Monday, March 7, 2016

Surfing on the longboard of spirit



            Something has kept me from dreaming.
            Science tells me this isn’t true. I’m always dreaming; it’s a biological function that is as necessary as breathing, eating, expelling waste, and it happens several times a night, on the regular.
            But damned if I have been able to recall these dreams in my waking life. For years, I’ve awakened and jumped to work—something I always have plenty of—and if I’ve captured a trace of a dream, it has been a torn scrap of gossamer as it drifted around a corner and out of sight.
            Right now, though, I’m taking a class to help me reap the wisdom of my dream life. The thinking is that dreams transverse the barrier between ego and soul, and they bring messages that help us, if we can figure out their language, their code.
            But it’s happening for me. My dreams are happening, probably as they always have, but I’m waking with the ability to recall them. I’m being very intentional about summoning them back, and I’m writing them down to explore in more depth during the day. I’ve started to put them to work for me.
            Just last night, I dreamed I was a man—tall, tanned, muscular—and I surfed over waves on a long, narrow board covered with symbols I couldn’t decipher. Another man was beside me on a similar board, and we journeyed out, parallel to one another, and we were looking for a perfect place for … something, some purpose I don’t remember. I knew, though, that it was out there, waiting to be found.
            I’m not a narrow man on a narrow board. I’m a fat lady on a couch, to be technical about things, and I have my laptop open in front of me, a cup of coffee that needs a warmup to my right. My cat is bathing himself on top of my dream journal, but inside there are circled phrases with translations in the margin. Man = animus; need to be strong. Surfboard = must go with the flow, deal with turbulence. Symbols on board = magic, trust in fate.
            I suspect I’ve ignored dream symbols for such a long time because I’ve revisited them, somewhat, in poems, where I let images, even unexpected ones, surface and take hold. A poet has a strange mastery over dreams, and can move its symbols across the page at will, the way maybe someone once laid out lithic structures according to a plan. Perhaps even Stonehenge started with a finger tracing a circle in the dust.
            The problem is that dreams aren’t supposed to have masters. Dreams are visitations, and we are to receive them as they are, humbly, and read their wisdom. Poems are artifice. Dreams could not be more real.
            Another reason I may have trouble remembering dreams is that I open my eyes to the day having already started my work. This blog is a good example. Last week, I took part in a Facebook thread that explored the issue of small presses. The original prompt explored how to start one, but I jumped in very quickly to say that one shouldn’t start one at all, unless one were fully committed to distribution. Publishing, I maintained, is about making work public and finding an audience—it is not just a process for creating pretty books. (Maybe I’ll write about this on another day.)
            I actually arose the next morning arguing the issue in my mind, formulating a blog post and considering counterarguments. I felt very exercised about the whole issue, and indeed, it’s one that I’m passionate about. I’ve considered starting a press on a couple of occasions myself, but the thing that kept me from pulling the trigger was the distribution problem.
            I didn’t actually write about that issue the day I woke up composing, but it’s only because I felt too cantankerous. I needed to cultivate an inner peace, and so I deliberately put off this post, yet another one that is a variation on a theme (editors behaving badly) and instead took things in a positive direction—nurturing creativity. My waking ruminations weren’t all that useful, as a result, and yet they happened, and they stole time from my spiritual self, the self that could have benefitted from dream wisdom.
            For me, writing is a gesture of the spirit. My poems—my go-to form—communicate in a very direct way with a contemplative self, and even a work of fiction (like my very first published story, out today) tries to tap into a higher truth. Writing can also be intriguing and productive if it’s only noodling or engaging in intellectual play, although that’s not the work I like best to do.
            Writing for me is meditation; it’s prayer. It centers me and connects me and fixes me in time and space.
            I have a worry about the writing life, and it is the way I can let the other stuff take over—not my communion with the page, but things like networking and promotion and publishing efforts. When I realize I am concerning myself too much with how many days have gone by with no response from an editor, or with the status of my work on Submittable, or with why my work was rejected, or with what kind of book might comprise my new poems, it can be an absolute act of will to change my sightline, to return my focus to the writing.
            Writing friends are so important to me, and I have a lot to say about ethical practices, good markets, poetry trends, and all the rest. But the writing is the thing. It has to be the thing. And it’s the thing because it’s a reflection of my individual spirit and my solitary path.

            What my dream experience has taught me is that there is a richness to my inner voice, and thoughts about the external publishing world can’t begin to touch it. The writing, though? It at least reaches in that direction—a finger pointing into deepest space, or maybe curling upon itself to beckon.

17 comments:

  1. Inspiring as usual. Thanks, Karen.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Anthony! You make me feel like I'm not hollering into a wind tunnel. :)

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  2. I remember almost all my dreams, many of which repeat themselves with little variations. Even as a child I remembered my dreams, intense with color. My dreams are sometimes funny, which I wake myself giggling. Many times they're very scary, and seem almost movie like without the credits at the end. If someone were to interpret my dreams they would probably run away screaming with that disturbed distant stare for the rest of their life. I have magical dreams, flying, chased by monsters, or I'm the monster myself. I've even dreamed of going to hell, getting all Dante Alighieri on myself. The dreams I liked best were the traveling dreams, I guess because that's what I am in my heart, a wanderer, maybe a little lost. I guess that's what wanderers are, lost souls searching for their place in life. Mine is that of an artist. Someday I hope to find what I lost. There I will rest.

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    1. You're lucky! Or, more accurately, you're much more evolved than I am! Enjoy your journeys. I'll try to catch up with you. Baby steps! On surfboards!

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    2. You know Karen I tried surfing when I was in the Navy, skiing, too. When I was stationed in San Diego I surfed, or something close to it, and in Iceland I I glided like an angel on the snow, almost off a cliff into freezing water. Luckily most of the gliding was on my ass, and the rocks helped me stop before I went over the edge. I was a little more daring in my youth.

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  3. This is a really beautiful investigation into how creativity works. Bravo!

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