Monday, August 10, 2009

The Dreams Are Back

Three days ago I started remembering my dreams again. Last night, a gray cat knew who had been murdered; I lay on the floor trying to convince him to tell me.

This new series of dreams has a much darker tone; gone are the laughter, the fun, the joking with friends. Instead, these latest dreams are filled with images of war, murder, and uncertainty. This is clearly a new phase.

It's pretty typical to see groups of dreams follow patterns like this. Sometimes a set of images will appear consistently over a period of days or weeks, then give way to another series, only to reappear later on. I expect my laughing friends will come back to visit, even while the darker images prevail. Psyche often seems to send reassuring images to lighten the load of darkness as we work through difficult times.

A wonderful book that details a woman artist's psychological journey via her dream images is The Dreaming Way by Patricia Reis and Susan Snow. It documents the healing power that dream images can have when they are used consciously.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Alchemical Horses, Part One

My dreams remain elusive this week; at best I still recall only fragments and vague images. This has gone on for a month now. When my dream-life isn’t available to me, I go looking for other sources of information and guidance.

The most prominent feature of my waking life right now is the horses. Midnight, the 22-year old Egyptian Arab, dropped from the sky into my life a few months ago: My friend the plumber, whom I had met all of three times, offered to let me care for his much-loved horse because his own time is taken up by his new business. Since then, I’ve been spending at least two hours a day, five days a week, at the barn. Lately I’ve also begun caring for Luka, a two-year-old Missouri Foxtrotter colt, whose owners find themselves in a similar bind.

Horses, in any normal world, do NOT fall from the sky into one’s life, and yet here are two of them. Archetypally, what is the horse for me? What is the personal meaning of this animal in my life?

Lately I’ve been thinking about a numinous dream-horse I encountered some years back, in a dream so powerful that I included it in my dissertation. This morning, when I looked it up, I discovered something very interesting: The dream occurred during a period when I was unable to contact the Ladies, my Guides for the dissertation process; a time just like the present moment, when I was terrified that I was spinning my wheels, doing nothing of value. Here’s the passage:

Throughout this period my dreams continued to encourage me at the same time they reminded me, sometimes not too gently, that I was avoiding “getting my feet wet” with the real work of the dissertation (which, in retrospect, was not the writing but more a state of mind). In one dream from early May,

I’m on a ferryboat, going to a lovely, quaint city that looks to me like Venice. The boat comes to a stop but in order to reach the shore we have to wade through water, chest-deep but very clear. I can see rocks covered with barnacles and coral-like living organisms, and I worry about stepping on and injuring them. I wade on and the water gets deeper as I go under a kind of waterfall—through which I have to wade in order to get to the city. I’m frightened as the water pours over my head, but I go on anyway. I know that I can swim but am very aware of how easy it would be to drown, and I’m terrified. I can hardly breathe.

The city, with its ancient, old-world feel, is reminiscent of the City of the Ladies [(an imaginal city described by Christine de Pizan in1405)]. Yes, there are dangers in working with the unconscious, but if I was ever to reach that City, I knew I had to take the chance.

During this time I was also avoiding active imagination—still resistant to whatever I might learn there—and not consciously giving the Ladies the opportunity to speak with me. However, I could sense their presence, and indeed at times I seemed to have a kind of invisible entourage with me, frightening the dog as I worked in the yard, but I was too busy defensively racing from one chore to another to be still and listen.

About this same time I had another dream, in which I encounter a dying horse. I comfort it in its last moments, and as it dies, I say, “A heavy soul has left this tiny body.” As I carefully rearrange its body for burial, I discover it weighs no more than a deer. The horse, a powerful symbol of shamanic travel between the worlds, seemed to offer itself as a guide into worlds to come. The small, beaded, wood-and-yarn effigy that I made in its honor now hangs over my desk as a talisman, reminding me that such travel is possible, and that I am not alone.

Fear remained, in spite of such reassurances. I dreamed of climbing a frightening wooden staircase, dark and old, carrying a lamp up to an old woman who lived there. When I forced myself to crawl up the stairway in active imagination, I found, not some dreadful witch’s den, but the bright and clean apartment of the Old Wise Woman. This was a theme that had shown up in my dreams every few nights: Face your fears! Nothing bad will happen!

As I re-read this passage this morning I was struck by the similarities between that time and this one, reflected by the symbols in dreams and waking-world experiences. Though at the moment I can’t seem to remember my dreams and active imagination seems blocked for me, my waking life is full of horses, and I dreamed the other night of water pouring over my head, nearly suffocating me.

I am now reminded of other horse images: There once was an imaginal horse who obediently raced alongside my parents’ car when I was a child, gracefully and effortlessly leaping driveways, hedges, even entire streets. As an adult, I dreamed of Elvish princes who could transform themselves into horses at will.

More recently, during a workshop with a shaman, a horse came to me in a vision, offering himself as a guide on the next stage of my life’s journey. “Conveniently,” I had forgotten about that….

And the messages—face your fears! Nothing bad will happen, and in fact, you are moving forward. Transformation is occurring unseen and unnoticed.

It seems I need to do some more work with the Horse.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Midnight's Visit with the Vet

Older horses’ teeth don’t wear evenly, it seems, and they tend to develop sharp points on inside or outside edges that can cut into the tongue, cheek, and/or gums and make eating difficult. Removing these sharp edges is done via a procedure called “floating.” I cannot imagine how that word ever came to be used for this procedure, which is routinely done every year or two for a horse of Midnight’s age (22-plus).

So I’m standing there in the barn with Midnight, holding the lead rope, waiting for the vet to check his teeth. Vet takes a quick look and says, “Yep. They need floating.” A quick injection into a vein in his neck and within seconds Midnight goes all glassy-eyed. Half a minute and his head goes down, his legs start to wobble, and I ask the vet, “How many of your patients actually fall down with this stuff?!” “Oh, in 25 years, I’ve only had two fall over.” And I’m thinking, “Well, here’s number three!” But Midnight doesn’t fall, thank goodness. The vet walks out to his truck.

The vet comes back from his truck with what looks like a heavy bridle with a strange, large bit. He gets it into Midnight’s mouth and cranks—turns out the “bit” is two metal plates that catch his front teeth and hold his mouth open. Midnight’s tongue flails around for a while but he’s too woozy to offer much resistance. Vet says, “Here. Hold right here,” pointing to the side of the bridle thing. I grab the strap and hang on.

The vet plugs in this contraption that looks like a cross between a huge, flat, metal toothbrush and a chainsaw. Before I have time to holler, he’s got that thing inside Midnight’s mouth and has turned it on. Folks, NEVER again complain about YOUR visit to the dentist, OK? Things could be much, much worse.

It must not hurt a whole lot, though, because Midnight really didn’t put up any fight at all. Most of the head movement was from the vet thrashing around inside with the rasp thing. The sound was awful, the smell of burning tooth enamel pretty horrific. My next question was, “Say, how many owners have you had pass out on you?!” “Why? You need to sit down?” It was a near thing, but I managed, by sheer force of will, to stay on my feet and not throw up. I figured that wouldn’t have helped anything, after all, and I didn't want to look like a wuss.

So the vet keeps this up for quite a while, and I realize he’s only done the lower jaw. Then he says, “Here. Hold his head.” Wasn’t that what I was already doing? Nope. He meant get under Midnight’s head and hold his head up. Now, Midnight weighs 900 pounds, and I’m here to tell you, about 300 of those pounds must be in his head. I’m not that big a person, and I’ve got this enormous horse head over my shoulder and I’m trying to hang on to it and hold it 1) still and 2) up in the air while the vet grinds away at the upper jaw.

Midnight, all this time, is just standing there drooling (yes, all over me). Finally, the “floating” is finished and the “bridle” comes off. It seems that there were a lot of hooks and sharp points; the vet is confident that now Midnight will be able to chew much better and will stop losing weight. I sure hope so; I don’t want to have to go through this again for a long time!

So, are we done now? Nope. One more procedure: the vet needs to “clean Midnight’s sheath.” I will let you, dear reader, imagine for yourself what that’s all about. All I will say is that Midnight did not appreciate it much, but once he was walked into a corner and up against a wall, he tolerated it.

And an hour later, Midnight was back in his stall, calmly and thoroughly masticating his grain; I went home and took a nap.

[This is now cross-posted on my other blog, The Alchemical Horse, here on Blogger. You horsey types might enjoy taking a look.]