Liminal Waters is a story about a dream that comes from the Earth. Earth-Dreaming is the process by which the Earth dreams through us. Earth-Dreaming takes us beyond using dreams to track our individual psychological growth. Earth Dreams come not from the personal unconscious but from the collective unconscious, the level of the psyche that we share with all humanity. Even deeper, they come from the place where nature and soul are indistinguishable, where matter and spirit are one, what Jung called the psychoid realm, the Unus Mundus. In the depths of our psyches we are wild, and our inner wildness meets and entwines with the outer wildness of nature. Earth Dreams are not just personal, to be kept private. They speak to all of us. They are meant for all of us. Inner dreams and outer nature are both reaching out to us, and, if we listen, will bring teachings that will help us create together the new myths and stories that we need to guide us in these dire times.
A friend, Kathleen Hannan, who is a talented songwriter, sings us a song only once each year, at this time called “Just Beyond the Winter, Just Before the Spring.” Yes, it’s just before Spring Equinox, and on teasingly warm nights the peepers and chorus frogs sing of love, and by day the ephemeral woodland wildflowers are opening shyly to discretely perform their mating ritual before the trees leaf out. These are liminal times, the cold comes again, and we realize that winter is not quite over. Winter has traditionally been a good time to be hunkered down dreaming, dreaming like the Earth is dreaming, before the great seasonal awakening. The Earth is speaking to us, has always spoken to us, through our dreams. Let us listen to her and awaken from this living nightmare of destruction that all of us creatures of the Earth are enduring. Let us embrace our sacred role of tending the dream of the Earth.
Throughout my adult life I have kept journals of dreams and nature intertwining, but I have found it hard to write about Earth-Dreaming because these inner and outer threads weave such intricate and complex patterns of synchronicity, sequence, and process. Perhaps we all find it hard to tell each other about these interweavings, but I hope we will try, because we need to share their wisdom. In future posts I’ll write about various aspects of Earth-Dreaming, big dreams and how to work with them, both alone and in groups. (You can read another story in the series, Earth-Dreaming: Heartscape here.) But for now I will tell a very small winter-time dream to illustrate how dream- and nature-experiences intertwine.
Liminal Waters, Ocean
Back in mid-February my husband and I went on our annual Valentines’ pilgrimage to the coast of North Carolina to explore the various coastal habitats and experience the abundant winter bird life lurking within them. I had been busily plugging away writing the Lady of the Bees story in time to get it posted before we left. We arrived after sunset at a retreat center nestled in the maritime forest between the sound and the ocean on Bogue Banks. In the morning I awoke with this dream:
A group of us are exploring areas of a wetland, seeing what is under the water at the edge where it meets the land. Walking farther I can see that around a bend the dark shallow water stretches on and on within the forest. At the end of the walk I’m saying to my friend Laurie, “Did you see how far it goes?! Maybe we can ask her (the group leader) how big it is. I’d love to spend a year here exploring it through the seasons.”
Peering below the water at the edge looking for hidden creatures, seeing the dark water penetrating the swamp forest and wondering at its size, a sense of mystery permeated the dream. I interpreted the dream as saying that I needed to get out of my head-expressing and into my body-experiencing. That it was time to move on from thinking and writing to making sensual contact with the waters within and around this island.
While searching for birds in their habitats we indeed experienced the teeming life of the waters — loons bobbing on the waves and plunging deep into the ocean near the shore; gannets high diving into the roiling waters of Beaufort Inlet between Bogue Banks and Shakleford Island; an eagle cruising above and dolphins pinwheeling through the quieter waters of the harbor channel between Emerald Isle and Bird Shoals; egrets and ibises hanging out in the hidden ponds where a small creek winds into the salt marshes from Bogue Sound. We watched bullfrogs eyeing us in the freshwater swales between the dunes; dunlins, black-bellied, and piping plovers drilling for delicacies in the temporary salty pools between the tides; and dainty Bonaparte’s gulls hover-feeding in the estuary of the White Oak River between Emerald Isle and Bear Island. An osprey, newly returning from migration to nest was surveying the brackish marshes of the White Oak River up at Cedar Point. All of these areas at the edges between land and water are liminal, in-between places that hold a sense of mystery for me. Dream-mystery and nature-mystery intertwining, I was filled with a sense of wonder, recognizing these as signs that the subtle energies of nature and psyche were activated and weaving patterns in their movement. Returning home I savored all those wild island intimacies, but I forgot all about that small snippet of a dream.
Liminal Waters, Creek
For almost a year my friends Laurie, Sandra, and I have been tending a small section of an urban creek called Northeast Creek that runs behind Laurie’s office complex. Our goal is to experience its changes through the seasons. By tending I mean we have been attending to learning the incredible richness of this plant community that lies right behind a seemingly magical green veil just beyond the parking lot, tending it spiritually by speaking words of praise to its beauty, making offerings of gratitude to it for all the homes for critters it creates, sometimes pulling out a few pieces of trash or invasive honeysuckle or Japanese stilt grass, of which there is surprisingly little, a small mystery in itself.
A few days ago I mistakenly arrived an hour early to meet Laurie for lunch near her office. Instead of ordering tea and reading while waiting for her, I took this as a sweet synchronicity and decided to walk across the parking lot and down through the small forest to Northeast Creek. Immediately I came upon a big patch of very floriferous trout lilies. (What other wonderful plant life had been there before it was all scraped away and paved?)
At the creek highbush blueberries were opening their small bell flowers. A bit uphill from these a cluster of painted buckeyes were engaged in the attractive unfurling of their little pleated leaves. I happened to look down just in time to see a pile of otter scat! There are obviously beavers at work here in the wetland marshes, evidenced by all the dead snags, great forage trees for red-headed woodpeckers, but otters, too! I wished I’d brought a camera. Suddenly two great blue herons rose with a simultaneous “crank.” The trees still bare, there seemed to be an endless expanse of wetland forest across the cattail marshes. When the leaves emerge this sense of vastness across the wetland is not visible, because a gradually rising wall of green treeness blocks the view. Gazing at it I’m wondering how wide this swamp forest is, thinking I’d like to try to find out. But for now it remains a mystery. I wonder where the beaver lodge is.
It is now exactly a month after the ocean trip, and I’m sitting at my desk preparing to write a different article on earth-dreaming, when I randomly open my journal and am surprised to see the dream that I had totally forgotten about. I am even more surprised to realize that the wonderings in that dream exactly parallel these wonderings about Northeast Creek. Once again the inner nature of the dream world meets the outer nature of the day world. Once again I feel a sense of the Mystery that permeates both nature and spirit. This is why we Westerners are finally realizing that to make a distinction between nature and spirit is false. Some cultures have no words for nature, no words for spirit, because they are not separate from each other or from us. We cannot be disentangled from our world. Needing to try to name this kind of leapfrogging I’d experienced between soul’s wildness and nature’s wildness, I long ago started calling these events sequences that together form the process of the movement of eco-psycho-spiritual energy. Synchronicities are often aspects of such sequences.
This same night we are listening to music in a small night-club when a woman walks in whom I have not seen in probably ten years. We get to talking, and I suddenly realize that she is the one person uniquely suited to answer my dream question, my waking question, how big, how wide is the swamp forest? because she used to run a music shop on one side of Northeast Creek and lives directly across it on the other side. In fact, I entered the forest this time right at the back door of her former shop. “About a half mile,” she answers. Ahh, large enough for imagination to explore the hidden mysteries that lurk at the edges of these liminal waters where land water meet.
Today I returned to the creek with my camera to try to find that otter scat. Still there — see all the fish scales! Also there, gliding dreamily in the creek and nibbling on grasses at the edge, always together, were a pair of geese. But one was a Canada goose and the other a white goose. Ah, love is another mystery. To some people, white animals are spirit animals. Doubting my writing, I had been wondering whether I should finish and post this story. I hear this messenger from the earth-and-spirit world saying, Yes, you need to tell each other these dream stories, for us and for our Earth.
Text © 2019 Betty Lou Chaika, Photos © 2019 Betty Lou and David Chaika
Just Beyond the Winter © Kathleen Hannan. You can hear this song at: http://www.kathleenhannan.com/song-blog