Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ephemera - For You


Come daughter. Let me tell you the story of Ephemera.

This is a story of a woman who gave birth to herself. No one has ever really seen her, except they say, for one tiny little girl they call Ephemera, who some think may even be the daughter of this woman.

The story goes:
Once three was a girl named Ephemera. Ephemera used to live in a small house on the edge of the forest – in between a place of in-between – a land neither forest nor town, field nor hill top – in a home that was always there for as long as anyone could remember but no one has actually seen . This house in the in-between stands alone but it’s not foreboding. It may even be welcoming, if visitors would ever find it.

None do.

There is a special glow about this place and the sun always shines on it, even in the darkest weather and at night it’s as if there’s a cut out space in any clouds that might be overhead that lets the stars flicker on through. On most nights, you can even see the Milky Way.

One day the mother and daughter who may be the same person and who do not live too far from here not too far from there, set out upon their daily walk together. Holding hands, they sing their favorite little rhyme.

Un, deux, trios. Nous aurons au bois.
Quatre, cinq, six, caiez des cerises
Sept, huit, neuf, dans my panier neuve
Dix, once douce, ils serant toute rouge.

They laugh and sing their song and they are having such a giggling good time that they do not notice that they have strayed from their usual path.

Yes, they pass the tree that looks like a scarecrow and the rock where they sometimes stop to play castles together. They pass the place where they once saw a dozen hummingbirds hover in the air then swoop skyward as they they’d been teleported through space. And they pass the soft spot where the cat had brought them the gift of a furry and oh so dead little mouse.

In their joy, singing their rhyme, they do not notice that the landscape has changed and that there are new sounds replacing the squeaks and yacks of the birds and razzling of the insects.
Here in this new place, they hear tones, sounds, notes they’ve never heard before. WHOOOO. WAHH LLOOO SOOO SIIII SAAAAA LOOOOOR…

It is the song of the girl who lives in the magical house, the girl who is also named Ephemera her mother tells her.

And as she listens to the story, the girl who may be the daughter of herself begins to make theses sounds: WHOOOO. WAHH LLOOO SOOO SIIII SAAAAA LOOOOOR and the sounds rise from their throats coming from deep inside and then lilting over their heads as it they are reaching for the sky with every breath.

Together, mother and daughter sing Ephemera’s song – a lullaby -- until the daughter falls fast asleep.

Again on another night, turn it sideways and the pieces fall in a different pattern.

This is a story of a girl named Ephemera who lives in a place in the in between.
A mother.
A daughter.

No one knows this girl except for the mother and the daughter who live together in a place in the town who take a walk everyday through the small forest on the edge of town. They hold hands and sing about gathering cherries.

Un deux trios.

This day, unlike the others, they wander too far. They have been lost in their giggly song, lost in each other’s hearts and do not notice that they have long passed all of the familiar places along the way - the scarecrow tree, the castle rock.

They look up and see that they are lost. The familiar squawks and hoots of the birds have grown silent. The crickets’ crescendo rattles to a halt.

They begin to hear sounds--- Whoo Ca To La Go ---- beautiful sounds. This time holding each other’s hand, they edge closer to the source of the sounds and there it is, like magic -- a glowing house hidden behind enchanted trees, and inside, still as could be, a girl.

She’s lovely in her stillness. She sings these sounds of the world to come and they are flowing through her. Her daughter begins to sing. And the mother joins her, a note or two behind until her voice trails off.

Sing my daughter, she coos in her ear. Sing yourself to sleep.



All photographs copyright Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Camera of Her Own

"You do know, Marsha, that camera means room in Italian." ( I didn’t)

Photoshop is a 21st century form of active imagination.”

I found this idea on JungQuotes posted beneath a picture of Carl Jung’s face affixed atop the body of a yogi. And I sat back in my chair, in front of my computer and I said. “Yes.” “Yes” “Yes.”

It all began ( as so many of these things like this do) with a shadow. It was spring, 2010 and I was in Greece, standing in the entrance to the remains of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, and before me were the words, “Know thyself.” I was pointing my camera at the Greek letters carved in stone when I felt it move downward. I clicked and when I looked at the image on the camera’s screen, there it was. The very first photograph of my shadow.

This trip to Greece was the first time I would be travelling abroad by myself, about to attend a writing and hiking retreat for women in Athens and on the island of Naxos. Because I was anxious about travelling alone, my husband joined me the week before the retreat and the two of us spent time together exploring Athens, Delphi and taking a cruise of the Greek Islands. And because he was going to leave and I would eventually be by myself, I bought something I hadn’t possessed since 1962 when I was given a Brownie Hawkeye for my tenth birthday – A camera of my own.

Throughout our married life, my husband was always the one to take the pictures on all of our trips and vacations ( along with making the travel plans, paying the bills and making the decisions etc.) So when I finally had my own camera, a simple-to-use point and shoot, Nikon Coolpix, I took the same kinds of pictures that my husband would – landscapes, buildings, historical sites, portraits of him posed in front of the landscapes, buildings and historical sites - until that moment when standing at the site of the oracle of Delphi, the camera pointed down.

On this same journey, I’d packed a book, bought at the last minute and stuffed into my suitcase as an afterthought. I had been attracted by the title, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey and France and the little I had read about the book on its jacket. I knew that Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees had traveled to Europe with her daughter and they had co-written a book in alternating chapters about their experiences there. I was also attracted to the title; an allusion to the myth of Demeter and Persephone, a favorite of mine.

I began reading the book once I arrived in Athens, which is where Kidd and her daughter’s journey began. As I continued reading, I saw that I was following the same exact path of their journey—Athens to Delphi to Mykanos to Santorini to Kusadasi. And even more wondrously, I was encountering the same kinds of existential questions, spiritual crises and mystical experiences as Kidd, a woman struggling to redefine herself post mid-life. Kidd had come to Greece in the midst of spiritual upheaval, feeling a deep urge to write a novel yet not able to give up her past work as a non-fiction writer and suffering from self doubt about her ability to write fiction. Everywhere she went in Greece, she found images of bees and the Black Madonna, mysterious manifestations of her inner vision that would later appear in her novel.

She had come to the land where Western myth began and found connections to her own.

I, too, had come to Greece to write, and I, too, was a woman of a certain age, whose inner life was in turmoil.

Virginia Woolf meeting Carl Jung, at the entrance to my unconscious.

Which brings me to Jung and synchronicity. And the appearance of the darkness through the lens of a camera of my own. And my journey which was not unlike Persephone’s, travelling to the underworld of the unconscious, entering through the cave of my own shadow.

After Delphi, I began taking pictures of my shadow everywhere. On buildings and grass and ancient cobble stones. The shadow pictures gave way to other images in nature – anthropomorphic trees, angels in gardens, stones that spoke in secret tongues.

One day, last spring after uploading some of my images onto my computer, I began playing around with one of them on photoshop, when I accidently hit a filter that refracted the image in two, then reconstructed a new one by reflecting half of the old image back upon itself.

When the reconstructed tree appeared, I lost my breath.

The tree had been split open. Its hard trunk had cracked and a soft inner body, much like that of a woman appeared. Down the center of that body, images of gods, gnomes and other living creatures had become visible.

It was as if the tree were showing me its soul.

Its soul and our own. This deep deep place of inner and outer connection – this kind of revelatory oneness that animates us all.

And I, a woman nearing sixty, set free by a camera of her own, have entered that dark place through the shadow. I'm going to stay here for a while-- imagining the real and playing, yes, playing with the possible.