Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dreamtable II

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought? --Joan Didion

Recently, it was the dream of the red-jacketed man following me in a dark, no-clear-exit- alleyway, and my only weapon a cutting board to shield myself or wallop with, which woke me. More recently, it was visitors in my house; people I did not know, but did not fear, busily chopping and cooking with my food in my kitchen. They appeared in the dreamspace around 3:30 AM( that time seemed important) as I was working late in my office and noticed soft chatter and the sounds of a refrigerator and cupboards opening and closing coming from the other side of the house. When I went to see what all the commotion was about, they stopped what they were doing but did not run or hide. I asked them how long they’d been there, and one of them, a young man, said, “Oh, we’ve been here since last February.

My only thought before I woke up was: “How could I not have noticed their presence in my house before now?

There’s another quote by another famous person whose name I can’t remember that says something to the effect that people who insist on telling their dreams are among the “terrors of the breakfast table”.

It’s Dreamtable II--and forgive me if I’m being a terror! I have friends and teachers who work regularly and quite consciously with their dreams. Fortunately, they wouldn’t agree with the curmudgeon who’d have us believe our dream telling is a giant irritant to a morning’s peace, but his grumpy voice is obviously in my ear as I write this or I wouldn’t give him so much space. I wish my dream teachers/friends were with me now, as I try to figure out what these two recent dreams might be asking me to pay attention to.

If I get quiet, if I can recall what I saw in the dreams (the images) and the sensations I had as I experienced the dream (feelings), if I can re-integrate the whole of the what- was- happening- between- the –words- spoken, the sonic/emotional qualities of those dreams, I might be able to interpret for myself.

The more obvious questions that arise for me are “Who is following me? And who has moved in to my house without my knowing it?” Another follows: “What’s with all the cooking/kitchen imagery, defending myself with a cutting board…people cooking with my tools, my food?”
My spontaneous answers to these questions are: “Beth, just pay attention. You will be able to see who is following you and with what good or ill intent if you just stay awake. The red jacket makes them visible. Your intuition will inform you of their intentions. You have protection enough if you need it. Be alert!”

The other is one in a series of invitations I’ve had most of my adult life which is to examine the boundaries I set around the care and feeding of others, often, though not always, at my own expense. Clearly, it’s time again for me to re-visit my old patterns and make adjustments on behalf of my own healthy boundaries and well-being. "Stay hospitable", I hear a voice in my head whispering. "Know when it’s time to ask your guests to leave. Too much of a good thing leaves the larder empty without much to offer on the next visit".

So that’s cutting to the chase. I won’t spend more time analyzing today. But I thank Joan Didion for asking the question about dreaming and writing. Both seem to help me find out what I’m thinking.

Let me ask this question though: what are your dreams telling you these days? What is your writing telling you? What space are you making in your life, your head, your heart, to pay attention to the wisdom—practical or otherwise- you already possess to make the small or large adjustments you need for perspective and possibly a bit of balance?

BLR --for the Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Treasure Found

My writer friend Allison and I have formed a symbiotic relationship. She has been helping me organize the contents of my garage and I am helping her earn money for a spiritual journey she is taking this summer. As we were sorting through old pictures, books and my son’s early drawings, I discovered a forgotten treasure. I found an old collection of James Whitcomb Riley’s stories and poems!

When I was five years old, our early 1950's public school system didn’t have kindergarten in my tiny hometown of Connersville. My mother had a friend, Milburn Bannister, who ran a private kindergarten in her home. It was in her basement and was set up exactly like a classroom. I loved it. I actually attended two years because, as the story goes, I was too short for the desks in the first grade classroom at Grandview Elementary School.

We even had an actual graduation and got to wear tiny white caps and gowns. We had the ceremony in the Administration Building in Roberts Park. This made it seem even more important. I had gotten a brand new pair of white patent leather Mary Jane’s to go with my new white dress. I was so proud of those shoes. There I stood in the front row proudly holding my little rolled up diploma with the white ribbon tied around it, when I heard a sound like water trickling. I looked down and then over. Standing next to me was Jan Moore; she was a very fair-skinned blonde. Her face was beet red. She had gotten so nervous that she started peeing and the stream ran down the uneven old stage right on my brand new shoes. The yellow liquid was so stark against my gleaming white shoes. I remember being so mad at poor Jan and my parents shushing me after the ceremony while trying to assure me that my shoes weren’t ruined. I think maybe they were afraid I might try to slug her. I’m sure her parents got her out of there as quickly as possible because she was sobbing from the humiliation. Mrs. Bannister appeared with wet and dry paper towels to clean off my shoes.

Bannister was what was called a handsome woman in those days. I remember her kindness and patience with all of her students. In our classroom she seemed like a happy person, but as I grew older and became adept at eavesdropping, I realized this was not the case. Mrs. Bannister, my mother and Dorothy Young, my friend Sharon’s mother, would have coffee on Saturday mornings and talk about their lives. Sharon and I always came along to play with Milburn’s daughter, Janet. She was six years older than us and as we grew older we thought she was the height of sophistication. She wore pearls to school every day. We knew we could never be that classy. Even as we listened to Janet talk about the best lipstick and nail polish brands, I kept an ear peeled to what our mothers were saying around the kitchen table. Milburn had become a widow at a very young age and was left to raise her daughter on her own. It seemed she was never able to move past her husband’s death. As the years went by her handsomeness turned to severeness and then to a permanent mask of bitterness that stayed with her until her death. Milburn so overprotected her daughter that Janet couldn’t wait to get away and left home with the first man who came along. Milburn was alone again.

As for me, I was quickly becoming known as “the kid who always had her nose in a book”. I was also becoming a secret writer, never telling anyone about it. I was always searching for stories and ways to tell them. By the time I got to high school, Mrs. Bannister was no longer a big part of my life. I was very surprised when she showed up at my house the evening of our baccalaureate with a gift for me. As she handed it to me, she held on to the plainly wrapped package for a second and her sharp blue eyes looked into my dark blue ones behind by tortoise shell glasses as she said, “This is a gift that will last you a lifetime. You will enjoy it many times over. It’s the best gift I could think of for you.” And she was right. What better gift for a voracious reader and would be writer. Words were what I craved. And here was a poet/writer I could read without being intimidated. He wasn’t a major poet, but he was an Indiana treasure. He told our stories in the language of real people. And this is what I’m still striving to do. I always thought Mrs. Bannister had eyes that could see into your soul. I believe that she somehow sensed what books had meant to a little girl who needed an escape hatch for most of her young life. Thank you, Mrs. Bannister for being the first in my circle of support.

Rebekah for The Poplar Grove Muse

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thanks for Reading!!

It is hard to believe but we have been keeping up with the Poplar Grove Muse for almost two years now. Many thanks to you, dear reader, for following our various ponderings and poetry as the year has unwrapped.

I'd like to say a special thank-you to our regular team of bloggers: Beth, Rebekah, Mary, and Kim. They write at holidays times, spring break, from vacation sites all over the globe, and with sick kids and ailing parents. I believe I speak for everyone when I say we write because we love to, and self expression in the form of the written word brings us joy and a sense of accomplishment.

I am sad to say that Kim has decided to take some time off as a regular poster to this site. We have enjoyed her writing and wish her well as she works on her own book. Hopefully, she will guest post for us on occasion. If you or someone you know might like to fill in her regular spot for at least a year, please drop me a line at

I have also turned to guest bloggers throughout the year. We have had great guest posts from Catherine, Lauren, Dana, Stacey, Stephanie, and Diana. We can always use an occasional fill in when we get sick or life overtakes us, and we can't complete the assignment for the week. If you can't commit to a regular posting, I hope you will consider being part of the back-up pool. Again, please email me at the above address to indicate your interest.

There are not a lot of rules for posting to our page. Be honest, speak your truth, and celebrate your own unique voice. Many of us are great editors, so there are always people who can give your piece a once over before it is posted.

Thanks again for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

--Amy for the Poplar Grove Muse