Finding the Deeper Meanings

Three parts to last night’s sleepless-disturbed dreams:
I think the cats were doing Goblin Parties in the night, because in the dream I am watching a family of lynxes in the field across the road. It’s sunny and snowy and they’re walking through the corn stubble. Two are either fighting or mating or playing, because they’re yowling and tussling (cue the cats). The interesting thing about the lynxes is that they’re tiger-lynxes. They’re shaped and sized like lynxes, but striped like tigers, with black and white fur, and a ridge of rusty orange along their backs. Later, they’re in the house, and I can get them to come out of hiding by banging on pots and pans.

Then Jon and I are finding our way into a park somewhere, up on the top of a hill, through the woods, sort of like the drive in to Rocky Ridge Park if we were coming from the other direction. There’s a camp at the top, beautiful old buildings, sunset over a lake where a meditating woman is doing yoga in the water, even though it’s winter. We park by the lodge and go in to see if our reserved room is ready. The man who is in charge of the rooms, cleaning and renting, seems to have forgotten that we were coming, or was hoping we wouldn’t. He starts slamming around the halls and rooms, swearing under his breath. Another guest sits with us in the hall as we wait, chuckling at the angry cleaning guy. I am pretty sure that I have been in different versions of this camp in dreams before.

Then I am in one of the high-rise hotels that I often visit in dreams. This time I am there as a teacher, or for a teachers’ conference or something. I go to visit one of the older and very experienced teachers. He tells me the logo on one of his school flags, which he finds very humorous: “Please Pick Up the Machinations.” (I think I have that correct. It may have been Don’t rather than Please.) He thought it very witty. I head back to my office room in the hotel, which is open to the hall (more of a cubby than a room, actually), and one of my friends is there (not someone I recognize as a being I know in waking life, but someone I am very attached to in the dream). He says he is there to eat with me, and I am really touched that he realized I was feeling lonely and confused. I offer him the lemonade packets that were left in my office space by the hotel folks–he doesn’t want any coffee.

All of this wandering through spaces semi-familiar, places that exist on the margins of reality, where I return, again and again, in dreamings. I know I am feeling confused about finding my way through some really important places in my waking life, and it makes sense that I would see it here in dreamland. In the last two sequences, one person was angry that I had appeared, and a second was helpfully offering me advice, and a third was quietly willing to be present to me in my confusion. If this is indeed about my confusion regarding how/whether to publish, and what to work on first, and how to go about it, perhaps I need to seek out a friend who is willing to listen and be present, and a publishing mentor or life coach (I’ll take lemonade and witty jokes). I feel like the mentor has given me a message to pay attention to. Unfortunately, unless I can remember whether he said Don’t or Please, and until I can decipher what the heck it means, I don’t know if I can make much use of it.

Oddly, I have dreamed of lynxes before, and it was also during Twelvenight. Lynxes are secretive and elusive, watchers. Lynxes see things others miss. Tigers are about courage and will and sensuality.


Gratitudes:
1. Walking around the property yesterday, I caught a strong whiff of Fox. I learned years ago to distinguish the scent, and I often catch it for a brief moment in wild places. I always second guess myself, but yesterday I walked back up hill for thirty paces or so, and walked back down, and caught it again. Fox is one of the guiding archetypes in the wisdom cards I received for Christmas, and just that morning I had been meditating on a card of a little fox family.
2. The gleaming surfaces of freshly-scrubbed copper-bottomed pots. I like the way they seem to take on an extra shine in the twenty seconds after you finish scrubbing.
3. Lattes. These mornings, I have been making coconut or almond milk lattes with coconut oil and vanilla and honey. A lovely way to start the morning.
4. Synchronicity. I have been contemplating the word gnosis (deep, more intuitive spiritual understanding of the world), and this morning on a FB thread, where my friend Hussein (a first-language Arabic speaker) and I were discussing the role of breathing in poetry and speech and communication, he mentioned his love of fiqh, the study of deep meanings.
5. Continuing in Time Out of Time. Oh, I’ll do work this week, too, but it’s a gift to be in this space of restfulness and contemplation.

May we walk in search of deep understanding.


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Word is one of my favorite Swahili words: Ujamaa. Cooperative economics. How can we create local systems that develop economic justice for all? How can we share our finances in ways that build up the community?


“Don’t let the tamed ones tell you how to live.” —Jonny Ox


“The best way for us to cultivate fearlessness in our daughters and other young women is by example. If they see their mothers and other women in their lives going forward despite fear, they’ll know it is possible.” —Gloria Steinem


Mark Twain: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”


Frederick Buechner:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”


“A night finally came when I woke up sweaty and angry and afraid I’d never go back to sleep again. All those stories were rising up in my throat. Voices were echoing in my neck, laughter behind my ears, and I was terribly, terribly afraid that I was finally as crazy as my kind was supposed to be. But the desire to live was desperate in my belly, and the stories I had hidden all those years were the blood and bone of it. To get it down, to tell it again, to make something—by God, just once to be real in the world, without lies or evasions or sweet-talking nonsense. It was a rough beginning—my own shout of life against death, of shape and substance against silence and confusion. It was most of all my deepest, abiding desire to live fleshed and strengthened on the page, a way to tell the truth as a kind of magic not cheapened or distorted by a need to please any damn body at all. Without it, I cannot imagine my own life. Without it, I have no way to tell you who I am.” —Dorothy Allison, from “Deciding to Live”


Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov:
“Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”


“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15

Gained In Translation, Again

Three years ago, I ran a couple of my short poems through Google Translate to see what would happen. From English to Pashto and back again. From English to Pashto to Hindi to Javanese and back again. How does meaning become fractured through the algorithmic translation process? Last week, I tried it again. I started with:

Long have I longed for
and dreaded
this moment
of darkness,
belonging to silence,
sure of my shadows.

Then I ran it through
Sinhala —> Tajik —> Swahili —> Malayalam —> Pashto —> back to English

Here is what happened. Look how it pulled a rhyme in there for me (afraid/shade), and the meaning has definitely shifted, but I’m really happy with it. I added punctuation at the end for clarification. I actually like it better than my original.
I’ve been waiting a long time.
Don’t be afraid.
At this point:
Dark,
In silence,
I believe in shade.


Then I tried Mr. McConnell’s famous Truth: Nevertheless she persisted.
Ran it through Punjabi —> Bangla —> Hmong —> Kyrgyz —> Tamil —> English
Ended up with: The reality is, however, there is more.
This changes the meaning a little more than I really want to, but it is an interesting end.


I tried a third, another of my tiny poems. This time, that fifth line changed anger to sex. Hmmm.
Take a deep breath.
Find the place inside you
that remembers how truth feels;
remember that there
are kinds of anger
that are more effective
than blind outrage.

Tamil —> Javanese —> Cebuano —> Hindi —> Kazakh —> English

Take a deep breath.
Find a place in your stomach
The cruelty of truth is considered;
Remember
Sex is scary
It was very effective
Especially the blind.


Ah, well. I like putting the essence of meaning outside of my control for a moment and seeing what happens.

In Creative Writing classes, many of the exercises I have students do are to encourage us to move behind that space in our brain that controls the meanings. Part of the reason for this is that is helps us to discover hidden wells and springs of words and ideas within ourselves that we didn’t know were there, like finding the secret room in your house in the dream. At a basic level, it helps us learn that there are a thousand ways to say a thing, a thousand hues of meaning. Giving up control in the immediate moment, as with an exercise like this, helps us learn to take control, to refine and define our meanings.


Gratitude List:
1. Singing in the pit for our school’s musical. It’s a rather big commitment, but I love it.
2. Yesterday after I dropped a Big Boy off for tech prep for the play, I had a couple hours just to be by myself. I went shopping, of all things. Hit the Goodwill pay-by-the-pound bins, and A.C. Moore’s going out of business sale. I bought Small Boy a stack of canvases for painting–half price.
3. The Small Boy hasn’t painted for months, but at the moment he is creating a marvelous abstract cloud-like scene with watercolors. Hmm. Now he is adding some acrylics on top of that. Experiment, Kid!
4. Silver hair. When I see photos of myself now, my first awareness is of a middle-aged, grey-haired, gnome-like woman. I’m okay with that. No, I’m actually happy with that. I like being middle-aged, and I like having unicorn hair.
5. The way the sun casts shadows in the bosque across the road when it slides up and over the opposite ridge in the mornings. All those tree-shadows!

May we walk in Beauty!

Twelvenight: Back to Work

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.

May we walk in Beauty!