Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dalkey - the Enchanted Island

This is Dalkey Island. It's about 15 kilometers from Dublin's centre and it's quite the most interesting place on this coast. The picture was taken from Killiney but I'd rather have taken it from the rather lovely Victorian hotel that used to overlook the island. I regularly took guests there, but unfortunately it was demolished to make way for a foreboding concrete apartment complex that Stalin would have admired. It's difficult to find a photograph of that old hotel and it's almost like it never existed. Fortunately no one wants to develop the enchanted island! In symbolic terms, islands have clarity and lack ambiguity. Islands are a place of mystery and often in the old myths they could only be reached at the end of an arduous voyage. We often imagine the desert island as a seductive, idyllic place, but it's no joke if you're marooned there. No matter how nice the island is, after a while the mystery begins to pall. The isolation of the island is attractive though. Psychoanalysis concentrates on islands as places of withdrawal - the island is both a spiritual retreat and a sanctuary. So here we can find refuge from the unconscious just as the rocks provide a barrier against the ocean. So if you dream of an island, you may be defending against something powerful in your unconscious. You may need time to retreat and consider, because the ego defence is there for a reason. You can consciously will a refuge from the waves for a while - but it's temporary, because you can't (or shouldn't) stay there for ever.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Four Rabbits and Play

These are gifts sold in supermarkets for Easter, but they give me the opportunity to make a point. These are the only rabbits one should buy as presents. Rabbits are routinely given to children at Easter and this often ends in tears. When children find them difficult (and expensive) to look after they grow tired of the necessary dedication. So domestic rabbits are often abandoned. They are the third most popular pet and without a doubt, the most abused. Yet rabbits are rewarding creatures. Although they generally don't like being picked up, they are quite social and lots of fun to watch - because rabbits are naturally happy creatures and jump into the air with joy. This is called a binky and it's quite a gymnastic feat. Rabbits like company and prefer to have a mate. They need a lot of space, not a cramped hutch. And although they like carrots, hay is best for a rabbit diet. Rabbits, like their hare cousins, are of the lagomorph species. They are all gentle creatures, but it's wise not to torment them. They do fight and there was a famous incident when an enraged swamp rabbit attacked President Carter's fishing boat and tried to board. Symbolically, rabbits are of the moon and they come out to play at night. Once, we were heading for a very early ferry near Ayr in Scotland. Suddenly we noticed hundreds of rabbits, maybe thousands, running in the fields alongside the car. They were pacing us and I hear it's not uncommon. Rabbits like to play and we should all take a leaf out of their book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cherry Trees, Indifference and Prosperity

I like to keep a record of my cherry tree. It was a birthday present given to me more than ten years ago and now it's grown very tall. Every year I like to take a photograph when it's in full bloom and I try to catch the moment just before the wind detaches the blossom from the branches. The tree is associated with Spring and all that this season implies for the cycle of birth and death. In Japan, the scattering of cherry blossom symbolises a kind of indifference to the so-called good things of the world. It's life and death, all in one breath. But it remains a sign of prosperity. The amount of blossom presages and predicts the size and quality of the rice harvest, which takes place in Japan shortly thereafter. This variety of cherry is not the ornamental size like its sisters in the street. It's a full blooded tree and it intends to be massive. I recall how disappointed I was one year when I couldn't be here through March to April. I missed the whole thing from start to finish, but what I missed most was the scattering of a multitude of tiny white leaves across my neighbourhood. So many trees have been cut down lately, I am pleased we planted this one, because a tree symbolises life. The needless felling of trees represents exactly the opposite.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Killiney and the Great Mother

We had expected better weather but resorted to shopping and a picnic lunch in the car. Killiney provides a decent view and a place to stop, so we made a few rolls and looked out at the rain. It looked like a monochrome day, but I hopped out of the car and tried the Pentax Q on a landscape. Now I had resolved that the Pentax Q wasn't great for this kind of shot, but this has a natural look I liked. Killiney Bay is often compared to Sorrento, which is the most awful tosh that does justice to neither. They are quite different and equally beautiful. But in both cases, it's true that the sea does meet the land - and it's a powerful symbolic meeting. The waters were present at earth's beginning and represent the undifferentiated mass. But the earth has a different place in the cosmos as the producer of all living things, The earth is about seeds and ploughing and fertility. The Earth is Gaia and the Great Mother - but I'm reminded of the song The Holy Ground. Both Christans and Jews refer to Palestine as the Holy Land and Plato talked of the Pure Land (The Pure Land School is also an enduring form of Buddhist practice). But the Holy Ground of Irish folk song is thought to be the Cobh red light district to which sailors longed to return. There is a link, as Erich Neumann has pointed out. Behind the archetype of the Great Mother lies many things including sacrifice, sorcery and prostitution. Poseidon, God of the Sea, remained in the hands of his mother, Aphrodite, the sacred prostitute. Unable to break away and fully individuate, he had to do her bidding. Now here's the rub. The sea is also female.