Clamour of the Daimon-Part Two Motherhood

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.

Prego...per il bambino, Signora
Prego…per il bambino, Signora

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.

Hup hup!
Hup hup!

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.

Ten Reasons why I should!?
Ten Reasons why I should!?

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)

 

 

 

The Clamour of the Daimon- Motherhood

The Clamour of the Daimon- On Being a Mother

(Quilting Daughters)

Russian Fish Pie for supper!
Russian Fish Pie for supper!

The child is father to the man, each ensures
The safeguards to their hungers…
The correction of residual crimes…
Denial of appetites outgrown…
The shaping of their talents
Offers incense to the brazier burning
On the altar of mankind.

(Involution-An Odyssey…)

Blogs are supposed to have a focus. Mine, seemingly wide-ranging, is all allied to the book, Involution. A Book about Everything that needed all my living to supply its vocabulary and much of that living was motherhood. In this, like all mothers, I had to feel my way, and thereby come to encounter my daimon’s determination to wrest control.

My last post focused on my mother, and on being a single daughter, an only child.

As a perceptive comment to that post noted, everything recorded presupposed the book recently published; the early and necessary independence, into which a whirlwind experience threw everything into the air, rearranging all the components of life and leaving little but a bloody minded opposition to coercion or conformity. In every way I had to start afresh. In relation to motherhood one central pinion anchored resolve, the perception of what failing her daimon had led to in my mother, bitter regret. My inopportune arrival blighted my mother’s life, neither her fault, nor mine; a fact nevertheless.

Being inopportune, always too early, has been a constant. This book was conceived forty five years ago, forty years too early for its acceptance.  A better acquaintance with my daimon probably needed the necessary dislocation provided by time’s brake. It and I had an argument to undergo first. James Hillman’s extraordinarily powerful book ‘The Soul’s Code’ has helped put it all into perspective. Character finds wider cracks through which to enter as we age. The daimon or occupying genius (the active element of Soul) in each of us struggles against the distractions of middle age and of parenthood. It snakes its way through impediments and often disappears, reduced to a few remembered dreams, the inexplicable impulse, or sudden blinding shafts of recognition.

Between the book’s early failure (with two small daughters in tow) and its recent incarnation more motherhood intervened. That also required the mastery of house building, mixing mortar, carpentry, drains and daily doing at its most basic. I had flown too close to the sun, melted my wings, and fallen, badly burnt: the discipline of motherhood would re-connect me to ordinary life. It was the re-education necessary to render the sun a softer and more benign presence threaded on quiet days, sliced and apportioned by welcome oblivious nights of exhausted sleep.

Stone Crop, dereliction and one cold tap
Stone Crop, dereliction and one cold tap

 

Father doing Time. One day a garden.
Father doing Time. One day a garden.

 

 

 

 

 

The re-education also introduced a new realm of experience that would prove to be necessary to extend my vocabulary into architecture, design, music, the hunger for time to read and on being servant to necessity. The last was probably the most important.

In talking about my mother, I reverted to memories, and she, now safely dead, would be unable to correct them or to argue and be unlikely to feel aggrieved.  I feel I can count on her sympathy. Not so with my still very alive daughters. They would be mortified to be identified, and they have daimons of their own, refusing to be pinned, so I must confine their existence to what they did for me.

That seems sufficient, because I intend to examine the effect of both my childhood and theirs on the conceiving of a book. It is creativity at its broadest that draws upon everything, emotional and psychological, academic and philosophical, each intricately facets of the same enquiry. Who am I? Why am I here? Why did I come through that portal (my mother) or give birth to that child?

What shall I do with all this experience before I depart?

My own mother’s tight-lipped stoicism, which made my very existence a burden, had led me to take a vow at about sixteen. If I ever had children they would know, because I would share with them, all things: anger, impulse, confusion, and impetuous affection. Words would not be withheld. I would never have them say, as I had, ‘I would rather you beat me than stay silent, why won’t you tell me where or in what I have failed?’

If I had children I would also have more than one; they would have each other: An insurance against my own shortcomings.

I struggled to unite my four daughters in what I believed was a single family. Therein lay my failure to understand that unity requires the consent of all, to each. Much later I had to accept that I had two families, severed by the father of the first, whose refusal to include the second split us, as though with an axe. The father of the second family accepted all, in an almost saintly indifference to distinctions between his and another man’s children.

Daughters Part One

My first marriage had yielded two daughters, so different from one another they initiated the most essential lesson

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

(Kahlil Gibran- The Prophet)

The first at ten months walked away, escaped any lap, shunned hugs and kisses, threw herself into deep water, climbed up dangerous heights. She needed nothing from me, except the freedom to be left alone and watched from a distant eye. She asked for very little, gave very little. As an ingénue mother I mistook this for precocious advanced development; hurrah for independence!  Her sister was the exact opposite, needing a great deal of affection, constant reassurances and encouragement. Honing maternal skills required flexible adjustments between these extremes, one impervious, one hypersensitive, one over confident, one with only tentative questions.

The second, faced with living on a building site developed obsessional cleaning instincts and domestic virtues that manifested before she was ten, binging home the bacon for Thursday night suppers on her bicycle after ‘cookery’. She created order where none seemed to exist. Her sister, immune to labour, simply disappeared into a caravan where she painted her nails and revised for examinations in which she was determine to excel, and if possible exceed. Her fierce competitive instincts were equal to anything, from scrabble to chemistry.  It took her no time to persuade her father that her academic record would be much assisted by boarding away, away from the cold tap and the portaloo amidst the nettles. He obliged with alacrity. My vow needed pruning. Neither was like me, nor sought what I understood.

The refuge from labour.
The refuge from labour.

With both the vow was inappropriate. That is the hell of motherhood, you only have one to sample from, and without siblings you start completely un-apprenticed, learning only from sometimes serious mistakes. My mother was not ‘typical’. No mother is. She had taught me by default; I had been peripheral to her life, my children would be central and know always that they were. Pendulums are never a reliable pointer, but the circularity of existence is invariably reduced to the swing between extremes.

My oldest daughters did not want to know anything about me, but I had set a course of candour (hatched from my childhood of silence) and took much too long to realise its penalties. I lost both of them; not immediately, but later, when all that candour backfired and I was so very clear as target. Their father stripped me of them utterly, knowing how central they had been in every aspect of creative life. He waited until late adolescence with all its insecurity and resentment made them vulnerable to persuasion.  His revenge was served very cold, and wrapped with foreign travel and few returns.

They left, one for university in Africa, the other for training college in Switzerland and never looked back. I had served my purpose, with all the tedium of schooling, housing, homework and transport. Holidays had been treats with him, in exotic surroundings like Costa Rica, Kalahari or Galapagos. Half of my family were always severed from the other half, by money and partisan affection. While the older two were camping on beaches, or on film locations the second family stayed home and played with the dog or tolerated a Yucca plant as perennial pricking wicket.

Overwhelmed by labour and literally putting a roof over heads I failed to see this divide widening. The experience which had set in train both my divorce from him and the book took many years to develop its consequences, to alienate my children from me and from each other. I had complimented myself on a successful and benign divorce, (he and his new wife stayed with us occasionally) but instead merely provided labour and education, enabling him and his wife to live well under canvas, or in remote places without available schools, until his daughters were old enough to leave me without proving an imposition.

Self deception took a long detour, through illusion and dogged determination, but even this provided its salutary lesson; that one daimon (mine to foster unity) is powerless against another that preferred disunity, and could exploit every argument to make its case. The devil has all the best tunes, for sure.

 

But I had been offered a second chance ( to be continued).