Monday, July 7, 2014

The Anatomy of a Dream (Intus Natura, Vita Eternus*) (Notice, 8/6/14)

Cast-stone box-lid, taken from a carved plaster original - app. 3" X 5"- 1993, DS
(click on all images to enlarge)

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living; this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.”

“But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called -- called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.”

“He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time.”

- Three quotes from: Call of the Wild, the 1903 novel by Jack London.


I generally try to avoid recounting dreams on blogs, because, for anybody but the dreamer, they're generally boring. But, in the case of this morning's (July 6th) dream, I actually tried a different technique of dream interpretation and searched its elements online. So, while anyone reading this may or may not find the dream itself terribly exciting, this method of unravelling dream symbols might intrigue.

The Dream:

I was living with my friend, Moo, or, possibly just visiting, but, due to the weirdly circuitous nature of dreams in general, I only became conscious of the dream at the point I'm about to describe.

At this point, someone (?) inquired about the disappearance of Mindy, Moo's family dog. Horrified, I suddenly realized that I had let Mindy out the previous night, but had forgotten all about her! I immediately ran to the door I'd let her out of... it was huge white door, filling one wall of the tall, but narrow, white room it opened from. Oddly enough, I found that it was open and slightly ajar, so, I had never actually closed the door at all. I still felt guilty, but I surmised that the dog could've come back indoors if it wanted to.

At this point the dream convolutes in such a way, that I realized that Mindy has gone far off into the surrounding woods. I can see her. But, the dog I actually see in the woods is a large St. Bernard. Mindy is not, in reality, that breed of dog (although there is a St. Bernard in Moo's son's family), but this didn't occur to me till I woke up. It also came to me in the dream that, perhaps, Mindy had gone up in the woods to die. But, while this upset me, I was suddenly struck by the rightness of such a choice. That is, it occurred to me in the dream, that the most ideal setting for any creature to die is near the earth with nature surrounding them.

In the last segment of the dream, I was proposing to Moo that we establish some variety of fund or fellowship - related in some way to death and nature -  which had for It's symbol (and would be given or carried by its members) a small, leafy twig tied with a bit of fabric.

And then I woke up.

St. Bernards To The Rescue by John Emms (Wiki)

First, a word about Mindy. In reality she is an elderly dog, whom I've never actually met, but, has often popped up in Moo's and my conversations over the years, most recently because her health seems to be failing, and failing in alarming ways. Moo, however - as anyone with an elderly animal family member can empathize - is loathe to have her "put down" unless necessary for the animal's comfort.  Happily, although Mindy has her bad days, she's hanging in there, and is doing just fine.

That being said, something about the dream, and its apparent theme, intrigued me, so, although I don't ordinarily scrutinize dream elements in the way I'm about to in this post, something about it seemed to demand that I did. So, the same morning of the dream, I sat in front of my computer and, Google being a lateral thinker's VBF - and the friend of inquisitive dreamers - punched in my first search: St. Bernard... and then, St. Bernard dog.

Wiki rarely disappoints, and I learned the breed of dog was named for St. Bernard of Menthon (1020-1081) or Bernard of Montjoux. (Note: Catholic Online disputes this, however, claiming St. Bernard of Montjoux (923 - 1008) is the saint in question.) In any case, Bernard (presumably a monk, although his order isn't specified) was celebrated for having established several hospices in the Alps for weary travelers, and for employing the large Swiss mountain dogs, often used in rescue missions for saving the lives of those same travelers lost in the frigid mountain terrain. (But, no, they allegedly did NOT carry brandy casks around their necks.)

The strange thing is, and, a little known fact about the St. Bernard rescue dogs, is that - according to Wiki - they were never trained by humans; certainly not by the monks in the monastery, nor at the hospices. Apparently, both the concept and knowledge of rescuing humans was passed down from one canine generation to the next in line, without human intervention... which, if true, is pretty astounding.

Also mentioned in the article is the American writer (and Capricorn) Jack London (January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916), whose famous novel (and a favorite of my late brother's) "Call of the Wild" was specifically about a St. Bernard - Buck - and his life in the Yukon. In short, after some horrific encounters with humans - and, despite his benign relationship with one of them - the dog eventually turns its back on human civilization and joins a pack of wolves. I've added some quotes from the novel above. (Note: London was reportedly an atheist, but, judging by the quotes, I can't help but sense there was an agnostic - or, even a pagan - stirring in his closet. What do you think?)

Illustration and text (below) from: Where the Wild Things Are,1963, Maurice Sendak

"His mother called him “Wild Thing!” and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything.

That very night in Max’s room a forest grew

And grew.

And grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around."

Then, In an image search for "Call of the Wild" - and, my advice: when researching dreams, always look at the images - I found a page from "Where the Wild Things Are" (above), that beloved book (1963) by the late (beloved) author Maurice Sendak. As it stands, the book was actually banned in libraries, initially, before it was made the "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" list by the National Education Association in 2007. The interesting tidbit? "Sendak gave the monsters the names of his relatives: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile and... Bernard." (!)

Clootie Well in Cornwall - photo & quotes (below) found here.

Finally, I researched the last, prominent element of the dream - the twig tied with fabric. I knew I had read about it before, and I was sure it was related to a folk custom, so I Googled "folk custom tree branch tied with fabric". All I kept getting was Christmas tree decorations! But, then I hit pay dirt on a personal blog (yes, personal blogs - like this one - do have their value). In a short description of scraps of fabric tied to trees, I was told to search the word "clootie." My results are quoted below.

"When used at the "clootie wells" in Scotland and Ireland, the pieces of cloth are generally dipped in the water of the holy well and then tied to a branch while a prayer of supplication is said to the spirit of the well - in modern times usually a saint, but in pre-Christian times a goddess or local nature spirit. This is most often done by those seeking healing, though some may do it simply to honour the spirit of the well. In either case, many see this as a probable continuation of the ancient Celtic practice of leaving votive offerings in wells or pits."

"In Cornwall, at Madron Well, the practice is to tie the cloth and as it rots the ailment is believed to disappear." 

In Ireland the custom is referred to as "rag trees" or "raggedity bushes" and the favored tree is a Hawthorn; the Hawthorn being one of the Faerie tree trinity, accompanied by the Oak and Ash. Interestingly, the custom of tying fabric to tree branches, along with wishes and prayers, is not merely peculiar to the Celts. See: What are rag trees, clootie wells, and raggedy bushes?

A Douglas or Black Hawthorn

And, that's pretty much the extent of it. I've sort of dissected a dream, and revealed its metaphorical skeleton. But, as to its full meaning, well, I never said I was going to interpret it! The most I've done is follow the signposts of its symbols and, perhaps, that's all my unconscious self meant for me to do. On the other hand, the dream may have been alluding to another face of Creatura, and my role in revealing it.

In other words, the dream may have just given new meaning to the Baha Men's, "Who Let The Dog(s) Out?" In the symbolic context of the dream, I guess it must have been moi. ;-)

Scan of an oak twig - 2014, DS

* A symbol and motto for a dream fellowship... I couldn't find a hawthorn twig, but I found this pin oak twig by the entrance of my apartment building last night (above). I added the motto after doing an online English-Latin translation. The motto should read, in English: Within Nature, Life Eternal.


Vale, Mindy!

Yesterday, August 5th, 2014, Mindy, the pup who entered my dream and inspired this post, became, once again a "free agent"... passing peacefully with her head on Moo's lap.

Blessed be to she and her family.

(Note on the word "vale". Used as a word of final farewell, its literal meaning in Latin is: "be well, be strong!")


  1. Something was definitely going on in that dream! Dreams often turn on the moment of realization that something is not as it should be, which forces the brain to digest what it wants, or what should be. The connection I see there is the point at which you connected emotion and responsibility was through care for an animal and really, your friend. Nice post - and the box lid is great.

    1. Yes, I guess from a psychological standpoint, that's one way of interpreting the dream. But, from my experience, the unconscious mind often attempts to convey several ideas at once using as few symbols as possible. Kind of like a Zen koan. So, each symbol can have several meanings and/or layers simultaneously... and the messages vary in depth and urgency. For instance, you dream that you've lost your arm. In reality, your arm is falling asleep because you're lying on top of it. At the same time, you've been feeling powerless to change things lately - that would be the psychological bit. But, in the dream, you actually lost your arm in, lets say, a boating accident... worse still, you actually watched your arm float away when it was suddenly tugged underwater by a large mackerel.

      Huh? But you've never "boated" in your life, and why specifically "mackerel"? So, this is where it gets interesting.

      Re: box-lid. It's actually a female wolf and was inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Este's "Women Who Run With the Wolves..." Truly transformational.

      Oh, BTW, thanks!

    2. Well I'm still working on 'The Oneiromancer' so this was topical! Yes, have heard of Women who run with the wolves. Did not realize what it was about though.