a) get out of the city, get out of the traffic and construction and virus cases going up fast fast fast, and
b) hang out with friends around a dinner table and the fire at night and the coffee in the morning, and be social and silly for hours and even days on end without worrying about corona the way we do in the city.
Each morning I’d try to slip out the side door and go for a walk, past the hungry barn cats, down the dirt road to the fields to catch some early morning light –
Startling the horses, startling the cows…
There was a fair bit of rain, but that only gave way to dramatic clouds and even rainbows, adding to the magic of time OUTSIDE.
After my walk I’d do my morning meditation behind the house under this silver maple, so massive I couldn’t even fit it in the frame –
From there I might wander out back to the garden, full of giant zucchinis and squash and kale and sunflowers that towered above me.
If there wasn’t too much rain, we’d head out to the back cabin, back away from the highway, with just the river and crickets and frogs and this old tree stump that made me think of a menhir.
I took pictures of it again and again, trying to find what it was that made it so majestic and mysterious.
One night we even spent the night out in that back cabin, and the moon, growing fuller on its way to the Harvest Moon, danced over the river…
Last week I reached up onto one of my bookshelves and cracked open a book I’ve had for years and years, have carried from one home to the next, but have yet to really open. Truth be told, I bought it entirely on a whim, cruising a second hand store, noticing the gorgeous green cover; the title with my initials, Ka; the evocative subtitle, Stories of the Mind and Gods of India. All for only $11.
Finally opening it, years later, I found on the first page, an astonishing paragraph:
Garuda flew and remembered. It. was only a few days since he had hatched form his egg and already so much had happened. Flying was the best way of thinking, of thinking things over. Who was the first person he’d seen? His mother, Vinata. Beautiful in her tininess, she sat on a stone, watching his egg hatch, determinedly passive. Hers was the first eye Garuda held in his own. And at once he knew that that eye was his own. Deep inside was an ember that glowed in the breeze. The same he could feel burning beneath his own feathers.
~ Roberto Calasso
Oh what imagination! The consciousness of a bird who has just hatched from an egg!
Immediately, I wanted to dive into this book, into this world with such soaring imagination… and yet, I know I currently am struggling to maintain the concentration for deep reading.
People who’ve known me a long time know what an avid reader I’ve always been…stacks of books forever by my bedside, several books, both fiction and non, on the go at once much of the time… both parents are English profs, what can I say.
But I have lost this capacity for deep reading – maybe it’s been gradual over the last couple of years? I did really notice my stunted attention span last year at work – I found that, seated by myself in a little dark room for hours on end, day after day, I’d spend so much of that time on the internet. While waiting for a render to complete, I’d check my email, and while that was loading, have a look at my phone, checking for new texts, notifications.
There’s an increasing amount of writing about this problem in the population generally – the addiction to the dopamine hits, the living out of shallow parts of the brain, the inability to access deep focus and concentration.
And then on top of everything, the pandemic… the doom scrolling, the obligatory news information check ins lasting hours longer than was truly necessary.
So, for the moment I’ve moved to audio books, listened to in extended quiet moments with no other stimulants (except maybe the lake or a tree). And I’ve been making the studio a wifi free zone. No phone allowed.
My desk there now has notebooks for writing, but also a few books to read, a few books about writing, so that I have the option of spending time just quietly with my thoughts, or even with the thoughts of otherss…
We can’t fully participate in the mystery of life if, as soon as we approach the depths where ideas reside, our own anxiety, negativity, and self-doubt make breathing difficult. If the depths unnerve us, we’ll search for answers in safe places, where the air is plentiful and the sun scares demons away. But the answers we seek can’t be found in those sun-drenched places. We really must dive.
I’ve been trying to start a daily habit – to get out the door first thing every morning and say hello to the lake.
The morning is my favourite time – the light is beautiful, the day just beginning, and there is hardly anyone around except the geese, the gulls, the ducks, and the diving cormorants
The few people who are out are doing inspiring things like yoga, or jogging, or even finishing up that report from a beautiful spot.
All in all, you would think this new habit would be a) easy enough, not overly ambitious, not going from sedentary to marathon in a week kind of thing and b) highly pleasurable – it is, as they suggest, a small enough habit to start with, and it is a blessing on my day every time I do it.
On her About Manda page, written in a unique tense, she describes the period of her life when she wrote a seriously ambitious historical fiction series:
Six years of Boudica dreaming. Throw out the TV. Throw out the sound systems. Light the fire every night and let it teach me. By the end, have lost all touch with consensus reality.
The television bit and the fire every night bit I’d heard before, but the sound system??? She says: “recorded music is one of our strongest addictions”.
This is deeply radical. This blows my mind. I’d discovered the enormity of music in my life during one of my current habit experiments, which is to make the studio a wifi free zone. Not having a phone to reach for is the key piece – I have to deliberately leave my phone at home and walk over to the studio without anything that connects to the internet. The idea is that, distraction free, I will spend more time in deep thinking, or at least deep being, if there is nothing to plug into.
And the first thing I discovered was how much I missed playing music.
The phone and Facebook and whatever I can live without for a few hours, even for the day… but no music…??? I am deeply deeply hooked into music as a kind of mood designer.
So, thinking about just how deep one could conceivably go with lifestyle changes (can’t light a fire every night in downtown Toronto, but maybe there are other things…) I’ve tried to change up even the tiniest of habits, to experiment and try new things. You know, just those deeply engrained little things like brushing your teeth with the other hand.
Or, the other afternoon, on my way to a backyard BBQ with friends, rather than take the obvious bike route along King, across the bridge over the Don and along Queen East into Leslieville, I got out the map and explored some twisty bike lanes that take you over little hidden bridges and under underpasses and down onto the Lakeshore bike path. It’s still kind of unfamiliar territory for me, but shucks, there was dozens and dozens of folks out there with some serious looking biking habits.
All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger… The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.
~ James Clear
Meanwhile, with some BC friends we’ve begun a daily drawing challenge – each evening one of us sends a prompt to the others, and the next day we each respond to that prompt with a drawing. Some days have produced some pretty terrible drawings, but by coming back to it (almost) each and every day, there are some drawings where I can really see my skills developing –
And my morning lake-visiting habit???
At the moment I’m averaging about every other day.
There are still days when, distracted by the inviting option of coffee on the balcony, watching the skies and scanning the construction site below, searching for the resident bunnies and foxes who can occasionally be spotted darting out from underneath sheds and pipes, I indulge in that strangely sweet uber-urban homey feeling.
So, for now, on those days I don’t make it to the lake first thing, I’ve been making sure to do it at some point during the day. This is not the ultimate goal but is a temporary compromise, and it has reminded me of how fun it is to see the same body of water at different times of day.
The glaring sun and choppy waters of a mid-day, can turn into a magical evening in exactly the same spot.
And in the evenings, turns out people are bringing boom boxes and coolers of beer and skateboards and portable disco balls, and setting up sweet mini parties and dancing underneath the trees by Sugar Beach. Small groups, as is proper during a pandemic, but such creative and romantic ways to enjoy our tiny sliver of city lake front.
The cat was sick, a crouched peeing everywhere, on the beds, the couch, visibly uncomfortable.
An emergency run to the vet happened at mid day. All protocols in effect: cat delivered to door of vet with mask on, no entry for humans.
Time to kill.
The vet is at that funny intersection where Cherry St turns into Sumach and Adelaide turns into a ramp onto the expressway. A bit of a wasteland of streetcar tracks and highways. There’s talk of development (when is there not) and the vet location is even supposed to be a subway station eventually when they build that new line they’re always promising.
Wandering aimlessly I noticed a sign – a farmers market I’d never heard about. Who doesn’t love a good farmer’s market?
It wasn’t Thursday, it was Friday, but I had time to kill so I figured might as well wander down the block to “Underpass Park” a skate park plus underneath the expressway – the ultimate in urban.
And oh my goodness, I didn’t remember THIS much art…
A feast for the eyes – so many different styles, ideas, cultures, mark makings… What a way to make the ugly spaces beautiful.
Back in April, in the most lockedness of lockdown, I still had a roommate – a woman from Vancouver, stranded in Toronto – and she would stay in the apartment all day every day, while I would venture out to the grocery stores and on over to my studio, my sanctuary.
But in those still more wintery than spring days of April, I would arrive to this room full of giant 5 and 6 foot paintings of animals, look around and just burst into tears.
Something about the scale, the sense of power, the confidence and apex predatorness… I just could not relate to any of it. Who was the person who had begun painting these? There was so much still to do to finish each of them, but I could not summon or even fathom any of that kind of big energy.
After several afternoons of just sitting on the couch looking around, I realized I would have to try something different, for the moment at least. I remembered a suggestion from Eric Maisel (I think it’s in his Fearless Creating book) to just go to the studio and squeeze some paints onto the palette. Just that.
So I started there.
And then the next thing I did was put some colours on some cheap sheets of canvas paper and moved them around. No image. Nothing representational. Just moving the paint around.
The following week I started to bring fruit. Stopping in at the No Frills on my way over, I’d pick up a few shapes, a few colours. I set up a little spot with a light, and put out the fruit.
From years ago when I did still lives all the time, I still have the tiny little masonite boards ready to go, so I did a series of pretty terrible paintings of fruit. But it was something, it was still moving the paint around.
And in between there were days when even dealing with paint seemed like a lot, so I would just draw. Pull out a sketchpad, some charcoal, and just exercise that hand eye communication – the pleasure of close observation.
But the drawings on their own felt a little bald, so on the iPad I started adding a bit of colour after the fact.
By now weeks had passed, the roommate had gone home to Vancouver, and spring had fully sprung and the trees were leafy and green and full, and I would pass them as I did my rounds – my extended route along the lake front, then circling back along the wide park boulevard of Esplanade and over towards the studio – and I started to pluck a leaf here and there, relishing their smell, their aliveness.
Being a city kid through and through I can’t tell one kind of tree from the next, so I downloaded an app to find out what each one was. At night I listened to audiobooks of The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and The Overstory by Richard Powers – both magical, wonderful books.
And then I started to draw the leaves I was picking on the iPad.
These, I like.
Here, finally, was something new emerging that felt like it might go somewhere.
My huge animal paintings are still waiting patiently to be finished, to have the final layers and touches completed, but in the meantime, there is a new seed of something beginning…
I’m pretty tickled to tell you that the chairs are from M in #304, the chest from K in #405, the plant on the left from V in #605, but then… that’s just the way things roll in this building.
For a while I was fretting about how many chairs and where to keep them and allowing enough space for people, and then I realized… I have no idea when I’ll be able to have people over again.
However, it’s a great place to sit and watch the skies. I’m not sure I even realized Toronto skies were so interesting before living here.
Like any July, the heat and humidity are offset only by the drama of the thunderstorms…
They linger, flashing for hours, or sweep in with tornado force winds, blowing umbrellas inside out, forcing the cyclists to push hard against the current.
It has just been announced that development of the empty space in front of us is now about to begin. Office buildings, they say – innovative, exciting, timber build office buildings are on their way. In fact, the ground-breaking ceremony was slated for yesterday morning, involving federal, provincial, and municipal layers of government – speeches and ribbons and all that brouha.
However, some protestors showed up – something to do with evictions, housing, the pandemic… was hard to tell, as the mic was immediately cut. Ceremony disrupted, the officials fled.
Here we watched the chaos from our balconies, thinking : yes, we are all plenty worried about pandemic economics, lost jobs, how to pay rent, but…
Two swans appeared at the lakefront this week, giving the ducks some company. The ducks mainly seemed to have spring on their minds… or at least one fellow did, who kept trying to jump any and all females in his orbit.
Oh to be a bird …
Like most everybody else out there, we are in a state of emergency and movement is limited, but there is no fierce regulation keeping people in their homes (yet), so I still have my little circuit which happily involves not only the grocery store, but also the lakefront.
And it’s interesting to see what continues to move – the tankers that still come in from distant lands to deliver sugar at the Redpath dock –
The construction sites all around us that continue to pound and hum through days and nights –
And there, at the top of those metal structures, the tiny little dot in the middle, just a few feet away from the highway, a bird sings.
Spring continues to approach, indifferent to, regardless of human troubles.
From the balcony the skies are expansive, the weather ever-shifting. We are at the very bottom of the city looking north into it, watching….
Truth is, though I continue to add new teachers, I’m never finished with the old ones – just always growing a bigger roster.
* * *
Back in May I went to a workshop with a teacher I’d had my eye on. She’s based in the UK, and there was no fast and easy way I was going to make it to one of her weekend workshops there, so when she announced a workshop in the States, I jumped on the bus heading south with bells on.
The trip was through a part of the States I love – the Mohawk Valley, and the beautiful little historical towns of upstate New York, on into Massachusetts.
There was a rather hilarious moment with a ride-share, where Sharon had agreed to pick me up at the Albany bus station to drive together along highway 2 into rural Massachusetts. She opened her arms to me at the bus station with a big hug, and we clambered happily into her car, where she started with: “So, how do you know Rabbi Jill?”
Well, I knew nothing about Rabbi Jill, and she knew nothing about shamanic teacher Manda Scott, but as we soon found out over the weekend at the conference centre in the woods, there was plenty of overlap and love between the various groups sharing the space.
There are stories I could tell about the weekend itself – about details and insights and the way one weekend in the woods can seem more important than several months on either side of it, but…
… at this point I will focus on the fact that there were so many things about Manda that were very appealing to me – her fierce intelligence, her life as a creative (she’s an author – more known in Britain than over here), the way she had navigated learning shamanic practice and then building her own way with it, the excitement she brought with her about Extinction Rebellion (a much bigger movement in the UK than here), and the seriousness with which she took her role as teacher and guide to more novice travellers.
So when she and her partner, Faith, launched a new venture in December – around the time of the equinox, moving into the new year – I signed up right away, without even really knowing what it was.
Turns out, it’s a series of offerings, and you can follow the podcast for free, or you can sign up for the paid membership version of the whole thing. Aside from the (fascinating, brilliant) podcast (where Rabbi Jill makes an appearance!), there’s an online discussion board, and my favourite part – a series of guided meditations and visualizations connecting with the elements (water, fire, air, earth, and so on).
The project it proposes – of believing in a new world, of imagining a new world, rather than being locked into the narrow vision of modern life as it is currently known – has been an anchor of optimism for me. It was an anchor of optimism even before the mammoth towering shadow of a global pandemic, so I mention it to you, just in case.
Just in case it is of interest to even one someone…
It’s already a fact, and yet, in spite of being dead, I am rushing and scrambling to organize everything – things have to be put in place for my son after I’m gone, there are things I still haven’t taken care of, I cannot go until I’ve done all the things….
And I’m beginning to smell. Bad.
Time has run out.
Was it December when I dreamt this? Maybe even November? Long before the pandemic was upon us. It was deeply disturbing, yet had no obvious outside reference. At the time I wondered – was it psychological? Was “the old me dying”, and was I “moving into a new phase”?
Now I find myself scrambling to pull together all the info to have a will in place for my son just in case, just in case… and it’s as if the dream echoes around me, the dancing calavera mocking, following me as I, already a stinking corpse, rush to get everything organized before I get tripped up by the virus.
* * *
Some traditions have an approach of “canceling dreams” (Toltec teacher, Sergio Magaña), or acting out a bad dream so that the dream is realized in a controlled way while the worst of its implications are avoided (Haudenosaunee / Iroquois).
Glimpsing this spooky dream in my peripheral vision again and again – while practicing pretty strict hand washing – I am pulling out the notebooks on techniques to do these things – the canceling and the acting out – and working on some homemade witchy magic to make it all “just a dream”…
* * *
And you, Dear Reader? Any pandemic dreams following you through your days?
Each family, each group of friends suddenly scrambling to be in a particular place, their country, their home.
On facebook I watched over several days as a friend’s beautiful haunting photos of Italian countryside turned to desperation as there are no masks, there are no flights, and the government help line is forever busy.
My dad, a snowbird lounging by the pool in Palms Springs, brushed off with insouciance the increasingly frantic pleas from us, his adult children, to come home, while simultaneously trying to convince me that a trip I had planned to the Laurentians in Québec was “too dangerous”.
At my end there were still so few cases in Canada, was still no mandate from government to avoid travel between the provinces, and I knew the visit with trees and birds and snow, devoid of humans except for my Montreal buddy, would be about as safe as you could get…
Back home after traveling the newly-sanitized trains, I returned to a roommate who had joined me in mid-February to be close to her pregnant daughter, due to give birth – a first grandchild. The plan had been a month or two to help the new parents in the early days. She is frail, older, but can still cook and consult and be of comfort.
But as the emergency decrees descended, she too got imploring calls from sisters and the other daughters back in Vancouver – “come home now, while you still can!”
One look at the state of the airports on late night television made her decision for her –
People travelling from all over the world jammed in with no masks, no gloves… the WORST possible scenario. For now she is “sheltering in place”, which is my place.
Since I had been on trains, exposed to travellers, and since I continue to go to the grocery store and my studio, we decided to be cautious. We are maintaining (mostly) 6 feet apart in the home, and wipe down all faucets, door handles, counters, and light switches just in case.
The invisible enemy…
All work that was potentially on the horizon has vanished. No travel, no shoot. No shoot, no edit. But I have the great good fortune of being in an artists’ co-op of sorts, full of community-minded folks, in the great, safe country of Canada where we have this thing called universal health care.
And you, Nose Followers? Any recent travel and scrapes along the way? Are you happily sheltering in place, or stir crazy already? What news of this strange new reality we are living?
In the city. Benjamin has moved out. I see him from a distance – we wave.
I’m in the new place, yes, and I have the studio where I paint, yes, but there is also a writing room I have not been to in some time….
It’s a bit of a grody place, kind of like a rundown motel room, no real neighbourhood around, and dodgy things going down in the nearby rooms…
But it is a place to write.
* * *
In waking life, space is not such a problem – heck, you can write just about anywhere (if you can still go anywhere, given the day by day increasing restrictions on movement) but it is more about the time – time to write.
But well, hey. Looks like there’s gonna be a lot of free time ahead!
There’s so many things I’ve been meaning to write about – rambling thoughts in my mind, rough drafts sitting in the draft folder here… Not sure I’m ready to make a big public commitment to a daily practice or anything just yet, but it does seem like an awfully good time to a) be as creative as we can be, and b) enjoy the beauty of widespread connection the internet gives us and not just the obsessive paranoia.
Speaking of which – this was happening in the building across the street yesterday –
Scary dystopian scene, right?
So this is the challenge – to find the focus, to shut out the tremendous corona-noise for a chunk of time each day, and to find the joy that is always there, waiting, in creativity.
And so many people, across the globe, are stepping up, shouting out, in the most amazing ways already. For example, my hugely talented neighbour –
There’s a thing that they say about Toronto, that it’s a hotel city – cold, soulless, people from all over the world with nothing in common and no desire to know each other. No naturally occurring culture.
In my new construction zone of a neighbourhood that reputation seems personified in the architecture, the condo towers, glass shoeboxes in the sky, holding lives of tiny isolations.
And yet, and yet… on my way to work last week, I noticed some new ducks in the water.
Usually we have the mallards, currently fattening themselves in the waters by the sugar dock…
But these ducks were different, with white stripes on their heads.
A google search suggests they are long-tailed ducks, who summer and breed up in the arctic and are currently migrating to the eastern U.S. where they winter – just stopping in, a layover on their journey.
I was talking about the ducks with my old friend Sabrina, visiting from Ottawa.
She was in town wanting to see some of the exhibits at the inaugural Toronto Biennale – one of the larger exhibit spaces being just across the street from me, gathered around the theme of Shoreline.
We climbed around on the big wooden structure by Adrian Blackwell resembling the shape of the lakefront I look at every day –
Until I noticed my old friend Andrew across the room, just sitting down at a table with a coffee, and went over, startling him into a hug.
It had been so very long since I’d seen him, so many years had passed that there was a divorce I’d guessed at but didn’t want to believe between two beloved souls, both of them so creative and wonderful in different ways – too different, they’d finally concluded, and off they went in their own directions, a warm beautiful home on a tree-lined street in a friendly neighbourhood torn assunder, hearts broken.
In fact, there was a new book he said coyly, a sly crooked smile of pleasure in accomplishment.
And later in the day, sitting on the Sherbourne bus heading south after a browse in an overflowing Book City on the Danforth, full to the brim with the beginnings of the Christmas season on a Saturday afternoon, I cracked open his latest Ticking Heart and was reminded of how much local flavour he imbues in his books – the corner of Barton and Euclid evoked in the opening paragraph, a corner I know by heart from the years when my boy went to school at Palmerston, and a place I still see on the days I visit my friend Nicky…
The richness of place, I was thinking, even in its younger moments, its birthing moments, even as it is being built, even if it is cold.
The strange melancholy even of a construction site where bunnies can be seen in the early mornings and the Santa Claus parade parks at the end of its run in a moment of fun park absurdity.
Sunday, the final day in a weekend packed with lovely human encounters, was brunch with Sabrina and Louise, another old friend from back in the day in Montreal, in town to visit family.
We stood around the kitchen table in my tiny new home and laid out food and found plates and cutlery in the cupboards and talked about time and failing memory and the decline of bodies and accidents slow to heal the way only women who have known each other for decades can do, talking over top of each other finishing each others sentences, laughing at jokes that have been running between us forever…until a moment where Sabrina – or maybe it is Louise? – is telling a story, making a point, building the narrative towards a natural culmination point, saying:
“… Because in the end, we are all…” and completing the sentence, Louise and Sabrina both speak at once:
Louise saying: “goddesses”
Sabrina saying: “bags of flesh”
There is a split second pause before we are all bent over, helplessly howling with laughter at the perfection of the opposition, the absurd juxtaposition of such wildly diverging endings to a sentence.
Ahhhhhhh… old friends.
And there you have it – a dispatch from the life of a goddess/bag of flesh in a tiny glass box in a cold and soulless city.
Mornings are very different in our new place.
Here there are no early morning blackbirds, cardinals, or blue jays, no turtle doves, no squirrels…
Here there are gulls and monarch butterflies heading south by the dozens, and the occasional gatherings and murmurations –
Here we have boundless skies over the outstretched cityscape –
Here we are by the lake, colours changing every day, different skies, different temperatures –
And here there is … CONSTRUCTION!
The whole neighbourhood is under construction.
Even just outside our balcony, there is construction – the site itself is due for a building soon, but in the meantime the large lot seems to be a drop-off point / work site for other nascent buildings nearby.
I’ve noticed the gates to the site open before 6 a.m. on weekdays, with workers arriving in their SUV’s, big long trucks backing in, delivering building materials, forklifts unloading materials, headlights lighting everything eerily.
In the background the 72 bus already trundles eastward towards Commissioners and the Gardiner roars quietly, the commuter day already in motion.
This new context has been an interesting place to be as so much more attention has started to shift to the climate change issue.
Every day in the media has more studies, more discussion, more pressure on politicians… it is moving fast.
And to be with this new ultra-urban vista, with the cranes in the sky, the trucks backing in before dawn, the constant motion of the highway,
there is a sense of the powerful relentless motion of our society, forever building, forever moving, forever growing.
The effort it would take to change, to turn it around, to make the giant shifts necessary…
Heck, that is gonna take some willfulness from all of us.
There was happiness in the spring mornings when the robins start at about 4:45 am, the delightful sweet neighbours in the building, the visitors that come by regularly …
It was from here that I seriously got back to working in the visual arts, in photography AND collage AND painting – and I got my first tiny little studio close by at the now defunct Artisans at Work.
And it has been the place from which baby bird has begun to stretch his wings – moving out for a stretch, coming back home for a stretch…
But, since April of this year, since I put in an application to a new living situation, I’ve been saying goodbye – hoping, wishing, willing, while not knowing for sure…
Goodbye to the hood, goodbye to its good, bad and uglies, including some architectural and social disasters zones –
These monstrosities have been the centrifugal point of my goodbyes, determined it was time to stop having to look at them.
And then this week I found out we have indeed been accepted to the new place!
A couple of days before the news came through I was out on the patio drinking my coffee. A cardinal hopped onto the nearby branch of the tree into a ray of sunshine. A butterfly fluttered and landed on the cat.
This I will miss, I thought.
Where we are going there is no patio, no courtyard, just a wee balcony, a little too close to the highway.
Late to work, I got an Uber pool, and we drove down the DVP alongside the Don River. We passed an egret, startling white against the green of the shores of the Don. A small family of ducks paddled a little further down. Cormorants stretched their wings in the sun.
Hmmmm… maybe connecting with a new set of birds is a thing to think about… Maybe there is a way to volunteer in the parks… maybe that is part of what the next home will bring….
Sun’s up, uuh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
It came on the radio a couple of days ago as I was puttering around the studio,
an old favourite from way way back in the day –
I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren’t half as frightening as they were before
But I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
I looked around and chuckled –
I’m surrounded by them these days, the lions.
And yes, they were there at the door, in a dream,
and not half as frightening…
In fact they were lolling on the landing,
rolling on their backs, showing their tummies,
as if asking for a belly rub.
The big cats have been frequent dream visitorsfor some years now, so I pay attention, I work with them.
Not in any fancy complicated way,
more just in a way of being with them, of staying with them,
hangin’ with them, feeling them, and drawing them…
Recently The Shift Network had a “Dreamwork Summit” and gathered a bunch of interesting contemporary thinkers on dreaming to each give a talk and present their methods.
A few of my faves who I’ve worked with were there – Robert Moss and Toko-pa Turner, Sandra Ingerman and Sergio Magaña and Charlie Morley –
but I found I was especially drawn to a couple of guys whose work I’ve only read in books – Robert Bosnak and Rodger Kamenetz.
Both of them talked about the phenomenology of dreaming.
The dream story is not the dream itself.
The dream itself is a texture woven of space and time inside which we find ourselves.
During the dream we believe we are awake, in the same way that we believe we are awake when we truly are…
This is one of the few laws of human experience that hold true the world over.
The ‘I’ in the dream lives inside the dreamworld with the unshakable conviction that the surrounding reality is, indeed, utterly real.
Each dream arouses within us the conviction that we are in our waking lives.
With this unshakable conviction,
believing utterly and truly that it was happening as it happened,
I had a dream a couple of months ago – a nightmare, really.
In the dream, I (an I that was not entirely me, but somewhat somehow)
had been designated contaminated, or contagious, or faulty in some way,
and was given a bomb to hold against my soft belly.
And I lay there waiting for it to explode,
praying only that death would be fast.
Not a fun dream to take to the studio.
Not a fun dream in any way.
But as I let myself live with it,
as I looked long and hard at my day-to-day life,
it proved very instructive.
The dream wants to show us inner space.
It shows our predicament, how we really live.
But you have to be willing to feel something about your predicament, because there’s no other way in…
The special language of dreams is forceful, poetic, metaphorical…
You have to learn what causes your predicament and overcome it.
~ Rodger Kamenetz
And so I began to make a few changes.
Obvious things – started removing some unhealthy habits and initiating healthier ones.
But with these subtle changes came a surprisingly enormous emotional shift,
an energy and optimism and buoyancy I thought had fled forever with the onset of middle age.
And then I came across a quote from Sergio –
Often when we die in a dream
it denotes favourable changes in our life,
even if the death occurs in a violent manner
and our conditioning leads us to interpret the dream in a negative way.
This reminded me of the interpretations of the Death card in tarot decks,
a frightening card to see in a reading,
that is usually not entirely what it seems –
Death is necessary for new life.
Without the old growth dying and decomposing into the soil through fall and winter, the new buds could not sprout in the spring.
Without death, nothing could change.
Or even more radically –
Initiation rites always led up to a simulated death and rebirth.
The initiate is led to believe that he or she is actually about to die.
Everything is done to make this death as real as possible so that the ego will be tricked and in fact experience that dreaded dissolution.
Then, when the initiate is ‘reborn’ he or she experiences a new maturity and a new freedom of energy.
Now this thought I love –
That the dreams contain their own processes of rites of initiation,
their own shamanic rituals,
their own journeys to power animals.
And to leave you with some of that buoyancy and optimism I’ve been feelin’,
do yourself a favour and have a listen –