This time I was in Rome - or this is where it started. Back in about 1958/9 after leaving the RCA, (Royal College of Art) I'd applied for a prestigious scholarship, The Prix de Rome. And I'd been accepted as one of 12 post grad. art students and given 6 months to complete a life-sized sculpture with the title, Youth. Hiring a furniture van was the only way to get the finished work to the venue in South Kensington, (Imperial College) where it was to be exhibited and judged. Nail-biting days went by until we were informed who had won. Unlike the several scholarships available to students from the Painting School, there was only one prize for sculpture, and I was bitterly disappointed to find I'd been placed 2nd. (I'll make this short and to the point, but I'd been told this by my tutor who'd been on the judging committee. I'd tied for 1st place with a student from the Salde School of Fine Art, and my tutor had tried his best, arguing for me, but the R.C. had won the year before and the view of the committee was that it was the Slade's turn this year.)
Eventually, though, I'd travelled to Rome with Rose, my friend from the painting school who'd been given an Abbey Major (or Minor, can't remember, anyway a scholarship for one year.) She was later to marry the much older-than-herself, well established painter Roger Hilton. Rose, a fine artist, lived for years in his shadow, although teaching herself at Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall. Roger is now dead and Rose has now blossomed forth in her own right.
Back then and long before Roger came on the scene, she and I shared a flat for some time, right by the Spanish Steps. We lived there together until September when her studio in the British School at Rome became vacant, at which point I would find another flat for myself. I would then try to get a part-time job, and continue with my studies. In the meantime, in what was left of the summer, we decided to adventure, taking several trips hitch-hiking around southern Italy. At a youth hostel in Sorrento, we were picked up by 2 Italian male students from Naples university and asked out for a whole day. They planned to hire a rowing boat and take us down the coast, stopping off mid-day at a beach restaurant, where they would buy us a meal and continue down along the coast. There was something special they wanted to show us.
Sorrento was near Capri, noted for its Blue Grotto, but these two could show us something better and what's more it wouldn't cost us a lira! After leaving the pleasant stretch of beach where we'd stopped for a slap-up lunch, far more luxurious then we could have afford of ourselves, we set off once more rowing southwards along the coast line. This fine, sandy bay left behind, we were soon travelling beneath a stretch of towering, high, very high cliffs with no further landing places or beaches in sight. On and on we went. Beautiful day, blue as blue sea, but where were they taking us? Rock-face, after forbidding rock-face reared up, and no let up. Not a soul in sight. Were we mad to trust them? Oh, my God! If they had something untoward in mind, even if we jumped over board and made a swim for it, there wouldn't be a snowball in Hell's chance of escape.
They stopped rowing. "This is it."
Did they say that, or did we think it out loud? We two girls smiled at each other uneasily. They shipped the oars. "Now what?"
"This is the place,' they said. "our secret. You can both swim, can't you?" they asked. "Just follow us. Swim until you see us disappear, and then dive down. Follow our legs, keep close. OK?"
They dived in -- we followed suit. Swimming fast towards the towering cliff before us, panting hard we tried to keep up. The boys disappeared from sight, and we gulped a big breath and dived down after them. A trail of bubbles in the bluest of blue water, and two pairs of thrashing feet. Breath running out, feet in front getting fainter as they seemed to dissolve into an indigo underwater blur. Follow, follow. Then....
I can see it now. Feel it, sense it. It all comes alive. We're surrounded by the most luminous, ethereal blue. An underwater heaven. A cavern filled with great Breath of sighing, singing Light, and we gulped it, filling our lungs with something indescribably Celestial. We had been taken into a secret Blue Grotto. Our smiling faces a luminous cerulean blue; blue mermaid hair streaming out; we'd become transparent, more areal than solid flesh. We lifted our arms into the air, spread wide out fingers in a gesture of pure rapture.
Dive in in Faith and Trust. Many years later, writing the Fish tale/tail at the end of my book, Dreaming Worlds Awake, the same thing was said to me by the ascended master, Kuthumi."Dive into your creativity. Dive even deeper. Like the fish being released into unknown waters - keep moving because you know your surrounds intimately even though you have never been in them before. There are just more resources and more to explore. The gates are open and you are stepping through. Namaste."