Tenacious Magic ~ Chapter 20
A sad funeral * Discussions about legacy * Andromeda was a hero, too * Saying goodnight * Unfinished business
There's a long road behind you
It's a hard life if you make it one
Come on to the other side
There is no place to hide
—Unfinished Business, song by Dave Davies/Richard Lawrence
Bon retour. We return in this chapter to Fontainebleu, France in 1923. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect to be here again…just yet.
If you’ve been reading my serial novel, Tenacious Magic1, then you know Katherine dies at the end of Chapter 18. I thought that might be the end of her story. But, something felt incomplete. As a friend pointed out, “She wouldn’t have come to you in 2010 if she didn’t have unfinished business.”
It’s true: physical death was not the end of Katherine’s story, just as it’s not the end of any of our stories. So, I set myself to the task of imagining the days and years after Katherine’s death—how she might be experiencing ‘the other side’ and how those she left behind feel her physical absence, but also her enduring presence.
Unfinished business...what a thing! I have come to understand that we can help the deceased take care of their unfinished business on this material plane/plane of action/place of karma’s fruition. In exchange—or because reciprocity is natural law—they help guide and support us. We can work karma out together across the veil. Which means, we are intimately connected to each other’s liberation through space and time. This idea is not radical or new or mine. I’m just coming into a richer understanding and sharing my process with you.
I wonder how many of us have been visited by ancestors in dreams? Received guidance, warnings, or advice from them? Felt their loving care as if they were sitting right next to us? I would like to say it’s a very common human experience. It’s just not discussed so much in our “secular,” materialist culture where physical death is thought to be the end of life. I also wonder how many of us are carrying out karmic patterns and unfinished business through our actions without truly understanding why or what’s happening?
This passing of unfinished business across the veil, this sharing of karmic responsibility, this mutuality of our destinies, is happening with or without our awareness. The degree to which we are conscious or unconscious about it is the measure of our ability to be free agents…participating creatively with life. We can be enlisted by spirits into projects without our conscious awareness. I think it happens all the time. This is not a joyful or empowering idea…that we can be used or contracted into a service to which we haven’t agreed. It’s part of what humans have called destiny or fate. As one of my teachers, Thomas Hübl, says, “Unconscious trauma is fate. Conscious trauma give us choice.”
This was my experience with Katherine Mansfield’s arrival in my life in 2010—I was unconscious. I wasn’t clear about what was happening and so I was whipped around by fate. Through this writing process, I have reclaimed my agency and made conscious what was an unconscious process. Did Katherine choose me? Did I choose her? Did we choose each other? I suspect our connection has something to do with resonance and similarities in our soul patterning or karmic composition. You might say, we’re kindred spirits. You might say we have a shared mission.
Becoming conscious of our collaboration, our mutual processing of a similar set of circumstances, and what I have come to see as a collective, psychic wound around the masculine and feminine; power, sexuality and spirituality, has given me a great sense of purpose. I can feel that I’m engaged in a big project that has the potential to liberate life force within myself, Katherine, and many others.
It’s dizzying to wrap your mind around because it begins to dissolve the idea of linear time and also the idea that death is the end of consciousness.
There is so much promise in how we choose to engage with our lives and with our deaths. Writing this book has been a vulnerable process. I have often written into the unknown. Today’s chapter required me to write for Katherine on the other side of the veil. That felt like a big responsibility and I hope I get as close to the truth as possible. I’ve asked her to guide me. Her guidance now is less clear, less vivid, than it has been in the past. I believe this is because she’s left it to me now. I gained her trust and she’s been able to move on…or that’s what I like to think.
What feels important is to come out with my beliefs and my experience, to talk about it all…to make it conscious and bring it into the light. Unconscious process is fate. Conscious process is agency, consent, cooperation…creativity.
Thank you for being my inspiration and part of this process of finishing some unfinished business.
Now, back to the story…
Fontainebleu, France 1923
Two black horses with white plumes draw the undertaker’s carriage slowly through the streets of Avon. As they approach the gate to the small cemetery, the horses come to an abrupt stop. The black carriage containing the rudimentary coffin—all that could be procured locally on a moment’s notice—jostles violently. John looks around in alarm as if he’s awakened into a nightmare. LM, edgy with nerves and unexpressed grief, leaps forward awkwardly to steady it.
“Something must have spooked them,” the carriage driver says gruffly. He shakes the reigns and they continue on.
The mourners spot the gravesite by the mound of earth next to it. The headstone is tidy. John nods approvingly to see it spelled out:
KATHERINE MANSFIELD WIFE OF JOHN MIDDLETON MURRY 1888-1923 BORN WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND DIED AVON
Her sisters have made the trip from London. Chaddie leans into Jeanne and whispers angrily, “That was not her name. Her name was Kathleen…”
“Even that never suited her. She should have been called Scheherazade,” Jeanne responds cooly.
The gravediggers wait for their cue; leaning against the back wall of the cemetery smoking. With a wave of his hand, the undertaker calls them over. John, Orage, and Gurdjieff step forward, and the men haul the coffin out of the back of the carriage; placing it next to the grave. The shawl LM draped over the white box in the church is now askew. She steps forward to straighten it; caring for Katherine to the last. She is holding a bunch of marigolds, all she could find on this winter’s day.
They gather around the deep hole pulling their collars up against the bitter wind. The gray-haired priest recites the 23rd Psalm with feeling, but he never knew Katherine. It was John’s idea to bring him in. She was in Fontainebleu seeking a different kind of church.
As the prayers come to a close, Jeanne and Chaddie step forward. Jeanne speaks,
“This is a song called The Parting Glass. Our father’s favorite. When we were children, he taught us to sing it in harmony. Kathleen was a fine singer and always loved music…I think it was her first love.”
The singing is angelic. Olgivanna and Adele lean into each other for warmth and support. Olga thinks back to that cold morning she sat graveside with Katherine in the back garden as they buried the memory of the child she’d lost. She offers a silent prayer for their reunion.
Adele peers at Gurdjieff from below the brim of her hat. He is watching everything with his hawklike eyes, but seems to be listening to something beyond the song; something they cannot hear.
As the sisters bring the song to a mournful close, the priest looks to John to see if he’d like to say something. He quickly thanks everyone for coming before he breaks. Brett puts her hand on his back so he can gather himself. There is nothing more to say. Silence envelopes the group, signaling the end. The gravediggers jump into the hole in the ground and receive Katherine’s body as the others lower it down. One-by-one the mourners pay their last respects and walk away.
LM is frozen. She stands there in a daze waiting for something else to happen; waiting for…What?…Resurrection?
Gurdjieff speaks, “It is customary for the spouse to throw the first earth on the coffin, is it not?”
This brings LM back from her reverie, “Oh…yes…” She is dismayed. John has left.
“Would you permit me?”
Unaccustomed to being in a position to approve such a thing and to a personage such as G, she quickly assents.
He approaches the grave and grabs a handful of dirt. Before throwing it in, he murmurs something and looks up at the sun like an old friend. The hollow sound of the earth falling onto the coffin makes LM flinch. Remembering the marigolds she is holding, she throws them in, too. The sun is shining brightly and the orange looks almost garish.
“Go,” he says nodding towards the gate, “I will follow.” He sits on a small bench and goes into trance as the gravediggers start their work. Opening all senses and the aperture of his perception, he becomes vast.
Soon, he sees Katherine sitting on the stone wall of the cemetery smoking a cigarette, legs crossed, looking well. He feels her taking him in.
“You’re quite a sight from here,” she says cooly. “I can see you more clearly now. Not clouded by sentimentality—big ideas about a big man. You are a big man, though. It’s true. Just not in the ways I thought. I can’t quite work out what you’re made of or where you come from?”
He smiles to hear her strong voice; enjoying the restoration of her vitality and her attitude. It had been hard for him to see her in the state she’d come to him—weak, dispirited, dying.
“You are marvelous, my dear.”
“Oh, stop. Compliments will get you nowhere now.”
Suddenly she is next to him and they are standing near the grave. She looks in to see the earth and marigolds. She scoffs, “Not my favorite flowers…or scarf. Oh well…” She looks at him and he notices the sparkle in her black eyes, “It’s strange talking to you from here. Quite easy, actually. You do hear me? See me?” She’s checking the transmission.
“It’s been a trip—having to see with these new eyes everything the old me was avoiding. Nowhere to hide."
“A lot of clarity comes with the death process. There is a retrospective quality that helps one assess a life. But the karma, the work, can only be done here.”
She puts the cigarette out, “Yes, I have many regrets.”
“That’s good. They can bring you closer to the freedom you seek. You will make better choices next time. This is why I encourage remorse and intentional suffering in The Work. Feel it here while something can still be done about it. You started the process…but you were late…” he shrugs.
She scoffs, “There’s no late now. Just the infinite present.”
“You spent this life resisting…until the end. You had so much potential. The writing could have been much more. You wasted a lot of time trying to prove yourself.”
“Easy for you to say—you’re a man in a man’s world. What do you know about the struggles of women? There’s no way any man can understand the inner life of a woman. Not even you. If you think you understand the mystery, you miss the point.”
“You have the same weakness, you know? You’re also trying to prove something.”
He raises his eyebrows, “Tell me.”
“The chip on your shoulder about not being as highly-regarded as you think you should be. So, you hold power over people. You hypnotize innocents just to prove you can. You may be in possession of great power, but much of it is stolen from those who give it to you willingly. Just like I did. I had everything within me all along. By making me think you had something I needed…that you had the answers…you took something from me. I have it back now, thank God. But, you took it. I can’t forgive you for that, yet.
He is angry now. She is enjoying seeing his emotion take over, “I awakened that power in you. You were playing it safe. You were a coward in both love and art. It would have remained hidden if you hadn’t come to me.”
“But, I did come. That was the most courageous decision I ever made. In that sense, I initiated my own awakening. What kind of generosity is it if you immediately take back what you’ve given?”
“Because I ‘took it’ as you say, you saw that it existed. And that it is yours and that you wanted it.”
“That’s a cruel up way to teach.”
“But, very effective.”
The truth in what he’s saying softens her. She looks through him—it’s easier now. She can see the blue-black face of the cosmos, the whole Universe, Shiva.
“May I remind you that while you were here, you did not remember who you are. I did. I saw what was in you. I remembered you. Why do you think I let you stay here? I knew…we both knew…you would die. I knew I would face harsh criticism and unwanted attention for that. I knew the price I would pay…”
“Was it worth it?”
Now he is softened by the truth, “My dear, you are always worth it. You will always be worth it.”
The atmosphere of intensity breaks. The love is stronger than the anger. Their hearts melt back into one.
“I think there’s an apology…on both sides. I can’t quite find the words. There’s too much in the way,” she says with genuine longing.
“Yes, it will take more lifetimes.”
“Wrong question. It takes the time it takes.”
She turns to look at the gravediggers, considering, “It was a sad funeral,” she observes.
“What did you expect?”
Suddenly, she is overcome, “Please…tell them I love them? Will you tell Chaddie and Jeanne I love them with all my heart, that I am still with them? Tell them Lesley is here and he’s well! He’s wonderful and he’s with me. My mother…tell her I forgive her. My father…I know he didn’t mean to be miserly. Will you look after LM and John. I don’t know how they’ll survive. Oh, John. What a child. Please tell John to move on…He has my blessing…”
He is shaking his head, “Tell them yourself. There are ways to reach across the veil. You must learn.”
“Still teaching even now…” she says with resignation.
“Still learning, too,” he says.
Now their eyes meet and she sees within his, herself. He sees within hers, himself. Without words, a deep reverence is transferred.
He bows, “Be like the moth to the flame. When it’s time to let go…release. Remember what you are.” He walks towards the gates. A few steps on he feels his own regret, something like an apology arises. The feeling is quickly dissolved in a knowing that it’s not yet time in the cosmic plan. He turns to take one last look, but she is gone.
A vision appears before her. As soon as she ‘sees’ it, Katherine knows it to be the thousand-petal lotus of the crown chakra. She is agape at the beauty and symmetry of it. She doesn’t get the chance to count the petals, but she can tell there are actually, exactly one thousand. She’d always thought that description–like so many mythical descriptions of people, places, and ideas–was not literal, but approximate…figurative…something to give the seeker a sense…
But, she was wrong. The thousand petal lotus is literally that. The most perfect flower you could ever imagine, so perfect, in fact, it can’t be imagined. It must be transplanted from the mind of God. It must be seen for oneself within oneself.
She is amused by the limitations of thought and says to herself, “I guess you thought the idea of perfection would be represented by something less… perfect?”
Her amusement turns to fear as a great light appears in the distance and begins to draw steadily closer. It’s so bright it could blind, but there is no danger of that now. She has no fleshy eyes. Her heart would be pounding, but she has no organs, no blood.
“This must be the light that is brighter than a thousand suns,” she thinks. Her last awareness is of the very fine line between terror and awe.
Back at the Prieuré the mourners—tired and frigid—are led into the salon to warm themselves at the fire. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann plays Katherine’s favorite pieces on the piano. Jeanne, Chaddie, and Brett who are decidedly uncomfortable in this strange place begin to relax with help from Adele and Olgivanna who engage them in light-hearted conversation. Orage chats with John and his brother, Richard. It’s a weaving Katherine would have loved.
“Will you stay here, then?” John asks Orage.
Orage ponders the question, “I don’t know. I’ll have to let it all sink in. I do love it and feel at home—more than in London. But, Katherine’s passing is making a big impact. I’ll miss her here. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. You know, someone from the old circle to talk to and pal around with. It may be a sign for me, too, that it’s time to move on…”
“I can’t wait to get the hell out of here,” John says discreetly.
Orage takes that in, “I can imagine. Where will you go?”
“Oh, it doesn’t really matter. The usual places: London, Paris…who knows? New York? I have a big job ahead of me organizing Katherine’s things and her unpublished work. She has stacks of journals scattered about in our various households. LM will help, of course, but I don’t know what to do with it.”
“Yes, that’s a dilemma when an artist dies prematurely. Her legacy hasn’t yet been established. How can you know what’s worth keeping and what to throw out?”
“Throw out? I can’t throw any of it out. I really believe she was significant in ways the world won’t recognize for a while.”
“If it helps you feel less attached, I know for a fact she was no longer attached to the old stuff.”
John puts his fork and knife down, “Whatever do you mean? She was the most ambitious person I ever met.”
“I didn’t say she wasn’t ambitious. I’m just saying she was already thinking about something new; something radically different from the old work.”
“I’m thinking about a particular conversation we had not more than a week ago. I came to her room for tea as was our usual habit. We talked a lot here about many things—mostly The Work and metaphysics. She was experiencing such new views, John. She was really changing. I wish…” He breaks off and gets to the point, “Well, that day when I walked into her room, she looked…radiant. Yes, that’s the word for it. She was shining with an inner light of such intensity. I blushed and almost left the room, the energy was something like…bliss. She said that day that there wasn’t a single one of the old stories she dare show God.”
“Then why was she so ecstatic…blissful, as you say?”
“That day she got as close to articulating a revelation about a new kind of writing as she would in this life. I’m sharing it with you because I think you have a responsibility, as the steward of her legacy, to…consider it…as you make decisions.”
“Yes, please.” Boxes of journals, letters, keepsakes and scraps of paper come to his mind and he feels a sense of dread.
“The main thing Katherine was interested in at the end, though I don’t think she’d say it this way, was awakening. She had come to an understanding of the depths of slumber that shroud most men in ignorance all their lives. She had the blessing of revelation here and also…initiation. She became interested, John, in what it really means to wake up. In life, also in death.”
“The question of continuity of the soul after death? Yes, this was a fascination of hers. She dabbled in the philosophy of the East and I know it was part of what brought her here. She saw Gurdjieff as ‘The Great Lama of Tibet,’ and told me she’d learned more about the mentality of the East in the first few weeks she was here than she could have had she been able to travel there herself.”
Orage nods, “Yes, but there’s more to it than that. She came here seeking immortality because she was dying. That was what was…let’s say, at the top of her mind. She wanted some reassurance, which seems to me, is only natural. But, when she got here and received that reassurance, something else happened. She had a direct experience of Truth. Immediately, she wanted to figure out how to transmit that experience to others and the way she’d always transmitted her feelings was through writing. I think she was imagining a kind of writing that could integrate and even…initiate…the reader into Truth. That kind of writing could only happen through someone who has been initiated into that Truth.”
John is getting irritated, “Orage. I am really trying to follow you. You know how I feel about this stuff. I fear we’re going to have to just drop it. We’re in Gurdjieff’s house and I will not slander a man under his own roof, but I do not see that this place has anything to do with Truth.”
“Why? Because it’s all strange to you. Because it doesn’t operate within the same comfortable values as your beloved Western, intellectual, modern life? Don’t be so arrogant, John. You’re a victim of the same malaise that everyone here is trying to escape. Do we get it wrong? Yes, frequently. But, at least we’re searching in the right place. Katherine came here seeking Truth and she got what she was looking for. Sometimes the truth comes in strange containers. Sometimes it has to break through conventional reality with its very strangeness.” Orage is now smoking and looking at Gurdjieff who has taken up the harmonium. The room has filled with an hypnotic melody the master plays over and over again.
“Did she…write anything like this? From this new attitude?”
“Not yet…she said she’d tried, started many times. But, she’d torn them all up.”
“There may be fragments in her last journals. She wrote down every idea that ever occurred to her.”
“But, you see…it’s not so much about the actual stories—settings, plot, characters and all that. It’s about who she was as a writer, and who she was becoming. So, in that sense the journals are key. It wasn’t her mind, you see John. It was her spirit that was illuminating this new way.”
“Orage. You must see the impossibility of what you’re telling me. What am I to do with it? I can’t go around saying my wife went to Fontainebleu, became enlightened, and imagined a whole new form of writing that we don’t have any evidence of…”
Orage laughs heartily, “I wouldn’t say she was enlightened, John. She was Katherine to the end. She would admit that, too. But, she found what she needed. She birthed the idea before she died. It’s here. She sowed the seed. And I imagine she will find a way to come back and tend it. You see, her legacy is not retrospective, John. It’s still unfolding. I’m just saying you have the journals…there may be a clue. There may be something to learn from her life’s journey, her relationships, her heart’s desire, even her suffering.”
John is pensive, grave, “So you think I should publish the journals?”
Orage considers the question, “As a fellow writer trying to move the craft to the next level, I say you must publish them. As a seeker, I say you must publish them. As her friend and yours, I say burn them.”
“That’s not much help, old boy.” John says shaking his head.
“I guess you have to ask yourself, ‘What would Katherine want?’”
Mme. Ostrowska comes to the door to announce dinner. She is wearing an apron and smelling deliciously of saffron and cumin. John realizes he’s famished.
After dinner, LM excuses herself to go upstairs and pack Katherine’s things. Just outside the door, she finds herself frozen; unable to advance, listening as if she might hear Katherine just inside. But, no sound comes. No cough. No humming. No scribbling.
She pushes the sticky door and enters the space. The cavernous room envelopes her. She can feel Katherine’s presence like she left only moments before. The familiar signs of occupancy: the blue kimono hanging over the back of a chair, her sleeping pills and a pitcher of water on the bedside table. On the vanity sits a small hand mirror, a stack of handkerchiefs, a journal, and some familiar face creams. LM unscrews the top of one of the jars and inhales the familiar scent. Suddenly, she feels overcome with grief. She slumps into the chair. The loss is finally hitting her.
She stays like this for a while, trying to collect herself. Eventually, the tears stop coming and she’s able to steady herself. She looks into the mirror at her red face and eyes and longs for Katherine to call her name from the other room.
“LM? May I come in?”
Olgivanna is standing at the door.
“I thought I’d come get the packing done. John will want to take the bags when he goes tomorrow morning.”
Olgivanna nods, “She didn’t have much. She was surprisingly simple in her tastes. A bit of a creature of habit, I noticed. She liked her favorite things and used them until they were worn out.”
LM smiles, “Yes…she was frugal. Lived pretty close to the bone at times. We always made do and never wanted for much. She was well-bred though. Came from a very nice colonial family, her father the head of a bank…I remember her saying to me once about some beastly people we knew in London, ‘Oh, Ida, those aren’t rich people. Those are poor people with money.’” LM laughs at the memory and Olgivanna joins her.
“She was very sharp.”
“Yes, it was her wits that kept her employed and us in rooms.” her voice trails off. She is thinking of all the money they’d spent on her health, her treatments; pleas for money sent to Katherine’s father and ex-husband…how hard it had been.
After a moment, Olgivanna breaks the awkward silence, “She hated that picture.” She points to the large and detailed portrayal of Andromeda chained to the rock, the hero, Perseus, is about to slay a sea dragon nearby.
LM studies it and laughs, “Yes, very Victorian. Not right for a modern woman.”
“She used to complain to me that no one gave Andromeda any credit. She had a theory about how her sacrifice gave Perseus the opportunity for his last initiation into manhood. By rescuing her, he liberated himself also. She used to say, ‘It always works like that. But, the women never get any credit. And then she would get so angry… ‘And why is she naked while he is fully clothed?’”
They both laugh, but the laughter brings tears back to LM’s eyes.
“Do you blame him?” Olgivanna asks. “Gurdjieff, I mean.”
LM considers, “Oh…no. No, I don’t think so. She seemed happy here. I felt her more alive and hopeful in the last letters than she had sounded in years. Honestly, I don’t think anything could have saved her. We tried it all.”
“Please, let me pack,” Olgivanna offers.
LM considers, “Let’s do it together.”
That night, Katherine takes one last turn through the hallways and rooms of the chateau. She kisses each of their foreheads and holds their hands in her own. She offers prayers, blessings, even healing. Latent forces that were beyond her awareness and command in her lifetime seem to be available to her now in death. She is trying to do as Gurdjieff instructed and learn to communicate from beyond.
She feels LM trembling deep inside with an emptiness she, herself, used to fill. She hugs her devoted friend and whisper, “You are a rock, Ida. You can do this.”
She feels John holding the question around publishing her journals and without hesitation she plants the answer as a whisper in his ear, “Yes, all of it.”
Nearly finished with her rounds, like a mother who has put all of her children safely to bed and tucked them in tight, she moves lightly through the dark hallways to the room she knew once. Through the closed door she glides and to the edge of the bed where G is sleeping peacefully.
She leans down to whisper a message into his ear, but cannot tell what she’s feeling or what needs to be said. Thank you? I’m sorry? I forgive you? I love you?
Yes, all of it.
Without a thought about what next she turns to leave and finds she doesn’t know where to go. A moment of panic and then she senses the presence of benevolent beings. They call her towards them and she moves without hesitation. Though she cannot see their faces, they feel distinctly feminine—motherly, sisterly, womanly. The closer she gets, the more peace she feels until she is enveloped in the warm bath of their radiance and love.
Hyde Park, London, 19242
John Middleton Murry sits behind sunglasses on a bench in Hyde Park. He folds the paper and stares for a moment across the great lawn. A young couple catch his attention as they spread a blanket on the ground. Their tentative romance takes him back to early memories with Katherine when they’d done the same thing. She’d loved Hyde Park…any park…picnics, the outdoors.
It’s been over a year since Katherine’s death and it still hurts to think of her—their life together had been cut tragically short. “Though, what kind of life would it have been?” he thinks bitterly. She was an invalid and had lost hope of having children. He’d told her he was fine with this and at the time, he was. But, Katherine had wanted children so badly…
He married Violet quickly. She was sweet, bright and took his mind off Katherine. Now, she’s pregnant and he’s overjoyed. Life does move on.
"Are you happy for me, Wig?” He still has a habit of talking to her. It persists because sometimes he actually hears her talk back.
“Yes, Boge. But if it’s a girl, will you name her Katherine?”
He turns his attention back to the papers.
“Is that you, John?”
He lifts his gaze to see Virginia and Leonard Woolf walking towards him. Her large hat obscures her face, but he recognizes them both immediately. He feels a twinge of anxiety as he stands slowly, extending his hand to Leonard and bowing to Virginia.
“How’ve you been, old boy?” Leonard asks with genuine concern, “Of course, you must miss her terribly. We do. I keep expecting to see her turn up at the magazine with a new idea for a story. We sent our condolences, but I imagine you were swamped. What a terrible loss.”
Murry bows his head and nods, what is there to say?
“John, how perfectly awful it must have been…And to have it all happen at that commune,” Virginia starts, but then she catches herself, “And I hear you’re remarried now? That’s a bit of good news.”
John recovers his composure, “Yes, yes. And she’s with child. We’re quite happy. And my work keeps me busy. Are you working on something, Virginia?”
“Oh. I can’t talk about it. Something perfectly beastly. It’s nearly killed me twice over. A story about mental illness that might just make me insane.”
“It’s your best yet, my love. It could be your masterpiece,” Leonard brags.
Virginia’s modesty is real and she waves his comments away. Both John and Virginia are thinking what a shame it is that Katherine is no longer here to talk her through the process and the energy in the conversation falls. Everyone seems relieved when they reach the point when they can once again part ways; polite goodbyes all around.
Suddenly John hears Virginia call his name. She’s coming back towards him alone.
“I didn’t know how to say this before and Leonard is allergic to this kind of thing…but, I just must. A short time after Katherine’s death I fell ill with my headaches. I was two weeks in bed, nearly delirious with pain. She came then...I’m not sure how to say this, except to just say it…She came to visit me.”
This doesn’t surprise John. His receptivity emboldens her.
“I mean, I was out of my head. You could say it was a hallucination, but I believe it was really her. She was so…vivid. And it was good to see her. We talked, John, of writing and life just like we did before!” Virginia chuckles at the memory, “I felt more affection for her in the dreams than I did in life, I hate to say it…There was no big change in her like one might imagine, no sudden angelic nature or halo of light. Which I have to say was something of a relief. She was just so Katherine. That was what was so remarkable about it all. I was left after each meeting with the vivid sense of having been with her. I could almost smell that tatty old perfume.” She looked at him in amusement, “Sometimes we just sat with each other...me wrapping my fevered mind around her presence. Her sitting there…waiting for something to happen…”
John looked quickly at his feet, concealing the tears that were welling in his eyes.
“She haunts me, John. I wish I could have been a better friend. I was jealous of her…that’s the truth. I didn’t like that she could do things I couldn’t. I dare say, she felt the same about me. Nonetheless, I always wrote for her. I’ve missed that. I’ve had the thought that the whole thing is useless without her, ‘Katherine won’t read it,’ I think and then wonder what’s the point.”
“I know what you mean. I still talk to her sometimes. I expect that’s not unusual…but, she talks back.”
Virginia considers, “Yes…she’s very apt, isn’t she? Always was so sharp and present. I expect I might dream of her my whole life. It’s like she comes to continue our conversation…like there’s unfinished business.”
NOTE: If you are new to my Substack, Tenacious Magic is a writing project I’ve been working on since 2011. I started publishing it as a serial, emergent story chapter-by-chapter in January of this year, re-writing it based on reader comments, questions, and ideas for resolving what has been a very personal healing journey for me and for a woman called Katherine Mansfield who lived in Europe in the 1910s and 20s. Our stories are woven together through time as we work through complex dynamics with male spiritual teachers. My intention has been an alchemical healing, through writing and sharing, of the shadow of the Sacred Marriage archetype. If you’d like to read the introduction to the project, it’s here. Chapter 1 is here.