Shadow Before Equinox

 1. “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 

Haruki Murakami, “Kafka on the Shore”


Sandra Poirier, “Lion in Sandstorm“


D. H. Lawrence


A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice a dream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.


Signature of Cranach the Elder: winged snake with ruby ring

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28 Responses to Shadow Before Equinox

  1. roughghosts says:

    Two very finely chosen selections and wonderful art. Much to reflect on here. I will have to pull out my DH Lawrence poetry collection.
    Thank you.


  2. lampmagician says:

    Reblogged this on lampmagician and commented:
    the lion of course, i’m… in love!


  3. Pingback: Shadow Before Equinox | lampmagician

  4. Monika, I am in the middle of reading “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” at the moment, the first book by Murakami I have ever read. It delights me on infinite levels, and I can see from your quote of “Kafka on the Shore” that the mesmerizing themes in “Colorless . . .” involve his life’s work as an artist. You choice of quotes from “Kafka on the Shore” speaks to me deeply of everything going on inside me and how it relates to everything going on outside my sense of self.

    A transformation arising from Tsukuru connects strongly to your quote to me, a rebirth linked to this amazing sentence written by Murakami: “He speculated that, just as a powerful west wind blows away thick banks of clouds, the graphic, scorching emotion that passed through his soul in the form of a dream must have canceled and negated the longing for death, a longing that had reached out and grabbed him around the neck.”

    Your choice of poetry is evocative of the great mystery found in our depth. The soft and silent slack of the snake symbolized by the language conjures the Mercurial “S” of the Yin Yang you made me aware of through your selection of the Terrence McKenna quote in your River of Alchemical Mercury post. This poem among other meanings to me awakens a sense of how we can struggle at times in our “conditioned” human form when our perception through this Mercurial-S opens us to knowledge of Mystery and Source found in the Soul of All. with gratitude, Gray


    • I have found a reference to this poem in a great book by James Hollis that I am currently reading:
      I received this book from my therapist, actually, and it indeed has been very therapeutic to me. Here is how he comments on the Snake poem:
      „On the one hand, the narrator admires the majesty of the creature; on the other hand he fears him. An intolerable tension rises ad the speaker throws his bucket at the serpent. What convulses him into action is the recognition that the serpent is choosing to enter the depths, the same depths the speaker fears. He tries to kill his fear by attacking the animal, much as people attack gays for stirring unconscious insecurities about their own sexual identities, or minorities for simply being other than what falls within the ego’s narrow purview. The narrator’s fear of depth is understandable, but, in a harsh self-judgement, he believes that he has met one of the lords of life, has been terrified by the summons to a larger encounter, and now has to live forever with a petty soul.“
      I am so delighted you love “Colorless Tazaki“ because I have also found it beyond fascinating. Murakami possesses an extraordinary talent to describe the stirrings of the soul, all the deepest yearnings, needs and emotions. I admire him also for being able to face his own depths and our collective depth in such a daring way. I would like to offer you another quotation that James Hollis included. It is his own translation from the German of a poem by Rilke:
      Occasionally someone rises from evening meal,
      Goes outside and goes, and goes, and goes…
      Because somewhere in the East a sanctuary stands.

      And his children lament as though he had died.

      And another, who dies within his house,
      Remains there, remains amid dishes and glasses,
      So that his children must enter the world
      In search of that sanctuary, which he forgot.

      I wish you a blessed Equinox.


      • Thank you, Monika, for sharing your beautiful thoughts. The James Hollis interpretation is brilliantly insightful and I totally get it. I agree that we can find this same illumination in “Colorless Tsukuru . . .” by Murakami. I have to say I have never enjoyed reading a work of fiction as much as this one. I also thank you for sharing the poetry of Rilke with me. Perhaps you thought of how I am a single father, but in any case through my focus on raising my daughters I have found myself in this place evoked by Rilke. I can only say I am determined to reach my sanctuary in the East one day. May you have a graceful and blessed Equinox, Monika. all my best, Gray


      • Yes, I did think of you as being a father and I thought also about how beautiful Rilke’s verse is – it never disappoints. A pilgrimage to our inner sanctuary is the most important journey we can make. I think that does indeed go with Tsukuru’s bravery to face his own depths and not to live a petty life any more.
        Thank you.


  5. Zarah says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful Snake poem and image! 🙂 Looking for a German translation of the poem, I found this – which I thought you might like too:

    I have noticed in my life that all men have a liking for some special animal, tree, plant, or spot of earth.
    If men would pay attention to these preferences and seek what is best to do in order to make themselves worthy of that toward which they are so attracted, they might have dreams which would purify their lives.
    Let a man decide upon his favourite animal and make a study of it, learning its innocent ways. Let him learn to understand its sounds and motions. The animals want to communicate with man, but Wakantanka does not intend they shall do so directly –
    man must do the greater part in securing an understanding.

    Brave Buffalo
    Teton Sioux medicine man
    Late 19th century


    • Hi Zarah,
      You are right – I do love this piece of native wisdom. Thank you for sharing it. I love the idea of people making themselves worthy of animal spirits – it is so much different from the Old testament view of men ruling animals.
      I am happy the Snake spoke to you today.

      Best wishes


  6. herongrace says:

    Beautiful pieces of writing thank-you. Snakes are fabulous creatures and I so hope people are evolving away from projecting their fears onto them and murdering them and instead can just appreciate their beauty and inherent right just to be as D.H. Lawrence did.
    I recently stayed at a permaculture eco resort in beautiful country which had much wildlife just casually relaxing around the place and was lovely to see. On my last day there the other guests had gone and I was the last visitor there. I discovered 2 carpet snakes intertwined around each other around the central pole and beams of the shower block. 1 was very big with a fairly large animal in its belly and the other was smaller. They had beautiful pale yellow patterning and I felt so happy and privileged so see 2! snakes so close.
    A month earlier I moved another very sluggish 1 of these snakes off a quiet forrest road so it would not get run over.


    • You must be such an evolved soul not to fear the snake like this. It is maybe the most potent symbol of all and I agree it has really been maligned and misunderstood by Christianity, at least its exoteric version. Still, Jesus said to his disciples to be wise as snakes. It is quite amazing you would see two snakes intertwined as if it was a live caduceus. Thank you for sharing.


  7. Marie Taylor says:

    I happened to read the Lawrence poem a few weeks ago and was taken with his sensitivity and insight. I am also a big fan of Murakami and his willingness to explore.


  8. Bostjan K. says:

    It’s indeed shadow before equinox. Wonderful writing by Murakami.


  9. Great post, Monika. Regarding the first part, it reminded me of a keychain I once had that has a saying engraved: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.” As far as the Lawrence poem, I had never read it before, but I liked it, and I think Jim Morrison would approve 😉



  10. H3nry J3kyll says:

    Had to return to let you know that the excerpt from Kafka on the Shore was soul stirring. Writing like that makes reading a divine experience. Thank you for sharing and for the introduction to Murakami.


  11. Deeply haunting and stirring selections, Love, and a nod to one of our favorite mystical writers!
    Do you mind if I write about this poem for next week’s Fairy Tale series? A little hybrid of sorts. I am feeling intensely inspired by it.


  12. It’s so rare for anyone to reference D.H Lawrence these days. I loved it. 🙂


  13. Dewin Nefol says:

    Hey Monika,

    Like the first autumn leaf blown from the tree, the soulful impress of an eternal wind lingers deep within the images and words you have chosen…Haruki Murakami’s, “Kafka on the Shore,” is beautifully inspired and the lioness painting simply perfect to get lost in. Your post is a flawless ruby alive with both sensitivity and perfect observation of form….it is yet another perfectly cut jewel to set on the gold ring of your Blog.

    As always, your choice of poem is absolutely superb. Thank you Monika.

    Perhaps of whimsical interest – D. H. Lawrence had Sun and Mercury in Virgo as well. So this is more than just a timely dedication to September and an eloquent transmission of thought, it is a celebration of the poignancy of Virgo as a symbol of nature’s sumptuous harvest. And by extension a very considered and beautiful address of our autumnal season. Autumn is nature’s stage for a firework display of colour that flows into the mouth of winter to be rejuvenated by the Earth (and educated by the Hierophant :)) in preparation for emergence in fresh new livery the following spring. I think of the autumnal Snake as I do the snake-god Ningizzida: an Underworld deity who spiritually propagates and balances the dense dark earth in preparation to receive the smallest seed and grow it into a hero. Time spent in the earth becomes a bridge for the spirit to move between ordinary consciousness and back to intuitive understanding of God’s natural law. It is this supreme understanding of grace that we carry within us into possible next lives, and which as a feeling we sense periodically throughout the course of this life that finally becomes an understanding leading to accepting our calling in order for spirit to fulfil its intended purpose though us.

    Always in the darkness one finds a pathway back to the light.

    The positive aspects of darkness and the deeper mysteries of Winter I see being revealed in the form and colour of the Snake in the poem…so perhaps it is the onset of winter that brings the Snake to bask in the beautiful shine of summer’s late rosy Sun and take a long drink from the ice-free pool before returning to his uncrowned reign deep within the stone.


    DN – 27/09/2014


    • Hello Dewin
      Thank you for another inspiring comment. I was fascinated to find out that D.H. Lawrence was a Virgo. When I was selecting the poem this was not on my mind at all. And now I have seen that most of his planets are positioned in Virgo and Libra, so he knew all about the liminal space that the Equinox is. I feel Kairos and his adopted daughter Synchronicity have been very good friends of mine recently.
      Thank you for a beautiful evocation of Autumn, too. As much as it sounds like a cliche, it is the season I always look forward to. The mood of Autumn suits me best, I think.
      Ningishzida deserves a separate post – don’t you think? I know you have mentioned him before and I have been meaning to get back to you. I am sure I will study him once Mercury enters Scorpio, which is soon enough. For now I will be looking for some beautiful images featuring him.
      With gratitude


  14. Dewin Nefol says:

    Thank you for gentle words Monika…you are like a candle in the window on a cold, dark autumn night casting her feathered glow against the crystal pane. Always shining.

    The poetry within the concept of Kairos is celestial. Mercury in Scorpio becomes a receptacle for the artists dream, and I hope I am getting closer to certainty than I ever thought I might.

    Your sensuous phrase “the mood of Autumn suits me best, I think,” provokes sultry images of a finely balanced, sensual and deeply rich coloured season. I’ll look forward to absorption in ‘Desire’ when I read your post later Monika…


    DN – 27/09/2014


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