The Clamour of the Daimon- Motherhood Part Two.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
(T.S.Eliot. Burnt Norton)
My second shot at renewed motherhood arrived without formal invitation, and was as ill-timed as my own birth had been. Teaching in a Catholic convent as a now unmarried mother, a swelling belly was as unwelcome as an invited priest suddenly swearing from the pulpit. The fact that the father was their beloved Director of Studies and the only honorary layman in a fluttering coterie of veils only compounded the disaster. He was (tactfully and regretfully) invited to resign.
Without a job between us we went to Florence to ponder on the future, if there was to be one. He had never been out of England, (except in the war in uniform) and we found a frescoed room near the Pitti palace, with a roof garden overlooking the Arno, and bought a Moses basket in the straw market. The bambino that should have occupied it was, instead and disappointingly to all clustering eyes, filled with bottles of wine and presents of Panforte for the children yet to be introduced. His respectable past life was over, and at fifty he contemplated unemployment with a baby on the way, two others to support, and an irresponsible scribbler, with mystical tendencies, growing larger by the day. He was thrilled, thrilled but terrified. He saw winter in Florence as though in a dream, a world of incomprehensible promise, and beauty, empty and shuttered with vacant streets filled only with literature and, perhaps appropriately, a galloping Renaissance, yet to breast the hill.
My second exposure to motherhood, was as though the first had been a pre-run for two more, to get better at it; again two girls and exactly the same ages apart ( to the day) as the first two. Life was on edit and redraft.
The first of the second pair, born at noon on a cloudless summer Sunday, introduced me to a conspicuous daimon, who scarcely asked her consent before stating his intentions. The doctor who delivered her, pronounced her ‘perfect’ and departed to play tennis. Her arrival filled with sunlight was the renewal of a life that she had come to teach me to navigate. She contemplated the world through wide open eyes, as though simply checking her recognition. Each phase was mastered and ticked off. I remember no tears or sleepless nights, simply a steadfast walk to inner certainty. By four she was a fluent reader with a passion for books devouring stories about children left to discover for themselves: Laura Ingalls Wilder took her to the prairies, Arthur Ransom to the Lakes, the Railway Children covered her in steam and the Wierdstone of Brisingamen terrified her, delightedly. C.S.Lewis was constantly bookmarked with a frayed nappy-rag, and Aslan shared her bed. I think he still does.
The preferred were about intrepid courage in difficult circumstances, usually the result of grown ups, screwing up. That figured. Like me her first passion was horses, and riding, spending every moment at the local stables where retired polo ponies covered in mud, saw out their days for children who curry combed, plaited, saddled and cantered about unsupervised through lanes of Lady’s lace and nettle.
When there was no pony the dog was saddled with her lolling and threadbare pink lamb and put through its paces over jumps made from any available stick or support. It took us years to discover why a collie that had never been fed, except at supper time, constantly begged for biscuits! ‘But I thought they are supposed to be so intelligent?!’ Since I was never a diligent laundress, the crumbs in the pockets were never found. I had assumed a willing collaboration; mothers can be incredibly blind.
These two passions for wild terrain and horses found a focus in a sudden and dedicated passion for American Indians, whose rugs, tepees, feathers and moccasins littered the five year old’s cell, and whose symmetrical designs in black, ochre and red were taken to art. When an elderly godmother announced that she was going to visit America she offered a caution ‘I wouldn’t bother going all that way, the prairies are not what they were, and there are hardly any buffalo left’! Her world was all in books and in the past.
Then the daimon took its firm hold on her collar, getting serious about the violin she was given for her sixth Christmas. The violin and the daimon took the opening bow together and the child disappeared. Playing the violin was all she wanted, in life: Except for horses— they remained—to be joined later by elephants. At seven she busked to streets of spectators in Spain, and kept a festival on ice in Portugal until the proper band sobered up. Playing was as natural as breathing to begin with. Only after a serious fall and a broken collar bone it became necessary to choose. Broken fingers, wrist or elbows was no longer an option, even the collarbone would raise its complaint, later. The daimon, given its head, is a ruthless master.
Unlike the unfathomable daughters that had preceded her, this was the easiest child to guide and provide for. She took the reins, what she was and needed was never in doubt. Finding teachers that took a six year old’s demands for technique, scales and studies was another matter. They all thought it should be fun or yoga and country dances. All local teachers excused themselves, finding her seriousness suspect, and incapable of feeding it.
I was, of course, accused of being one of those ‘pushy’ mothers. Little did they know I could hardly run fast enough to keep up with the instruments, strings, urtext scores or the expense of the few who would take her seriously but who taught in the Conservatoires and charged accordingly. I knew nothing about the world of musical education, or its ruthless demands for knowing the right people. My Sundays were spent driving to London and using the available churchyard yews for essential purposes, while she was taught under a lofty coffered dome by an austere Japanese maestro. Her daimon lashed its tail over time and our very limited bank balance.
It also whipped up the jealousy of her sisters. Her younger sister also demanded a violin and played it with consummate ease, much more fluent, dextrous, and flamboyant. She wanted no bothering with scales or technique and refused to practise. Look it’s easy! It was, for her, because physical mastery came naturally, music was incidental. Yet the convincing fluency bought her an education, and the affluent school that gave her a full music scholarship introduced her to her other daimon, the ease of finding money and those that had it. Life, since, has trickled coins into her lap: From University she was head hunted before graduation, and she has never yet had to apply for a job. The violin has never been out of its handsome case since she played the Bruch violin concerto at a final concert and packed it away. Music was the core of existence for one, the means to ease and privilege for her sister. One language, two interpreters.
For me music and the disciplined training it demanded was the trapping of that sun through the bars of industry, the only thing that kept me connected to what I had turned from, for the sake of my second-chance daughters, and the only consolation to which I could willingly harness myself without too much regret. I attempted to master the cello, founded an orchestra and built a concert hall, since I knew none of the right people. Music linked me to early dreams, and to the highest of human aspiration, to articulate feelings, not merely to think.
So it incubated another refinement necessary to re-working of the book. It was the power of music that sought expression through poetry, the cadences of words, their evocative rhythms, and the shaping of themes, unconfined as to meaning, but no less accurate to the interpretations of the heart. So our daimons inter-twined: I needed her passion for music to educate my language for the passion to communicate ideas, ideas deeper than the intellect alone could apprehend.
My daughters have all held up mirrors to define my deficiencies, and to refine the conviction that nothing is without meaning, and that each partakes of All, but none will conform to expectations. Everything they became was evident within the first year, had I been more perceptive. The first walked away, seeking emotional disengagement, and now undertakes intrepid solitary journeys to remote African areas to survey for dams or roads. I’m told time out has sampled bungee jumping and white water rafting. The second is affirmed by domestic and parental perfectionism and bakes moist sponges for beautiful serene achieving children. The third still seeks service to music, teaching and playing whenever music takes the baton rather than egotism, and the fourth is still trying to discover where the pearl in the world’s enigmatic oyster might hide.
I hope I have finally learnt to get out of their light. It has taken much too long.
The book’s final resurrection, after forty years, is now no longer a theory, as it was originally, but a celebration of all creation and all creativity. It took its final shape from sharing the longing of one daughter for whom playing Beethoven was more vital than a longed-for pony. Longing is one thing I feel I have come to understand, more potent and present when denied. So Involution is entirely about longing, for recognition, for expression, for understanding, and all those inspired creators driven by its incremental refinement, to lose themselves and be carried towards a wider sea, and take us all with them.
Stillness now the new persuasion
Imperious stillness fills the ears…
The unmarked stave the new horizon
Makes music’s journey new, explicit;
To hollow the heart for a deeper longing,
To finger the strings of a naked thirst,
Prepare the ground for a joyful breaking…
Returning to silence its borrowed jewels of song.
(Involution: Canto the Seventh)