Another night passes fitfully, laden with soiled laundry, much of which is not my own. Each night I slip into uneasy sleep only to find myself sorting soiled clothes of family and sometimes strangers in homes that I once lived in. Washing. Ever-washing to try to get them clean of the stains left behind.
There are always machines waiting to spin the soiled garments clean. Sometimes too many to the point of the absurd. Homes becoming laundromats to cleanse the filth of the outer layers worn to shield the inner. The symbolism does not escape me, yet the dreams continue and I must ask myself why I turn backwards, again, to release the stains of the past.
If you study the mysteries, you may be familiar with the symbolism of robes/clothing worn to cover up, or mask, the true self. We often hide what we don’t want others to see, but most importantly, what we don’t want to see ourselves. Yet what resides inside the layers needs no washing.
Stripping ourselves naked requires trust and vulnerability. And it requires faith and letting go.
Each night as I pour through the soiled garments, a stack of towels waits for me. Their surfaces colored with floral blooms, drawing my eyes to their tall stacks. Yet the towels will do nothing for the garments, and I have yet to strip bare and immerse myself in a body of water to find my own cleansing. To release and rebirth.
Instead, I travel back through past homes, even though they are no longer mine. Seeking belonging, no doubt, but also approval. Acceptance. Healing. “Heal me,” my mother begs, showing me a leg riddled with arthritis, her face grotesquely distorted, too big for life and thrust too close for comfort against mine. How can I say no? She is my mother after all. The one who birthed me in this lifetime.
Sometimes life seems more cruel than kind to the human mind that tries to find reason and logic. If I could collapse time it would be by thousands of years and not a mere lifetime of long months. I would go to the place of heather and stone and find the one who wears the feathered cloak and embrace home.
I know why I am sorting through these endless garments soiled by life each night, yet I cannot quite let go of them. “It’s time,” they tell me, and I want to shout back, “I am not ready to let go of her, though.”
“You will and you must. Just like the bird trapped inside your porch, you will release this tie to life. Just as you must release the others that hold you back.”
The wren appears in uncanny ways, surprising me with her visits in the daytime. “I will never be truly gone,” she reminds me, but I want to hold her. To cup her feathered body against my heart. Just once, before I let her go.
We sat in plastic chairs huddled around the flames my daughter had brought to life and talked about ghosts.
“What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?”
I had four teenagers spellbound. Aware with each word I chose I could either feed their fear or help abate it. And what of my own?
Should I really tell them about ghosts?
The thought came and went. And came and went some more as I began the story about the woman in the two-hundred year-old dress seated at the piano with her daughter playing the keys of a past she could not let go of. But that was cheating, in a way. I had not seen her, only heard about her. So I told them how, before I knew better, I had evoked the spirit of another lost soul who wandered the hallways of my haunted school. Learning, in the process that he was a specter not to be feared, but to be pitied.
In turn they told me about their friends playing around with online videos to conjure spirits and enter into past lives.
“Didn’t you have an Ouija board,” my daughter asked as the mom inside of me came out to lecture about using care and caution, and how some things are better left alone and that’s why there are professionals…before I was cut off again.
But what’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I wasn’t willing to go as far as the demons I had battled while my body slept…so I told them about the hair puller yanking me awake in the middle of the night.
“Oh my god, I would have lost it!”
I watched my daughter’s best friend nervously scroll the phone in her hand.
Had I said too much?
I knew she was afraid. And, she knew she could tell me to stop talking, or walk away. Beside her bed back home I could see the half-empty bottle of “Ghost Be Gone” spray I had filled several times for her. You need to learn how to do this yourself…I had told her more than once, but she had wanted just the crutch of the spray.
Without fear can we learn empowerment?
While I told some of my ghost stories, I thought about my four-year-old son calling me awake in the voice of terror, shaking me from sleep in the middle of the night. My husband, telling me to let him learn courage as I held his trembling body in my arms. I thought about my son, a little older saying, “I see strange colors in my room at night,” when I was just learning how to process the truth of his words.
Now fifteen, he sat beside me, slightly removed from my daughter’s friends, but not unwelcome tucked into the shadows of our circle. “Can you feel them?” he asked before he told us the story of being alone in the house with the dog barking at nothing. The cat staring at the unseen. His body knowing what his eyes no longer see.
How could I not seize each moment with care, handling it as best I knew how to, knowing that I was once that child in the dark?
My daughter’s best friend dropped her phone on her lap. “My grandma is always with me, but I don’t like it.”
I weighed each word on my scale of truth, aware that my scale of truth was not the same as others. I was raised on the belief that there was no soul beyond the body, but I knew enough from her stories and her mother’s, that she was not.
What would you have wanted to know? The inner voice kept urging guidance. So I told her about the grandmother who sent me the scent of roses to remind me of the love she struggled to show me when I could see her with my eyes.
“Have you seen The Conjuring?” she asked me, tipping the scales back towards fear.
I wasn’t even sure I knew what the movie was about, but I could guess from the title, as I told her I avoided all movies and books that sensationally evoked the darkest side of humanity. I see no point to them, although I’m sure others will vehemently argue their value. I’ve never seen much value in glorifying violence and we all know the adage, “What we feed grows.” I made a vow to myself long ago to grow empowerment over fear in each child, teen, or adult who came to me for guidance.
“How many dead people have you talked to?” another friend asked.
I don’t keep track of numbers like this, and after I reminded them that I wasn’t a medium by profession, I decided to tell them about the visit from the desperate mother. She had been dead only a week or so, but she was already worried about the adult daughters she had left behind. Her human brain, I would later learn, had long lost the ability to coherently remind them of her love, so she had chose to visit me, a somewhat forgotten friend from her daughter’s childhood, before I feel into sleep, to relay what she hadn’t been able to say before she had passed. The story also had an element of mystery. A ring lost to her years of hoarding, stuffed away in a buried box, she needed them to find. Which they did.
While the teenagers wrapped themselves in the intrigue of the story’s mystery, I hoped the were also thinking about how ghosts need not be feared like the ones in their movies.
“I couldn’t live in a house that someone had died in,” someone eventually shared.
So I told them about the man who had died in my children’s first home, before me moved in. Perhaps they were expecting to hear a tale of fright, but instead they heard another tale of love.
“You have complete power over what you let in,” I told them as I started to come to the thesis of my narratives.
They didn’t believe me. At first. But I persisted, even though I could tell I was starting to lose their attention. They were here for ghost stories, after all, and my nudging daughter knew I had an abundance of them.
Instead, we talked about shields of energy and intention, followed by more examples than they cared to hear of how empowered they each were before we finally crawled into our respective beds well past midnight.
I had a feeling they’d sleep well, even though we had spent the night sharing ghost stories.
It was 10am before I heard the first stirrings of movement from the bedrooms downstairs. The cinnamon rolls on the stove had already cooled to room temperature. I lit the flame under the frying pan and began to crack eggs into a bowl to whip them into a scramble.
“Oh that smells good.”
“I’m so hungry.”
“I slept awesome!”
“Me too! Even though I dreamed about ghosts.”
“Yeah so did I! I can’t believe how well I slept.”
Inside I sighed relief. I knew the outcome could have been different, but I was also careful with the scale I had been balancing with each word I let forth from my mouth. There could have been angry texts from parents of scared kids, and any number of unhappy outcomes, but instead I had around me five hungry teenagers eager to go about their day empowered from their night of ghosts.
I had taken a risk when I chose to face fear instead of shoving it back into the darkness. Usually I play the quiet role of the host-mom, choosing to stay in the background, careful not to hover or impose. That night, though, I had been invited to enter the circle around the campfire to play the role of storyteller and I chose to take it. There’s something about campfires. Being out in the night air where the darkness is cut by the flame in the center evokes the desire to tell stories. But not just ordinary stories. The embers stir that which is hidden, calling it to come out and be seen. Heard.
As those five teenagers faced their ghostly fears of the ephemeral world that no longer scared me, my own fears had played through me. My children are at the age of transitioning away from the protection of the hearth fire and the maternal chords are frequently tugged inside of me. Earlier that day, before we gathered around the fire, I had watched from the shore as my daughter and my son struggled to start our boat. Part of me was hoping they wouldn’t be successful, but persistence on their part paid off as they slowly pulled away with friends on board to tube and ski for their first time without an adult on board.
“Stop taking pictures and help me in!” My brave, determined 16-yr-old daughter, who had learned to drive the boat this summer, six months after she got her license to drive a car, was showing me her anxiety about safely docking to unload. And she was showing me she still needed me, albeit with the irritation of a teenager, and so I put the camera down and caught the rope to pull her in.
Once again Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt photo has mirrored my dreams. It’s been a challenging two weeks. My computer died, again, and the resuscitation of it was more laborious and disruptive than I had hoped it would be. Breathing into the letting go what may be lost, and what may take monumental efforts to fully restore, has been a call to open the heart.
“Oh my god,” I thought. “She’s singing it again. Why does she need to keep practicing that song?!”
I was dreaming I was back at school, which is no surprise. This time I was inside a dorm room with some of my high school classmates. They, and my adolescent angst, had followed me to college. I’ve had these dreams before, and just in case I didn’t know why, that famous song from the movie “Frozen” was being belted through the hallways by one of my dorm-mates. “Let it go! Let it go!”
“Oh my god,” I thought. “When will it be over? When will she be done singing that annoying son?!”
When the message sinks in, I realized once I woke beside the satisfied dog who had snuck her way upstairs and onto my bed after my husband had disappeared into the shower.
Least we think it is easy to let go of our stories, we need only look into the mirror to be reminded. If a mirror is not available, or we cannot read the lines our stories imprint for us, we can settle into the weight of our bodies and listen to their moans and groans. Although our cells divide continuously, the new cells are encoded with the memories of the old ones. Sometimes this encoding is a choice.
Before I want to sleep last night, I found myself thinking about how I can hardly remember the two years I struggled with severe IBS more than a decade ago. Those restless nights when I woke to the body’s attempts to expel its painful memories. My digestive system had felt like literal bowels of hell. Bloated with sulfuric gas and knotted in pain. Yet, I can hardly remember those years. I marvel now at the will to hold onto what I no longer wanted. It’s illogical on so many levels, but our cells carry our truths even when we don’t want to hear, see, or feel them. They are the story of us until we rewrite the narrative.
I marveled, also, last night, at how in one night the unconscious aligned with the conscious on a quantum level in its decision to heal and release, finally, what I had struggled to keep. Yet, although my IBS may have vanished in one night, I was reminded once again by my dreams that there are still stories trapped and waiting to be “let go.”
Particularly in my throat. The seat of the voice and our expression of our truths.
I have been struggling these last several days since I watched the choking out of George’s Flyod’s life filmed by helpless bystanders. I have been struggling with irony and injustice, as well as a pervasive feeling of helplessness. I have been struggling with the collective unwillingness to see, hear, and feel truth as I try to come to terms with this unwillingness to “let go” the individual and collective stories to explore beauty and truth beyond the surface.
When I drive to the lake, a place where peace usually washes over me with ease, I find myself troubled by the signs. Passing through rural towns filled with residents struggling to hold onto the middle class sense of security, my eye is drawn too many times to the symbol of irony. Moving through the discomfort of despair, I will my mind to imagine the life inside those doors and why the individuals who reside there are holding onto the notion that the POTUS is their savior.
It took me days, instead of minutes, to remember why my own body struggled for breath when I watched George Flyod’s being extinguished. To remember the white man who used to squeeze the words back into my throat with his hand at the dinner table. It took me nearly two weeks to realize that we all hold the stories of oppression. Even if we are a rare and lucky few to never have experienced the suppression of our own truths, and our voices, our ancestors have. Oppression is so deeply embedded into our collective history that there is no way any of us have escaped its encoding in our cells.
No wonder we are struggling to let go. No wonder we struggle to hold onto what we are used to. The bully reigns upon his mighty throne because we have placed him there. And the bully reigns within because we let him hold the history of our narratives. We have all heard the term “healing begins within,” yet how many of us refuse to look inside and examine the narratives of the self? We may not like what we read inside. We may have the impulse to bring our hand to our ears and shout, “No more! Stop singing that awful song over and over again,” but the narrative repeats until we change it.
The power is not in the holding on, but the letting go. Freedom is the opposite of repression, and ultimately the letting go must begin within.
In my dreams last night, I replayed the narrative of acceptance in the form of my friendships. I was reminded of how much I still struggle, at times, to honor my own boundaries and truths when friends approach me with their own needs. I was reminded that I still carry the narrative of rejection and the fear of being left “friendless,” rejected, and alone.
I find it interesting, or perhaps perfectly fitting, that this dream came to me after a day spent mostly in a state of peace. My body must have remembered lying prone on the ground and feeling the ever-present security of Mother Earth below me. The smell of dirt and crumpled grasses mixing the interconnectedness of all life for me to both witness and be a part of. Yet disbelief must still linger inside the narratives of my cells.
How can it not? We’ve held it so tight for so long. We weave the narrative of oppression and rejection over and over again on large screens that form plays for our eyes, and inside the type-faced print of pages of books, magazines, and newspapers. We’ve read it and watched it so many times and in so many ways inside a world that holds the narrative as truth. Who are we to release it?
Who are we not to?
We must, at some point, let it go and right a new narrative.
It was a strange morning, but that is not too unusual. There was a deal with the garden fairies before sleep and then a dream of a curious beetle before waking. The dream so vivid and Alice and Wonderland-like I knew it could not be ignored. I told myself, as I made breakfast, that if Sue posted a photo that somehow related to the dream, it would be another sign I needed to write its story. The room was indeed painted red and so was the beetle…
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Lenora who lived inside a house with many rooms. Lenora was very spoiled. In her bedroom, Lenora had not one bed, but two, both doubled in size. One for her and one for whomever she chose to be her best friend, which changed often for Lenora was fickle.
Lenora’s bedroom was very large, and its walls were covered in wood like a cabin. It made Lenora feel cozy and secure. Attached to her bedroom, was Lenora’s own private bathroom so that she need not walk far to wash her beautiful hair and paint her nails and eyelids her favorite color of the day.
Inside Lenora’s room there was a staircase, but Lenora had long ago grown tired of climbing it to explore the magical room of her loft. Instead, she gave it over to her younger sister, Sarabell. Sarabell loved the Lenora’s loft where she spent many happy hours playing with all of its wondrous treasures in the companionship of her magical friends. Most of the time, Lenora didn’t even know she was there.
Lenora, you see, was too busy with growing up. She loved telling her maids what to cook her for lunch and what clothes to set out for her days. She loved pretending that she was a grand lady that everyone must obey. No demand was ever too large for Lenora. If she wanted something, she must have it.
One late summer morning, Lenora awoke in her big fluffy bed feeling horrible. Her body didn’t feel ill, but Lenora’s mind was filled with grumpy thoughts. To make it worse, Lenora couldn’t figure out why she was so unhappy. She searched back through her memories and found nothing that could have brought on her sudden gloom, so Lenora rolled herself out of bed and shouted at her maids to leave her be.
Lenora went into her bathroom, and pushed around her lovely powders and brushes, but their lifeless forms on her counter just annoyed her.
“I’ll go for a walk!” Lenora declared as she bounded out of her room.
Still in her nightgown, with feet bare like the day she was born, Lenora walked down the many stairs of her house and out the back door and into the woods.
Lenora walked and walked. As she walked, Lenora didn’t think about where she was going, or notice that her tender feet were stumbling over rocks and tree roots, stubbing her pink toes and chipping the purple polish off her manicured nails. Deeper and deeper into the forest walked Lenora as morning turned to afternoon and dusk began to take over the light of day.
Lenora stopped. She shook her head clear of thoughts. She looked around her, searching for the source of the voice that had ceased her footsteps. Her breath caught in her throat until it gasped for release. Surrounding her was a scene more beautiful than any painting that hung inside of her room. But there was something wrong with the painting, something horribly wrong. It was as though someone had taken a knife and stabbed the very center of it. At least that’s what it felt like to Lenora, who stood holding her hands against her heart as she began to sob.
At her feet, stretching like a bridge across the forest, was the trunk of a tree. Its width held the secrets of its long life, cut to a sudden end by the blade of a saw. Lenora could see, far far down the tree’s length, the full spread of its green leaves newly woven into the forest’s tapestry. Her feet stood at its base above roots that spread deep into the ground where Lenora’s eyes could not see.
Upon its stump was a beetle as red as blood. It was the size of perhaps two quarters, stacked side by side, not small, and longer than it was wide. The back of the beetle glistened in the sunlight, and as Lenora peered at its magnificence she saw that its armor-like back was not simply red, but inside the red were all colors, shimmering in the sun’s light. Never before had Lenora seen a creature more beautiful. And, as looked at it, the beetle seemed to stare back at her.
“You have lost your home, haven’t you,” Lenora sighed as her tears darkened the rings of the stump upon which it rested. “I will make you a new home.”
Once again, Lenora looked around her. She began to study the ground in a way she had never studied her books for school. She surveyed the trees that still stood and the one now fallen. Nearby, she noticed the brown husk of a seed pod, broken open into halves. Beside it, a seedling had rooted into the soil, its etiolated leaflets just beginning to open into a pale green.
Lenora took the beetle into her hands and cradled it in her palms as a mother would a newborn child. The heat of life spread its river through her veins and once again Lenora’s breath caught momentarily inside of her throat.
She didn’t know how she knew the way back, but as Lenora walked, cradling the red beetle in the open husk of the seedpod in one hand, and the tenderly released seedling in the other, Lenore began to find her way home. When she arrived at the door to her house, Lenora smiled at the maid that opened it, brushing aside her puzzled look as she made her way up the stairs and into her room.
“How long have I been gone?” Lenora exclaimed as she peered through the doorway into a room vastly different from the one she had left. The wooden walls suntanned yellow were now a deep crimson. She stepped inside and felt her feet sink into moss instead of carpet. Her double beds still stood, side-by-side, waiting for slumbering occupants, but their covers had faded into the tones of earth.
“It’s perfect, isn’t it?” Lenora sighed with joy as she lowered the beetle inside of its brown boat onto the moss. Digging into the pliable floor, Lenora planted the seedling beside the beetle and sat down beside it.
“I’ll never leave you,” Lenora whispered to the beetle as it turned on its back and crossed two of its legs over its abdomen and two behind its head. Beside it, the seedling grew and grew and Lenora closed her eyes in contentment.
We all know the definitions and the way stories portray them. Often there is a villain who spurs the hero into action, saving the victim from an evil fate. The hero becomes the embodiment of the light, the villain of darkness, while the victim hangs somewhere in between, like fulcrum, deciding how the scales will be tipped. Who, then, has the true power?
I have been thinking a lot these days about how and why we choose to be either the victim or the hero in our individual stories and how this reflects upon our collective story of human existence. I have also been thinking about how we define and cast the role of villain in our stories. For some, a villain who fulfills the classic definition of villain-hood is actually lauded as a hero. This casted role depends upon our subjective nature, including how we cast ourselves in our play that is life.
And, must the hero be always wounded first? Would there be a hero without first enduring the wounds? I’m not sure it is possible. We must feel the pain to know it. And would there be a victim without the hero, and a villain without the victim? And, can they all be, in essence, one and the same?
When I think of my own story, I see all the times I tried to become the hero of my own story only to fall back into the role of victimhood. I realize how much my cells have programed the codes of my ancestors. I see how often I have cast people into roles and how these roles have defined them for me. The victim for me was a hero for another. The villain, the victim, and so the cycles goes in an endless round.
So who am I? Last night I found myself inside two vivid dreams. Although they were different scenes, with different players, I found myself embodying a similar role. In one dream, I found myself trapped on an electrified strip of metal while trains raced beside me. One going in each direction, while I scrambled in the middle for a hold. Trying not to get zapped.
In the other dream, I was outside, gazing up into endless blue as I followed the skyline of the buildings beside me. I lay on my back in the middle of a highway, unfazed until I realized where I was. Unfazed until I allowed the program of fear to grip my heart into the belief that I might become a victim if I made a wrong move.
Are we all, in fact playing a game of chess in our lives? Or do we just think we are? One wrong move and we will be obliterated. By what? Fear of the unknown paralyzes our actions as does fear of repeating something from our past. It is hard to reprogram the cells. It is even harder to step into the belief that we can.
Fear is an uncomfortable bedfellow, and yet if we are willing to examine it, to hold it in front of us and look it in the face, it becomes comedic. Its hideous face squishes easy into new forms if we poke and prod it. It’s malleable, because it isn’t really real. It’s simply a shadow of the true self.
Yet how we hold it aloft, knighting it with the mark of hero! So often, we do this, it is impossible to keep track. We need only look at how we hold aloft our leaders. Few are true heroes. Many are villains, and most, if not all, are victims of their own stories, and our collective one. The true hero may be there, but it is deeply cloaked under fear.
Sadly, we are living in a time when true heroism is often overlooked, or even worse, slayed by the villain we like to think is a hero because if we don’t, we worry we too will be slayed. It seems insane, when you examine the play in all its facades, and yet here we are, collectively. Even the darkness resides in those we may think are filled only with light. Should we then be ignoring this complicated, yet simple truth that each role resides in each of us? Should we not acknowledge this truth and work towards compassion for the self and the “other” as we examine how we play each role and how the roles become us?
I think we have no choice but to do so, or the cycle will repeat endlessly in different forms. Otherwise, the victim will never be released from its shackles, forever forced to decide how to tip the scales. The cycle continuing until the victim realizes it is up to her, or him, to remove the chains and realized the hold was self-imposed all along.
At some point we must come to the realization that we are each the villain, the victim, and the hero of our own story. Perhaps we cannot have one without the others, but we can choose which one we will embrace. We can choose what story to write into our cells. And, that story can have a different narrative than the one we wrote yesterday. It’s our story to write. It’s our story to live. It’s our story of life.
It was yet another fitful night in the realm of dreams. Back to school I went. This time to a peculiar college with a new roommate/dream guide. She sat before me, on the opposite bed, after I had tried to parcel out the pieces of her enormous puzzle into boxes on the floor below. Each one containing a jigsaw assortment that somehow went with the one beside it. Three, I believe in total, of interconnected scenes.
She seemed amused by my earnestness. Although she wore the face of teenager, large brown eyes framed by blond tresses, she was clearly wise beyond the years she showed me. Around her neck wrapped a red panda. Her pet? I wasn’t entirely sure how it had gotten into our room and why it was around my roommate’s shoulders like a living scarf, but I was fascinated. It was as though an old friend had come to visit me.
Let me return, for a moment, to the realm of daytime, and set the clock back about four decades. Imagine a little girl with blue eyes and dirty blond hair staring up at a caged enclosure where two red pandas are on display in their zoo-home. The little girl is about seven years old and she has declared those two curious looking pandas her absolute favorite animals in the entire zoo. This zoo that she visits often each summer because her father works there as a landscaper.
The red panda on the upper branch stares back at her, its brown eyes soft with understanding. The little girl is sure the animal can read her mind. She is sure a connection has been formed. Her love for the creature is sealed inside her heart. They share something beyond words. This soft, gentle being who looks more like a tiny bear crossed with a fox has become the girl’s chosen totem, at least for awhile.
The little girl never forgets her love for the red panda, but she moves onto other loves, and other beings fill her heart as she grows. The more visits she makes to the zoo over the summers she flies west to see her father, the more secrets she traps inside of her throat, which becomes wrapped in her growing confusion of truth.
Let’s leap ahead to last night and the return of my quiet and almost forgotten friend who is wrapped around my roommate’s neck. Before I can inquire why it is there, the red panda is suddenly around my own neck. I unwind it carefully, and hold it before me in my hands where I start to examine its soft body. Although the soft animal appeared well and healthy before, it now seems ill. In particular, it’s throat. As I hold it, the red panda coughs and I can see the damage incurred to its throat.
What have I done? Has my own, damaged throat, somehow damaged my beloved childhood totem?
I am filled with despair and worry, but before I try to solve this puzzle, let’s explore the nature of the red panda:
Red pandas are native to Asian countries such as Nepal and China. They make their home in high altitude forests where they are endangered due to human encroachment from deforestation and poaching. Quiet creatures by nature, red pandas are “soft spoken” and introverted creatures. They are closer to the size of a large cat than they are to a panda bear. Like their namesake, though, they depend upon bamboo for their survival. Red pandas are solitary creatures who are most active in the between times of dawn and dusk. They are, I am realizing, an awful lot like me.
Which brings me to the curious puzzle that was now before me on the floor of my dream. Where’s my water dragon? I wonder as I gaze at the head of the wooden dragon held together like a puzzle with interlocking pieces.
I am a water child born under an Earth sign. These two elements drive my nature, but as in all forms, they seek to be balanced. Wood is one of my weaker elements, so perhaps my dream self should not have been baffled by the head of the wooden dragon that now lay at my feet.
Often when we wake from the realm of dreams we must knit together the pieces of our night travels as best we can to make sense of the strange landscape of night. Before I fell into slumber last night, I had been thinking about Elan (often knows as Elan of the Leys or Keeper of the Dragon Lines as she seems to have appeared for my story) and how she made her appearance on the pages of my book, but had left me hanging for weeks as to where she was going to lead me and my characters. As I
drifted into sleep she came to me, finally stepping out of the shadows of the trees to stretch her antlers to the stars. She was showing me the way, if I chose to follow the path beyond the foothold of Earth…
I have been thinking about ephemeral beauty and how we cling to form like raindrops to branches. Our lives, individual only for a millisecond in the great cosmos of time. One shimmering spark holding onto a momentary existence, and yet the soul sings an eternal symphony. We are born through the woven membrane of light. Released into density for a moment, we cling to existence to become defined by matter.
At night, my dreams show me the clutter of the brain and how it folds memories of lack and doubt until darkness lets them loose to run amok. Our minds form impossible fantasies and horrors we think could never be real until we open our eyes and see the world we have created.
As I released to slumber last night, Badger threw open the veil to stare me in the face. Fearless digger, unearthing what I may try to hide, Badger gave way to Owl before I was flung into the shadowland. It’s almost funny how we tumble restless to the surrender. Revisiting old haunts we thought we had exorcised in the landscape of dreams. Least we think we are watching reruns, familiar specters morph into new forms and find another curtain to tug open.
How exhausting it can be to tumble backwards when life holds you for a mere millisecond, urging you only to let go.
Yesterday, I walked into the woods nearby our home with my family and our two dogs. Zelda led the way, choosing a trail we had never taken together. Only Rosy, myself and Daisy, who passed more than five years ago, had ventured down it before.
The day was over-cast and windy. The clouds, eager to rain, darkened the trail littered with last year’s leaves. While we walked, I took in what the forest reveals before growth unfurls. There were more fallen trees than I cared to count, their bare trunks leaning on their neighbors. Others were already splintering into decay in their final resting places on their forest bed. Beach leaves lightened the ground, bleached by winter to the color of sand. They lent a light to the forest that was absent from above.
As we walked, I found myself wondering about the hand that guides unseen. Perhaps Daisy had urged Zelda’s feet to take us off the beaten path we were used to traveling together. Perhaps not. It doesn’t really matter. What matters was that we were there now, individually and together. Each of us mindful of our own moments.
“There goes the camera,” my daughter, ahead of me, caught the sign at the same moment I did. She knew I would linger to take a photo. While I did, I found myself wondering how long the sign had been there. If somehow I had missed it walking the path years ago with Daisy and Rosy. Who had placed the sign, and when?
I don’t remember too much from my jumbled dreams last night. Perhaps it’s because I choose not to. There were travels with familiar people, and those who were not so familiar. There was lots of clutter and the feeling of being pulled into too many directions, through no will but my own. There was the feeling of tending more for other’s wants and need, while neglecting the self. Perhaps it is not so surprising that there is one scene, in particular, that lingers with me.
I am sitting on a bus filled with people, traveling to some forgotten destination. A woman sits beside me. My guide for the night. She looks with intention into my face, then presses her hand to my heart. “I see the beauty of the light that is you,” she tells me. Even though her words are genuine and almost urgent, I’m not sure I believe them. Yet, it’s enough. Enough to weave the darkness back to dawn.
The word “Namaste,” is Sanskrit in origin. It is a greeting of one being to another. A bowing to honor, often with hands joined at the palms above the heart, of the light that resides in the other, that is also in the self. It is a gesture of reverence and of unity, and through Namaste we are reminded of the tapestry of light that threads through all life.
I like to think we are being reminded of this thread right now as we reside individually, yet together, in our shared millisecond of life. Reminded that within each form resides the beauty of the light that finds a temporary home inside each heart. A beauty that perhaps radiates more readily in some than in others, but only because of the block of fear.
A few dreams ago I found myself floating down a sheer, jagged rock face when physics says I should have tumbled bruised and battered into the river below. The climb back up, though, required the help of other hands.
I’ve been thinking about who we will be when we emerge out of this period of isolation. In particular, I have been thinking about how we have lived clinging to the covers that we choose to wear, which separate us from our true selves, as well as from each other.
I am so ready for emergence, my body aches. Before I fell into that dream a few nights ago, I crawled into my womb. It’s something I’ve never done before, but suddenly that’s where I was. Sinking into the orange-red chalice of my being, surrendering to my inner creation.
Here inside the womb of self, I returned to a five-year-old-child. Emerging to be seen was the little girl who is still a part of me, naked in her truth before she donned the cloak of the false self. I felt her body sitting atop the first stone she fell in love. Not her own stone, but her neighbor’s. So huge she had to climb it. Here the sun fell around her, and through its golden beams danced the fairies she adored.
I felt joy before the collapse into fear and conformity as I watched my child self grow with rules and beliefs that offered her a false sense of security. A few nights before, my dream teacher had shown me a shelf filled with books he had chosen to leave behind while all the others were being cleared. The books were filled with fairies and magical beings.
We live in a time when magic has been largely forgotten and often shunned as nonsense. If you talk about “magical” beings most people will look at you askance. It’s likely you will be labeled as not quite sane. Yet the lore of the magical landscape stretches far back into the past. Further than written memory. When did we forget who we were? How many children fall in love with fairies, dragons, and unicorns before they are taught they are fanciful?
After I made my way back up the cliff-face in my dream, with the aid of other’s hands, I returned to a classroom with my dream teacher. Together we surveyed long tables of stones and crystals, all formed from the body of Earth. Out of the myriad I chose a citrine. Into my hands I took the crystal, feeling its weight and size, before I swallowed it and the impossible became possible. Too large for my body according to physics, the crystal dissolved into liquid upon my tongue. In an instant, I became pure light. I became the inner sun, set free.
I find the hiding of the true self wearisome. I wonder how many feel the same. This daily donning of false garments, which weigh upon us heavy and burdensome. Most of us walk cloaked, covering the light of the true self as we allow ourselves to follow rigid laws and codes designed to confine and conform. We peer outward, ever-searching, instead of inward to the magic of the inner light. We believe we are Earthbound and body-bound, yet even the Earth, for most of us, has become just a vessel to be mined.
Back inside the red-orange womb, I watched the four-year-old child grow into her world of separation as she learned to forget the magic of life. I watched her swallow her essence to guard her light as she moved robotically through her phases of physical growth. I watched as she checked off all the milestones she was expected to earn. Awards for academic achievements and races won. Marriage. Children. And then, finally, she arrived at schools of her choosing and the true self began to emerge. The child who once danced with magic in the sun was finding home inside the self, again.
I grow weary when I wear the cloak of society’s expectations, and I wonder who the cloak was really designed for. Pretenses feel more false than they perhaps ever have as the world struggles to rebirth us. Or rather, we struggle against the world to be rebirthed. It is becoming more and more apparent that this struggle is of human design. Nature is thriving while we try to figure out how to live. Truly live with the magic of our beings.
I realized, after my dream of swallowing citrine that it was the first flying dream I have had since the pandemic instilled fear in all of our minds. It was different from most of my flying dreams, though. The body had dissolved entirely. There was no need to defy the laws of physics, because I had become the light held inside the stone. The light of the sun. The light of the true self.
I long for the feeling of home while I struggle with the rules and conventions that still form our ideas of normalcy. Some days there’s a longing to fly across the pond and sit inside a circle of stones and never leave, because it is a place where I feel most “at home.” Why? Because the magic of the land, and of us, still lingers there. It has not wholly been erased.
There are other days when it is enough to sit outside on my deck and lift my naked face to the sun. To let the gaze soften to magic and watch the dance of the sylphs against the limitless blue horizon. Here, I know, is also home. The free soul one breath away from release.
Yet the struggle persists. Inwardly and outwardly. I wonder what will prevail in this world seeking our rebirth? Will we erase more of the magic, erecting more false monuments of power, or will we rekindle, slowly and with love, the magic of the light held within?
I have been losing my identity in my dreams. In the span of multiple nights, I have lost my wallet, my car, and my home. I have also watched, as a bystander, horrific scenes of destruction of life and the human form breaking down. Most nights I feel as though I have barely slept. One vivid scene after another tumbles me awake, yet instead of feeling tired, I feel acutely alert as though there is no separation from day and night.
It’s impossible to escape what is happening in the outer and inner worlds, and I know I am not the only one who is feeling the call to let go of what I once held close. Two nights ago, I found myself back at Bowdoin College, my alma mater. I’m here again? It’s not the first time I’ve returned, reluctantly, in the land of dreams. Once again, I felt the pull to reinvent myself. To learn something I did not learn before.
This time, I pulled on a pair of too-big jeans that did not belong to me, and made a messy attempt at hemming them. Still, I wore them as I swung my limbs into a dance in the full light of the sun, amongst my peers, before I dug a hole in the sand and hopped into it. A half-hearted attempt at rebirth before I emerged to find my way back home. Strange, I thought as I tried to find my compartment apartment, I know how to get there. How could I be lost?
But sure enough, the landscape as I had known had changed. I could not find my way back to my apartment. The more I struggled with fear, the more the scene before me grew into one of congestion and confusion. Finally, I entered a doorway I was drawn to, and a vast museum unfolded before me. Each footstep brought new mysteries. I didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t want to leave. Well, not really. Despite the endless wonders before me, there was still the voice of fear nagging to find that place I was used to calling home.
Last night, I was back at college. It was not Bowdoin, though, but a new college by the seacoast. I drove there in my blue car and found myself pulled into the confusion of where to park it. Vast lots loomed before me, and I finally chose one that was raised on higher ground. The alarms rang out while inside the new-to-me buildings. The waters are rising! I emerged to find the land being swallowed by a pale green sea. Half in awe of the power of its force, half desperate to find my blue car, where my wallet was locked inside, I ventured out into the chaos. Confusion and panic took hold as I searched for my blue car while green waters rose around me. Only to find that it had been lost, somehow, despite its elevation, to the sea. Mysteriously, the waters had swallowed my car and left the others beside it. Gone was my ride home, along with my identification cards trapped inside.
I wonder how many people are having similar dreams? Different scenes playing out the same calling for rebirth? Or perhaps the calling is more acute in the reality of daytime. This near-shouting, silent, incessant voice that urges the self as we know it to give way to something new. To something closer to the true self…
Before the virus took hold of our world as we know it, a children’s story poured out of me. I am calling it Joy’s Room. I thought I was writing it for eventual publication. You know, the traditional kind, because I have already grown weary of self-publication. I wrote it and let it sit, until the virus took hold and Joy’s Room began to pester me with the call to reinvent a reality I wanted to cling to.
As Joy’s Room tugged at my shirt sleeves, yoga began jack-hammering the foundation of my home. The place where I had been physically holding my yoga classes. I felt, as many are feeling, that I had no choice but to embrace a new way if I wanted to continue to grow instead of wither. And so I began the stumbling dance into virtual yoga for my adult classes and creating videos for kids. Vanity has been forced to take a backseat as I step in front of the screen and bare myself. The impulse to redo, rejected. Flaws accepted, even embraced, as I give way to the unwrapping of Joy.
Yes, Joy. For I have discovered joy in the process. I cannot help but feel it as it takes hold of me, albeit with some guilt. It seems, in so many ways, “joy” is a word that should not be uttered at this time, but how can it be denied when it is calling for us to embrace it? Amid the struggle against death, life is offering us a chance for rebirth the likes of which many of us have never experienced before. An individual and global rebirth. It feels like a test as well as an opportunity. In part (perhaps mostly) of our own invention. It would be foolish to deny the cries of our planet any longer. More than half a century ago, we we knew the lifestyles we were rapidly creating were not globally sustainable.
Tragic, in many ways, but also beautiful, is this breaking down to begin anew. To recreate the self, and the whole, in a more sustainable way. To rewrite the script that is life on Earth. Already, we are changing. Hearts that were closed off, are opening as Fear struggles with Life. The Wheel of Fortune is in our hands. We can turn it forward, or in reverse. The cards are stacked before us for us to reshuffle and deal. The hands of fate, our own. We may feel helpless, but that is the old voice of fear speaking. The familiar tendency to be the victim and not the hero of our stories/story.
Now more than ever, perhaps, we are being asked to turn inward and listen to the wisdom of the inner Hermit. To heed the unspoken words that whisper truth beneath the shouts of fear. The Hermit is offering us rebirth. To bring the Fool’s Journey into the Land of Joy. To stand before our own future with the fortitude of the Magician that also resides inside each one of us. Alchemy transmuting fear into love. Death into rebirth.
The number 9 from 10
The 0 from the reduced 10
This is not an easy journey, as we are witnessing. And there is the feeling that the more we resist rebirth, the more physical death and turmoil will occur. There is the feeling that this will persist as long as it takes. Yet, Joy’s threads weave a constant, unbreakable strand of gold through each of our hearts. Their tensile strength stronger than fear. While fear works towards separation, Joy dances to the song of unity. We are all in this together.