Last week, a dream came to me in which my partner Joe and I were going camping in the Inyo Mountains. I wanted to share with him one of my favorite places on Earth. When we arrived at the 4X4 road which leads into the back country, we were halted by an enormous condominium complex that had recently been developed. Basically in the dream, I go into a panic, frantically tracking down the developer and new residents to express my concern over this intrusion; especially its destruction of precious big horn sheep habitat. In the end, and after no success convincing anyone of anything, I find myself trying not to feel the despair, but I just can’t deny it. How can I go on feeling this way? Just knowing that this type of thing happens makes me not want to live in this world.
Of course, there are many ways to interpret this dream. I could take it literally, focusing on my sense of despair over the destruction of the natural world, but dreams are rarely so simplistic. The ego tends to grab onto quick interpretations as if they were lessons to be garnered as by attending a workshop or ingesting a book. But, given that dreams come from the unconscious, they tend to be more inscrutable, often trumping the ego with their arcane messages.
Although I am distraught by environmental devastation, I have to recognize that even these hideous dream condominiums are a part of nature. As Jung so often reminds us, “So far as we can see, the collective unconscious is identical with Nature”. My dreams, and all they contain, are Nature. Perhaps, my feelings of despair are not only about the environment, but by my own tendency to devalue the dream realm of psyche’s landscape. If there is any way to tend to nature, it is to turn to the dream. Like the big horn sheep, dreams are shy and reticent creatures that demand careful observation in order to be seen. When we pay attention to dreams, we also pay attention to Nature, and to that which is much greater and vaster than our rational selves.
The Paiute People may have had some appreciation of the mysterious connection between these inner and outer realms, between the day world and dream world, when they named this landscape “Inyo”, “The Dwelling Place of a Great Spirit”. Each time I enter into these mountains I feel as if I am walking into sacred space. The expansiveness and generosity of sensual delights unlocks my mind, shakes me up, and opens me up to “Spirit” –inspiration. And, here it all is, in my dreams.
Along the Edge
Keep your eyes, mind and all your senses open to the possibility of experiencing the highly improbable.
Perhaps there is a connection between our inner and outer worlds struggling against the darkness to reach the light of day.
Found in the moment, a particle of now.
Delicate beauty existing so briefly before being consumed by self-doubt.
Synchrony on the outer limits of what may be possible when we journey to the edge where mind, spirit and nature merge for an instant to become one
The Buffalo People
Finally the day came when reaching the top of a rise I looked down to see, only a few more miles away, the end of a dirt road. A path out of the vast primal wilderness of Yellowstone. I paused for a moment and experienced feelings of both sadness and joy. My solo journey through the natural wonders that had spawned the world altering concept of national parks was finally over. Then, as my foot rose to begin the final leg of my journey I felt a presence. I turned to look back and there standing just behind me was a large Buffalo. He stood so that he presented his most majestic side profile. Despite of his regal appearance however, as I looked more closely I saw that he was in fact quite tired and worn. His coat hung tattered from his massive body and clumps of fur had fallen off along the way. Just the two of us stood alone on the wind swept prairie. We looked into one another’s eyes and we saw that our moment had come. Inside we both carried the same question and we understood that we were both part of its answer. He spoke.
“I am the last voice of the Lakota Sioux. As my people and our voice were driven into oblivion the buffalo felt our sorrow and let his spirit go so that our soul would have a place and we would not die. The Sioux became the Buffalo People and even we were almost driven into extinction by the madness.”
“Why do you tell me of this?” I asked
The wind rises, a hawk swoops from the sky and flies between us.
“Go now, there is a story you must tell.”
RFF circa 1985
There was a time not so long ago when our intimate relationships with Nature were the stuff of myths and legends. In our modern world however, where our materialistic vision of progress holds dominion over all endeavors there is no longer time for such silliness. We have come too far along this progress road to look back nostalgically into our ancient past when we held the creative powers of our world in awe and reverence. Our advanced technologies have enabled us to generate wonders our “primitive ancestors” never could have prophesized and they have given us a vast multitude of specialized languages which are necessary in order to keep expanding upon each and every dream that has come true. However, there is another language that we desperately need to hear. It is the voice from which all languages derive. It is the language carried aloft on the wings of the wind that now with the din of so many tongues chattering simultaneously we seldom get to hear. So gather around the primal campfire within your mind and imagine the flames glimmering in the in the eyes of the children who wait with near delirious excitement to hear from their elders the stories that chronicle the passage of our greater time.
You might enjoy checking out this book by a colleague of mine. It is really amazing that she is a colleague of mine!!
Her book is very academic !!!! but the power that landscape can have in shaping society and culture is clearly evident and certainly very well documented.
Landscape and Identity: Geographies of Nation and Class in England 2000 Wendy Joy Darby Phd
ps I see that one of your colleagues is into stories!!
All the Best, Roger from the Adirondacks in NY
The Dance of Life, the Only Dance There Is
So for anyone who has had the inclination to follow along this far, we come now to the morale of our Red Prawns of Fiji story. Every tale that endures carries a message that continues to have relevance from one generation to the next.. Oddly enough it was the Red prawns that survived in this legend and not the 300 innocent maidens who were thrown off the high cliff to their deaths. I guess they were not considered to be all that important or perhaps their spirits became entangled with those of the prawns they had borne on their heads and that somehow made things all right… What ever the case might have been this would not be the last time despotic leaders would inflict pain upon those people who looked to them for guidance. So here we all are now being herded by our seemingly well intentioned system of decision making, towards the final precipice, and all that we are hoping for is business as usual?
My wife and I recently watched a movie entitled 180 South. It was based upon the daily journals kept by a young “conquistador of the useless” as he retraced the footsteps of an earlier pioneer and explorer who many years before had made a bold and daring journey to climb a remote peak in Patagonia.. Concurrently in the present I was struggling with the purpose behind my own many years of journal writing and this movie seemed to provide an answer to our collective dilemma of finding a viable purpose and direction. For those of us who for whatever reason have become emotionally and spiritually involved with our greater living world there is an overriding mandate that prevails now for us to do whatever it is we can to help change the self-destructive path upon which all of us seem to be blindly marching.. There is no longer any need to enumerate the vast multitude of threatening issues with which our beleaguered planet is now faced. Suffice it to say that the time to do what ever it is that each of us are able to do is upon us. If you were marching forward in the name of progress and you suddenly came to the edge of a cliff would you just continue to march over the edge into darkness or would you turn 180 degrees and continue to go forward? When you watch a flock of starlings soaring through the sky, or a large school of fish swimming through the sea, or a swarm of ants responding to a hill intruder, or a shapeless mass of red prawns rising from the depths of a darkened pool, have you ever wondered about how they are all able to change directions simultaneously with no apparent individual decision making process? Whether this phenomena is attributed to morphic resonance, quantum entanglement or some other yet to be understood non-local communication process the reality is that most likely in our inherited memories all of us possess this collective skill as well.
So which direction are we to go? The Dance of Death or the Dance of Life, Oblivion or Utopia? We must choose the deeds of our present wisely in order to ensure that for those who follow, the miraculous Dance of Life will continue. RFF 3/2011
I just returned from four days and nights alone in Death Valley to find your many posts and comments. First of all, thank you for your thoughtful reflections and book recommendations. Having been away from technology for nearly a week, and in the soothing expanse of the desert, it may take me a while to digest all this. But, I can see that it is really rich material. Interestingly, though, while in the desert I spent a great deal of time watching the ants and imagining what it must be like to live in such unquestioned collectivity.