As the Trap Door Opens

“Write about a longing.” For something I lost. From my childhood times, something of me faded, muted, disappeared. Vivid, colorful visualizing: symbolic conjuring of songs, ideas, feelings, landscapes that came as easily to my mind as words came to my lips.

I remember as a first grader listening to my dad’s music on his record player. Johnny Cash. I Walk the Line. . . . I envisioned a person, a smallish, cartoonish figure wearing boys clothes, a round-billed cap, and brown-leather, round-toed boots, walking along a railroad track raised high above the surrounding sagebrush and open ranges, and stretching out into the endless forever.  Whenever I heard that song, this is what I saw. My dad bought me drawing paper and special coloring pencils to sketch the images I talked about swirling around in my head. I drew my visualizations to all those songs on that pad of paper. I was simply, wildly engrossed in the images of my mind and loved recreating them with lines, colors and texture.

Somewhere along the way, though, I lost that vibrant, intuitive conjuring. Buried for so many years, no doubt, underneath adult responsibilities that gave it no space, no time. But something in me was sad. Something was missed. Oh, they came up every now and then. But circuitously it seemed, by way of a brambly, overgrown, nearly-forgotten path—like the path leading up to Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Perrault’s fairy tale. For one hundred years she slept, and the path to her castle—even to her room inside the castle—became quite impassable.

As the visualizing and visions gradually faded, the sense of them lingered. How does one long for that forgotten world she now barely senses? Like a phantom conjured from an inexplicable nowhere, it danced as a visionary flower in the air. Teasing, taunting, but disappearing in a puff whenever she tried to grasp at it. In 2008, at a retreat center near the foot of Mt. Baker, I started a book of charcoal sketches. Most of the time I spent sitting in front of an empty page, pencil in hand, wishing for an image to arise, then finally putting the pencil tip down on paper and beginning to draw. Not knowing what would come up. My hand was hesitant, disconnected, unsure. This was different from those early years of prolific images. Perhaps reflecting the hesitancies of a worn, lost soul.

Lately, though, its seems that this visualization practice stirs strong in me, stretches, wakes up. This morning I found myself caught in a bear trap as images of my former boss came to mind, memories of how he used my expressions—half listened-to and mostly misinterpreted, as judgments and actions against me. A huge, wide-open bear trap snapped shut, with my whole body—less than one-fourth its size—caught in its massive, rusty jaws. I smiled at how I could be caught in someone else’s enormous, rusty, mental trap. Interestingly,  “Bear Trap” was the name of a song my dad wrote when our family lived on Eastman Street in Gresham, Oregon, during the 70s. Yesterday, in writing for a prompt, visualizations of a kaleidoscope, tangled ball of yarn, my grandmother’s dark cellar, and tendrils of a growing kombucha all made their way through my mind’s eye.

From bear trap, to the door of my grandmother’s dark, pungent, earthen cellar, I feel a trap door opening wide to my inner self. I feel the brambles of an overgrown path clearing away. Spring air blowing through. Stirring. Freshening. Somehow allowing the symbolic images of a mysterious, unknowable, uncreated space to float freely past my mind’s eye, and to open me up to deeper truths.

Until recently, I had forgotten about the drawings to music, the visualizations, of my childhood. Unlike my friend, Brother Mark, I had not saved any of those pieces. Brother Mark re-discovered his childhood drawings after his mother died, and found that they eerily plotted the path of his life even up ‘til now. While he had been journaling the major storylines of his life since the early 70s, he was surprised to discover how the valleys and mountains, chapters and stepping stones, he had marked in his journal were each represented by a separate childhood drawing. As we talked about these over the years, I wished to myself that I had kept some of my own youthful drawings. School drawings, perhaps, with messages hidden in the houses and family scenes we were asked to sketch. What secrets might they hold for me? I had forgotten about the music and the visions, until I began writing from prompts every morning and, one morning, wrote about something lost. Turns out they are still around—not on paper, but somewhere in my mind. What are the messages they carry for me, these route markers on the path of transformation and growth? Carl Jung wrote about the dreams, images and sensations that populated his youth:

 Today I can say that I have never lost touch with my initial experiences. All my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams which began in 1912, almost 50 years ago. Everything that I accomplished in later life was already contained in them, although at first only in the form of emotions and images.

What happens if we do lose touch with these precious, initial experiences? Are they lost? Gone forever? Though I lost conscious touch with mine, they do appear to live on in me. Perhaps my life’s path has been guided by those early intuitions and visions. And perhaps because I am developing a greater capacity to be present in more moments, or perhaps because my daily writing and creativity practices are freeing an inner muse—who really knows. . . I catch some of the visions, familiar or new, morphed or fresh, before they fade away. As the trap door opens wider, I reconnect more richly with that womb of images, metaphors, symbols, and non-linear, non-rational thinking/ feeling/ sensing that knows no past, present or future. I Walk the Line. The line of what? Of where? Of when? Questions with no answers, except, perhaps, in the living out of, or into, a beginningless, endless, mysterious, deep-soul longing. Nothing and no one is lost, ever.

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