Book Bag: ‘Appointment with the Wise Old Dog’ by David Blum; ‘A Spiritual Journey of Hope and Healing’ by Jacqueline Haskins Engel

Staff Writer
Published: 5/6/2021 3:28:04 PM

Appointment with the Wise Old Dog by David Blum

Chiron Publications

 

David Blum, who died in 1998 at age 62, was an internationally known conductor, composer, music scholar and writer who wrote about classical music for The New Yorker and other publications. The California native was noted for conducting his first group, a chamber ensemble of young artists, when he was just 17, and he later founded the Esterhazy Orchestra in New York City, which was dedicated to the music of Franz Joseph Haydn, making several acclaimed recordings of the composer’s works.

But well before he died in Washington state following an extended fight against cancer, Blum had also turned to visual art, documenting some of his most vivid dreams with colorful oil pastel paintings to try and plumb his psyche and gain a greater understanding of the unconscious. His artwork and recording of dreams took on added importance for him when he became ill.

Now his widow, Sarah Blum of Northampton, has brought out “Appointment with the Wise Old Dog: A Bridge to the Transformative Power of Dreams,” a hardcover book with 43 of David Blum’s folk-art paintings and his accompanying writing on the source of each dream and its significance (including the classical music the dreams evoked).

The book is a follow-up to a short 1998 DVD, also titled “Appointment with the Wise Old Dog,” in which Blum, a self-taught painter, spoke about his experience recording his dreams with art. He believed the documentary, which includes an introduction by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, a good friend, could help others realize their own spiritual strengths in a time of crisis.

As Ma says in the film’s introduction, “[David’s] inner world … is a very personal one, but it has a message for us all. It reminds me of the miraculous power of the human spirit.”

The book, Sarah Blum writes in an introduction, is the end result of combing through years of her late husband’s extensive diaries, dream journals and paintings, an effort she says was spurred in part by “a grassroots movement” that led to 20,000 copies of her husband’s DVD making their way into the world.

David Blum began keeping a diary when he was 17, and as the book relates, that’s the age at which his first significant dream occurred, though he would not paint his recollection of it until 10 years later. He also later underwent Jungian analysis of his dreams.

But as Blum relates, that initial dream, of a long-haired woman called Mairi who led him through a field of wheat swaying to the strains of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, would become an important emotional and spiritual guide to him in succeeding years.

“For a painfully shy, introverted adolescent in his seventeenth year, this dream had the impact of a Pauline experience,” Blum wrote.” The shimmering vision of this Earth-Angel — the oneness with the wind and wheat — is of a blinding beauty.”

For a painting titled “Z,” which depicts a European-looking village with a large Z floating above a golden road that runs through the center of the town, Brum relates that he once dreamed of walking through an Italian town of this very nature. Years later, he and his wife visited Ravenna, a city in northern Italy, and he noticed, on a 6th-century mosaic in an ancient church, a solitary Z on an image of the robe of Jesus Christ.

“When I asked our guide about the choice of the letter, ” Blum writes, “she explained that the Greek letter Z stood for the Greek word Zoe, meaning eternal life. For an instant, the letter Z at the end of the golden highway flashed before me, startling me with its living presence — perhaps even more intensely that when it had first appeared two decades earlier.”

The paintings are not presented chronologically but rather in thematic sequences; for instance, the figure of Mairi reappears in a number of the pieces as a regular guide to Blum.

Murray Stein, a founding member of the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, writes in an introduction that readers of Blum’s book “should be prepared for a deep dive into the life of the soul” and that his paintings “open to us the archetypal depths of the psyche. They speak to us, soul to soul.”

A Spiritual Journey of Hope and Healing by Jacqueline Haskins Engel

Back in 2003, after U.S. forces invaded Iraq, Jacqueline Haskins Engel, then living in Easthampton, published a small chapbook, “Healing Thoughts in Troubled Time,” a collection of personal essays and reflections she had written to help her cope with the deep concern she felt about the war — and she hoped others would find solace in her words as well.

Haskins, today living in Ludlow, has now published a second chapbook, “A Spiritual Journey of Hope and Awakening,” that she also hopes will provide people some comfort during the uncertain times of the pandemic.

In her new work, Haskins relates how she discovered, over 40 years ago, that she had spiritual intuition. A community college professor she had befriended had seemed unwell to her when, early one morning, a shadowy presence who she believed to be her professor appeared by her bed and said she had come to say goodbye. A few days later, Haskins learned her professor had died.

“Though I was not aware of it at the time, that would be the first of my many spiritual encounters to follow,” Haskins writes.

Other events or visitations would follow over the years — a former nun told her she was “spiritually inclined” — and these experiences helped guide her in her efforts to better understand her own life and to try and bring comfort to others, she says.

Haskins, who formerly worked in the health care field, including as a counselor, says she was once a practicing Catholic but no longer follows any organized religion. Yet she draws strength from different traditions and has “a steadfast belief in the presence and power of the Blessed Mother and God’s angels and saints, whose guidance is ever present in my life.”

And in publishing this work now, amid the fear and disruption the pandemic has caused, Haskins says she hopes others “will find threads of connection or words that may speak to them that will bring hope and healing to their own lives.”

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of “A Spiritual Journey of Hope and Healing” can contact Haskins at jhecounseling@gmail.com.

Steve Pfarrer can be raeched at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.




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