Trying to make sense of a dream last night. Buying an old three story house in the city, taller than all the surrounding houses, dozens of rooms. The owners left so much stuff behind, and there was so much to discover: clothes, games, Civil War memorabilia, books, kitchen items. They even left two cats. I think this is a dream of abundance, of sudden knowledge that I have more inner resources than I realized. Now, I need time to meditate in waking life to make the connections.
Gratitude List: 1. The aconite is up, golden buttercups catching the slanting sun rays of a winter afternoon. 2. Walking with Josiah after school. He instigates a walk almost as often as I do. 3. Maybe it’s the season for sundogs? We saw a really sparkly spot of one on the way home again yesterday. 4. I went to bed early last night, and slept all night until morning. Good, solid rest. May my brain be less foggy today than yesterday. 5. My students. All of them, and two in particular, who chose during their Speech class interviews to be interviewed about what it’s like to grow up black or bi-racial in the the US. It’s not their job to teach the rest of us, but they chose to open up their stories, and we learned. Deeply. Most of the best learning moments are not orchestrated by the teacher.
In the dream, I am back in a little town where I have often found myself in dreams. It’s a fully realized little town, with neighborhoods and trees and people and traffic. It’s miles away from any other town or city, out in a scrubby desert. On the outskirts of town are several truckyards–I suppose this is the source of the town’s thriving economy. But this is something I know from previous dreams about the place. ** In this particular dream, we are living in a house (that I think belongs to us or a friend). People come and go through the property, and the path leads over a steep, muddy embankment in the corner of the yard. When I skid down over the hill, I realize at the bottom that the mud and grass cover an enormous quartz crystal “colony.” Some beautiful points are visible beneath the mud. Bits have broken off, and points and broken pillars of crystal scatter the lower yard. They’re so clear and shiny, even amidst the mud that they look almost more like Herkimer Diamonds than Quartz. I collect LOTS of random pieces, and someone has left baskets of stones and little carvings and treasures on the sidewalk near our house. I know that they are for us, if we want them, so I decide to come back and get them later, along with several of the more beautiful quartz bits. ** A little later, we’re going to eat lunch at the cafe in the community center (which might also be our house, or next to our house). We’ve gone to taste the Bhaktar (not a waking-life word or recipe), which is a cracker-like bread crumbled into a bowl with a creamy soup poured over top. On the way in, we pass a student of mine who is taking people’s orders. She looks at me and says, “Have you ever seen James Kinder’s wife? She reminds me so much of you!” I google them, and it turns out that she is the creative director of the plays and events at the community center.
After lunch, we watch some of the dancers preparing a performance at the community center. I don’t think James Kinder’s wife looks or acts anything like me. She reminds me a bit of Amanda Palmer, someone with a lot of creative energy and vision, which I really admire, but super vampy/campy in her own aspect, which makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward. I wonder if people perceive me as vampy and insincere. Not that she is insincere, really. I just can’t get past the vampy-style mask to make a human connection. I wonder if people think of me as wearing too much of a mask to really get to know me.
The dance performance they’re preparing is amazing. Back stage (or maybe on stage), I make friends with the Kinders’ sweet black cat. ** A little later, my whole family is gathered at our house. Everyone seems to have something they really want to do right there at the house, but I want to explore the town. Finally, I get up the nerve to tell everyone that I would like to go window shopping. They sort of chuckle, but they don’t make fun of me for wanting to shop. I say it’s because I want to get the steps on my step-counter. ** Just as I am waking up, I find myself fascinated with how my legs and arms move as I am walking up the hill, and I realize that I am actually in someone else’s body. I’m not sure if anyone else notices. I enjoy the odd experience of being in a different body. Her limbs are long and thin and very dark brown. I’ve tripped and scratched her knee, but I don’t feel the hurt. ** A small ginger cat in the waking world is licking my cheek, and someone is meowing in the hall to say that no one filled the cat food bowl before we went to bed, so the dream ended and the day began.
Gratitude List: 1. Sincerity and honesty. People who can interact without too much of the mask. 2. While I am tired of the recent days of constant waking in the night, the waking brings the memories of dreams, and dreams are fascinating, and they offer me clues to my deeper self. 3. New strategies for handling the workload. There’s always hope that another way to organize will help me keep up with things better this time. 4. Reading books to a small person. I’m going to string this out as long as he can take it. He still demands that we read every night. 5. The interplay between language and ideas. In AP Comp, we watched a TED talk by Lera Boroditsky on how language shapes thought, and I am finding that the video itself is giving me new language for thinking about how vocabulary actually directs the shape of abstract ideas.
Aha! The light is here. We have found our way by star and by dream, by following the song inside us.
Now we face a terrible choice. A new dream asks us to stand against a great evil that threatens to destroy this promise, that will destroy the lives of many children and their families until all is said and done. But we are used to following the paths where our dreams take us, and so we must see the child on his way, pack up our things, and head out another way, tricking the old king of his quarry.
Legends say that the astrologers and seers who followed the star in search of the child of promise came from Persia. At least some of them probably came from Iran. Rumi’s beloved Shams was from the city of Tabriz, in Iran, and my own beloved Hafez was from the city of Shiraz, Iran, where the Nasir Ol-Mulk–the Rainbow Mosque–is located today.
As my own country is crouched on the brink of a war with Iran, a rogue president at the helm and all semblance of Congressional checks and balances seemingly in tatters, we must consider our own response to despotic and ruthless leadership. How will we find a different way out of the murderous city? How will we protect the small ones? Perhaps today calls not for a quiet exit through the back door, but a conscious and public standing up and speaking out.
The people of Iran are not our enemy. We have, perhaps, more in common with them than with the angry old men who plot war between our countries.
What do your dreams tell you? Where will this star lead us today?
La Befana: The Epiphany Witch
She’d got her eyes fixed on what was right in front of her, the dust and the dirt and the everyday mess. Wanted to be ready for the coming of the child but couldn’t see beyond the day she was in.
Believe me, I know what the old one was up to. I too get caught by the fishhook of the present, stuck in the nextness of each task ahead, forget to lift my eyes to see the shine and sparkle of my arriving guests, can’t put down my broom, my pen, my daily rhythm, to look up and outward.
Like Old Befana, I catch, too late, the jingle of the caravan bells as they turn the corner in the distance, see the disappearing cloud of dust.
Hastening to grab my cloak and bag, I’ve lost their trail before I reach the distant corner, left behind, bereft, alone, dust-covered, traveling bag in one hand and besom in the other, destined to spend my life sweeping the skies on my broom, chasing down the Holy Aha.
Gratitude List: 1. Dreams and visions 2. Watching a boy and his grandparents yesterday, putting together a giant Lego jet. Hearing him hum and whistle as he concentrated. 3. All the people who are standing up and speaking out. 4. All those crows! On the way home last night, as we were driving beneath a sunset sky full of crows, a boy began to sing, “Magical, magical, magical.” (Of course, when he noticed me appreciating it, he switched and sang, “Unmagical, unmagical, unmagical,” but it was too late. I had noticed.) 5. The holy Aha! Finding the way by starlight and dream. Choosing to disobey, if that what is called for.
I have absolutely no recollection of dreaming last night. The door between sleeping brain and waking brain is shut tightly. No narratives or images come from that world into this today.
This morning when I looked out the window at 5:35, the darkness was touched by a hint of grey. Dawn is slipping slowly and silently back the clock. Light returns.
The quotation in the image I attached above is from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Fergus and the Druid.” Fergus the King has relinquished his crown and abdicated his responsibilities as king, and he asks the Druid to teach him knowledge, to give him wisdom. Finally, after a little bit of back-and-forth, the Druid offers Fergus a bag of dreams. Though I put the words with the Fool, the Druid is much more earnest than the Fool, more shamanic, seeking wisdom in all things, pursuing knowledge. The Fool just trusts that the wisdom necessary for the moment will arrive when it comes. The Fool is both younger and older than the Druid, more foolish, and wiser.
Going back to school yesterday meant a different kind of mental focus, put me in more of a Druid zone, seeking knowledge with deep intention. But of course Teacher is an archetype of its own, the one who passes on knowledge and wisdom, seeking it like the Druid, drawing it out of the people themselves, helping them to find it. Druid, Teacher, Queen/King/Ruler, Fool: We are so many people at once, aren’t we?
On a morning when the dream-door is closed, still I carry with me the bag of dreams I have been dreaming. Today, they wrap me round as I go out again, stepping out as the Fool, the Druid, the Teacher, carrying my little bag–of dreams, of wisdom, of story. May your own dreams feed you and wrap you round.
Gratitude List: 1. Pie. Yesterday was pie day in the faculty lounge. One of my colleagues is a masterful pie-maker. Once a year, he brings eight or ten pies for us to sample. It’s the best snack day of the year, and it made yesterday a celebration instead of a foggy slog. 2. My shiny students. Many of them were as tired as I was. So many of them just want to be done with the semester already. Me, too. But there’s joy and hope and community there, too, and for some students, school is the safe place, the belonging place. I am grateful that school can be that haven for those who need it. 3. Yesterday’s chapel speaker. It was mostly a personal introduction for a member of our school community, but he was engaging and lively. He caught students’ attention on the first day back from break. He made us laugh, he made us think. 4. Resolutions and intentions. I know all the reasons to be cynical about New Year’s Resolutions, but here’s the thing. New Year’s Day can be like the moon, and I can use the gravity of this day to help boost my energy as I create an intention. I have been wanting to maintain a higher daily step-count, but I sometimes I need the extra artificial push of a New Year’s Resolution or an outside challenge to motivate me. Here’s to the attempt! 5. Dawn is inching back the clock. Day is slowly lengthening.
The work-world isn’t waiting for me to finish my Twelvenight ruminations. School starts again this morning. So my writing may, of necessity, be shorter.
Yesterday, I sort of dismissed my dream as the anxious eruption of school into my sleep-psyche. I set that little echidna to the side in my considerations of meaning. But it kept snuffling into my awareness throughout the morning. It felt odd to me that I would dream such a little-known creature. Josiah and I had read about them last year when he was doing a report on the platypus–echidna and platypus are cousins–but I haven’t thought about them since.
There are all those articles that keep popping up about the massive losses of animal life in the Australian fires. I had been thinking sadly of kangaroos and quokkas and wombats and koalas, but echidnas hadn’t crossed my mind. Why was I dreaming an echidna?
I mentioned the dream on Facebook, and a friend said that he, too, has been having Australia dreams, and I wonder: When the Earth is hurting, do we feel it in our dreams? Are we dreaming our own deep-self messages as well as picking up signals from the Beings around us? It’s a whimsical thought, and perhaps ought to be the organizing concept of a novel or short story, at least. But whether or not it’s a message from Earth herself, it draws my attention to the terrible loss on the other side of the world and gives me another connection to that world that I know so little of.
My friend said that he is planning to try to find the characters in his Australia dreams and ask them to tell him more. So I tried to find my way back to the echidna last night. I saw her just as I was falling asleep. A larger echidna came along and stomped on her neck. I managed to pull the larger one off, and save the little one, but then the dream was over. If that was a further message, it’s pretty traumatic. Sigh.
I have been doing some thinking about echidnas in the last day, how they have a hybrid sensibility to them: mammals who lay eggs, hedgehog/anteater/birds. They’re sort of not quite one thing or another, but wholly themselves. And their back feet seem to be on backwards. They can burrow backward with their powerful hind claws, which face behind them. The echidna is feeling like a perfect animal symbol for me to walk with this coming year. During the past four or five years, the tension has been building for me, the feeling that I am both teacher and writer and not quite either one, really. It’s hard to hold onto these two identities which demand so much of my time and brainwork. Perhaps the echidna is my message that this year is to be one of problem-solving, really figuring out how to be this hybrid creature that I seem to have become.
Last night’s dream: I need to go to Harrisburg for a meeting. I leave at 5:30 in the morning, and I am taking my little blue Festiva. It’s been so long since I have driven it that I can’t seem to adjust the height and angle of the seat and mirrors. I stop at a convenience store for coffee and batteries. I need three AA and three AAA for my Walkman. It’s really hard for me to get help getting what I need. People are busy and distracted.
The meeting is at the convenience store, so I sit down with my styrofoam cup of hot chocolate (where’s the coffee?) while someone is getting my batteries. We talk about the boss, who is corrupt, and is using his position at the store to enrich himself. He loves roller coasters, so he has built a small theme park with several special roller coasters that he can ride. We vote that the woman next to me will write a letter of complaint. The meeting is over, and I start to drive home.
It’s easy to see how several pieces of this are basic anxiety-dream elements. Before I went to bed, I worried that for some reason my watch alarm might not wake me up at 5:30. Do I have everything I need to make it through these two days of school? Can I fit myself back into the driver’s seat? My own particular work bosses are extremely ethical and generous, but the “boss” of my country seems to be enriching himself and satisfying his whims at taxpayer’s expense, and that has occupied a great deal of my mental energy in the past few years.
I seem to need a lot of batteries, and coffee/chocolate, to keep me going. I ought to spend some more time working out how to best use and renew my energy. I ought to be using rechargeable batteries by now, anyway. And where was my reusable mug? I was rushing and anxious, and so I was not managing my resources very well. Slow down and savor, I think I told myself a day or so ago. Slow down and find the resources I need instead of frittering away with non-renewable energy sources. There’s a pretty serious message for someone who walks the borderlands of exhaustion.
Gratitude List: 1. The messages in the most mundane anxiety dreams. 2. Echidnas. What an odd and lovely dream-animal to get to know. 3. I didn’t get it all done, but I got a LOT done, and that’s something. 4. As reluctant as I am to get back to work, I am eager to see my school-people again. They give me energy. I do love being a teacher. 5. This is only a two-day week, after all. I can do two days. In fact, as much as I grumbled about going back today rather than Monday, I think there’s something to be said for starting with a short week.
Here’s an image this morning of a tiny origami dragon, a reminder that we carry our fire within us as well as without. On that first day walking into this labyrinth, we checked our batteries, checked our fuel for the journey inward, for the lamps and lights that we carry. I have been feeling your fire, your warmth. I’ve been seeing the glimmer and twinkle of your light as we walk together down these dark passages.
Outwardly, my fire can seem pretty weak in December. I sleep a lot. I forget things. I find myself getting dreamy and vague. But inside, I am curling around my inner fire, like a bear or a rabbit or a chipmunk in winter, who curls itself around its heart core to keep the warmth inside. If you feel like your fire is disappearing, it might just be that you need to curl up around it, focus inward on the way it shines and warms, and rest.
Speaking of dreaming, I hd a most amazing dream last night, about driving through a little village with massive trees on either side of the road. The leaves were yellowed, and the branches were gnarled and curling. from the ends of the branches hung thousands of red and yellow fruits. Eventually we were walking beneath the trees, which hung down over the village like archways. People would just reach up and grb a fruit when they needed it.
What you need is there for you, if you just reach out your hand.
(At the beginning of Advent, my pastor asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)
I think today of the youth activists combatting the climate crisis, how they speak up, how they stay on task, how they avoid attacking those who attack them, but relentlessly (there’s that word again) speak the truth of their message over and over again. They don’t let themselves get caught in the culture war that their elders keep trying to pull them into. They simply tell the story, again and again and again. They hold the truth of their vision without taking up the sword.
When I taught at a Waldorf School, we taught a little poem to the children: There live in me an image of all that I could be. Until I have become it, my heart is never free.
For some reason, as I try to recall it, my mind always substitutes “shadow” for “image.” It’s like something tickling at the back of my brain is trying to remind me that I am not only what can be seen on the surface, but that there’s something else there, too, some deeper me that needs to be recognized and integrated before I am truly whole and free.
Several years ago, I wrote a poem on the subject:
Shadow I will be Crow. Stone Steps to the Lady Shrine. Spider’s tidy strands. Moss. Pine cone. Lichen. White stone.
Lady, what have you to say to me?
There lives in me a shadow. . . Water trickling in the grotto. Bark of the Sycamore Tree. Crow. Willow. Acorn. Sparrow.
What have you to say?
An image of all that I could be. Ladybug on Her child’s chubby knee. Spider in the fold of Her robe. Green leaf. Cool breeze. Whisper. Oak trees.
Become the Shadow.
I am the Crow and the Spider. Scent of new boxwood. The whisk-footed Squirrel. Egg sac. Chickweed. Web. Speedwell.
(From Song of the Toad and the Mockingbird by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider, Skunk Holler Poetryworks, 2013.)
When I look into my own shadows, they’re composed of as many subtle colors and hues as the ones that intersect across my living room floor in the mornings. Some are indeed frightening and uncomfortable, because they are unknown, because they hold the secrets of my unresolved and unacknowledged self. Others hold a thrill, because they hide the daring and adventurous and wild side of me, because they harbor the self hinted at in my dreams. They whisper to me, ask me to take up the work they have.
The various personality and temperament studies I have done often point toward shadow work, to exploring those unexplored regions inside. I have found the Enneagram to be particularly helpful in this work. In the Enneagram, I am a pretty standard Seven, an Enthusiast. I call it Hedonist, to remind myself of the shadow possibilities. The Enthusiast wants to enjoy life to the fullest. What choose one option when five will do? We tend to overschedule ourselves, to take on more than we can handle, to eat too much and drink too much. We have a thousand unfinished projects because we want to try everything. We can be enjoyable companions because we like to pile on the fun. Some of the shadows that dog me are hoarding and gluttony and pain avoidance. There isn’t time or attention span enough to handle all the projects and ideas and things that I want to take on. And I get so excited about the next new thing that I avoid the actual work of other things I have committed myself to. In this case, working with my shadows means knowing this pitfalls, working with the anxiety that comes with saying no to the next new and exciting thing that comes along, learning to discipline myself to do the next thing that might bring work or pain.
And there are shadowselves that call me to integrate my the wilder, fiercer, more daring part of me into my everyday self. The shadows call: “Don’t let yourself be tamed! Don’t become domesticated! Don’t settle into safety and predictability. Don’t settle for the status quo.” It’s these shadowselves that raise their heads when everyday systems of oppression and injustice, patterns that everyone seems to accept, make us raise our heads and look around and start to ask questions. In order to live in a world that actively creates unjust systems, parts of ourselves slide into the shadows in order to function with minimal pain and less of the jarring sense of contradiction. Change in the world comes about when we let these sleeping shadows wake up and live within us.
Here, on the eighth day of our journey into the shadows of the December labyrinth, let’s walk into those rooms where our shadows wait, and examine their colors and shapes and textures. What might they have to teach us? This afternoon, I must tackle some things I have been avoiding, and set up a plan for myself to focus instead of fluttering from bright and shiny thing to bright and shiny thing.
What goal will you set for yourself? Maybe your natural state is to try to control all the details, and today you will let go of control? Maybe you’re dogged by particular shadow anxieties, and today is the day to look at them more closely, perhaps in the company of a beloved who can help you? Perhaps today is the day to wake up some sleepy shadows and start to make a plan to break the chains in an oppressive system that profits from your sleepiness?
Envisioning: (At the beginning of Advent, my pastor asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)
I think of the people of Landisville Mennonite Church and others who work with them to be companions to refugees and asylum seekers and immigrants who have been detained in York County Prison. These people are holding a vision of a welcoming community that helps people find their way in a new place. A group of people has come out of this work to raise money to pay the bonds for immigrants in the York detention center. Their website is IBAEPA.org, The Immigration Bond and Advocacy effort, if you would like to participate in their making their vision a reality.
In the dream, there is a combustible child, who is likely at any moment to burst into flame: hair, chest, shins on fire. I am the child, running to escape a mob of children. Their fear and their curiosity and their rage torment me. I just want to be alone, so I can burn in peace. I burn, but I am not harmed. But my fire can burn the buildings of the town, and the trees.
Also I am a child in the mob. I run with the others, trying to catch the combustible child. I want to protect him. I know that some of the others mean to kill him, and I want to be the first to find him, to warn him, to help him. But he is always ahead of us.
We are in the labyrinthine passages beneath an old mill building. I am the child, running and hiding, afraid the light of my burning will show the children where I am. I am also seeking the child, fearful that he will hurt himself, or burn the building down, but mostly that the other children will hurt him.
I have found a way to the roof of the old mill. The others are still mostly down in the underground passages. The building is wood, but it is not burning beneath me, although other buildings have burned in the past. Down below, I am a child in the mob; I hear two children talking. They have discovered one of the secrets of the combustible child: “I think he was the one we thought had drowned there in the lake. Remember?” I have to find the combustible child and warn him.
(I welcome comments and thoughts about my dreams. I don’t feel comfortable with the “Your dream means” sort of interpretations, but speculative and conjectural comments and questions are better for helping me to think through what might be going on.)
Gratitude List: 1. How tears sometimes bless the receiver of tears. Sharing emotion, like sharing bread. 2. Laughing with loved ones 3. Pumpkin coconut pie, venison pie, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake pie 4. Sweet soft cat. I’m a little grumpy because Thor was chasing Sachs all around the house, thumpily and hissily. I could not get him to stop. I came downstairs to the recliner, hoping it would distract him, and I could get back to sleep. No. I held him and gave him a lecture about chasing kitties. No. Every time I settled down to sleep, he was off and thundering. The minute I turned on the light and picked up the laptop, he jumped up beside me, rolled onto his back, and fell into a deep sleep. Sigh. And am I grouchy? No, I just love this soft warm breathing presence beside me. I’ll nap later. 5. Belonging. I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.
This woman is from a really recent dream/image. I frequently wake up with dream-images in my head, or fragments of song, or a word or phrase, instead of a story. In this case, the central woman is wearing flowing blue robes, and lined along the edges of her cloak are children that she is protecting. She is very much a Mary-figure, and the children are safe in the folds of her cloak. There are dozens and dozens of them. May it be so.
Gratitude List: 1. The ones who protect children. Thank you. 2. The water protectors and earth protectors. Thank you. 3. Core values and deep conscience. We had a lengthy and powerful discussion in a class yesterday about making choices based on core values. My students are wise. 4. Refried beans and tortillas. Weeks ago, Jon made an enormous pot of refried beans, and froze the leftovers in batches. I love refried beans and tortillas. 5. Wordplay.
This is Catherine Witwer (1833-1905), married to Isaac Weaver. My Great-Aunt Elizabeth Nolt Weaver (her granddaughter) said that she cared for women in childbirth (a lay midwife, I think), and then cared for their older children in her own home so the mothers could recover. Aunt Lizzie told me that people called her Mammy.
They lived at the White Hall Mill on Weaverland Road near Union Grove. My Great-Grandfather John W. Weaver was their son, and his son Daniel was my grandfather, who is my father’s father.
All sorts of ancestors, known and unknown, line the spiraling staircases of your DNA, watching, singing, remembering for you. What will you carry forward as you walk through the veil of this season?
Gratitude List: 1. The way the sun slants through colored leaves in this season when we step further into the darkness. 2. Stepping forward. 3. The light we carry inside ourselves. 4. Knowing, as we walk into this tunnel of seasonal darkness, that we will walk out again in a season to come. 5. The bright candle flame of a new idea.