Monthly Archives: May 2014

On Dreams

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On Dreams

I’ve been dreaming a lot lately, more than usual … some beautiful, some magical, some unintelligible and some disturbing; and some of them, those strange dreams that leave you unbalanced and anticipating something unknown for days afterwards. I do not know why because for many years I rarely remembered my dreams, at times wondering if my brain had stopped dreaming. So, I ask myself, why this increase recently? Am I going through changes in my thinking or my lifestyle that warrants messages from my sleeping mind? Or is just a random cyclical thing? Whatever it is (and they have, at least, given rise to new poetry and ideas for stories, so they are being useful) I have been thinking deeply about dreams for a while now.

Dreams intrigue me – everyone dreams, I assume – but what are they? Where do they come from? Are they simply our mind cataloguing our computer brain files and shifting things around, or are the more significant than this, more fundamental, more vital?

I find it hard to believe that dreams are purely a systematic shifting of memory bytes. That’s almost too easy an answer for something as complex and varied as dreaming. Many are just too vivid, too diverse, and have too many images that are unlinkable to any current or past experience.

Dreams are universal functions of our mind and unite humanity across space and time; as I said – everybody dreams, and humanity has dreamt since the earliest of times. Therefore it seems reasonable to surmise that they must have some function within, and exert some influence over our existence. There must be a reason for dreaming … or maybe not. Should everything have purpose or is that a rational, day time idea? Maybe dreaming is simply another, different, level of existence. During the day we live by reason’s code in order to be safe and survive, but at night we can travel through time or soar to the stars, and do things we might otherwise never try, trapped as we often are by our insecurities and fears. During our dreams we are free to fly, dance, love and create new realities for ourselves.

There are people, of course, that can blur the boundaries of dream and daytime consciousness. I call it that rather than reality as I believe that there are many different realities. These people are the great visionary thinkers, artists, poets, writers, and especially children, who haven’t yet been polluted by society’s ideas of what is real. Such people possess imagination and the ability to express it for the potential benefit of others. They, we (for I class myself as a visionary, a writer, a poet and an artist, and I still possess a childlike mind, too childlike some would say) take our dreams into daytime consciousness daring to imagine broader horizons, new and different worlds, stranger dimensions. We fly on cosmic wings in and out of our dreams, creating and imagining and interpreting the world around us, transforming it into places of greater beauty, more magical and enchanted, remaking it in our own image.

The dream world whether captured by our night time consciousness, or flowing from our pens, keyboards and paintbrushes, is considered by many – so called intellectuals, or just plain old adults – to be unreal, fiction, imaginary. I include the last word as it illustrates the irony of the idea – imaginary ie coming from the imagination, which is purely an extension of our night time consciousness, our dreams. Yet in many parts of the world now, and in many cultures of the past, the boundaries between dreams and waking are both fragile and shifting. The Celts (a culture I identify with both emotionally and genetically) believe dreams are the realms of gods and goddesses, places to discover the very essence of existence.

And indeed, it is that dream consciousness that allows us to see beyond the mundane world to the very core of being, so that we might reach higher than our current existence towards goals and aspirations we would otherwise reject as beyond our place in the world. Dreams allow us to believe we are greater than we are and enable us to transform ourselves in new and inspiring ways.

Dreams and imagination are the central core of who we are – they have allowed human beings to rise from simple creatures of instinct to complex beings who have the ability to fly to the moon and beyond. Without dreams we are not human; they are what make us human and not just animal, for dreams and imagination transport us across the boundaries of possibility and hurl us to the ends of infinity.

A dream journey is a trip into the unknown – whether during night consciousness or through the modus of creating something from imagination. During our waking time we tend to stick to what is familiar, stay in out comfort zones. Often this is necessary in order to survive, or is the result of imprisoning fears. But in our night dreams, our day dreams, our fantasies, we can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone we choose. We can be something different every time we dream, or stretch and challenge ourselves immeasurably.

Our job as an adult is to grow and learn and develop, to expand our knowledge and skills; yet it is the child that sees and accepts, unconditionally, the vastness of the universe as accessed by imagination and dreams. Be as little children …

Today’s Western society is extremely materialistic, governed by strict concepts of reality: science. If it cannot be seen, touched, proven it cannot exist.  Dreams, spirituality, magic are all seen as fantasy. Yet the latter encompasses vision and a belief in potentiality. The latter pre-supposes that there is still much to be learnt about the present universe and our existence within it. The latter requires open-mindedness. A materialistic, realistic view is close-minded. So which is superstition and blind faith, and which is liberalism and progressiveness?  Today’s imagined dream, today’s imagined story, today’s magical idea is tomorrow’s science or medicine or invention. Is it fear of the unknown, fear of being vulnerable to possibility, fear of surrendering our imagination that insists on keeping our dreams imprisoned in a cage, and labelled unreal? Isn’t it essential to our very existence to listen to our dreams and dare to imagine a better world, a world of love, tolerance, peace and environmental purity where everyone has enough to live on, and no-one is subjugated? I’m certain that most of us dream of such a world so let’s keep dreaming, let’s keep imagining, and turn those dreams into reality on both plains of existence.

I’m conscious that I’ve not really explored what dreams are, after all, just that they are universal and essential and important – maybe their nature needs more thought from me, but in the meantime: Dream on …

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Stained Glass

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I love stained glass – the clarity of it, the sparkle of light filtering through the colours and shapes and textures. Each window or mirror is a piece of magic captured in melted sand – a miracle of art and technology combined.

I have designed two stained glass windows over the years – one is in the front door at my ex husband’s house – my house, when we were married. The other is in the front door of Dr Horace Dobbs, the dolphin expert who has written several books about the healing powers of dolphins. Sadly I have lost my photo of that window – though it is illustrated in one of his books.

Here is the Art Deco inspired window in my ex’s 1930s home. I loved the colours – purples and autumn colours – they were (are still I expect) so warm and welcoming.

stained glass at 126

I also have several mirrors in my home that utilise stained glass as frames. These were made by John Leathwood, a very skilled and creative stained glass artist who has done windows in famous buildings such as Burton Agnes Hall, nr Bridlington. Sadly he is no longer with us but his mirrors remain a lasting and very beautiful memorial to him. I used one of these mirrors as the frame for a piece of Journal Art

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A few examples of John’s work in my possession. Sadly in the process of being photographed by me on my not very powerful camera, the colours have not turned out as brilliant as they are in reality. The first – in brilliant Mediterranean blues and aqua, with purple, white and green highlights is in my bathroom. The round mirror is a face  of a woman – I like to think of her as the Goddess. She needs relocating where she will capture more light but I haven’t yet identified a place. The autumn leaf/seed pod is in my conservatory, and the final one, in white and silver with hints of green is in my hallway. The latter was commissioned by me and illustrates the scene outside of Moria (JRR Tolkien; Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) – the hidden gateway that can only be seen in moonlight. It is incredibly evocative to me, and feels magical – as all mirrors are-  being portals. The latter is also the one I used in my journal art.

Nature’s Affirmations

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Nature’s Affirmations

a bramble patch 20002

(incorporating ideas, and some words of wisdom, from Scottish Island Mum. See her Mindful Meditation by visiting her website; thank you S.I.M). Also visit Heather Gordon Young’s site and read more about nature’s affirmations: dolphins and woodlands etc

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what defines us, what affirms our place on this lovely, lonely planet spinning endlessly in space. We are so far from any potential neighbours that we might as well be alone in the universe. That sometimes makes me feel very small, very alone, very unconnected, as I’m sure it does many people.

Feeling connected … to people; to happenings; to communities; to nature; to the universe at large … is important, and something, I feel, many people in the 21st century are feeling a lack thereof. My view is, that  is why so many people are searching for something that they cannot seem to identify – cut adrift from Mother Earth, the great Goddess Gaia.

Do we take our life affirmations from places outside of us, defining ourselves by other people’s expectations and labels eg our family, our work, our education, our religion,  and our background?  That’s fine if these things are/were positive experiences. What if they aren’t or weren’t? Traditionally, western therapy – whether formally or through the multitude of self-help books available on bookshop shelves, of which I’ve bought a shed full over the years – recommends the use of artificially designed affirmations to re-programme our feelings, our perceptions, our perspectives on life, to make us feel good about ourselves, as if we were machines just needing a reboot.

Wouldn’t it be better to affirm our existence from within by discovering those things that make us feel good about ourselves; taking up the responsibility for understanding and rebirthing ourselves.  I’m not talking about materialistic things like chocolate, money, clothes, make-up, but those core things that link us to creation. Rather than ordering an external reboot – being our own modem, our own personal wi-fi, if you like.

My friend and fellow philosopher, healer, writer and artist – Scottish Island Mum – suggests that life is a deeply personal experience that we enter and leave by ourselves; and that we owe it to ourselves to discover what makes us happy.

(I so agree – which is why I set up the Happiness Group)

Sounds like a good plan, but where to begin to identify our own life enhancers, our own personal affirmations that we are alive and well and thriving?

The other evening I sat in my springtime emerging garden and wrote down a list of images that made me feel good at that time: the smell of lavender; the velvet touch of rose petals; the singing of birds, to name a few. I started to rearrange these into a poem. In doing so I realised I had a chronological story – the story of my emotions; the story of what makes me ‘feel alive’. The images I had identified really did seem to define the overall balance of my daily life.  The words, and the images they evoke and were evoked by, raise my feelings of well-being every time I read the poem. It’s not a good poem by any literary standard, not even by any of my own poetry writing standards, but as a template for understanding my life, it’s not bad.

 lavender

Scottish Island Mum suggests that such images can be used as affirmations to guide the way we live our lives. I have to admit that I have had very little success with typical therapeutic affirmations. The craft cupboard that stands by the table in my study/studio/conservatory is covered with commercially produced cards invoking such wisdom as:

There is plenty for everyone including me

My income is constantly increasing

… so why am I still struggling to live on a pension

 

I open new doors to life

I claim my own power, and I lovingly create my own reality

… so why am I constantly restless, why do doors remain shut, why do my dreams not awaken?

 

Despite repeating such affirmations, and they being visible at all times when I’m sitting here in my conservatory/study/studio – writing or painting or just day-dreaming – I remain slightly discontented with life, searching for … what exactly?

The view outside my window at this moment, as I sit typing: the play of light on leaves, the changing shapes and shadows, the glorious colours; the aromas and sounds that drift through my open doors, are far more effective in lifting my spirits. And when it’s grey and damp, or I’m just lonely, reading my simple poem reminds me of that sweeping sense of serenity and contentment that is quite mystical, and that I only get when I immerse myself in nature – even if this is only in my humble back garden in the middle of large northern city. Here is where I get my sense of self-worth from … from being connected to Nature, to Creation, to the Creator of All. The universe remains vast and aloof, but nature reminds me that I’m part of it; I’m real and loved.

rose

(Also see my ramblings on Happiness).

So this poem then – these natural affirmations; here is Me, my life affirmed:

Nature’s affirmations

The scent of lavender and jasmine in the evening air

Entices the hypnotic drone of insects on the breeze

Tranquillity

 

The furtive rustle of vary-green leaves in the trees

Reveals the nervous bustle of multitudinous birds in branches

Comfort

 

The radiant flame of velvet rose petals aglow

From the reflections of lacy waving fern fronds underneath

Wonder

 

The engine-throb of frog throats from the pond

Bass-backs the bobbing, shell-tapping beats of the thrush

Amusement

 

The stealthy glance of a fluid feline on the hunt

Disturbs the homecoming haste of a spider on the path

Rapport

 

The warbling love duet of a blackbird pair

Counters the lonesome flight and call of a single gull

Longing

 

The searching sonar flutter of bats upon the wing

Tracks the monochrome grace of a moth unaware

Acceptance

 

An artist’s brush of golden blush as the sun sets

Streaks the indigo-deep fall of night’s rich drapes

Contentment

 

Drifting clouds fleeing across the deepening sky

Echoes a surfeit of creeping shadows all around

Peace

 

The cheery twinkle of heavenly lights turning on

Greet the shimmering silver sickle of a rising new moon

Rapture

 

The warming smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen

Reflects the friendly glow of a home well loved, and welcoming

Happiness

 coffee

Was I surprised to find that nature has such an affirming effect on me? Well yes … and no! Yes because it’s only a few weeks ago that I thought I wasn’t connected to this Earth of ours, at all. But I’ve done a lot of thinking since then, made insights and connections, forgiven myself and others. I’ve discovered how much I love this Earth and how deeply I am connected though at different and varying levels from what I’d first imagined. It’s not happenstance that one of my first books (by Enid Blyton) described nature walks in the countryside, promoted getting down and dirty with leaves and soil and moss, encouraging its readers to participate in nature-inspired activities. Neither is it an accident that one of my most loved memories, is walking down a country lane with my father, long ago, collecting signs of Autumn for my school nature table (see post …). And it’s not a coincidence, either, that for fifteen years I ran a children’s WATCH group, encouraging an holistic approach to nature study involving poetry, song, art and ritual.

apple tree

My writing – stories and poems – and my artwork is full of images of nature and the elements, the mythology and archetypal energy that diffuses from within them, and the feelings they evoke. I fully support the Ecobardic movement (that seeks to reconnect people to the Earth through story, poetry, song and art), and my spirituality celebrates the turn of seasons and lunar cycles, rather than follows traditional religious teachings.

So, why would I be surprised to find that it is Nature that affirms my very being? Yet I am! I am surprised at the very simplicity of the idea, and surprised that it has taken me so long to understand myself even though the clues were there all along.