It is a month since Samhain, always a time of year for reflecting on loved ones who have passed and to honour our ancestors. I move in the dreaming of connection to weathered stones and prehistoric traces in the Sussex landscape – this time of year when the sun has lowered its message to the earth, making stronger shadows on the wrinkled escarpments of the South Downs – the strip lynchets tracing our bond with the land – echoes from the Bronze age to medieval times. The land talks in shade and umbrae, calls out in sunshine, wind and rain. Yet we struggle to listen beyond the hubbub of the everyday litter noise that fills our lives.
I was thinking about the runes, when making this drawing and that squarish shape in the centre of the drawing could be the rune ‘ing’, or ‘ingwaz’ which is a rune that’s connected with fertility and creativity, names connected to the Norse god Freyr legendary ancestor of the Ingaevones. I don’t know the way back to the message. We feel the Old Names whisper when we allow silence to enter our breath. Like the meaning of Freyr this ultimately presents us with the soul of grief. Covid-19 has arrived – the call of nature to help us reflect through a mirror made of sorrow.
This year has pressed hard on our consciousness; awareness of our mortality sharpened by the death rates and the ever-increasing numbers of friends and family affected – if not by the virus itself, then by breakdown of health care systems and the broken promise of national insurance, left rotting amongst the swilling corpses of our loved ones, whilst the System gorges itself on corrupt contracts handed on the nod of a wink and the cynical batting of a capitalist eye.
This month just gone, I felt close to my old friend and lover Anthony who took his life seven years ago in August 2013 – known in the last ten years of his life as Kraean Fever. In my last blog I alluded to a conversation that brought alive the resemblance of the figure in this drawing to Kraean. It was maybe 2006 when I last saw him; grief is like an ocean wave moving around and through consciousness in a spiral dance resembling the double helix of our DNA.
Grief is an atmosphere, a murmur rising from the shadows; a heart calling to loss; the mass and weight of its particles seeming greater the more that absence inhabits us. We were two boys together clinging during the time of Thatcher and AIDS – chaff cut from the stalk of society dwelling in squats and broken spaces at the edge of time, outside of a choice of anything but to feel the pain of it all – the breaking of society rendered to the will of Milton Friedman’s economic policies. Friedman said “A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither.” As I feel it, a society that puts the market ahead of equality will end up in slavery.
I knew Kraean as ‘Ant’ and we bonded over a hatred for the emergence of a new politics of greed that stamped its mark on our years together in the 1980s. Ant had a predilection to be out of the ordinary with a fierce intelligence and devilish humour. His influence on the direction my life took following a childhood of psychiatric torture and the uncertainty of a brain trauma after an accident on my 11th birthday was huge, especially in terms of creative aspirations … he drew me out of the wood of a mundane worldview and accelerated me towards something deeper – as harrowing and joyous, difficult and agonizing as that grappling with estrangement was. Ant had an extraordinary facility for recounting philosophical ideas … it was a kind of cloak he put on to reveal something darker and deeper than you might ever have imagined. He embraced Buddhism and gave me an invaluable capacity to return to the breath and to use that as a resource for finding healing and resilience in the moment.
Ant could also be soft and loving, though often he wasn’t. And maybe there was an intensity in the bond between us – two children of Scorpio tied to all or nothing in a land of extreme sacrifice and extreme selfishness. There was no middle ground between us; nothing bland or ordinary would do as we fuelled a flame of something darker within each others natures. We’d both been born out of hell, shaped and moulded by a Christian madness … Ant’s mother died when he was still a toddler – thrown to a bag of nuns for whom persistent swift brutal beatings were the way to God. And I was cast out of the Jehovah’s Witness as Satan’s messenger just for being a small boy. At core we both held a sense of past lives entangled in the Burning Times … we flew to the stars and saw visions of ourselves meeting on a stake in some European backwater – made scapegoats for wild egos immersed in a belief in the healing powers of nature; children of hemlock.
So here we have Ant in this drawing – his hair on fire and the brightness of his keen eyes piercing air and storming fire at the heart of the universe. There’s a creativity here that relates to the form of the rune ‘ing’ floating – a conversation between us at the dawn of being and purpose. There was love here, difficult and tempestuous, outrageous and soaring, in the years we were together from 1982 to 1987. We continue to merge in sadness and challenge, joy and freedom. I want to run from that emptiness but somehow I can’t – a memory dwells in my drawing hand compelling me to face the question that begs an ending. We’ll get there in the end. It’s as inevitable as the winter, whether it’s full on and raging, stormy as night, or as a gentle shiver of the spine rocking into a smile.