Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Place of the sonnet, and the lion

In Madeleine L'Engle's luminous novel A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs Whatsit instructs the children that a human life, lived well, is like a sonnet. A sonnet (if we need reminding) is a strict poetic form that imposes demands of rhythm (iambic pentameter), rhyme, and length (14 lines). Depart from the form, and you may have something but you will not have a sonnet. In life, says Mrs Whatsit, "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

This elegant analogy was in my mind last Sunday, since I had been re-reading A Wrinkle in Time in the middle of the night, prodded by a sequence of dreams and synchronicity I don't need to report here. The following afternoon, when the members of my circle at Mosswood Hollow shared the fruits of their homeplay assignment - which was to produce a creative act of self-definition - I was delighted when Lisa shared a sonnet she had composed in this cause:

With sleep come mystr'ies, dramas of the head
In language secret: diamond-laden code
Their stories unfold nightly in my bed
Their meanings caref'ly to the darkness sewed
The inner universe reveals such powers:
I fly, create, am rich beyond compare
O'er every enemy my presence towers
To my beloved I appear most fair
But what's the deeper meaning of these tales
That overflow my nights with filmhouse art?
The language of the daytime constant fails
I must relearn the language of the heart
The guide of dreaming points me toward the soul
And in the living of it, I am whole

- Lisa Fraser, Mosswood Hollow, November 15, 2009

Mrs Whatsit would most certainly have approved of this marvelous verse!

For my own contribution to our group essay in self-definition, I had decided to turn a big dream of my own into a mini-theatre, and I had no doubt now that Lisa should play the lion in this dramatic production. This is how I introduced the dream story to the group before we acted it out:


You are at a zoo on a Sunday afternoon. People are wandering about, snacking and chatting as they inspect the animals and birds. As you approach the big cat enclosures, you are uneasy because you know that big cats don't belong in confinement.

When you come to the lion pen, you are disgusted because people are mocking the great beast, pulling faces - until someone screams that the gate is open and the lion could get them. Now all the people are running away.

Instead of fleeing, you step through the open gate, into the place of the lion. The great beast runs towards you and leaps up...and his great paws are on your shoulders...and he licks your face like a friendly dog. He wills you to turn around and look at the scene in the zoo in order to understand what is really going on here.

When you look back, you see that it is the humans that are living in cages. In the comfort of their suburban houses and malls and supermarkets they have failed to notice that they have walled themselves in places of confinement. When you look beyond the lion, you see there are no walls, only an open horizon of wild freedom and possibility. The lion says to you, in his gravel-ly lion voice, "You see, my dear, humans are the only animals that choose to live in cages."


Worldbridger said...

To me, a perfect example of Strength, the path between Geburah and Chesed. The woman in white, subduing the red lion with love.

Karen Kay said...

Thanks for your most marvellous verse Lisa !

Speaking of self definition and freedom - On Friday, I sang in a most fabulous concert (which was the culmination of a sequence of synchronicities which started with a visit by a gypsy woman) At the back of the hall stood an imaginal unicorn for the entire evening. This was the ultimate place of freedom (dare I go so far as to say the Duende came to visit) . I sang with all of my heart when it was my turn and listened deeply and tenderly throughout. A young photographer said I looked like a wild animal.

After feeling filled with wow for a few days and (yes I admit it) just a hint of self satisfied smugness- I dream in the early hours this morning of a woman who has come to visit. She is honey tongue and charm itself. At the end of the dream we realize she is the kidnapper of a long and unsolved case where the victim was never found. Then shock ! we realize that this person is locked in the bowels of our house somewhere.

I awake feeling more than strongly reminded that freedom and wildness as both an intention and a way of life is an ongoing composition and daily song to sing.

and of course in the great rhyming tradition, Robert, this morning I read of your Place of Lion dream -

Sweet dreams

Robert Moss said...

Karen - I love your stirring proclamation that "life is an ongoing composition and a daily song to sing."

The concert sounds marvelous. What an intriguing dream! If it were my dream, I would be eager to discover what more will be unleashed in my daily song and ongoing life composition when I free whatever has been confined in the bowels of my house!

Justin Patrick Moore said...

The lion licking the face reminds me of dreams I've had where lions, notably, and bears have bitten my hand in a friendly way. The saliva involved always seems to be an important factor.

Robert Moss said...

The lion licks had that moist-yet-sandpapery feel you get from a house cat's tongue. The saliva reminded me of the healing power of dog slobber; I once had a big sloppy mutt whose slobber was a great natural salve and disinfectant.

Savannah said...

Such a joy to savour your amazing poem again in print, Lisa!
Karen, I love the thought of listening deeply while singing... and I can only imagine the vital power unleashed when it is freed from the bowels bowels of that house. Nothing like living from the gut...

Savannah said...

Couldn't help sharing this bit of Rumi I just stumbled across while looking for something quite unrelated...


Great lions can find peace in a cage.
But we should only do that
as a last

So those bars I see that restrain your wings
I guess you won't mind
if I pry them

Robert Moss said...

There's always room for more Rumi!

Unknown said...

In the department of silly coincidences, I just saw a trailer for a movie called "Old Dogs." While it looks as though it will live up to its name ;-), several scenes of humans inside the animal cages at the zoo made me think of Robert's dream. (Lisa, your poem is as lovely in print as it was to hear aloud.)
- Caroline