Hilma, Margaret, Anne, & Mary

I’ve been thinking about spirits lately. About Hilma af Klint who created groundbreaking artwork by channeling spirits. About Anne Frank, whose spirit author David Gillham connected with while researching his book Annelies. About Margaret Bourke-White, whose spirit has followed me since I moved into her old bedroom when I was nine-years-old. About Mary Oliver’s spirit, felt so strongly yesterday as everyone posted her beautiful poetry.

Margaret Bourke White

About the spirits that follow us around, that reach forward from the past when they have something to say. About the kind that linger because their force was so strong when they were here.

Hilma af Klint was commissioned by spirits she regularly communicated with to create a series of paintings currently on view at The Guggenheim. As you wind your way up the gradual spiral that showcases her work, you learn how she chose to accept this challenge that became the work for The Temple.

This morning I listened to an interview with David Gillham on The Secret Library podcast about his book, Annelies, in which he imagines that Anne Frank survived the holocaust. In the interview, he described a trip he took to Belsen where she died and how he felt her communicating with him. By spending so many years studying and learning about her, he’d opened up a pathway between them.

When the writing is going well, I always feel like I’m communicating with spirits, that I’ve detached from my body and mind and I’m writing from my subconscious. I’ve written already here about how I believe Margaret Bourke White contacted me over the past few years when I found myself floundering or doubting the project. Each time I was pulled back by some sign–in many cases, something from Nature: a praying mantis or a butterfly or a snake, or maybe a line from a Mary Oliver poem:

“But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own”
–from “The Journey” by Mary Oliver

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