In my world, winter is the season for things like snuggling up with a hot cup of tea and a good book, making a collage, writing, and working with dreams. I don’t live in the area where the picture at the beginning of this post was taken—my talented daughter in Western Michigan took that photo a few days ago—but our days here in the East Bay Area of San Francisco are darker than they were a few months ago and what daylight we do have is shorter. Portions of the house and our back deck are not bathed in warm sunlight in the afternoons, and the damp and cold settles into my joints, making movement slower. In short, for me winter is the perfect time to honor the darker, slower rhythms of life.
This wasn’t always so. I used to be a sun worshiper extraordinaire! One who couldn’t understand why my Michigan born son said to me a few months after we’d moved to the beautiful West Coast of Florida, “You know what I dislike about this place?” No, what? “It’s too sunny—all the time!” Imagine that! Too sunny! That kind of thinking was inconceivable to me. Sunlight—all the time. What was not to like?
I’m reminded of a retreat I attended years ago where after several days of silent meditation and quieting the Solar part of my nature, I had a dream that showed the fears I was experiencing at entering the darker, Lunar waters of the unconscious:
Slipping Off the Edge
I am a child of three-years old that is playing on the edge of a swimming pool. I slip and fall into the water. As I sink to the bottom, where the water is dark, I turn into a dark-colored fetus, curled up and not moving. My mother in the dream calls for my father to rescue me and bring me back to the surface. He is swimming in a different, shallower pool and, at first, does not respond. Mother calls again, and Father finally retrieves me and brings me back to the surface of the pool. I am again a three-year old child (EOD).
Note: It had been three years since my last silent meditation retreat with Dharma teacher, Marcia Rose, in Taos, New Mexico.
After coming home and working with the dream through processes like dialoging, storytelling, and other creative arts in a dream course required as part of my transpersonal studies masters program, I wrote this poem.
Swimming With Intention
The edge isn’t a secure place for me to be.
Looking for something there, I lose what is important,
Slip and sink – instead of swim – into the watery parts of me.
Fearing the dark wildness of those places,
I prefer to sleep as a babe in a pool
Whose own mother fears she will drown
In the yawning wetness of that deep water;
Who sends a man to swim down,
Rescue her little girl, and bring her up.
Later, choosing to dive, instead of fall,
I find a portal to hidden caverns
Where multi-colored fishes swim,
Where whales and dolphin call my name,
Where I feel joy again.
Now, these many years later, I really get it. The wisdom of nature—within and without—has given me new appreciation for changing cycles. I have learned to move with varied rhythms that feel good to my body, mind, and spirit. In this latter part of my life—the winter season, if you will—I especially welcome the renewal and rebuilding of inner resources and reflective pleasures that the months between November and February allow me to enjoy without guilt or recrimination. Soon the season will change, and there will be gardens to plant and tend and events and festivities to enjoy in the busy, progressive town in which I live.
For now, I feel the pull to dive down into the dark and fertile waters of the unconscious as I work with my dreams, synchronicities, and meditative imagery. At the same time, I am reminded to honor the ground of my being as I tend to the day-to-day ordinariness of life, allowing new ideas and plans to gestate like seeds in fertile ground to burst forth when the time is ripe in the coming months of increased light and activity.
As I randomly open The Essential Kabbalah by Daniel C. Matt to this exact quote, I am delighted once again by the workings of an intelligent universe:
“With the appearance of the light, the universe expanded. With the concealment of the light, the things that exist were created in all their variety. This is the secret of the act of Creation. One who understands will understand.”
Thank you, Jenna, for your appreciation of the dark part of the cycle. I’m with you. Here, in the Finger Lakes of NY, the seasons are pronounced. My 200+ year old farmhouse has a sunset view 365 days a year, so I watch as the sun moves along the horizon, back and forth, pausing and hurrying, revealed or concealed. Today in the woods, after a recent melt, so much green moss, despite temperatures below zero a few weeks back. But the snow was a blanket and the greening continued on. It always reminds me of my journey through grief. Eight days after Vic died, I had my first dream as a widow: “I would live in the House of the Green Man for a year.” I hardly knew who the Green Man was in northern European mythology, but I learned and watched. I am still in his house.
I love the way you weave dreams into your stories, and then the poems inspired by the dreams. You do this authentically and effectively, and that’s not easy. Dreaming has been my main source of inner teaching since Vic’s death. It’s hard for some people to understand, but I imagine you do. As I create a new life, my dreams are usually less intense. Time for the day-world part of the cycle for a while until I’ll dip down under again.
Elaine, I always enjoy your ‘stopping in’ at my blog and appreciated your thoughtful and encouraging comments. Sorry that i am just getting around to responding to this, but several of my emails were lost in January, including comments to my blog posts, so I am just catching up on my responses.
I, too, love how dreams inform our lives and give us brand new myths or reunite us with lost ones, to guide us during times of transition, initiation, grief…