The Magic of Alchemy

When early alchemists looked to explain the mysteries of the structure of the universe they looked within. They believed that answer to the mystery lay within their own bodies and in that part of the body we call the unconscious. The alchemist believed that he could ask matter to tell him what he consists of. Instead of treating matter as a dead object to be thrown into a vessel and then cooked in order to see what would come out, one could just as well take a block of iron, for instance, and ask it what it was, what kind of life was, what it was doing, how it felt when melted. Since all these materials are within you, you can contact them directly. In that way alchemists contacted what we now call the collective unconscious. They consulted this power directly, by talking to the iron or quicksilver. Naturally the unconscious fills the gap with a personification.

Experience has taught me that listening to a blade of grass, for example, provides us with a fresh perspective. Look at the following and assess this for yourself. "Speak to me blade of grass!" "Hi Jai! You made a good choice". "How do you know my name?" "I know everything......even your deepest secrets!" "How do you know my deepest secrets? I didn't tell you." "I know everything!" "Okay, give me some details" "Your ten years old, turning eleven in September on the 30th, your in grade five, you live at Outhwaite Road, your phone number is......, your middle names are.... "Enough, Enough! I believe you now...... Jai Higgs

"Gidday! What is your name? My names Greenie. I like doing dirt games, mud wrestling. My favourite food is fertilizer. My favourite drink is water. I dislike pesticide. He is the biggest bully in this area and his girlfriend, Acid rain is scary. I live on 666 dirt road. My best friends are Green finger and pebbles...." Luke Streeter

"The blade of grass said "You sicken me so I will make it quick, follow your instincts, that's all. Now get back to work and leave me alone. Oh! One more thing! Tell those insignificant soccer players to stop treading on my friends" BUT "Get me out of your ear. You give me the cooties." BUT "I meant that! Now get a life." Michael Marten. Haig Street Primary

"Blade of Grass, speak to me." "OOOh Who disturbs my slumber? "It is I, Erin" "Ha Ha You are talking to a piece of grass" interrupted a black bird. "Ha ha ha ha ha ha interrupted another." "Have fun talking to the blade of grass" said the first bird. "Who disturbs my slumber?" Erin. Haig Street Primary

"When I put my grass up to my ear it told me all about nature. It talked to me about how wonderful it is to listen to the birds sing and in summer to listen to the crickets chirping. Kate Vella, Keon Park Primary.

These children gain wisdom and insight as they talk to the grass and personify it. By personifying objects we gain insight into the human psyche. When Sylvia Plath writes "Nobody sees us, Stops us, betrays us; The small grains make room" in her poem 'Mushrooms' she reveals an underlying bitterness about treatment she has witnessed. She goes on to pick up a biblical illusion by referring to the mushroom as the 'meek' who will 'multiply' and 'inherit the earth'. Likewise, in her novel 'Peeling the Onion' Wendy Orr uses the onion to explore the pain of diminished self esteem. She writes "I am peeling like an onion - decaying slimy layers, hiding blackened mush inside."

Over time I have discovered that it really does work to talk to 'the meek'. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions and the humble blade of grass all have something important to say. They can provide us with a fresh perspective; another way of seeing things. Recently I gave my workshop participants a potato each and instructed them to care for it and talk to it on a daily basis. They were told to keep the secret diary of the potato for a month. If the discussion around the table was any indication this humble earth loving creature was freely dispensing fresh insight and home spun philosophy in no time at all. The notion of being in the dark was enough to get the writing going. Then my mother remarked that if Dad saw her potato he would pop it in the ground in no time and the conversation quickly turned to the joy of growing vegetables and the exquisite taste of a home grown spud. Gleeful I remarked that we could write pages about caring for potatoes, harvesting potatoes, storing potatoes, methods of planting potatoes.....until I caught the look in their eyes and realized that they were all off in a fantasy land, planning the perfect spot to plant some spuds. Oh well! It sounded like a good idea to start people writing!

Attending to the Muse

Dip into the vegetable basket and choose a vegetable to adopt for a month. Establish a relationship with the vegetable of your choice and maintain their secret diary. If you have a sunny area in the garden consider undertaking this simple project. Go to a tyre outlet and ask the man if you can have three or four old tyre. Put two of them in a sunny spot and fill them with earth. Its cheapest to buy potting mix in bulk. Fill two tyres with earth and plant your potatoes. Dad simply checks out the potato stall for ones with 'eyes'. Cover and water and fertilise. When they grow add another tyre or two to support the young stems. Keep adding soil and straw or mulch. Dad says you can grow potatoes in a large garbage bin. He should know. We all think that he has market gardening in his blood because he has been supplying the family with beautiful fresh vegetables for yonks.

Have fun with the vegetables but don't get so carried away that you forget to write.

House of the Muse
Soul Food Cafe


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Heather Blakey asserts the right to be identified as the author of this work