A Vessel of Ashes

A Vessel of Ashes

I’ve been in a grim place for so long it feels like there’s been no end and no beginning. It feels like this is all there is and all there was and all there ever will be. Needless to say, it feels horrible. I’ve been trying to make sense of it all and failing, and trying again and failing again. The results of the referendum have left me devastated, repeatedly; there seems a massive disconnect and breach between those who voted leave and those who voted remain. One side cannot understand the other and the vitriol hurled has been… caustic and damaging beyond belief. I have given up trying to explain why it is all so hurtful but the consensus of rejoicing Leavers is “Suck it up, suck it up,” and I have left it at that. The utter powerlessness I feel is probably felt by millions and we are told, that’s democracy.

So I have disconnected from the stream of life that flows in front of my eyes, in the form of social media, because I could no longer bear the hurt I see. I’m still around, but I am emotionally distanced. I’ve already lost one old friend from college days because I refused to allow him to pour his opinions all over my Facebook wall; he did not take it gracefully.

I have, however, been dreaming again. Having had a spell where I was unable to either dream or to recall anything of the dreams I did have, to have dreams coming through again is something of a relief.

I’d like to share a few with you now. The first is from a few days ago.

I am at a party I don’t really want to be at. I don’t feel I know anyone, but here I am anyway. I make my way outside into the garden, which is untended and unkempt, and walled by high brick walls. I am shocked to see that our old round table is out there, left out to rot; I look closer and I see that the table is broken, split almost down the middle as if by an mighty axe blow. It’s not quite perfectly in half, but it looks beyond anything but very skilled repairs. The chairs that go with it lie on the rough grass, with tufts of weeds growing through them, left where they fell when pushed back by those who had sat upon them. I feel sad and a little sick, and move to go back inside. As I walk back up the steps, there is a small child there, a little boy of somewhere between one year and three. He speaks to me, and I answer, and though waking I cannot recall what he said, only that it was words and themes so far beyond such a tiny child, I know I reply with complete seriousness and great care. He speaks again and then laughs and it is like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, and I am filled with sudden joy (in waking life, I dislike small children) and I want to hold him up. I put my hands on him to lift him but find he is far too heavy for me to lift, heavier than a full grown man by far. I realise quite suddenly that I am not to do this, not to treat him as a tiny child, and I step away and apologise for overstepping the mark. But he laughs joyfully again and I know I have not offended (for how could I have known?) and then the dream ends.

The next dream is from the small hours of this morning. I’ve spent much of the day pondering on it.

The first part of the dream I am visiting an aquarium belonging to a friend; there are lots of huge tanks filled with marvellous fish and sea creatures and we walk among the tanks (it’s like a Sea Life centre). But she’s packing up intending to leave and the fish know and are upset, even though she says I am to look after the fishes when she is gone. There are commotions in many of the tanks, as the fish become disturbed and frightened; one tank we see that a sea snake has become so upset it looks as if it is trying to swallow one of the bigger fishes, so we intervene. Hauling it out and uncoiling it, I see that it’s not a sea snake but a big Burmese python and it has its own tail in its mouth, as if trying to swallow itself.

The dream moves and shifts, and I find myself outside a sea shore cottage. In the dream, it’s a building I have seen and admired many times but in waking life, it’s not one I recognise. The cottage is built on a ridge very close to the sea, alone and with no other buildings nearby. It belongs to a nun, an anchoress, who invites me in to see the house. The inside is Spartan, and neat in a quirky, somewhat Bohemian style, and there is little furniture. I go to the window to see the view; it’s open and I see that the sea is alarmingly close to the house, and huge waves are crashing on the shore. I try to shut the window as the biggest wave yet hits the shingle, and some spray gets through before I managed to get it shut. I am asked to go and fetch water; the cottage does not have mains water but gets its water from a spring outside. I ask what do I collect the water in, and am shown at first a wide shiny steel serving platter, like a concave mirror, but that seems silly to me as it will not hold more than a few drops, and I rummage around and find a glass vessel, like an amphora, that I carry outside.

The spring itself is a very odd thing; it’s a sort of strange fountain, like it has been grown from volcanic mud or worn out from a termite mound. Water comes intermittently from different spouts, but never much and never with a lot of force. It will take patience to collect water here. I start, only to see that the glass vessel is mostly filled with ashes (I think they are human ashes, as if from a cremation) mixed with small stones, grit and sand. It won’t shake out, so I start adding water to it, to try and rinse it out. The ashes are packed down tight and need a lot of water to loosen them. I wake before the vessel is emptied or cleaned.

Selling ice cream, writing and the ideal man- In which I interview Ailsa Abraham

For a change, today I am interviewing an author friend. I’ve known Ailsa Abraham for some years via social media and she’s someone I’d love to sit down with in real life and enjoy a few mugs of tea with and put the world to rights.

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  1. Viv: I know from reading your blog you have done a good number of unusual jobs. Can I be nosey and ask you to list the ones you liked most and the ones you liked least?

Ailsa: Strangely, selling ice creams was one of my favourites, along with vet nurse and my least favourite the year I worked in a zoo. I was trying to work on “change from the inside” and failed dismally.

  1. Viv:I have read both your novels, Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum and I enjoyed them both. That said, I liked Alchemy more. I’d bought Shaman’s Drum ages back and started reading it but had stopped because the scenario it depicts, that of all major world religions being outlawed and banned, worried me. I’d seen this sort of idea from many atheist organisations and it makes me uncomfortable. It wasn’t until Alchemy came out and I could read the background to this state of affairs, that I felt I wanted to finish reading Shaman’s Drum. My question is this: do you think that the subject matter encompassing quite such a radical premise as a backdrop for the story is something that might put people off reading the book?

Ailsa: Possibly, which is why I don’t splurge that fact across my publicity. What I do suggest is that people read Alchemy first so they get the scene in context. Also, the banning of religion, as a solution, doesn’t work, as people will know if they read the books. Viv: So make sure to read them in the right order and it all falls into place? Understood!

  1. Viv: As a writer, I know better than to ask whether the characters in your books are based on people you’ve known in real life. That said, both Riga and Iamo are both such distinctive people and are so vivid, I can’t help but wonder if they may be based on someone you’ve known. Are they solely the product of your imagination or have they roots in real life?

Ailsa: Yes. Riga is me when I was younger, military and more feisty! Iamo is a combination of many pagan men I have known and probably my “prototype nearly ideal”.

  1. Viv: How much does your own eclectic spiritual path inform your writing? Both Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum include magic, shamanism and also a variety of other alternative practices (and a rather fabulous nun, too). Are these things from the realms of your imagination or are they things you have explored yourself?

Ailsa: All the things I mention are paths I have explored myself. I have studied many religions and known practitioners. Obviously my own experiences colour my writing.

  1. Viv: Most writers veer between too many ideas and not enough. Which stage are you at right now?

Ailsa: Too many and an inability to get them down.

  1. Viv: When I am working on some writing, I usually start by lighting a candle, burning some sweet-grass or some incense and taking a moment to centre myself. Do you have any rituals that help with your writing?

Ailsa: No. I just get my backside in the chair and start. This is because when I get the urge, I have to go with it. Even stopping to light a candle would put me off.

  1. Viv: Many writers talk about The Muse. I’ve never managed to personify a muse for myself, and I’m not sure how helpful it would be to me. Do you have an entity that you look to as inspiration that you might term a Muse.

Ailsa: No, just my own imagination coupled with some time. Everything I see and hear is fodder for that.

  1. Viv: You had a very serious accident recently that came close to killing you. I would imagine this has put a serious crimp on your writing. It’s becoming well accepted that writing helps heal psychological hurts, but do you think it might also help the brain heal itself after trauma? In other words, have you begun writing Book Three and if so, how is it going?

Ailsa: Book Three is on its way but yes, brain trauma has slowed me down. I am back to writing but not as often and much more slowly than before.

Viv: Thank you very much indeed. All the very best to you and your writing!

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France for over twenty years and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing.

As Ailsa Abraham :

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Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat

(Shaman’s Drum was nominated for the People’s Choice Book Award)

Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter – @ailsaabraham

Facebook – Ailsa Abraham

Amazon Author Page

Web page

As Cameron Lawton