Sunday, June 6, 2010
Synchronicity Tales: Library Angels on the Plane
I boarded the plane bound from Minneapolis to Portland with my in-flight reading in hand: Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, an excellent study of how Shakespeare rose from obscure origins to become the greatest writer in the English language. When I found my aisle seat, the fellow by the window asked how I was enjoying the book. Quite soon he was telling me how he was in Statford last year when the news broke that a hitherto unknown portrait of Shakespeare had been identified in an Irish country house and was then on its way to the bard's birthplace.
My literate rowmate proved to be an artist and glass-blower. He gave me his card, which bears the following inscription:
I am a keen student of how people define themselves, and I told Marshall that this was one of the best three word self-definitions I had come across.
Asked to define my own work, I spoke about how I help people to use dreams as a source of guidance and imagery for self-healing, and as the royal road to identifying our essential stories, the ones we want to remember and enact.
He wanted to know more about the application of dreamwork to healing. I told him a little of the story of my friend Wanda Burch, a twenty year survivor of breast cancer who gives her own account of her use of Active Dreaming techniques in her brave and beautiful book She Who Dreams. Marshall took note of the title, explaining that he was on his way to Portland to support a family member who was recovering from cancer.
Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young man who took the seat between us. More introductions ensued. The young man told us he recently graduated from St Olof's with a degree in music. He is a vocalist who sang with the St Olof's choir all over the British Isles, and in many other places.
I asked him whether it is true that composers tend to look down on librettists to the extent suggested in Robertson Davies' novel The Lyre of Orpheus, which I had finished the night before. He was unfamiliar with the novel, so I explained the plot, which turns on the creative pains and misadventures of an unlikely crew who set about trying to make an opera out of sketches by Hoffmann, with an entirely new libretto, while the long-dead composer watches from the limbo of composers who are waiting for someone to complete their unfinished work.
"E.T.A. Hoffmann?" the new graduate echoed. "We studied him in my last semester." He gave me a rundown on Hoffmann's musical oeuvre, and asked about Hoffmann's second career as the author of dark fantasy stories, which were based in no small degree on his dreams and nightmares and sightings of apparitions, including several versions of the double or doppelganger.
He spoke of a piece his choir had sung in his last concert, with lyrics from Goethe. His face fell when he added that the brilliant young composer was struggling with cancer. He had heard the tale end of my account of Wanda's use of dream imagery in helping to heal cancer, and asked me to repeat the details of her book.
I think we were accompanied on that flight by angels who were both literate and caring.