...now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water...
– from Fall Song, by Mary Oliver
This underground theme is real for me right now. Last week I dreamt eight miners appeared at my door, still in muddy clothes and smelling of earth. I invited them in, offered them seats in my living room, and busied myself getting water for them to drink.
I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, the subterranean castle of consciousness where we work out our human conundrums. I wonder about the riddle I was working out in this dream. It ended before I had a chance to interact with these 8 messengers, but it was clear that I wanted to offer them hospitality, to comfort them. My heart went out to the Chilean miners during their time underground, and this dream offered me a rewarding release, a sense that yes, there was something I could do: get them fresh water.
I ponder the symbolism of the dream. The number eight feels significant. One guidebook suggests that eight is a number of change and inspiration, a change in mood from what has gone before and an entrance into some new phase that comes directly out of past experience. This makes sense. I’m in one of those human phases where external conditions haven’t been lining up. Perhaps the miners are telling me that (once again) it’s time to shift my focus from external circumstances to what lies underneath.
I like Mary Oliver’s metaphor of a subterranean castle – because there are jewels deep below the surface: jewels of insight in the form of sealed seeds to bring back to the surface. Yet how many of us resist entering this castle? “I don’t want to go there. It’s dark, it’s unpredictable, I’ll go broke in the process, my lover will leave me, and everyone else I care about will be gone when I return.”
After darkness, seeds sprout when water and sunshine are added. In my dream, perhaps the miners represent eight seeds in need of watering. Maybe this time I don’t have to get muddy. Maybe that work is already done. Maybe I just forgot to gather the seeds. Maybe it was an act of grace that the seeds came to me.
And now the meaning unfolds. For the past two months, I had been working hard to manifest a new circle of young women writers. I went down to the basement of the schoolhouse to create a space for us to write together. The space smelled of earth and was connected to the roots of the trees in the back yard. Allison, my teaching partner, and I worked with that space, teaching it our intent. I was afraid at times, it was dark, it was unknown. I faced those fears, many of which remained from childhood, when I was a girl afraid to venture into the basement of our home alone.
In my studio, directly above, I found eight nasturtium seeds, saved from a packet we planted during the very first writing workshop I held for girls two years ago. I placed the seeds in a small container to symbolize the seeds of our circle. To my disappointment, the circle didn’t manifest according to the timetable I planned. Yet, the miners affirm for me that yes, the seeds are present, they just need some more nourishment: I need to get them some water.
I am grateful for this opportunity to work through my dream. Once again, the process of writing has loosened meaning behind symbols. I’m sure there’s even more to it than the writing circle. The writing circle is probably a metaphor for something even deeper. It’s like looking into a mirror, and seeing another mirror, and another. I wonder how many people have worked with underground metaphors in their dreams these past few weeks. Have you?
-- Kim for the Poplar Grove Muse
Special note: I'm gathering a list of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade girls who might like to spend time exploring their creativity and inner life in the nurturing environment of a writing circle. Please have parents contact me at email@example.com.