When I was a child I would often sit in the garden with my mother's old leather-bound Bible. I would search its pages for signs and secrets even then. I still have that Bible. I still search its pages. Most souls don't truly believe in the existence of other worlds, or even hidden regions of this world. I've spent a long time peering into the abyss. Be careful, they say, lest the abyss peer back into you. There is truth in that adage. I experienced it first-hand. But I didn't go looking for shades and forms beyond the veil. Not initially. It seems the realm came to me first. Only then did I peer. I feel like I had no choice. I remember sitting in my favourite public gardens as a youth; the Rookery in Streatham, Myatt’s Fields Park in Camberwell. I remember thumbing through the pages of that leather-bound Bible, sometimes with tears in my eyes, despairing at the apparent insanity of both men and gods. There is so much cruelty in the world, reflected or perhaps inspired, in part, by our religions. We are like dangerous children with our stories. Jealous, possessive, violent. We kill for our stories. We use them as pretexts to enslave and desecrate others; a nightmarish familicide that seems to have no end.
But I am comforted when I read words of love and kindness and empathy in those scriptures, when I can feel the passion and sincerity behind the words, all but lost in the war and tales of war.
I was never as afraid as I imagined others would be if they had seen the things I've seen. But perhaps I adapted quickly to such things. It's all I know, really. There was never a time when spirits and magic were not a part of my life. Such things are at the core of my identity, such as it is. I feel like I've been here for a long, long time, living variations on the same life. A soul and a spirit utterly obsessed with stories, and storytelling. Narrative; the creation or retrieval of meaning. Poetry, prose, and song. Imagery, and its communion with the depths of the psyche. The more I learn, the more I experience, the more I realize how little I know. I know that Creation is a wild and haunted thing however, as is our notion of self – or selves. I am more than just one person. I would offer the same is true for you. I often meditate on the mysteries of identity.
Who are we, really? What were we, and what can we be again?
Friends, powerful and terrible and holy secrets have been kept from you. From all of us. I have seen and experienced only the very edges of these secrets, but it was enough. We share this realm with monsters and gods and bright ones. They walk among us sometimes, in flesh or the appearance of flesh. The veil is permeable, and not at all what you think.
All worlds connect, both symbolically and literally. Western science has yet to truly grasp this, but it is implied or explicitly explored in the art of all cultures. Materialism is a fallacy, a lie of control. And our notion of material itself, or tangibility, desperately needs a reimagining. If you knew how, you could walk your way to the stars. You might find such a notion preposterous, but this dreamtime we call existence is full of secrets. These are secrets over which the blood of entire races is spilt. Imagine an infinity of living, conscious beings. Imagine worlds upon worlds, as complex and more so than our own. Imagine your breath filled with the still pulsing light of a billion suns and the civilisations that orbit them. Space and time and myth are not what we believe them to be. This is a living realm, endless and mysterious. How can dreaming be anything but? Systems within systems, incomprehensible to our logic but not to our art, or our imagination. We know so little of the mysteries and we fear the shadows, but shadows give us depth. There is no end to the depth of the dreamtime, or we who dwell within it and are made of it. I believe dream is the substance from which all others arise, because I have seen reality warp and shift and transform all around me.
Art is the only place I can truly discuss and explore this haunted, shifting realm.
For me gardens are places of respite, contemplation and renewal. But also they are places where I've asked myself the most difficult questions about life and about myself. Sometimes on Sundays, after visiting St John the Divine, I'll walk to Myatt’s Fields Park or take the bus down into Streatham to visit the Rookery. These public parks and gardens mean a lot to me, linked not only to my childhood but to my emotional and spiritual growth as an adult. I feel the need to check in with them quite often, to be in their spaces for whatever reason. Sometimes on warm nights I would secretly visit Myatt’s Fields or the Rookery after they had closed to the public. I usually had the entire garden or park to myself. I would spend hours there lying on the grass and peering up at the stars, my mother's Bible sometimes pressed to my chest. It was always too dark to read by starlight but I suppose I consider the book a talisman of sorts. It comforts me. I'm still not entirely sure why I do such things. I used to think it was to be alone, but I suppose really it was to be closer to God, closer to that mystery that has fascinated me since I was a boy and would sit in the grass in my parents’ garden. I'm still asking similar questions. The answers I receive, while no less mysterious than they were in childhood, seem to make more sense now. The answers feel richer as an adult. Deeper, harder earned. I hope I dream a little more deftly now, but with no less passion than I did as a boy.