Yestereve I gave words to what scared me, spoke words that were heavy in waiting, and my period, often irregular, came at long last. And in my dreams I came into a dark and beautiful landscape of deciduous green forests and untrodden fields. In such peace my companion and I passed through abandoned school playgrounds on this frontier where hope was forsaken, for better than hope had been found. We traveled further into this unknown land, the unmarked trail our guide, until we fell into a happy festival of friends and singing. And how we cried for those we loved and missed, but we were not lonely, nor any longer heavy-hearted. The music of friendship and laughter alighted around us, and I lay in happiness as harmless stampeding souls thundered around me in a great wave of hilarity. It was the eve of the end of days within this World Who never ends as I climbed the limbs of unknown trees. There is no map to this place beyond every map’s end, heartaching Pilgrim, but that you are the compass, aligned. – Gentle Jeffrey Pine.
How quickly the days go by now, the weeks and the months and the years. All of a sudden I am closer to thirty than twenty. People twice my age laugh. Someday I will be countless years gone from this time. When I was a child, time crawled.
I have never had anxiety about aging until now. The only thing that matters, in the end, is looking back on a life that one has lived with purpose and dedication. I now see the signs of aging in my face, and I, too, am traveling the path of the ancestors. T is twelve years older than me, and the thought that he will likely die before I do is difficult already, but I will not be long after him.
I had a dream that T and I had grown old together and loved each other all our days. When he died, I looked for his spirit on a bright mountain. There was a tree of shimmering coppery-gold leaves, the color of his hair, and his spirit was in this tree. I went to him there and embraced him, my arms around the trunk of the happy tree, and I could feel his love eternally, and the whole soul of him in the tree enclosed me in his affection.
Buddha said, “I have gained nothing from meditation. But what I have lost: the fear of sickness, old age and death.”
I may never have children, but I don’t need to have any to feel very close to the lineage of humanity. This great love is the continuity of generations. I wonder if the fear of aging is the fear of losing touch with God, because we fear that we have not lived in the way we were meant to. I wonder if a happy aging and death is the peace of drawing nearer to God.
Animals live for a decade or so, a few species for many decades, but often we humans outlive our companion species. In some sense we humans are afflicted by the length of our lives. We must live with the conscious knowledge of our own coming death. I wonder if animals may also live with this knowledge, but they do so with more grace than we do. They do not worry about it. They simply live, and demonstrate real grace and wisdom in it. They do not mind how many years or months or days they have left. We humans carry the past and the future, struggling to stay in the present, because we remember the beloved dead of the past and the vital youths of the future in whom we hope to be born anew. This entire ancestral context of memory and love, of encircling relationships, relatives and rebirths: we keep in touch with the living and the dead.
The wisdom of the Western World, which does not need to be Eastern to be great, is fully at home with embracing and acknowledging humanity’s insatiable hunger for love and for life, even beyond death. However good Buddha’s wisdom was in its own way, it fails to be at peace (the very peace it proclaims?) with the fact that the heart of love is stronger than death. Desire is holy.
“Margaret the First” the playwright of 17th century England, married a man some twenty years her senior, and they were known to have loved each other dearly. In Danielle Dutton’s book about her life, it is recounted how they are not able to have children; one day, when she is middle-aged in her forties and he in his seventies, they kneel together beside the river, and in loving gentleness she still sees in him the handsome younger man she married, and he sees in her the young maiden likewise.
People live longer now. I spent the happier days of my childhood with my grandparents, aged 60 by the time I was born. I saw how they loved each other all the more securely in old age.
This is the way I will be with T. Age will make us love each other more.
The heart of religion is to stand in the presence of beauty. This is the experience of divine beauty, which is not confined to appearances but does sometimes communicate through the sense of sight.
Dream entries from years past:
July 2nd, 2016.
Looking west across rail tracks to San Francisco on the other side of the Coastal Mountains, my Grandfather appears. The City is quiet now. An earth quake is coming, and an inundating wave, and there will be blackness. Grandpa says I can follow him to where I will be safe, and I go to gather from our cabinets the fragments of my childhood. A strange light is breaking, dusky and blue. “We must go now, Sugarpie,” says Grandpa. “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” –these words that are loved. At the edge of the forest Grandpa makes a proper burial place for those who were soon going to die, so that they would not feel lonely or scared when crossing over. The loving dead do this for the living when we cross over, so that we will be comforted and at home.
Grandpa died in 2008. Yesterday I got word from my uncle Larry that Grandma fell and became blind.
October 11th, 2015.
There are too many empty houses. Many are newly built, but where are the people? So many are hollow inside.
March 19th, 2011.
Riding a horse to my old home, I knew that something evil was beginning to invade there. On the dining room table there was lain a horrible corpse, charred black as if by a fire, but not fully skeletal, yet 9 or 10 feet tall. This is wrong! This should not be here! This evil must be expelled! Who else can see this for the horror that it truly is?! But around me they were saying, “Oh, honey, it’s only natural.”
December 1st, 2010.
I loved the spindle in my hand. It was in a strange town in another time, but it was a beautiful village, with roses. A double-steepled church was in the middle of this town which was pressed into a hillside. The sight of the church. Turning back to my spinning, I could see no longer. A long brown dress with a shawl for my garment, a circle of comforting wool. Towards the hills and to the left there was a room, and the day began to grow dark, and someone was coming for me, calling my name. I was ordered to a certain meeting unknown to me. When I entered there were many people, and women in particular. They asked why I was still wearing my brown, why my spindle was still in my hand when, don’t I see? The veil has been lifted. And what did they mean, I asked, as they moved in a circle around me. They turned toward a wall with a huge painting of a demon and fire on it. They said to me, “That is where we are going to send you this Sunday, instead.”
December 8th, 2010.
Over a dark lake I flew with my cloak as my wings, navigating toward the sparkling lights of the shore. Halfway to home there was a raftsman with his own warm house of light floating out on this dark lake and I flew down and landed here. The man, a friendly ghost, held a lantern. He offered to feed me, knowing how I hungered. A variety of delicious dishes were available upon the instant of magic. Immortal fish and fellow water beasts provided their bodies as food to me. With fondness and gratitude I finished my meal. I thanked the friendly lantern ghost and continued toward the far shore.
The following is adapted from a letter recently written to an acquaintance.
Well, sir, you showed up in my dreams for the past two nights in a row. It’s a record. I’ll keep you informed if you-or-your-apparition shows up again. You never can tell, these strange days on the wide earth, who’s who wandering where in the Lord’s lands.
I’ll take it as a clue from The World that you must be greatly anticipating the transcription of our interview. Ha! It’s on its way. I’m learning how remarkably full one’s time becomes when one starts a business. I hope to not believe too greatly in it, however, and to remain utterly insubordinate. Tom Robbins warned, “Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.”
Here’s hoping my rambunctious exit adieu to the school staff didn’t make you blush too hard, now.
Let me know if you get this. I think once in a different time I emailed you or something and I didn’t hear back. Or maybe I dreamt it –who knows? Something about meeting an old blind woman with a dog, and my helping to walk her home, and there was our country made new again. It really happened, one night, when I was the last of all souls to leave. But I think you either did not receive it, or were like, “whatever.” :)
What dreams have come to visit you? It’s in this time of the darkening, turning year that these animal dreams of humanity do ache in the chest all the more. Visions seep hind-wards and earth-wards into memory of family and home, the recollection of fire, the passing of faces across the grey sea between one pair of closing eyes and another.
– Gentle J. Pine
“I kneel to sow between the Lord’s fingers
by way of the Almighty’s hand
on this earth that is growing
this glade that is coming up.
Old woman of underground
now set the sward pushing up
the strong earth heaving!
The earth will not want for strength
ever in this world
while there’s love from the givers
and tending from nature’s daughters.”
The Kalevala of Finland
The wheel of the year is turning, and we go now into the darker time of reflection and recollection; of looking, in the words of Michael Meade, “behind and below” to the places where the Soul comes from and is intuitively acquainted with. It is the time of the ancestors when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Night falls and surrounds us. The fire is lit. We go inward.
I dreamt I saw my grandpa again, and he was both alive and dead. He was lying just underneath the earth’s surface, only a little way down below the cradle-like embrace of the soft soil. I remembered where he lay, in my dream, though in the waking world he has been cremated. I knew I had to go to him, and take up from his grave something which had been nearly forgotten and buried underneath him. With my hands I removed the blanket of dust from over him, and, seeing his characteristic bald fore-head first, knew that he had been only sleeping there, having not disintegrated, waiting as if in a peaceful nap for resurrection to dawn. He looked old as I always knew him, but not weary: his eyes opened and fluttered, as if to gleam at me catching him in his mid-afternoon sleep in his chair when I was a child. I missed him sorely, wanted him to come up from the earth and be with us again, but he had embarked into the place where time is not like how it is here. “Only a little while longer,” I said with a tear. “Yes, only a little more sleep,” he smiled. And I felt the nearness of all of those who have come before me, knowing that they, too, are asleep for only a little while, though it seems an eternity to us who have not yet crossed over. They are alive in death in a way I cannot explain. I pulled the blanket of the earth back over him, letting the Otherworld hold him, as it must be. The ancestors are alive in the arms of the Great Mother. When we awoke, my husband and I found that we had both dreamt of our grandfathers.
Thomas Lynch writes in his book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade,
“The bodies of the newly dead are not debris nor remnant, nor are they entirely icon or essence. They are, rather, changelings, incubates, hatchlings of a new reality that bear our names and dates, our image and likenesses, as surely in the eyes and ears of our children and grandchildren as did word of our birth in the ears of our parents and their parents. It is wise to treat such new things tenderly, carefully, with honor.”
And I dreamt there was a rite of passage in a forest, and the forest was dark and green, and my people whom I love were there, leading the way. The beginning and the end I do not remember, but there were flowers in the night which were colors I have no name for: I was permitted to see these colors for but a moment, and no longer. Black was the night and wet, but warm, and there were lights of mysterious making in the thicket where we were going. With my mind I could move pieces of wood and whole trees, strong with the muscles of invisible wings. I had gone into the forest to find this gift which was waiting for me. With a desire, a motion of the mind, fallen wood levitated from the ground when I willed it, and I could feel my spirits lift with the lifting of the forest, a swift leap of the heart.
The night before last I was in a small town on the top of a very dry hill, vegetated with sagebrush and dust, but we were not thirsty. It was Christmas at midnight, but it was not dark. The sun, or I think it was a light so many times greater and more beautiful than the sun, shone through the clear window before me in the cathedral which I had come to worship in. Remember what true worship is: the giving of the heart completely. I heard these words around me in that place. The light before me was the brightest white-gold I had ever seen, but it did not blind me or overwhelm me. To look into it was to see more clearly. There was music from the cathedral’s quartet, and I was peaceful and at home, having forgotten, as in another dream, the weight of the waking world behind me. (Journal entry 11.7.2013)
The author Starhawk wrote in her book, The Spiral Dance,
“Male shamans dressed in skins and horns in identification with the God and the herds; but female priestesses presided naked, embodying the fertility of the Goddess. Life and death were a continuous stream; the dead were buried as if sleeping in a womb, surrounded by their tools and ornaments, so that they might awaken to a new life. In the caves of the Alps, skulls of the great bears were mounted in niches, where they pronounced oracles that guided the clans to game. In lowland pools, reindeer does, their bellies filled with stones that embodied the souls of deer, were submerged in the waters of the Mother’s womb, so that victims of the hunt would be reborn.”
I cannot shake the feeling that every night’s sleep is a small death, a practice in surrendering to the irresistible return to the Cradle of Life. We lie down and pass over the veil temporarily, while the umbilical cord of breath yet anchors us safely to this side: we go and journey to the places and people we come from, and will return to.
“And if we do not sleep,” T once said, “the Other Side comes to us.”
(Sleep deprivation creates otherworldly hallucinations. It is not surprising that the brain would do this, but rather the content matter of the visions themselves. Are they not eerily relevant to whatever we yearn for or plagues us? And why is it the content of dreams, visions, mirages and hallucinations are so unremarked upon by investigative researchers? As if exactly what you dream about has no relevance?)
I talk to people I can’t see. I talk to the people in my head, in the land, in history, in what is to come. I talk to my dead cat, and to my grandma when I am a thousand miles away without a phone, and I know that they can somehow hear me. I talk to my grandpa whose body is now ashes in the mountains, and to my mom and dad in a world where they are different, where they are whole. I see them as they shall be, dressed in white and sitting beside a clear river with no more anger. I talk to my ancestors of Old Europe. I hear them singing their songs of mead hall, boats and forests, field and hunt and home and dance, love songs and war songs and silly songs and songs for hellos and goodbyes, blue eyes and wild long hair in the misty forests no longer standing. I talk to the ancestors of the land I live on and I ask them to forgive us and see us now and know that we are learning. I talk to animals when I chance to see them, and I wonder if they choose to show themselves, if they know that same great love that they may bless me with it. I talk to my friends though I cannot see them, and it seems that each are just around that near corner, waiting. I recount their loved faces that I may not forget. Even when I did not know him I talked to my husband whose name and face I did not know, but whom I yearned to meet soon. I told him I missed him and I love him and there is this hugeness of all this love beyond myself that comes up from the center of me like the moment of the world’s creation. I talk to my children of someday, even if they don’t come out of my body, if I never meet them, and I wonder how their lives may be and what it would be like to love them as a mother loves. And all of these are saints to me, who gather around us in love, eager to draw near to this world. I feel them with us, the Communion of Saints. When I lie awake at the edge of the great sea of sleep, I sometimes hear them, every one from all the days of the earth gathered together. They are in a place known only in part to this world where Love lives without weariness, without end. (Journal entry 11.1.2013)
Photo by UlrichG, pixabay.com
I dreamt last night that I was a traveler through a great house of time showing me the ages of the earth. For so long it was the Age of Reptiles in their green and watery chambers of cool stone and warm, wet vine, their habitation stretching snakelike under the earth where the sun’s rays broke from time to time in pieces the tepid sky of the water’s surface, for we were submerged. Black stone as slick and heavy as night, and yellow eyes with slits the blacker I looked into, and marveled in fearful awe at the seeming eternity of their reign. How they marched in circles around their prey, I remember: giant crocodiles, lizards standing upright with horns for crowns, scales of purple and yellow-green, talons and slit pupils readied to kill, to slice and devour. In a circle they marched as one plays musical chairs, as if making thoughtless light of their killing, and the one who was to be slaughtered was jailed in the middle. I studied their ways even as I managed to evade them with the ever-present gift of flight I am blessed with in sleeping. Through their dim and swampy kingdom I tracked them, tracking into the unnamed eons of sands outpouring millennia, and I saw that their life did not rise again from those bogs of algae and insect but were commemorated only by fly and mosquito at the ready to feast. And now I saw a new age open before me. Escaping at once the death-snap of a monster’s jaws at my heels, I passed through a new door, welcomed as a refugee from execution. There I saw a lamb and a lion, and the waters around them were clear and unmuddied, the translucent blue of a jewel. Other mammals were there too, for this was, at last, the Age of Mammals. Mothers held their young close to their warm blood, furred bellies and pouches, and creatures gathered in affectionate packs of herds, flocks and families. Hoof and paw lived together, and when I could finally take my eyes from the radiant white of the lamb’s body, I saw that there was a temple formed out of the river, out of the landscape of savannah and forest where the great sky was not concealed. If I did not look I may not have seen it, that the arms of creation in branches and mountains held up the altar where the lamb and the lion resided. I perceived now that this altar was also the door I had passed through, and from it’s vantage the whole kingdom was seen without barrier. And I saw that crimson blood flowed from the altar, but the lamb lived, and his blood became water for all the animals of the land. And when the blood of any animal was spilt in this land, for food or for sport or for defense, for good or for ill, the lamb came to the body and the spirit of that animal and gave his own blood to save theirs, and even if all was drained from the body, still would the animal rise. This way, there was to be no death in this age when the age had come to be fulfilled. And at last I looked into the shining blue above and saw creatures with wings, whose yellow eyes, scaled feathers and talons rung familiar to another age and life I strained to remember, as if from a dream, so many eons before. And in their whirling and swooping for pure joy on the wind surrounded by the unveiled light, they looked down on the earth where once they swam and crawled and walked in the swamps, the grasslands and deep forests.
Featured Image © Gentle J. Pine
I dreamt I went fishing in a little river, and I caught a little miacid, an ancient animal. He was adorable with his shiny grey fur, just a baby, not bigger than a cat. He must’ve lived like an otter in the water, for he was a mammal without gills. How did I catch him?! I wanted to eat him. I was very hungry and that’s why I went fishing. But he looked at me and spoke to me in my mind, begging for life. He curled on up my shoulder and nuzzled me like a dear pet; sorrow for my hunger, loving him already and hating myself for what I knew I would do. I was very hungry, and my people were hungry, and we had nothing else. I thanked him for his little life. Then he showed me into a strange house with many mirrors, where there was blue water and a meeting of the ancestors. My grief and guilt, my love and hunger all mingled together as we each took our places at the table. The ancestors would speak. How I loved him, my little miacid.