s but I had completely forgotten that this was something I did as a child.
You tend when you’re young to realise that some things you practise – like talking to plants and “hearing” the voices of plants in your head – aren’t quite the done thing. You get weird looks. And so you don’t talk about this lovely gift, you paper over it, and gradually there is so much paper, you forget what you are at your core.
The path back to my real nature began when we – my husband and I – moved to Boonah in Queensland in 1994. It is a small rural town and I began to enjoy the peace and quiet of the non-urban life as well as recalling how much I love nature, the sea and how much I don’t like urban life.
So this book is about the peeling back of layers, of the travels I’ve undertaken, the people I’ve met, the challenges I’ve met in family relationships, my political endeavours, and the visionary, symbolic and eccentric voice within me which I’ve recovered and now exercise with enormous pleasure and glee.