Dear Dreamers –
There’s a particular shrub whose blossoms scented the air of earliest summer when as a child, I would immerse myself, bodymindandsoul into the hours-long enthrallment of reading. The reading tree, I call that shrub now when I smell it. While I try to live a reasonably responsible adult life, I admit I have arranged much of it to accommodate great books. As a bookworm kid, bookseller, English teacher, read-aloud mom, craver of poetry, lifelong learner, and fiction fiend, I’ve managed to wrangle a lot of book time. Especially I love those astonishing stories that when you read them, “they read you.”
(My brother said something like that recently, and I've been thinking about those titles. Find my short list below.)
What about you? What are those books that hold the mirror up to us so that we see the gorgeous, appalling, astonishing confabulation of who we really are? Those books that speak to us personally, turning into ourselves, shocking us into awareness, and helping us reach for something we didn’t know we held?
And because the unconscious appropriates anything useful to its purposes, you might also find characters, settings, and objects from those special books showing up in a dream. What part of you are these images inviting you to behold with a new perspective?
Really! Let’s hear it! Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s one of my dream-images-from-a-book, and I’m giving you this one not because it’s the wisest thing to do, or exciting or beautiful, but because it’s so grim and hard to take. That’s what we do as dreamworkers: remembering that dreams are brutally honest and that they offer tough love, we allow them to work for our own good. It's not a pleasant experience, but it's rich and challenging, exactly what our soul craves.
The dream: Horcrux
I’m in a Hogwarts-like setting, and I find a horcrux in the form of a silver charm. I am astonished…thrilled…and I want to keep it to use for my own well-intentioned magic.
In the dream, I can’t recall exactly what a horcrux is, but I know it’s serious magic and it is amazing to find one. My friends (the Harry Potter crowd) are horrified and tell me to hide it and run away.
I think a horcrux exisits only in the Harry Potter world, and as many of you know, it is NOT the sort of thing you want to find, much less keep around. There’s no way to “use” it, however well-intentioned you may be. (In fact, those good intentions are pretty suspect.)
A horcrux is a terrible, terrible spell. It looks like an ordinary object or animal, but embedded in it is the split-off fragment of the soul of the diabolical Voldemort. He – or any evil wizard - chooses to undertake this appalling act of self-destruction in order to ensure their immortality: the piece of soul in the horcrux will never die. It’s a way of keeping part of the wizard and their intentions alive, even if the wizard’s body dies.
In the dream, my clear-headed friends prevail upon me to abandon the horcrux, so crisis is avoided for now. But. The horcrux is a volatile energy. I have layers and layers of deep stuff to work through here.
Maybe a horcrux, in the inner world, is anything for which I rip out chunks of my soul and ruin my wholeness not out of love but out of fear… or the need to control…or the desire for self-preservation (even if the self I preserve is so diminished as to be dangerous). I don’t have to identify as Voldemort to create a horcrux. I just have to look at my ordinary life: what possesses me like that? How am I fragmenting myself just now but don’t realize it? And in the bigger picture - how am I part of a carefully wrought system that values desperate acts of self-preservation over vulnerability to Life itself? And – because actually in the books, the Potter gang does destroy horcruxes - what is the awe-ful magic that can break the spell?
Beautiful, innocent things can carry these fragmented souls, and the real tragedy is that I don’t have to intend something “bad” in order to toxify myself or what I love, whether the beloved is in the personal realm, the cultural world, or the archetypal depths.
Believe me, the dream journal is filling up on this one, and the dream “art” is yielding images that are clearly more exploratory than beautiful. Mostly, I’ve been talking with my inner “evil wizard” whom I recognize as the bitter, wounded side of a familiar animus energy. When “he” needs attention, he makes trouble in the inner world. So my work is to listen, hear what’s bothering him, and help him name what he really wants to be doing with his alchemical powers. Then, if it feels right to integrate his intentions, I can begin to do so.
It takes a strong ego to work with this animus. Just as the fragrance of the Reading Tree recalls the thin space between life and fiction, so do the rituals that mark my interactions with this energy. He is important, but he is not the boss. If the work is good, who knows what might transpire or transform in the service of healing and wholeness?
This summer, take a whiff of that Reading Tree, do your read your novels, do shadow work. In the Harry Potter stories, the good guys eventually win, though at great peril and with personal sacrifice. I think that’s pretty much the big story in every book on my shelf of favorites. Those books read me loud and clear, and help me keep lurching towards towards grace.
The Short List as it Occurs to Me Just Now, In No Particular Order, Fiction Only:
The Plover – Bryan Doyle (and anything else he wrote)
Nothing to See Here – Kevin Wilson
Gilead, Home, and Lila – Marilynne Robinson (3 books)
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse – Louise Erdrich
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife - (2 titles) Phillip Pullman
The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Tempest – William Shakespeare
Angle of Repose – Wallace Stegner
House of Spirits – Isabel Allende
To the Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey (I do love an epistolary novel)
Send me your titles! I'd love to explore them. Laura@firebynight.net.
Thank you and deep dreams, all.