Jan 082015
Painting by Richard Young

Painting by Richard Young

To explain the mystery and importance of Duende to artistic expression, Lorca tells the story of a great Andalusian singer whose performance leaves a modest audience unimpressed one night in a little tavern in Cadiz. “Here we care nothing about ability, technique, skill. Here we are after something else,” they seem to say. The songstress then tears at her expensive gown, guzzles a tall glass of burning liquor and begins “to sing with a scorched throat: without voice, without breath or color but with Duende” all to the crowd’s raucous approval. Lorca says, “She had to rob herself of skill and security, send away her muse and become helpless, that her Duende might come and deign to fight her hand to hand…” (from Terrance Hayes, More Theories of the Duende & Teaching the Inexplicable)

As Nick Cave wrote, “All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them.

The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.”

Dec 302014

Artwork by Catrin Welz-Stein

What if nostalgia is not a fruitless dwelling on those irretrievable moments of the past, as we are taught, but an attempt by sweetness to reach you again?

What if nostalgia is really located in the present, like a scent or ambiance which is gathering around you, should you avail yourself to it.

As anyone who has been heartbroken knows, there comes a time when, long after loss has been well-lived with, a small melody of love always returns. And to your surprise, you may recognise the tone of that love as the very same love you believed you lost.

It’s then that you know your love never belonged to another. Your love was always your love. And if you let yourself be unguarded to it, nostalgia may find its way back into the generosity of your presence once again.


Dec 212014

6c341aaf7a5385ceabcbf3effdac176bOn this, the longest night of the year, it is helpful to remember that we too are being called into our deepest dark. Down into the places we hide from view; where we store our grief, where we brace and hold, where we are ashamed and unforgiving too.

When we speak of the ‘returning of the light’ it isn’t just a grace that this threshold season provides, but the call to our own revealing. We are being asked to acknowledge our untruths, to surrender our silence, to bare our fragile stories in the open. These are the acts which connect the fabric of our lives to the whole of truthfulness.

Without proof, we trust that a way will be born then in the dark, out of nothing, by this braving forward. And we are rewarded with the dignity of a life which emboldens the poetry trapped in the silence of others, and tenderises us for a more articulated quality of love.

A blessed Winter Solstice to you, beautiful Dreamers.

Nov 172014
Owen Gent

Artwork by Owen Gent

In fairy tales, there is often a character whose sole purpose is to introduce doubt into your mission. Like a strong tide their influence can pull you away from the shores of your truth,  tempting you to renounce your secret vow altogether.

These characters are not always unsympathetic – they may even be folks you admire – but when you are subtly attuned to your nature, you’ll notice yourself wilting in their presence, taking on their diminishing view of your abilities.

Like eating something that doesn’t agree with you, this will give you a sour feeling in your belly, which sometimes grows into a rejection of life itself. In the worst of times, it may seem to stretch into an ocean of lostness in every direction.

When you find yourself in such an untethered place, there is a secret  which can anchor you back into intimacy with your vow: The recognition that you are only susceptible to the invalidation which matches a companion vulnerability in your own standpoint.

Now, this isn’t to say that the other is not being an empirical jerk, but that in their jerkness, they’ve brought to light a place within that requires fortification. It is the thing that keeps us in relationship with those who don’t see us, or which holds us back from fully emerging with our gifts. You may even recognise it as an almost comfortable self-abandonment, where your losses outnumber your triumphs and “that’s how it will always be”.

But in the Dreaming Way, these periods of detachment are invitations to deepen your vow. To make boundaries against those sour-belly influences, tightening your circle of intimacy, taking symbolic steps towards that which knows your true name. This can be as simple as keeping a daily list of those beautiful things which conspire in your favour, recognising the tiny triumphs that are keeping you from downspiraling, or exalting in some physically symbolic way the life you are calling towards you.

Destiny is not to be mistaken with fate, where one has no influence upon its outcome. It requires us to take steps towards it, to parent its growth especially in times of doubt and weakness. And if we find the courage to move in its direction despite the absence of grand signs, we are often graced by the small miracles of confirmation and synchronicity that we’d been hoping for all along.

Nov 112014
maia flore

Artwork by Maia Flore

To have one’s trust betrayed is one of the worst human heartbreaks. Under the pain of the dishonesty revealed in your immediate environment, one’s very belief in goodness may be compromised.

The seduction in the wake of betrayal is to take up a thicker armour, to practice at expecting less of others, or to punish one’s own naïveté. But these are the same refusals from which our world is dying. Never should a judgement be made against one’s willingness to open the heart.

Trust is one of the great acts of kinship and naïveté is not, as some believe, a foolish disposition that needs to be prepared for the worst. At its root the word is from the 1670s French ‘naif’, meaning “natural, simple, artless.” It is the authentic, genuine, and literally “native disposition” of the human heart.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t practice discernment in our dealings with others, but  if our trust is broken we must remember that it says more about the other, who doesn’t yet know how to be loved, than it does about the heart who offers of itself.

Let us remount our commitment to sincerity, reassuring our native inclination to trust, and remember that even in the rubble of loss and betrayal, trust is what we all deserve.

Sep 292014

Dearest Dreamers,

After a boat ride, three airplanes and a long drive through the Mojave Desert, I finally arrived in Joshua Tree in the black of night. When I awoke at dawn, I stumbled out of my cabin into what felt like another planet.

Austere, hot and bracingly still, the next few days in our temporary temenos called the Synchronicity Symposium would prove to be one of the most magical weekends of my life.

joshua-tree-collageI am so grateful to Gary Bobroff, the visionary behind this astounding gathering of scientists, psychologists, death doulas, dreamworkers, beekeepers and artists, all of whom came together on this holy ground to weave a living bridge back to the invisible world behind this one.

My own offering on what I call the Competencies of Belonging was so generously received that for days, every few steps I would take was blessedly interrupted by an intimate encounter with a stranger who would openly share their gratitude and grief with me.

My own greatest longing, to touch the sleeping hearts of others, was so tremendously realised that I continue to feel buoyed in this writing, and this work.

For those of you that weren’t able to make it this year, here some of my great highlights: http://bit.ly/1CAQBRK

Love and lucidity,

Sep 172014
Victo Ngai

Artwork by Victo Ngai

In these times of devastating ecological and social collapse, there are those of us who feel an urgency to attend to the world ‘before it’s too late.’ But the great paradox is that this very tendency to rush anxiously ahead is what got us into trouble in the first place.

In the Aboriginal way of dreaming, the past and future are embedded in the present. One’s embodiment is the ground into which all continuity flows, so the past can be just as influenced as the future by one’s way of going in the here and now.

Let the way that you walk be slow. Let us listen to the pleas of our surrounding thirsts. Let us acknowledge the forgetting which drifted us onto this terrifying precipice. Let the grief of it all make its encounter through your remembering. And may beauty come alive then, under your feet.

Excerpted from the upcoming book “On Belonging” © Toko-pa Turner 2014. To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL

Artwork by Victo Ngai

Sep 042014
Painting by Ohara Koson

Painting by Ohara Koson

We’ve begun again
in the direction of home
as the first sharp winds
sweep changed leaves
onto the lake – they’re taken.

This is the first time
this has happened again.

We’ve done as we came to do,
by not a wish of our own,
but a marrowdeep migration
we’ve always made
on weakening wings.

The coming together, the falling
out of formation, dizzying rests
for breath and grazing.

As we came to do,
we’ve come and done
for the first time once more,
chasing the skirts
of summer gone and back again.

Toward home in the cycle at home
in the turn in the cycle home
in rotation of ponds and puddles
creeks and lakes
seas and streams
we’ve always never seen.

We land swimming and fly singing,
as we came to do.

© Toko-pa Turner

Aug 282014
Sedna by Antony Galbraith

Sedna by Antony Galbraith

Call upon our great ocean that she may grace your shores with her foamy lapping. Make yourself as still as sand, who knows the patience of millennia, having been ground down to its essential parts. Wait your turn at the edge of known things that she might soak you with her rising swell. Wish for nothing but to be dislodged by her power, carried into her depths for the chance at a glimpse of the underlife. May that you be taken into her possession, even for a moment, to know the absence of gravity and participation in her rhythms. Let your body be for what it was intended: an expression of her grace. And what small ways you make of this encounter in poetry; what strange songs you sing out of your own silence; what migrations and what ripples you disturb in the world; may they have something of her signature on them. May the you that has been touched go on touching in her phenomenal multiplication until we are all suffused with awe and a salty vastness upon our skin.

2014 © Toko-pa Turner