Twelvenight: New Year’s Eve

Stepping off the Edge: The Fool Sallies Forth
“Walk on air against your better judgment.”
–Seamus Heaney “The Gravel Walks”

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Facebook in a lazy moment, I came upon another of those word search puzzles. This one was different. It was a different color, different font. The same friend had posted both this one and the one from the day before. The blurb at the top of the second, like the first, was something like: “The first three words you see are your words for the coming year!” I have my own processes for choosing my words for the year, but still, I couldn’t resist.

I’m a sucker for this stuff, and social media has been happy to oblige. I used to take those Facebook quizzes before I began to get wary about viruses and data collection. Like the puzzles, the quizzes offer you some random answer to an inner question. “What is my personality?” “What will 2020 be like?” “Who among my friends is most like me?”

I think that probably most of us who take these quizzes and do these inconsequential games are participating playfully, but also holding some tiny deep-self spark of hope that this little bit of utter randomness will offer us a truth we can hold onto. Like the mining of dreams or daily experience for images and ideas that will guide the inner work of the coming year, these games engage the younger, more playful deep-self part of our psyches, offering us a chance to seek meaning in organic and flowing associative connection as opposed to marked and organized logical connection.

Both processes are valid for inner work, but we have a tendency to downplay the imaginative and associative parts of our inner selves and try to make meaning and sense of the world through the logical processes. This is where I think we get ourselves into trouble. Even Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” and claimed to use associative processes like sleeping on an idea, and following intuitional trails, to find his way to some of his greatest thoughts about how the world works.

Searching for meaning in this way, by following the rabbit trails of the intuition, and associating seemingly random images and stories to create a narrative guide, is a form of divination. Humans have practiced divination since our early days as humans, and through all our cultures. We divined, through our senses and awareness of the natural signals around us, whether the day would be a good one for gathering mushrooms or for hunting. We let our intuition tell us whether those new mushrooms might be like the ones that feed us or the ones that kill us. It’s only natural, perhaps, that three crows in a dead tree or the sudden appearance of a coyote at the woodsedge might begin to take on greater significance, too.

Divine: an adjective, and sometimes a noun. Holy. Godlike. Heavenly. Having the properties and attributes of a deity.
Divine: a verb. To seek to know. To observe patterns and (perhaps random) elements in a landscape or a mind in order to create meaning, to develop a guiding narrative for the future.

Do my friends and I (and you, perhaps) believe that the faery folk, or God, or some spirit presence, guides our eyes down those word search charts to find us the exact words that are meant for us for the coming year? Probably not, or not exactly. Do those words take on meaning, at least for some of us? Yes. Out of the random soup of the thousands of words that we read and experience daily, here are three to focus on, three to consider special. Yes, the prophecy is definitely self-fulfilling. If Health appears in my three and I have been feeling an internal sense of having neglected my health, perhaps taking this as my word will mean that I begin, in intentional and unintentional ways, to look to my health, and so 2020 becomes a year of robust health for me. When I look back at the end of the year and remind myself of my 2020 words: “Amazing! Look! Health was one of my words, and look how that has come true!”

Magic happens in many ways, and sometimes we make the magic happen.

In the tarot system of divination, one of the major cards is the Fool, who dances on the edge of a cliff, seemingly unaware of the danger, but perhaps aware and dancing anyway, because one must live joyfully no matter the circumstances. Perhaps because of the dire nature of circumstances, the Fool must dance. Since I began to play with the idea of the Fool as one of my guiding concepts for 2020, the Fool has begun to appear everywhere, in books and images and references. Two days ago, I made that little corn dolly Fool and took some photos of her in various places. Yesterday, I did a little digital twisting of some of those photos, and came up with the one attached to this post. See how she dances at the edge of that cliff, even setting her foot into air as though she is about to trust the wind to hold her?

And here’s the strange thing about following the intuitional, poetic, pathways. Sometimes (and maybe often) delightful coincidences/synchronicities (call them what you will) occur. In the first Word Search I did, the words I saw first were: Health, Gratitude, Wade. Wade? Not particularly inspirational. Not like the others at all, haha. The maker of the puzzle clearly didn’t intend it. Of all the possibilities, wouldn’t you know it, I would find the odd one out. The second puzzle, remember, was a different puzzle. I looked closely at it afterward, and the words were definitely different, in different places. My words in the second? Dance, Friendship, and. . .Wade. Yes.

My logic-brain is rolling its eyes and chuckling. But that laughter is a doorway to the deep-self fool, who loves sense that doesn’t make sense, who molds coincidence into meaning. As quick as my logic-brain was working to shrug it off, that deep-self elf had already begun to weave the patterns of a new idea. So I’m wading in the coming year. Does that mean that things will be a slog? Or maybe I have finished swimming in waters above my head and I might now be free to wade instead. I’m heading toward the second. And, because my being human means that I am a meaning-maker, I will build the meaning into my narrative for the coming year.

Last night wasn’t particularly dreamy, but I did wake up with a sense of a dream in my head. I don’t remember all of the context or even the images. But I do remember the terrible sense of urgency to get a book ready to send to a publisher. Oooof. I don’t really want urgency in my collecting basket at the moment, and I’ve been wanting to put some poems or reflections or stories together into a book, but I’m not sure I want to marry that to greater urgency. There is a deadline coming up at the end of the month for a chapbook contest for Paraclete Press. Perhaps I’ll begin with that.

Gratitude List:
1. These long slow mornings I have had for writing and contemplating and meditating. I’m beginning to feel an edge of panic that I’ll be losing the gift of morning in just a few days, but I want to focus on being grateful for the days I have had to re-develop the habit of long morning writing sessions. My blog posts will soon be getting much shorter and quicker.
2. Still two days of break. Time to get more work done, and time to spend with my family and the cats.
3. Playing games. The boys got some new games for Christmas. Can’t Catch Harry is sort of like spoons, and Ravine and Spaceteam are collaborative problem-solving games.
4. Deep, sound sleep.
5. How the logic-brain and the deep-self work together to create meaning.

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Mist and Fog and Rising Sun

So many of the little treasures that wash up on the shore of my consciousness after a night of dreaming seem insignificant, silly, unconnected. This morning, I woke up really early with my mind tugging at a joke it was making, about someone with the last name of Waters who had a son named Wade. Weird brain.

I know where my deep-self elf pulled the word Wade from. Yesterday one of my friends posted one of those word searches where the first three words you see are to predict something about your coming year. The words are always sweet and inspiring. I saw HEALTH, and GRATITUDE, and WADE. Wade? I think that word got into the search by accident, but there you have it. And then I think, the inner fool sent it back to me again, as a sort of joke. If I keep to the beachcombing metaphor, this one is a really odd-shaped piece of who-knows-what. It’s interesting enough, if it doesn’t seem to have any particular meaning. Into the collecting bag it goes.

Later, in my more complete and final waking of the morning I am dreaming: We are staying with friends at a little bed and breakfast sort of place in a sort of European-seeming city-town. I wake up really early and wander around the courtyard a bit. After a while, one of our friends wakes up and makes a fire in the fireplace in the kitchen. We sit and talk, but I wish we had made the fire in the courtyard by the garden, to watch the sun rise and feel the morning breeze.

Later, I go up to the second floor to pack up some things, and I open a window and look out at the sunrise. The landscape before me is green and rolling, first the gardens of the town, then rolling hills, and finally deep blue sky and the sun rising in a halo of rainbow. (There’s rainbow again.) I am filled with a sense of complete well-being.

I woke into the waking day to a grey-fog-filled hollow, which has its own kind of deeply satisfying beauty. I love the mystery of a good fog.

Do your dreams bring you satisfaction? Are they unsettling? I am paying attention to that sense of wellbeing I felt at the end of my dreams. The deep-self speaks in feelings as well as in images.

Gratitude List:
1. Fogs and mists
2. The long view
3. Mysteries–both holy and mundane (maybe they’re the same thing)
4. How people show up, even when it’s hard
5. Our friend’s surgery seems to have been successful. We pray that he will now be cancer free and on the road to recovery.

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Omens and Messages

Today, some notes on the dreamwork I do during Twelvenight. I just read Caitlyn Matthews’ blog post, “The Omen Days: The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the most thorough consideration of the folklore and legend of the intercalary days (December 26 to January 6) that I have been able to find in a long time. Twenty or so years ago, I had done some reading about this season in the medieval calendar and pieced together my own practice for this period of Time out of Time. I’ve lost my original sources, so it was a delight to find her writing.

The search for omens and divination for a coming year may feel superstitious and strange to you. I think of the dreams and images that roil in my head during these days as guiding archetypes and images for the coming year. The observation of my dreams and the search for images in waking life is, for me, like being a beachcomber carefully combing the sand for anything the ocean of my psyche may toss up. Pick up a pretty shell here, a pebble there, a piece of driftwood, an oddly-shaped something of no known origin. When I lay them out on a table and examine each, some of them seem to fit into groups and categories, while others get discarded. Some I can make immediate sense of, while others I carry with me for months, loving them for their inscrutability, hoping that they’ll offer me a connection at some later point in time.

These inner labyrinths we’ve been traversing and exploring in the quiet work of Advent are also vast and unknowable oceans, tossing up bits of flotsam for us to examine. It can happen in recurrent dream messages, where the little hard-working elf of my deep self sends pictures and stories to try to get my attention. We don’t speak the same language, the deep self elf and I–she communicates in images and oblique stories that my waking self must interpret.

The same process often happens in waking-life observations and meditations. Several days ago, I wrote about the Fool, the topsy-turvy tumbler who offers true wisdom to the wise ones, often in the form of riddles. In the days since, the archetype of Fool has caught fire in my imagination, recurring to me throughout the day. I keep finding more that I want to say about the Fool. Then I read the seven little books that my family bought for me from Hedgespoken Press. One, in particular, Twilight by Jay Griffiths, is a prose-poem essay, a thoughtful meandering through the deep symbolic qualities of twilight. One of his primary images is the Trickster, the Fool. My own deep-self elf began to do a little dance. If she could speak in words, she’d be yelling, “See? See? Do you see the connections?” Instead, a deep satisfaction, a nearly audible visceral click occurs somewhere in my inner spaces. I get it, deep in my gut.

And so, for me, I think this year may have me following the path of the Fool, searching for that click again. Because my brain loves intellectual work, part of my exploration will include searching through Shakespeare for fools and fools’ talk. Because of Lear’s Fool, I trust Shakespeare on this. I might have to do some collage work or painting or doodling of fools. And when I see a representation of the Fool or the Sacred Clown or the Trickster in the mundane world, I’ll recognize her and we’ll wink at each other.

In some of the circles I work and play with, we do careful dreamwork together, telling dreams and reflecting on their symbols. One of the things we try to do is to tell the dream in present tense. It can take some work to get into that groove, but the immediacy of the present-tense telling often draws forth images and colors and general weirdness that get ignored in a past-tense telling. All storytelling is a process of choosing which details to tell and which to ignore. We try not to censor out the odd and seemingly-insignificant details in our dream-tellings. Often those deep-self elves have a purpose in the sudden shifts, when your sister is now a sparrow or you step out of bed and find yourself walking on air. In dream-tellings, the truth is often in the weird. Then when others reflect on the dream, we are careful not to baldly interpret. We rarely say, “I think your dream means. . .” More often, it’s “That red dress really catches my attention. I wonder if you have any associations with red?” Dreamwork seems to proceed best when done dreamily. Interpretation is fluid and watery, not calcified. And no one is an expert. We all have skills at noticing.

As often happens in dreams, last night’s setting was in a big rambling building. Sometimes, even though the rooms and halls are unfamiliar, my dream-mind knows exactly here I am. For years, my building dreams were located in my grandmother’s house, though not in any rooms that existed in my waking reality. School dreams have frequently recurred, as have various hotels.

Last night’s dream is in a school. I’m in the library, talking to a couple of colleagues. We are discussing giving an extension on a big paper to a student who has been sick. Students are looking for books. Out of the window, in the long straight rows of orchard trees, a vulture keeps spreading its wings wide against the green of the leaves. I can see the individual feathers and how the light shines on them. At some point in the discussion, I find that I am holding a small figurine of the bird, and my colleague says, “Oh, that’s just a crow.”

As we are leaving, important visitors come into the library, mostly men in short-sleeved button-up shirts and ties, with pens in their pockets. They look like Mennonite men from the seventies. They enter the library in two straight lines. I smile politely and edge past them. They feel like history, like people from my childhood, and so I am kind of drawn to them, but wary as well. I don’t really want them to notice me.

Yesterday, it felt somehow wrong to end the storytelling about the horrors of the day with my dream of the night before. Only a fragment, really: I am walking sock-footed up wet stairs around the outside of a big old rambling house, carrying a folding chair because I want to sit on the roof and watch a rainbow.

So, my current collection of Twelvenight deep-self flotsam for now contains a Fool, shining black wings, and a rainbow. I think the patriarchy is walking through there somewhere, too, but I will wait and see what connections that one makes. Oh, and that solemn phrase from two days back: “There’s more than two ways to think about it.” This table of gathered flotsam is going to get pretty full in the next nine nights!

What about you? What has been roiling and boiling inside you in these last days and weeks? What does the dreaming season have to tell you?

Gratitude List:
1. I can feel the light returning.
2. While I’ve been grateful for deep sleep, last night’s troubled sleep offered me more memorable dreaming to work with.
3. The seven little books that my family bought me for Christmas from Hedgespoken Press. Seven Doors in an Unyielding Stone is the name of the series. I love the writers: Terri Windling, Rima Staines, Tom Hirons, Jay Griffiths and more. I love the feel of them in my hands. They’re little and thin. I love the design, the font, the paper choice. I have been mulling and muddling self-publishing some more of my poetry for several years now, and this design is so compelling and enchanting, I might let it inspire me to next steps with that work.
4. This lo-o-o-ong break. Do you know what it feels like to breathe deeply and satisfyingly after you’ve recovered from the panting of a long walk or run? That.
5. Messages from that deep-self elf: dreams, contemplations, messages, archetypes, images, flashes of color. Psychic flotsam. The poetry of the deep inner realms.
6. Bonus: There are now 1000 condors! I can distinctly remember when there were fewer that 25, and I think there were only 8 in the wild!

May we walk in Beauty!