Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vive le roi: A Powerful Kick at the American Way of Life


"LeRoi is ostensibly a novel, and not overtly psychological, but it lays bare the psychic plight of a middle-aged salesman looking for meaning. It is a powerful kick at the American way of life—ambition, success, money and power—but it is redemptive in the narrator's search for internal Eros and an outer relationship he can trust himself to believe in."
—Daryl Sharp, Publisher, Inner City Books


visit www.malcolmclay.com to learn more about LeRoi and the Malcolm Clay series published by Fisher King Press: LeRoi, Menopause Man-Unplugged, & SamSara 

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Oedipus Denied . . . not so quickly!

review by Mel Mathews

Whether we know it, or not, whether we care to or are able to admit it, every human being is influenced by psychological ‘complexes’. In The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego, Erel Shalit explains the difference between an ‘autonomous complex’ and an integrated complex. Shalit explains, “The fundamental task of the complex is to serve as a vehicle and vessel of transformation…” In other words, psychological complexes are necessary aspects of our being and when we are able to recognize and develop a dialogue or an ongoing conscious relationship with these complexes, these aspects of our humanity can be expressed and honored in a healthy and often creative manner.

A complex becomes troublesome when it is denied and splits off from our greater whole, as is the case with the Oedipus myth. In studying and deciphering the symbolic meaning of the Oedipus myth, Erel Shalit explains how a complex that has the potential to bring us into living a fuller, more conscious existence, is often denied and splits off into an ‘autonomous’ complex. Denying a complex, an aspect of who we are, does not cause this entity to go away. Instead, the denied castaway becomes ‘autonomous’ energy and unconsciously continues to live a life of its own, often wreaking havoc that is acted out in a host of neurotic symptoms.

In recognizing and welcoming home these prodigal complexes, vital pieces of our beings, we are able to reclaim lost aspects of our souls, and in turn unblock the stymied flow of psychological and creative energy that often gets dammed up and diverted into neurotic symptoms and suffering.

This publication addresses far more than just the Oedipal Complex. Dr. Shalit also delves into the Father Complex and the Mother Complex in both negative and positive forms. Client’s dreams and case studies are also discussed to bring theory into more concrete and practical terms.

For those interested in psychology, myth, religion, and philosophy, but even more so to those who might be suffering from a host of neurotic symptoms, including addictions or obsessive compulsive tendencies, I highly recommend The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego (ISBN 978-0919123991) as well as Erel Shalit’s more recently published books Enemy, Cripple, Beggar: Shadows in the Hero’s Path (ISBN 978-0977607679) and The Cycle of Life: Themes and Tales of the Journey.

Mel Mathews' book reviews have been published in USA Today and many other notable publications. Mel is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com


© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life as an Elephant, aka...

review by Mel Mathews

This wonderfully warm, humorous, entertaining and beautifully written book gives an overview of Jungian Psychology. That’s right, warm, humorous, entertaining, beautifully written, and a psychology book. Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life as an Elephant is comprised of six chapters. Chapter one addresses Jung’s Basic model of Psychological Types. Chapter two deals with ‘Getting to know Yourself’ and explains the basics of archetypes and complexes, persona, shadow… Chapter three, ‘The Unknown Other’ is about projection and identification, including the challenges involved with intimacy and relationships. Chapter four deals with the ‘Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis’ which is most often fueled by the need to develop a relationship with one’s self, or with the unexpressed aspects of our personalities that have not been honored and given a voice earlier in life. In chapter five Daryl Sharp writes about 'The Analytical Experience,' including his own, which I found most refreshing. All to often, one will pick up a psychology or self-help book in hopes of finding a recipe to improve one’s life. That’s not what happens in Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My life as an Elephant. Instead, in vulnerable fashion, Daryl Sharp shares some of his more personal moments during the period when he was seeking council. The author well knows that another person’s recipe is worthless when it comes to finding one’s self and living an authentic life, and he doesn’t pretend to be an authority and try to prove otherwise. Chapter six is about 'Psychological Development,' the process of becoming more conscious by developing a relationship to one’s soul. Sharp addresses the need to be true to our vocations, our true callings in life, and venerates those who have the courage to do just this—listening and being true to one’s inner voice. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in living an authentic life, not just those who have an interest in Jung or psychology.

Daryl Sharp is the author of 17 books. He is also the General Editor of Inner City Books: Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analyst. 


Mel Mathews' book reviews have been published in USA Today and many other notable publications. Mel is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com


© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tree of Life: Opposites Reflecting the Center of Soul

I've been spending an awful lot of time editing other people's manuscripts and promoting their publications at the expense of having my own work fall by the wayside. It's not that the other work isn't valid or valued; it's just that once again, I'm lopsided, a little bit like this painting, which in reality isn't lopsided at all. It just looks a bit out of kilter because of the way it was scanned, but if you were to view the 'real thing' you'd find this mandala far more balanced.

Since I haven't been tending to my own work as of late, it felt right to pay attention to this ten year-old painting, to sit and meditate on these most necessary opposing forces. The first thing that came to me . . . the thought was that my parents have just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary. At 47 years of age, I suppose that makes me a legitimate child. Isn't that really a funny concept, being legitimate, or not. How can one be legitimized by religious or social standards? Hell, that’s a crock of crap! One is legitimized by the fact, or better yet, in the mystery at that very moment when we were conceived, the moment when two opposing forces were mysteriously unified. To contemplate how I am comprised of what was once two, the sperm and the egg—that simply blows me away. Sure, there are millions of us walking the face of this earth, but each one of us is in fact a unique miracle, no matter how modern day science might like to slice and dice, and categorize us otherwise.

Anyway, back to Mom and Dad and their 49th wedding anniversary and to yet another miraculous fact that they are still together after all of these years. Just to have gone through all of the ups and downs together for nearly five decades. I mean, come on, love plus intimacy doesn't equal bliss, and seldom is it as pretty as the happily-ever-after picture that has been painted by a world longing for inner reconciliation within our very own souls.

Intimacy, I get a kick out of people who like to refer to 'sex' as being 'intimate' or 'making love'. Anyone can have sex, or be sexually intimate, or whatever else you might want to doll it up as, but how many long-time 'lovers' can pass gas in the presence of the other or sit on the shitter and have a conversation? That's far more intimate than having sex, in my humble opinion anyway. I’m not suggesting that people need to relate this way, but how many people are free to be this vulnerable, that is without experiencing a deep-seated since of guilt or shame? And what about all of those 'I love yous' that are so often expressed out of habit, duty, or just to keep peace in the home. Anyone can speak such falsities, when in reality they are feeling or thinking something quite the contrary. What about the good old fashion 'F#$% off fat ass' or 'I'd rather shoot myself in the foot than to have to eat another meal with you staring at me from across the table.'

4 days or 49 years of togetherness, neither seems all so easy in my little world. Perhaps I'm just a freak who has never experienced 'true love'? Perhaps I'm just a disillusioned, bitter, narcissistically wounded, selfish middle-age man who has missed out on the loving wedded bliss that so many others have shared? Perhaps; perhaps not? Consciously, or unconsciously, a person who is so-called glued together or socially adjusted most likely entertains a vast range of feelings and fantasies that include lust, jealousy, rage, disgust, hate, discontent, betrayal, and the desire to screw his best buddy's wife if the opportunity ever comes a knocking. One may not have to act on such desires and fantasies, but entertaining such thoughts and feelings may well be part of the compound that binds people in marriage for such long periods. Sure, love and a commitment to one's values and family, the need for home and companionship, not to mention the many psychological complexes that run us from behind the scenes also comprise this binding compound, but dancing with one's shadow certainly must play a great role in long-lived marriages or relationships.

Marriage and legitimacy have always intrigued me. Being legally married versus being married within, just as being legally legitimized versus claiming nature's law and legitimizing one's self are far different things. I know a woman whose father wouldn't claim her until she was eight or nine years old. Although, I think the man's obstinacy had more to do with the mother than it did with claiming his daughter. The couple was divorcing, they had split up and ended up in bed for a one last ‘go’ at things and the woman 'miraculously' got knocked up. I'm not assigning blame to either, but the man wanted a divorce and the woman didn't, and here she ends up pregnant on their very last tumble. No doubt the man felt trapped and perhaps rightly so. The mother spent several years in court, pursuing her ex to legitimize their daughter. Hell, you didn't need a court or 'the law' to legitimize this young girl. It was plain as day that she was his daughter, a spitting image of the fellow, I'm telling you. But beyond that, the very moment she was conceived, nature deemed her legitimate. I dare say the mother was legitimizing the marriage that they once shared, or perhaps the mother was trying to legitimize her very own existence, far more than she was her daughter's.

Anyway, I'm a rambling on and really don't know what I'm talking about. I’m just trying to occupy myself and stay out of my lady friend’s path. She’s really been on a pisser for the past few days, and when she reads this, I’ll probably catch all the hellish furry she’s got bottled up inside. She’s trying to be really nice, trying to pretend that the sun’s shining and life is grand, when in fact, darkness hangs all around her. Funny thing is, the more you pretend it’s sunny out, the darker the day becomes. Normally, I’d hop in my truck and drive and drive and drive. But my truck’s not at my disposal, so I’ll just weather the storm. Perhaps that’s part of what has kept my parents married all of these years, the capacity to weather storms. Some people just drive and drive and drive; some people weather storms. Then again, perhaps it’s a combination of driving and weathering storms. Who really knows?

I recall one visit to my family home a few years back, to the very house I was brought home to after being born. Dad had been retired for nearly ten years and mom was, and still is, working four, twelve-hour shifts weekly. Dad’s always been the kicked back one, solid as a rock and mom’s always been the one running around in circles. Anyway, I woke up there one morning to find my parents sitting just outside on the front porch, one on each side of the door. I walked out between them and before I could say good morning, mom pipes in: “I just don’t know what I’d do if I retired. I mean, what would I have to do. . .” Dad sips his coffee, looks at me with a smirk and says, “It’s not about what you have to do; it’s about doing what you want to do.” I just looked at them both and thought, good god almighty, that’s me, the both of them: Solid-as-a-Rock and Running-around-like-a-Headless-Chicken, and though I no longer live in this home, I cross this threshold countless times a day. And I always will; it’s part of the mystery of who I am—two opposing energies.

Whatever it is that unified my parents and held them together for all these years . . . in spite of my cynicism and all the other quirky things that split me apart and bring me back together again, I am most grateful to these two dynamically opposing forces and the mystery of their existence and insoluble everlasting love.

Now, I better go rub my lady’s back. There’s no way in all of creation that I can rescue her from her dark cloud—that she’ll have to deal with on her own. Sure, she’s gonna blame me for her discontent, just like I blamed her for burning my tongue on a cup of boiling hot tea the other evening. If you can’t crap on the one you love, who can you crap on? Before it’s all done, there will probably be a f#%@ you and a, no f#%@ you, you selfish… truth be told, there may well be a lot more of those ahead of us, along with all those I love yous. But isn’t that how it really is in life, intimacy not always being so pretty.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Best-Kept Secret


Review by Mel Mathews

The Hero’s Journey par Excellence: The Sun Singer

This is simply a case where the best-kept secret is one that can and must be told. Robert Adam’s has the good fortune of having a wily grandfather disguised as half-baked old man and parents who full well understand the importance of allowing their son to suffer through the unknown as he comes to terms with life’s complexities and learns to listen to the only real truth—that which comes from within. The Sun Singer by Malcolm Campbell is the Hero’s Journey par Excellence! Grandfather unexpectedly passes away, leaving Robert Adams holding a bagful of mystery. Mom and Dad have answers, but they know it will mean nothing until Robert comes to terms with this mystery on his own, as we all must do at different times in our lives. This magical coming-of-age tale takes the reader through a labyrinth as a teenage boy/man sets off into the cosmic dimensions of the unknown to redeem his ‘grandfather’s’ kingdom and rightfully claim his position in life as a true leader. What I’d give to have Malcolm Campbell’s imagination, wisdom, wit, and mastery of the written word. Buy it, steal it, borrow it from your local library—one way or another, get hold of The Sun Singer and tell your friends.


Mel Mathews' book reviews have been published in USA Today and many other notable publications. Mel is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com


© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Abandoning the Cacophony - not on your life!

Often, while painting, or preparing to paint, much like writing, or preparing to write . . . well, I just said something that I don't believe in. I don't believe we prepare to paint or write; it simply must be done. One must pick up a paintbrush or a pen and begin, without allowing the 'thinking' brain to interfere with accusations or judgment, not allowing anything to crush one's creative spirit. Thinking can come later, in an editing phase, but the act of true creativity must be expressed without the imposition of an oppressed mind. Without fearing that what comes from within is good or bad, right or wrong. Like a newborn child, it must simply be allowed to a flow and authentically become whatever it may be.

These images were not painted with 'thinking' on my mind. I just picked up the paintbrush and began. This was painted in August of 2000 while spending time in Big Sur. I painted another favorite of mine just after completing this particular piece. This was the warm up you might say, dipping into paints (and the unconscious) and playing, not unlike an orchestra that is just assembling, removing their instruments from the case, testing, tuning, rehearsing . . . preparing for the real thing.

My approach to writing comes in much the same way. Most often when I begin to write, I'll take a dream and begin to explore the images, the people, the era, the setting . . . this is a way to expose all of the images, explore them and allow them to be or become what they are meant to be. It is usually in this stage of chaos that a story or a painting will begin to take form, or an image will begin to be transformed. I may spin off of a dream image that I was writing about, it may spark a memory and lead me into a completely different realm and ten or fifteen pages later, I'll look up and ask, Whoa, where did all that come from? It's like visiting a different country, or a different world, but without ever even leaving your chair, or your home, or the cafe you might be sitting in while you're away on 'vacation.' It is a most gratifying encounter, an experience that a dear friend of mine refers to as 'being kissed by an angel.' Being allowed to participate in such an act is what I call experiencing grace.

OK, the following image is what came after painting the jumble of images that you find above at the beginning of this blog. To most they are nothing special. Certainly, a skilled painter . . . alright, most children and even amateurs could paint a far prettier bed of blooming flowers. Yet, this is my bed of flowers, my flower bed where new life has taken form and now blossoms, and beyond words, this painting has deep meaning for me. It represents a time when I experienced a shift in consciousness, when my world or my image of life and the world changed. During periods such as this, one revels in the reality that things, or my blighted view of what once was, will never again be the same -- without a doubt, the Kiss of an Angel.'



Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Facing the Underworld Demons



This was painted in the fall of 2005. Being the healthy hypochondriac that I am, I've supposedly been dying from a host of fabricated maladies over my life span. For several years now, I often have dreams about illness or 'dis-ease.' Usually, the case being that I am 'ill-at-ease' with myself - as in not being congruent with my soul.

When these spooky dreams come, most often, I'm compromising in some fashion, living an unauthentic life of duty and pleasing others as opposed to being true to my soul's calling. My unconscious has an uncanny way of drawing my attention to my dis-ease, or to the things that are 'eating at me' from behind the scenes. Soul knows that if it really wants my attention, an image filled dream will come and then at the end of the dream, it will have something to do with illness, possibly cancer, or someone I've know from the past who has died of some dreaded illness. The unconscious does this to spoke me, to startle me awake so that I will pay tribute to these haunting apparitions. This is souls way of demanding my undivided attention.

This particular painting was done after such a dream. I've learned that to avoid such dreams and images is only an invitation for greater psychological disturbance - more unsettling dreams. So, I will often meditate on a dream, often record the dream in journal, and occasionally something clicks and along comes a shift of awareness and I move deeper into relationship with my self, and my truth, whatever it may be during a particular day or period in my life. Other times, journaling isn't enough, and the images must be approached in another fashion - without words or intellect. Seldom does the soul move from a linear pragmatical position, but instead answers and communion can only come by stepping into the non-linear imaginal real, where the attempt to literally translate is set aside and one's imagination is free to roam in areas that otherwise might be deemed as silly, stupid, childlike or childish, immature, bazaar, irresponsible, and at times even bordering on insane. This is where painting comes in for me. For others it can be honored in a host of different mediums.

Instead of telling you about the dream that prompted this painting, I'm going to let the images speak for themselves, or better yet, I'll remain silent and instead, let your imagination take over. I will say this, though: Over the years, most of what has haunted me in dreams often, after time passes, after I have engaged these 'spooks' in some sort of meditation and creative artistic expression, these so called 'dis-eases' and 'ill-at-ease' aspects of my dreamworld (my psyche/soul) have transformed into some of my closest and healthiest friends and have been the fueling catalyst behind my writing, the Malcolm Clay Trilogy included.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Writer's Block: Fact or Fiction?

by Mel Mathews

Actually, I didn’t have writer's block when I painted all of these funny little symbols. Can't really say that I ever have had writer's block. Now, that's not to say that all that I write has commercial value—quite the contrary. Yet, everything that I write has soul value and is in service to my evolving existence and authenticity. It may well be chaotic, insane, profane, and lack an ounce of structure or reason; however, it is still in service to my soul and creative process, much like these silly paintings that are posted on my blog, as they too share the same intrinsic value.

When these particular primitive images were painted, I was in the midst of writing my first novel LeRoi and wanted to believe that I had writer's block, because I was lacking clarity about the direction in which the book was going. In reality, I was standing in my own way, believing that I could logically wrap my mind around the unconscious and squeeze it like an orange until my thirst was sated. That's one of the biggest lies I've told myself over the years, that I'm the one running the show and the unconscious is on a leash.

Occasionally words don't come, but that usually means that I'm written out, all that wanted or needed expression has been expunged. When a vessel has been emptied, it is only normal that it should sit in an empty silence and organically complete this natural cyclical process of birth, life, death, and renewal, or as some might say, 'being born again.' This can be a difficult task when it is called for, to sit and wait in silence, in reverence of something far greater than me. I was brought up in a society and family whose values are rooted in hard work and forthrightness. I was taught to work hard, be honest and put forth my best efforts, and sooner or later I would be rewarded. And this very attitude often pays off when one is living in the conventional world and places value in the acquiring of material possession and the illusion of security that accompany such goods.

I understand and support humanity's call to acquire material goods in order to meet the needs of our physical existence and wellbeing. However, when it comes to the creative process . . . well, no matter how well-off a person is materially, if one is not pregnant, how can one will one's self to give birth? Birth happens to us, we are birthed; our creative impulses are given form from something far greater than our limited capacity—and most often futile attempts—to manipulate the cosmos. Sure, man and woman must come together and unite in order for a child to be conceived. Still, it is far more than just physical intercourse that creates us, that breathes the spirit of life into our bodies. We, as is the case with all living creatures, are miracles who for all practical, logical, reasons, should not even exist. Artistic expression, no matter the form, must also have this miraculous spirit breathed into it as expression takes form, and it can't be willed into existence any more than one can will their heart to take its next beat.

When I am at a loss for words to write, or lacking clarity, I will often turn a brown paper bag inside out, or take some other scrap of paper or cardboard that is lying around and begin to paint. I may meditate on my feelings of emptiness, or of feeling artistically impotent, perhaps a feeling of sadness, confusion—I am usually writing when I have access to my joy, sense of humor, anger and/or rage—but during these times of sadness, emptiness, impotence... I will meditate on the feelings and paint. And I don’t practice this ritual so that I can dispose of these negative feelings—quite the contrary. I sit with my self and meditate and paint my feelings in order to honor these very aspects of my humanity, pieces of me that want and need to be honored with something other than words. Then most often, after time passes, and when I'm able to step aside and not stand in the way by trying to force something—or better yet, stand aside and not BLOCK the creative process—this renewed energy can flow forth, refilling the empty vessel and breathing spirit into new forms.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Alchemy's Postmortem King & Queen

The dream that inspired this painting had something to do with batman making love to batwoman, or perhaps cat woman. In the upper left hand corner, you will notice a small image, that of a lion or lioness worshiping the rising sun, aurora consurgens, the dawning of a new day.

In the center of this painting, you find a five pointed grave, or crypt, where the king lays on top of the queen. It has the tones of death, mortificato, yet the king and queen lie in union, physically connected by the act of intercourse, coniunctio. My feeling at the time of this painting was that of incubation, the tomb being cocoon-like.

At the bottom left corner, you will find two pair of eyes looking on, observing. Whom these eyes belong to, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps these are the eyes of higher consciousness, the Great Father and Mother observing, and possibly even standing guard over the conception and incubation of a new age, a higher consciousness that has yet to be born.

On the bottom right side, you find the moon, thus, revealing lunar qualities to balance out the solar from above. And all of these images are contained within a molten fluidic sea of fire—no doubt a temple of purification.
Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yin Yang - Hidden Treasures

I don't recall the dream that instigated this particular painting. It was painted in the fall of 2005, when I spent a few months in Oklahoma, 15 or 20 miles northeast of Tulsa. It was something how I stumbled into the place. My uncle, my father's oldest brother had passed away and I returned from Europe to be near my father. Just a few days after my uncle's funeral, my good friend Turner called to say he was moving to Oklahoma and asked for my help. My father was born in Oklahoma, as was my uncle. They were from a family of 12 children and had come to California in the dust bowl days. That's right, they were real live "Grapes of Wrath" sojourners.

What the heck I figured, what better way to honor my long lost heritage than by helping a friend move back to 'my' origins? So, off I went, on yet another adventure, and a few days later, I was kicking around in Oklahoma dirt and staying with Turner's father-in-law, Paul. A week or so had passed and I really wasn't sure what I was going to do, where I was going to live . . . to tell the truth, I wasn't sure about much of anything. While driving down the road with Paul one afternoon, we approached a drive with a sign that said: "Okra & Zucchini for sale. Come to the far house up on the hill."

"Turn down that road, Paul," I said. "Maybe there's a place for me to live back there."

Without the least bit of hesitation, Paul turned right and passed through the gate. It was a farm, an old native pecan orchard, and there was a small bungalow nestled under some trees about a quarter mile past the front gate.

"That might be just right for you," Paul said, observing the home that appeared to be occupied.

We drove on past the bungalow, on up to the house on the hill, which wasn't really much of a hill, but it sat up higher than the other home. There were a few ponds and two garden plots. An elderly gentleman greeted us as we pulled up to the home.

"Howdy, neighbor," Paul said, "Is that little house down there for rent?"

"It's already occupied." the man explained. "Fellow's been living there for about six years now. Got some okra and zucchini, though..."

We followed the man through the garage and into the home. They bagged up some okra and Paul handed them five bucks. On our way out the door, Paul told them, "Thanks alot neighbor. If that little place ever comes available, you be sure to let me know." And on we went about our business.

A week or so later, I drove to Memphis, to visit a brother, and then on the Northern Alabama to spend a few days with friends on Wheeler Lake. Then it was time to head back to California, or so I thought. I drove back to Oklahoma, to say goodbye to my friends. When I arrived at Paul's place, he told me that his neighbors had phoned and said the little bungalow would soon be available. We went and had a look. It would need some cleaning and a few repairs, but the price was right and I gave the landlord a deposit.

I stayed at Paul's until the current tenant vacated the property. Then the old man who owned the place and I cleaned it up, painted and all that fun stuff. And this is where the story gets to be really something. Right as we were finishing the renovation, he asked, “Well, how are you going to earn a living?” I told him that I’d written several books, had published one with a print on demand publisher and that I had learned it was a bad choice and not the way to properly publish and sell books. Then I told him, “I think I need to start my own publishing company, but I’m not quite sure where to start.” He casually tells me, “Well, I was in the publishing business for 20 years. What do you need?”

All this from turning down an old dirt road on an intuitive hunch, in a very remote setting in the middle of Oklahoma . . . unheard of, yet it makes completely good sense when one is open, when one is on their path. The old man went home to eat lunch and then phoned me within an hour with a list of contacts.

At this point . . . well, one chooses life or death, to me it is life or death, anyway - no way could I thumb my nose to the gods. I’d suffered far too much over the years for not listening and following the signs and knew that if I didn’t follow what was being laid out before me, there would be too big a price to pay. I'd been in contact with Jackson Fisher since returning home to the States. He knew about my frustrations with print-on-demand publishers and he had been encouraging me to pursue publication elsewhere. He wanted to see my first three novels in print, the Malcolm Clay Trilogy, and he had offered to help see to it that this was done. I picked up the phone and called on Jackson . . . suppose you could say I asked him the famous question, "Whom does the grail serve?" then we bowed to the great spirit, followed fate and Fisher King Press was born.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Friday, April 11, 2008

Eye of the Needle

The eye of the needle was painted many years ago. It has to do with judgment, judging self and others. At first it seemed a curse, to be filled with so much prejudice for what and who I was taught to disdain.

Eventually, this judgment had to be turned onto itself, judging judgment and self-disdain. Only then could seeing with a critical eye bring salvation. I've learned that judgment is a valuable tool, just as long as I'm being true to values based on my feelings, and not a rigid set of hand-me-down falsities.

Disregarding my inner voice and being true to others has faithfully betrayed and led me astray. Many might consider this a selfish attitude, yet if I am untrue to myself, how can I be true to others?

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Unlived Lives of my Ancestors

January of 1998, I leased out my home in the great Central San Joaquin Valley of California and rented a small studio in Carmel Valley. I'd work in farm machinery business for three of four days and in the evenings stay with my maternal Calvinist Grandmother in my hometown. Then I'd drive the three hour path to Carmel and spend three of four days in my little hideaway. It was on one of these long weekend retreats that I painted 'The Unlived Lives of My Ancestors.'

I don't recall the dream that inspired this painting, but it has to do with lost life, or un-lived life. The headstone on the bottom right corner is that of my paternal grandparents. I had been raised a bit lopsided you might say. Since birth, my maternal Dutch Calvinist heritage had been venerated and my Oklahoma American Indian lineage, and all the spiritual wisdom that is rooted deep within this land and ancestry that goes back far beyond the European Invasion, had been abandoned and left for dead. Ten years ago is when I finally began to honor this side of my being. And as I write these words, I'm a bit sad to admit this, that as a child I fell prey to a rigid religious fundamentalism that in so many ways crushed my spirit and still to this day tortures my soul.

My dutch grandmother, she used to keep her yard so nicely manicured, but here in this painting, the trashcan is tipped over and a new or renewed spirit is rustling up what's left of the prior years' leaves. Then there are the little sperm or embryos floating up above the headstone, new life has risen from the grave. New growth, the tree, perhaps the tree of life, is rooted in the ground where my American Indian ancestry is buried. There are other images, too, but now they are calling:

"Time to turn inward, Mel, time to put your ear to the ground, listen, to the earth, the many generations that have come and gone before you. Turn away now, from all that heady fanatical fundamentalism, all those insane creeds and false interpretations. Time to listen to the Great Spirit that comes to you in the sleeping and waking dreams. The wind, a dark cloud, a kite, a stone, a blackbird, a fox, a bobcat, a coyote, and sometimes even a squirrel, or the wisdom that comes from a child whose youthful innocence and wonder hasn't been blighted by the white man's so-called mechanical scientific maturity and chemical wisdom."

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Monday, March 17, 2008

Into the Early Hours

Into the early hours of the morning,
I dance with my ancestors,
feeling their joy and pain. Only They,
these Old Ghost can show me who I really am;
They are far enough removed to carry this responsibility.

In spite of their love and goodwill,
in spite of all their efforts and admirable intentions,
Mother and Father, they are too close,
their love is not yet eternal.

Someday it will be; love transcendent
after they have past,
when my grandchildren's grandchildren call upon them;
call Them out to dance.

It's five AM: yesterday, I cooked dinner at three in the morning.
For many days, I've been awake all night, until the sun rises.
At first, I kept telling myself: "Correct this. Get back on track."
Then I realized; I am doing exactly this, finding a natural rhythm.

Nothing is wrong with being awake until six in the morning, sleeping 'til two in the afternoon.
Insanity lies, not in falling into my own rhythm, but instead
in trying to fall into someone else's, into the cadence of convention.
Perhaps other rhythms aren't wrong, but for my soul, they are false.

I've yet to decide on dinner this morning. Then again, maybe I won't eat?
Instead, I'll wait for breakfast; wait until the rest of the world is commuting home,
merging onto those congested highways, those plugged up arteries of what once was,
not a machine.

Angels; they're out there, you know,
silently rolling drums and waiting, to love me.
I'm learning to listen, to hear,
my heart beat.

Into the early hours of the morning,
I dance with my ancestors,
feeling their joy and pain. Only They,
these Old Ghost can show me who I really am;
They are far enough removed to carry this responsibility.

In spite of their love and goodwill,
in spite of all their efforts and worthy intentions,
Mother and Father, they are too close,
their love is not yet eternal.

Someday it will be: love transcendent
after they have past,
when my grandchildren's grandchildren call upon them;
call Them out to dance.

Mel Mathews
Borgo Allegri, Firenze
January 15th, 2005

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Cosmic Ovary

Occasionally, I'll dream about disease, cancer or some other catastrophic illness. It may come in the form of a person I know who is suffering or has suffered such a malady, or it might be tied to an unknown image. Over the years, I've learned that most often, the dream is not a message of impending doom, but instead, an aspect of myself that longs for dialog and relationship. Often what 'eats' at me, what causes me 'dis-ease' are unhonored or unrecognized aspects of my soul demanding a voice, expression, their very right to 'be'.

'The Cosmic Ovary' was painted in Firenze, September 2002, while mediating on one of these unsettling dreams. I was living on via della Mosca—The Way of the Fly . . . I promised myself to be true to this writing, to speak what comes to mind and not hold back, so here goes.

Flies, the pesky little bastards, one minute you'll find them roosting on a pile of dog crap, the next moment, they might be buzzing around your ear, or dancing a filthy jig on your just delivered dinner plate. Flies, they've been known to lay their eggs in piles of cow dung, or other unsavory locals. Who else would abandon their progeny in a pile of shit? Well, perhaps I should be careful in asking such a question—flies take on many forms. Perhaps it's self preservation, survival of a species. After all, aren't most dung heeps avoided at all cost. Perhaps it's the safest place in the world for a fly to raise a family?

You know, this is really stupid, writing about flies, dog crap, and disease, but . . . well, I promised to be true to the process. Perhaps that's what The Cosmic Ovary is—a pile of dog crap in disguise, hiding the very gems and unborn aspects of my soul. Careful where you step! You just never know.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Unveiling of a Wounded Heart & Soul

At a C.G. Jung gathering in Monterey, California in 1997, 'by chance' I met Joseph Pagano - a young man of 80 years at that time. I'd had an interest in Jung and Archetypal symbolism, although at the time of this gathering, I had no previous experience with depth psychology. I'd spent many years in a therapist's office, for fifty bucks an hour, venting my anger and frustrations brought on by the pressures of a demanding sales career. I also did my fair share of pissin' and moanin' about a failed marriage and a few love affairs, you know, the whole 'woe is me,' life's victim sort of thing. In reflection, fifty bucks an hour once a week was cheap, a wise investment. It provided a place for me to vent my rage and other negative feelings and not have to bring them out onto my clients or friends. These many hours were also preparing me for something I had no intention of entertaining - leaving my place in the world as victim behind.

I had taken a break from the selling world and rented a studio apartment on the Monterey Peninsula for a month. There was an ad in a local paper about the Jung Society gathering on Friday evenings. Aside from ordering coffee or a meal at a restaurant, I'd been alone, pretty much in silence for a week, so I phoned to learn about the Jung gathering. Joseph answered the phone and after a brief visit, he said he'd hold a seat for me that evening. I showed up, met a few people and listened to the presentation, and did the same for the following next three Friday evenings. On my fourth visit, I told Joseph that I'd be returning to work and probably wouldn't see him again. He then mentioned something to me about working on my dreams. "Oh, my dreams will take care of themselves," I told Joseph. He then handed me his card with his office and home phone number, telling me to call anytime.

I then returned to my old selling life in the Central San Joaquin Valley. A few months passed. I was reading James Joyce's Dubliners and The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man at the time. It was shortly after Saint Patrick's Day and the book was on a discount stand in Barnes & Noble. I'd read The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and was now reading a few of the stories in Dubliners and I'll never forget: it hit me while sitting in my truck, in the drive through line at the In and Out Burger - I'm not creating anything! I pulled Joseph's card from my wallet and phoned his office, but there was no answer. Then I called his house. After a short exchange of pleasantries, I explained, "Joseph, I'm reading James Joyce's The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and . . . well, I'm not creating anything."

"Come over and let's talk about it," Joseph suggested. But I didn't go, not right away, that is. A few more months passed and then a close friend who I'd gone to high school with died. I'd actually worked on his family's ranch and we shared an old farmhouse together when we were in our early twenties. The dope and booze finally caught up with Charles and at 35, he was dead. I attended the funeral service for Charles, and about a week or two later, I decided to visit Monterey and to attend a Friday evening Jung gathering. The event ran late that night and finally I told Joseph that I really had hoped to visit with him, but that I had to go because I was staying with friends.

"Come back tomorrow morning," Joseph suggested.

"Tomorrow's Saturday," I answered.

"Yes it is. I'll be here."

"What time?"

"Oh, I don't care, nine or ten, you pick."

Ten the next morning it was. I can't say for certain, as that was nearly 11 years ago, but I most likely brought my morning cup of coffee along. We visited for a while. I told him how I'd once been a drunk, had gone through all that rehab stuff, told him about my lost loves and all the other existential pains that come along with life.

On I went for a while and then once there was a break from my rhetoric, Joseph said, "Well, perhaps some day you'll come to a place where you'll be able to accept your life for what it is?" Then he asked if I recalled any recent dreams.

"Yeah, I was a cowboy boot, sitting in a wheel chair, and one of my clients was pushing me around. I think his kids were with him."

"What do you make of that dream?" Joseph asked.

"I'm tired of being the victim, and I'm tired of being pushed around. These boots were made for walking, goddammit, and that's just what they're gonna do . . ."

I met Joseph or visited with him on the phone quite often over then next few years. We worked on my dreams, I'd tell them to him and then he'd ask me what they meant. He never told me. Sometimes he'd hint, but most often Joseph let socratic wisdom guide the way.

Occasionally, if the dreams stopped, Joseph would suggest that I paint, said I didn't need to be a painter to paint, said it was just another way of communing with the psyche, communing with one's soul. He said it was a way of priming the pump when the flow of psychic energy had been put on hold. I went out and bought a starter kit with few tubes of acrylic paints and a brush or two. Sometimes I'd tear open a brown paper bag and use that for a canvass, sometimes it was just an old piece of cardboard, sometimes it was actually a canvass, that is if I found them on sale. Anyway, when the dreams stopped, Joseph would say to paint, and sometimes he'd suggest that I paint a dream image, meditate on the feeling from a dream and just paint, so I did.

Over time, I plan to post these paintings to my blog, along with some writing about my thoughts and feelings that accompany these images. In no way am I suggesting that these images are worthy of commercial artistic recognition - if anything, it would be quite the opposite. However, primitive and crude as they may appear, as is the case with my writing at times, these renderings are still a reflection of my soul, perhaps the evolution or the unveiling of the many layers of one man's soul.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy: LeRoi ISBN 9781926715339 Menopause Man-Unplugged ISBN 9781926715360, & SamSara ISBN 9780977607624 (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baggin' the Dragon: Dreams Bridging Artistic Endeavors and the Evolution of Consciousness

Just to free up my mind, occasionally I'll turn a brown paper bag inside out and pull out the dime store brushes and acrylics. 'Baggin' the Dragon' was painted in June of 2003 while I was living in Herrliberg, Switzerland, a small village on the eastern shore of Lake Z├╝rich. I usually write in notebooks, in cafes, and I had done just this while living in Florence, Italy that previous year—writing in notebooks. In April of 2003, I left Firenze and went to live in Herrliberg and it was there that I transcribed my handwritten notebooks into a computer file on my laptop. Extroverted Firenze has proven to be a great source of inspiration and introverted Lake Zurich has proven to be a sanctuary where in peace I can sort through much of the unconscious material that forms my writing.

While painting 'Baggin' the Dragon,' I had a dream about a black bag, a small duffle where I kept my handwritten notebooks. In the dream, the small black duffle was moving, as if there was either a rat or a snake in the bag. I had just finished typing several hundred pages into the laptop… actually, more than eight hundred pages and I believed that this task of transcribing and making my first pass through the raw material was completed. At the time, I actually considered this excessive volume of work to be two distinctly separate novels. The dream suggested otherwise.

At first, I couldn't tie the dream to my writing process, even though upon awaking every morning, I would religiously record my dreams, and from there spin off into my writing. In other words, dreams have always be the source of my inspiration. A few days passed, and the dream stayed with me, so I finally went to the black bag and literally pulled out the notebooks and began to compare the handwritten notes to the transcribed computer document. 'By chance' I happened upon several pages that had been inadvertently overlooked. These ended up being integral, connecting passages from my notes that tied the two books into one. This dream was a bridge, bringing unification to what I believed were two separate wholes. I am most grateful that grace allowed me to step aside so that something greater than my limited ego could take over and complete what was beyond my sole human capacity to accomplish.

What a wonderful testimony to the power of dreams and the unconscious—bridging artistic endeavors and the evolution of consciousness.


Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy: LeRoi ISBN 9781926715339 Menopause Man-Unplugged ISBN 9781926715360, & SamSara ISBN 9780977607624 (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© 2009 Mel Mathews