A booklist for February:
I haven’t yet prepped for my Light Box month this year, even though I’m 4 days into it. Maybe it’s time to check out Light Boxes again. The trick will be to keep myself mentally and physically healthy in a month that is typically hard for me, on top of the extra stress that I’m already experiencing.
Meanwhile, I’m falling asleep at the keyboard again. Apparently my body is trying to keep me on my new weekday schedule (even though it had no problem letting me sleep in very late this morning). Signing off to finish up The Well of Lost Plots. So much going on that I’ve not dedicated too much reading time the last few weeks—it’s taking me forever to get through this one.
This week’s focus is dreams . . . so much has been written about them. Interpretation dictionaries exist, but I enjoy some of the concepts Joseph Campbell teaches about dreams. He says dreams teach us about ourselves and that we can use them to interpret various aspects of ourselves and our lives. To do this,“write your dreams down, then take one little fraction of the dream, one or two images or ideas, and associate with them. Write down what comes to your mind, and again what comes to your mind, and again. You’ll find that the dream is based on a body of experiences that have some kind of significance in your life and that you didn’t know were influencing you. Soon the next dream will come along, and your interpretation will go further.”
This week, as we continue our Year of Mindfulness, I encourage you to pay closer attention to your dreams. Place a pad and pen next to your bed to write down any significant images that arise. What are your dreams saying to you? What are they trying to teach you?
In times of stress, change, or uncertainly, I dream of moving. Moving to a new house, a new town, or a combination of both, but never to the same place twice. Structures and places are often reminiscent of each other, but architecture and layout are different, and there are always new rooms to explore. So boringly symbolic, but that’s who we are.
Every once in a while I have a recurring dream of moving to a large mysterious old house, with secret cavernous rooms. I remember golds and browns, rich carved wood, wandering alone. Seeking. This is the only place that stays the same, waiting for me to dream it into view every now and then. Nothing to see here, move along.
Rarely, I dream of my mom. Always, she is living a seemingly plausible, parallel life. I couldn’t describe it better than I did back in November. An excerpt:
I have that dream every few years too. Except that in mine, I discover that my mom is living a normal life somewhere else, maybe just across the state. When I confront her, she seems unconcerned; she doesn’t wonder what I’ve been up to or want to reunite. She seems content to have been living in that other place all this time. In the dream, I am mildly disturbed by this, but nothing like I would be in real life. And I wake up thinking, is this a symbol, or is this a glimpse? If she exists elsewhere, and is unconcerned with me, this means I am not the center of the universe. But isn’t this what we would want for those we’ve loved and let go — for them to be unmolested by our ultimately insignificant and transient dramas? If they exist outside of this world should they not have their own lives, their own new purpose?
On January 1st I wrote, February will be my Light Box month. It’s typically a hard month for me because it’s the month my mom died, and as of 2010, the month my old friend Connecticut died. Usually, I let it sneak up on me and end up getting physically ill. This year I’m determined to face it head on by reading, writing, and blogging about grief, illness, and mortality.
Here it is, February 5, and I’ve hardly given it a passing thought. But I need to tackle it now. During the last two Februaries, I suffered from a combination of pneumonia and bronchitis that hashed my lungs, put me on inhalers, sent me for chest x-rays, drove me to the acupuncturist, and dragged on for about 6 weeks each year. Grief turned depression was the catalyst last year when my sweet cat Connecticut died of a lingering illness that reduced her to a skeleton. Needless to say, I would like to avoid major illness this year. Part of it will be luck in avoiding any bugs in public places. But a larger part will be looking ahead, accepting that it will be a hard month—and embracing the opportunities for reflection that it brings. Feb 13 (the day Connecticut died) and Feb 16 (the day my mom died) will be the toughest days and preparing for those days is a good idea.
Light Boxes, by Shane Jones, is a dark little book, with a quirky and unexpected play on language and characters. It exploits tensions: heaven versus earth, dead versus alive, reality versus fantasy and dreams, flying versus being grounded. The illustrations are morosely atmospheric. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with a war against February.
It’s weird what you can find online. Here’s a link to a picture of my mom’s headstone that somebody took. The site allows you to create an account and add photos, basic information, etc., but advertises a paid upgrade to “sponsor” the memorial and remove advertisements. Seems a little tacky, but I’m pretty sure mom doesn’t care. And, how else would I have a picture of her gravestone handy to post here? I’ve never really been one to hang out at mom’s grave site. There’s no her, there, if you know what I mean.