Thursday, April 7, 2011


"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."  Talmudic saying

I have a reoccurring dream. It involves a car and often some member of my family. In this dream, I'm usually driving but last night it was my older sister.  We were driving a truck-like utility vehicle. As usual the car or truck is going out of control or going too fast or heading down a very steep decline or climbing a very steep incline or veering off the road or some such irregular movement. Nobody seems to ever mind that this is occurring but me. In this case, we were speeding down a very slippery road into what I can only describe as a cavern or cave that was icy and gloomily lit. Strangely some guy was there, and his house was in the distance, he was looking at a computer (of course computers and screens are popping in to my dreams all the time now—are they yours too?) The guy didn’t even look up. But I didn’t care. I was just glad to be out of that careening car. Then, looking around I noticed a man coming from some house in the distance. His face looked somewhat threatening and a bit crazy, and strangely and rather comically he held a small saw in his hand, a very rusted saw. At this point, of course, my family has disappeared. I should’ve been concerned but my mind fixed on that saw. I recognized it from somewhere. And then, I remembered: that was my saw or my father’s, I can’t remember, but it was the one I used all the time to make things as a boy and I’d left it out in the rain once and ruined it. Hence the rust.

South Downs in Southern England (Their new Natl Park)

I’m sure there are a number of revealing symbols of my unconscious life in this dream, but what it revealed to me came afterward in that curious state of clarity between dreaming and waking. And it wasn’t the saw or the careening car but the feeling of being on solid ground. That sense of security we get when we feel the ground underneath our feet. I lay there and savored it for that timeless moment before fully awakening. How simple but how basic to our survival this feeling can be. It occurred to me, too, that we don’t notice this feeling or recognize how crucial it is to our well-being unless we’ve experienced uncertainty or instability or imbalance. Being on solid ground is of course a metaphor for stability and safety, but it’s a feeling, a real feeling that we know through our feet and body. Perhaps, too, the events in Japan and the horror of watching the videos of the water and the shaking of buildings and most of all the faces and voices and terror in the actions of the Japanese people influenced this dream. Earthquakes shatter this basic understanding: the earth will always be solid and hold us up.

I thought, too, of how walking can reestablish this sense of literally feeling the ground underneath you, giving you a sense of security and being held. And the thought was quite comforting to me. In childhood standing up is such a monumental threshold. The child now can walk and roam and move more quickly with his hands free. But also, the child feels the sense of the body balanced on two feet. What a miraculous feeling the sense of balance truly is, the feet distributing the weight of the body, the core aligned, the earth below allowing our body to stand up right. Walking is a reminder of this early feeling of security and agency. Every footstep is a signal of the earth being there even if other elements of our lives aren’t so certain. It may seem trivial to state such an obvious fact, but in hours of doubt and despair at what was once fixed and sure, a walk can offer something physically regenerative as the body from the feet up counters the fears in the mind with the sensation of being up right, sturdy, present, held up by the earth. The body doesn’t concern itself much with the weather or the time of day. It simply wants to feel the balance and movement. It just is there and feels the ground and says “this way” and you follow.

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