From Marie-Louise von Franz

By grabbing their own fantasies and pulling them too eagerly into the light of consciousness and by interpreting them at once with too much intensity, many people destroy their secret inner life.

Creativity sometimes needs the protection of darkness, of being ignored. . . . Thus if you notice an unconscious fantasy coming up within you, you would be wise not to interpret it at once. Do not say that you know what it is and force it into consciousness. Just let it live with you, leaving it in the half-dark, carry it with you and watch where it is going or what it is driving at. Much later you will look back and wonder what you were doing all that time, that you were nursing a strange fantasy which then led to some unexpected goal. . . . don’t think, “I know what that means!” If you do, then push the thought away and just give yourself to it more and more so that the whole web of symbols expands in all its ramifications before you jump at its essential meaning.

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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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You little
You’ll ruin
It’s not real
It’s not real
It’s not real
It’s not real

Can no one HEAR
this small child

It is


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Children Crying on the Prairie

Late one evening I had a waking dream. I was walking along a dirt road through a tallgrass prairie in the middle of Kansas, with scrub oaks and wheat fields stretching out into the distance. Up ahead there was a town, with houses and low-lying buildings hung on the horizon. The sun was hot, mid-afternoon, and the dust of the road billowed up as I walked.

I came upon a young boy sitting by the side of the road, nestled between clumps of tall bronze-tipped Indiangrass. Towhead tucked between his knees, thin arms cradling his legs. The young boy was dressed in short, beige-colored knickers with bright red suspenders; a pressed white, short-sleeved shirt; pull-up khaki socks; and lace-up buster brown shoes. As I approached, he looked up at me. I had thought it was my dad. But no, it was his mother, Ruth, as a very young girl, crying and crying by the side of the dusty road. She had dark hair gathered up by jeweled clips into ringlets that framed her soft, round, tear-stained face; and she wore a pale lavender chiffon frock with a wide-lace ribbon tied in a bow around her small waist. Her tiny feet were clothed in neat, ribbed anklets and shiny-white patent leather shoes.

 As I came closer, I began to feel her cries, the heat of her tears, and, as she continued crying, I began crying too. We cried and cried together, my dad joining in. Standing in a circle. Shoulder to shoulder. Heads down, tears making salty plop sounds in the powdery dirt. Three small children crying in the middle of a dusty prairie road. Just crying and crying and crying.

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Ruth’s Story

The writing prompt was: write about someone who left. And so I did. I don’t know the specifics of Ruth’s history, and I never met Ruth–she died before I was born. Ruth’s story is a fiction of facts, but not of suffering. So, here it is. The story, as I wrote it. . .

She had been captivated by this moment for a long time. Gripped by it, engulfed in it, completely identified with it. This desire and lust and ecstasy that helped her block out the reality of who she was. The wife of a cold, staunch dairyman. Trapped on a modest farm in depression-era, nowhere Kansas. With five kids under the age of ten, whom she didn’t know how to love.

She married this man to get out from under the weight of her own charismatic father’s sensual body. Out from under a relationship that filled her with shame, loathing, self-hatred, anger, Fear. Jöran was different. Upright. Loyal. Hardworking. Respectful. But she felt no warmth, no love for him. With him she felt old, tired, faded, hollow, empty.

But now, Tommy. She was drawn to him as iron filings are drawn to a magnet, a moth to a flame. Rugged, handsome, cocky, not-quite-clean shaven, sweet-talking, dangerous, smelling of sweat and earth. His thick Scottish brogue attracted her like a fly to butter.

Her father was Scotch-Irish and she missed the fire in his eyes, the wit of his tongue. Tommy brought that alive in her. Touched a deep yearning. “Ruth, maybe this time.”  . . . The words blew through her mind but she didn’t hear them. So secret, so buried was the desire to awaken from the nightmare and relieve the pyre of suffering her father had ignited in her. Her father. The man she loved so fiercely.

So fiercely she could bear to think of leaving her small children to run away with this hired hand. So fiercely she could turn away from the rubble of the violent explosion he had unleashed upon her family. So fiercely she could dismiss from her heart the pleading eyes of her four boys and daughter who had been cruelly, drunkenly abused and molested by this man she craved with such passion. So fiercely she could abandon her own flesh and blood, impregnated with seeds, not of their choosing. Seeds of shame, loathing, self-hatred, anger, Fear. So fiercely she could lock away that knowledge behind walls and walls and walls of self-protection she had built up to keep her soft heart from being crushed under the trauma she had suffered from men who had abused her in exactly the same fashion.

So fiercely. She left. She ran. With only a satchel of clothes and her two youngest. My dad and his two brothers, she left behind. And then she had babies with this man. Innocent babies who carried in them seeds, not of their choosing. Seeds of abuse, betrayal and vicious, out-of-control destruction.

All these seeds were planted, and they sprouted a world of pain and suffering. Created a vortex of confusion, agony and grasping that swirled through a wounded family. All of this. From the magnetic attraction of two wounded, disturbed human beings. An attraction that unleashed waves of violations and violence into a family that, two and three generations later, includes hundreds of people. Like the nuclear reaction in an atomic bomb, expelling its energy explosively upon innocents. From the initial shock blast, to the caustic mushroom cloud of deadly radiation billowing out in all directions, we are still recovering. Even ‘til today. Some never will.

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From Xolani Nkosi

Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place where you are.

Xolani Nkosi was a South African boy born with HIV who became a national voice for children with AIDS before dying at about age 12.

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From Lynn Ungar

Shared with me by my friend Peggy:

Camas Lilies

Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas
opening into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?

And you — what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down —
papers, plans, appointments, everything —
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”

Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.

Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

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