Good morning, everyone! How are you all? Compared to the past few days, it’s pretty warm this morning, and breezy–a nice change from crisp cold air that just hangs there like the last reluctant leaf of autumn. I like changes of season, even within the same season. My day started early as usual. I fed Horatio, then sipped a cup of coffee and rocked in the meditation chair while Scott got ready for work–talking to him now and again whenever he passed by, little comments only, no time for big conversations.
After he left, I picked up Bly’s book, A Little Book on the Human Shadow, and finished the last chapter. I loved most of this book. Some of the passages in the middle were kind of a muddle, but that’s because I don’t fully understand Jungian concepts and besides, I’m not interested in strengthening my ego, but my soul. However, his beginning and ending thoughts on the human shadow were astounding and immensely encouraging, so it was the bookends of the volume that meant the most to me. To my surprise, the impact of each was the result of two poems.
Several months ago, maybe a year, I don’t remember, I had a dream that a crow, stuck inside a car, was beating its wings frantically against the windows to get out, and keening pitifully. It struck the driver’s side window so hard that it broke both the window and its wing. I opened the door and let it out onto the ground, where it hobbled painfully to the curb and sat in a lump of feathers. In moments, however, it was joined by a dove, who flew down beside it and huddled close, breast to breast, to comfort and heal it. My vision retreated to the outside of the scene, and I saw myself in the form of a giant eagle, who watched the two birds for a few seconds and then lifted into the sky to fly away on powerful wings.
At the time, I saw the dream from one perspective and carried that interpretation around with me until I read this poem in Bly’s book:
The dove returns: it found no resting place; /It was in flight all night above the shaken seas; /Beneath dark eaves /The dove shall magnify the tiger’s bed; /Give the dove peace. /The split-tailed swallow leaves the sill at dawn; /At dusk, blue swallows shall return. /On the third day the crow shall fly, /The crow, the crow, the spider-colored crow, /The crow shall find new mud to walk upon.
Bly says that we are taught from an early age to develop the light side of our personality, to move into the “well-lit subjects of mathematics and geometry–and to become successful.” He says that, as a result, the dark part of us becomes starved, so what do we do? We send out a crow…. the shadow of us, our pain, the socially unacceptable parts of us we’ve stuffed into a sack we drag behind us and pretend isn’t there. This immediately threw an entirely new light onto my dream and I was so excited I could barely contain myself, ecstatic that my intuition was showing me the way when my conscious mind was blind to it. I had released an area of intense pain to be met by the light, to finally be healed. That the crow and dove formed a yin/yang symbol (which represents the combination of light and shadow) was icing on the cake. What this means to me is gigantic–it’s the opening of an area that has, in major part, shaped my personality with its serrated edges.
I didn’t even have to be conscious of the work for it to be done, which is the astonishing thing. I just had to cooperate with the process as I saw it, every day, every minute of that day, every day of that month, as months turned into a year and so on. I can’t change the past or the serrated blade, which was handed to me before I was old enough to hold it, and my job is not to change myself now, either. That’s a fruitless endeavor, I know, I’ve tried. My whole life was about trying, striving to be better than I was.
But no more. Now, I rest. With eagle eyes I watch the healing begin in the part of me that lasts forever and then fly off to do my eagle business, whatever that turns out to be, confident that what has begun will not end until it’s finished.
In the last chapter of the book, Bly talks about poets who not only wrote about their shadows, but lived them. He mentions, in particular, Rainer Rilke, who “when he realized what his work was telling him, interrupted his writing of poetry, and spent months watching animals in the zoo, and blind men on the streets, and years alone.” He says that Rilke began to ask less from the world, not more. Bly then went on to mention the Taoists, who believe that changing your way of life may mean giving up having an effect on the world and practicing “wu-wei” or “doing nothing” instead. Not playing any role. He mentions specifically severing ties with institutions in the latter part of one’s life in order to become free of ambition, and as I read all this, my heart expanded with joy because this is exactly what I’ve been doing. My intuition, God, my guides–all had been working to bring me into right alignment for the healing I want, even while I was sleeping. They still are. The same is happening with you as well. Nobody’s special, and everybody’s special.
The final poem of the book was Rilke’s. In it he speaks of the man who cannot access his deeper self, who refuses to look at the visions that rise all around him at nighttime, in darkness, and says that it’s all over for him. That everything that happens to him will “cheat him–/even you, my God. And you are like a stone/that draws him daily deeper into the depths.” These last two lines moved me so much that I scrambled for a pen so I could answer them! It’s the first poem I’ve written in years, and I’ll share it with you before I’m tempted to polish all its rough edges off and make it gift store bland.
I’d like to say I’ll be swimming beatifically in the depths of my shadows today, but no, what I’ll be doing is shopping with my mom and Amber and Torie, combing through thrift stores for a few sundries and doing major grocery shopping because our cupboards are bare. Well, there’s a can of sweet potatoes in there. A tablespoon of rice, twisted into a round ball in its plastic bag. We have five eggs left. Two heels and a slice of white bread. You get the idea. For the past week I’ve had to get very creative in the kitchen and this is not my area of expertise or interest. Plus, today is Jesse’s birthday! Happy birthday, my wonderful middle son. He wants pea soup and homemade bread for our family dinner. My shadows will have to wait! Or follow me on my errands, either way. I hope you all have a terrific day, too. Love! xo