The Road Less Taken

Point Woronzof Park along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail AK

 Point Woronzof Park Along The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

edward-hopper-rooms-by-the-sea-1950
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

Today, my mind seems to be going in seventeen directions at once. I feel that I am being bombarded by thoughts and feelings too complex to unweave. Part of me is in Australia where a dear friend is going through some major life difficulties. To worsen things her daughter is also ill and experiencing ups and downs.

Another part of me is thinking about the wife of one of the writers whose site I visit. She, too, is ill and awaiting some kind of relief from her doctors.

Another blogger, one whose writing is just amazing, is anticipating the death of her beloved dog who has been with her for years.

A poet with whom I try to stay in contact has just lost her nephew. Her words are full of pain and sorrow, yet they are hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Yet another compatriot is awaiting the birth of his daughter. The excitement that he is feeling is palpable, making me excited for him.

It’s so hard in some ways to be connected to so many people, to be intimately familiar with their lives and their loved ones. These connections bring me laughter, insight, opinions, joy, and sometimes, heartbreak.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

It is the empathic side of me that feels too much, that perhaps delves too deeply into the pain and joy of others, leaving me bereft at times, and full of inner delight at other times. I have always been this way—too willing to take on the emotional burdens of others. I remember being a young girl and feeling such complete despair when one of my friend’s dogs was hit by a car, and then being filled with delight when a neighbor’s dog had puppies. Granted, these are probably normal childhood emotions, but it is hard to put into words the keenness I have always felt emotionally, the incisive way in which my emotions have held sway for as long as I can remember.

Henry County Indiana from When Worlds Collide
Henry County Indiana by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I remember being devastated when someone I worked with at the newspaper died after a bout with cancer. And how absolutely crushed I was when I heard that John Lennon died.

My emotions have always guided me, which is why, I suppose, I have the incredible highs and merciless lows in my life. I’m not suggesting that this is the preferred way to live. On the contrary: There have been many times when I have wished that I could simply turn a switch, turn off everything that I was feeling. There have been moments in which I would have given anything not to be able to feel. To be numb, completely without thought, emotion, or concern.

No one has ever accused me of being a Stoic. For me, nature is not rational and perfect. I do not see everything from a fatalistic viewpoint. In Stoicism, whatever happens, happens, and nothing can change that which is determined, so there is no point in questioning or trying to alter things that are not within the individual’s power. I would never have been able to converse with Zeno, the father of stoicism and his philosophers of the porch. For each statement made, I would have asked why.

But why? Why does this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why? Why? Why?

For me, every change is felt, not just within my psyche, but by my corporeal self as well. It’s as if my body is a barometer to my soul.

Admittedly, pure elation is an emotion that eludes me much of the time. That’s not to say that I have not been elated many times in my life. Of course I have: when I first held each of my children, on the day that I graduated with my B.A., when I finally completed work on my publishing degree, whenever I finish a piece of writing that I feel certain has come together well, each time that Corey returned home safely after being on the water, each accomplishment in my children’s lives, to name only a few.

As I have mentioned, the beauty that I find in the smallest things—flowers, birds, beautiful images, music, words—brings me a tremendous sense of inner peace and can affect my mood and sometimes reverse an impending low.

But spontaneous elation? I am mystified by people who are like that. You know the ones—they are genuinely happy most of the time. Very little seems to penetrate their cheery dispositions.

To be honest, I am uncomfortable being around people who are like that. Something in me tries to find the falseness behind the cheer. But sometimes, there is no falsehood. These people are happy, with every fiber of their being they are happy. I don’t understand that, nor do I particularly care for it, or perhaps the more accurate statement would be believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish unhappiness for these people, but to have that much happiness all of the time? How does one go about feeling the inevitable calamities in life if everything is always good? Positive? When faced with tragedy, to speak homilies such as “well, it was probably meant to be,” or “you’ll feel better soon” seems to ignore the pain. And if pain is ignored, if the individual does not allow herself to move through it, embrace it, and come out on the other side, how can any knowledge be gained?

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 

Bear Lake Trail Everglades Fl by JJ
Bear Lake Trail, Everglades, Florida by Janson Jones

Admittedly, I am a cynic. I question everything, take nothing at face value, and tend not to accept glib explanations. Am I proposing that that is the way to live life? No. Sometimes, I wish that I could just enfold myself in the easy answers, ignore the nagging doubt. Wouldn’t that be easier?

But then, I would not be true to myself if I did so. I question. I doubt. I wonder. But once I believe in something, I will argue vehemently in support of whatever it is that I believe.

For me, the path isn’t always clear. Where it is going is never defined, but I would never change that. The not knowing is what allows for exploration, what encourages the soul to seek out the truth, even though the truth is not always what we desire or what we are prepared to accept.

The truth is such a complex animal. It changes with the wind. It is ephemeral. And that is why the search for it is usually not well-trodden nor lit with beacons pointing in the right direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

andrew-wyeth-easterly detail
"Easterly" (detail), by Andrew Wyeth

My life has been one long search for beacons pointing the way, but just as sailors have been misdirected by false light, I too have been misdirected: by believing the words of the wrong person, by holding dear to someone who was not worthy of my heart, by listening to misleading echoes.

And then the path becomes unclear, no boundaries, no borders. And at these times, I have become lost. Yet I have always made my way back, whether it was a friend who guided me, or my love for someone or their love for me, or just being attuned to my esse—I have always managed to find my way home.

For me, the lie is the worst thing. It rips apart the existing reality. It causes shifts in time and space, and as a result, things must be moved around until a new pattern can be formed, and the result is a grey spot where the truth used to be.

But then the opposite holds true: each new friendship, each new person who enters my life in a meaningful way also causes a shift, but the resulting move to accept these new people into the fold increases the beauty of the tapestry, enriches the colors, emboldens the pattern.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

Even though I may wish at times that I had it within me not to feel things so deeply, I know that that will never be. I have my peaks and my valleys, and the movement between the two is an amazing journey, regardless of the pull on my psyche or the taxing of my constitution. My emotions are my plinth: They bolster me and keep me buoyant. But more importantly, they allow me to open my heart to others, to sustain my empathy, to avow the truths of my soul.

Arctic Valley Chugach St Prk Anchorage by JJ
Arctic Valley, Chugach State Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones

Admittedly, the pinnacles of my highs and the chasms of my lows do not make me the easiest person with whom to live, or even, to love. But I hope that the ferocity of my loyalty and my unstinting willingness to follow those for whom I care into the breach help to compensate for my ever-shifting spirits.

And so it is my hope that all of those individuals who I mentioned in the beginning of this post know that even though many miles separate us, my heart and my thoughts encompass them as fully as if I were sitting across the table from them, sharing a cup of tea.

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost
 

edward-hopper-houses-of-squam-light detail
"Houses of Squam Light" (detail), by Edward Hopper

I do not know where my path will continue to lead. I only know that I am willing to follow it to its end. I hope that along the way I continue to meet new people, to enter new lives, to touch those who seek comfort, to share in the great moments of bliss, to ease the way for those who will allow it, and to love and be able to call myself beloved.

It is these stops, these waysides that make that path more enthralling and that make me want to continue on this journey. I do not know the full purpose of my quest; I only know that it began years ago and that I still have a long way to go, many more observations to make, and more words to write before I reach my inn.

I’ll leave you with this track from Die Romantik. Haunting song.

 

More later. Peace.

 

The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of the week.” ~ William Dement

 What Dreams May Come 1

Image from What Dreams May Come* (Robin Williams, 1998)

 

“I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” ~ William Butler Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” 

African LionI dreamt of a golden lion and a giant camel. The lion was not attacking the camel, but it was facing the camel. The lion’s fur was not tan; it was golden and shimmering in the light. The camel was twice the size of a normal camel, and I believe that it had one hump (dromedary camel). It was not carrying anything on its back, and it was dark brown, the color of weak coffee.

The lion and the camel were on the side of a four-lane highway in Virginia Beach. No one else seemed to notice them. I was in a car looking out when I saw them. The car slowed because it had reached a major intersection, so I had more than a second to take in this sight. In the dream, I wondered what the two were doing there, and I remember thinking that they could get hit by a car.

Later in the dream, I was still in the car, and I was telling Corey to veer right as the road forked. He almost missed the right side of the fork, and I was very upset with him for not listening to me. It was important that we take the right side of the fork, but I have no idea as to why.

“Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind.” ~ William G. Golding

This is the third time that I have dreamt of this lion. Once, it jumped out of a wall of foliage and came at me. I cannot remember the details of the second time that the lion appeared, and now the lion and the camel.

camel-at-sunsetThe setting for the lion and the camel are completely incongruous: the side of a highway instead of a desert or a jungle. The pairing of these two animals seems just as incongruous. Not that a lion wouldn’t hunt a camel, but it’s doubtful that the two would be in the vicinity of each other.

The camel is known for bearing burdens great distances. The fact that this camel was twice the size of a normal camel could indicate the weight of my burdens. But this camel was carrying nothing on its back. Interesting.

The lion, in dream mythology, is a noble beast, known for strength, the ability to conquer, and the ability to create fear. One dream interpretation says that lions represent inner rage and intimidating situations; while another says that to see a lion in a dream means that you have influence over others, and that you will overcome difficulties.

Am I angry, or am I influential? Am I an influential but angry person? Or perhaps, I am a strong person people fear, but I’m having difficulties? It’s all so confusing.

What is also odd to me is that in one situation I was afraid of the lion, but in the other situation, I was not at all afraid. In the first situation, the lion pounced but did not actually land on me; in the other situation, I saw the lion as being incredibly beautiful, which just goes to show how abstract dream interpretation really is.

This is the first time that I have dreamt of a camel, at least the first time in a number of years. The fact that the camel was so large could symbolize the overwhelming weight I feel because of my burdens.

However, one interpretation is that dreaming of a camel symbolizes an inability to express emotions and to hold onto them. A paradox for me. I have no problems in expressing my emotions. In fact, one person who knew me well said that I was a drama queen. However, I do hold onto things. I have a hard time forgetting a wrong that was done to me or anyone close to me. I take on the problems of those around me whether or not they have asked for my assistance.

Often, I feel that it is my job to protect my family, my children, and my friends. Wouldn’t that be the lion? At the same time, I assume their burdens, which makes me a camel, doesn’t it?

 “Dreams are illustrations . . . from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman

What Dreams May Come 3The thing that I find oddest is that on the night that I had this dream (two nights ago), I was not particularly upset about anything. Eldest son had not taxed my patience. I had nothing on my mind except for my headache. I was not angry. I was not upset. I felt no overwhelming need to be there for someone. In fact, everyone had been pretty considerate in light of my five-day migraine. Yet the lion and the camel appeared, out of context, so to speak.

I combed my thoughts to see if anything struck me as being somehow related: I have had the situation in Iran on my mind for a while. Corey smokes Camel cigarettes. I have been worried about making my health insurance payment, but that is nothing new. I have been anxious over Corey getting a job soon, but again, that is not a new problem. In other words, nothing new stands out starkly as something that would cause these two animals to appear by the side of the road.

So why a giant camel and a golden-haired lion? And why did I feel no fear?

“Sleep hath its own world, And a wide realm of wild reality, And dreams in their development have breath, And tears and tortures, and the touch of joy.” ~ Lord Byron 

What Dreams May Come6When I worked at the zoo for a short while, they were working on building Africa, a new extension to the zoo. I was very interested in the construction, and I found the habitat that they were creating for the lions to be beautiful. However, I should pause here and say that deep down in my heart, I don’t really like zoos. I admire the thought process behind them: to make animals available to the general population so as to increase knowledge and appreciation. But at the same time, I have a very hard time with the premise: putting these animals in habitats that simulate their natural habitats.

What’s wrong with the natural habitats? National Geographic does a wonderful job, both in its magazine and in its television shows of bringing animals into the living rooms of everyday people. So why move the animals in the first place? There used to be a show on television called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I used to love to watch reruns of that show on Saturday afternoon.

The host, Marlin Perkins, would wrestle with gators, hold large snakes, and various other stunts. I remember my high school biology teacher, Mr. Leigh, making fun of Perkins for pretending to wrestle gators, while wranglers were out of the camera shot. I loved Mr. Leigh. I also learned so much from him. Anyway, Wild Kingdom actually wasn’t my first introduction to exotic animals.

I had already seen camels up close in Morocco. And the rain forest that we visited had all kinds of flora and fauna—all without created habitats or cages. I suppose that’s why I have such a hard time seeing animals in zoos, even though the zoos of the 21st century are so far removed from the zoos that had all animals behind bars with cement floors.

Of course, I must point out the if not for zoos, some of the animals there would be dead. For example, several eagles that were injured by some barbarians were put in an eagle habitat so that they could continue their lives even though they could not fly.

Anheuser Busch does the same thing at Busch Gardens. The one in Williamsburg has a wonderful eagle habitat that is open with trees, logs, a stream. None of the eagles placed there can fly any longer, but they are with other eagles, and they have a habitat that roughly approximates their natural homes.

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” ~ Walt Whitman 

What Dreams May Come 5Of course, the scientific part of my brain wonders about the logic behind keeping eagles that are injured. Nature will have its way, no matter how much humans intervene. Although people tend to misinterpret Darwin’s hypothesis about natural selection: It is not about the strongest surviving, but rather about those most able to adapt being ble to survive.

 However, in the case of eagles, the converse must be considered: humans are directly to blame for the depletion of the eagle population; not nature. DDT, a chemical no longer used, polluted ground water, streams and lakes, thereby causing many species to suffer, in particular, the eagle.

And then there are the people with guns who think that an eagle would make a good trophy. These people have no soul. How could they? How could they shoot down one of the most majestic birds on the face of the earth for what they call sport? Don’t even try to make the argument that the eagle population needed to be reined in. That has never been the case.

But of course, that was the argument used with the American Buffalo: They were too plenty. So logically, humans shot them almost to extinction.

So yes, zoos are good for maintaining populations of animals that are dwindling, sort of. Although, some of the statistics that I read state that zoos only account for about 2 percent of successful conservation of species. Of course, animals that are bred for zoos no nothing of living in the wild as they have never had that experience. Another paradox.

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul . . .” ~ Carl Jung 

What Dreams May Come 2So what to make of my recurring lion and the very large camel? Is my inner lion trying to tell me that I need to fight harder for something? Someone? Is the camel present to make me take a slow and steady path? Yet another paradox.

Fight but be steady? Fear but sure-footed? Shimmering gold set against muddy brown?

If I were a Freudian, the lion would probably mean that I am seeking out my inner male or some form of my father . . . but I am not a Freudian. I don’t need my inner male to make me strong, even though it was a male lion. One site that I happened upon by accident claimed that the Templars had a mythology in which each individual was born like a camel, with a load upon its back, but once the individual had passed many travails, he became a lion. I was unable to find anything to back up this particular story, but if it were true, wouldn’t that be interesting?

I only know that the burdens that I am bearing are weighty, but not enough to put me down. I have my weaknesses, but have never thought of myself as weak. I am protective of my pride, so to speak, and take on their burdens as my own, but I am not smelly, nor do I spit.

“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.” ~ Gail Godwin

What Dreams May Come 4Am I making too much of the recurring lion and now its companion, the very large camel? Perhaps. But it made for an interesting contrast, and quite a departure in the substance of in my dreams.

And after all, how many people do you know who can open a conversation with the following statement: I dreamt of a golden lion and a camel?

By the way, did I mention that they’ve found a new kind of giant elephant shrew, one that is related to a group of animals that lived in Africa more than a100 million years ago. I’ll let you know if I dream of shrews. No jokes about shrews, please.

More later. Peace.

*All pictures except lion and camel are taken from the motion picture What Dreams May Come (1988), directed by Vincent Ward and starring Robin Williams.

Not tonight. I have a headache.

False Light Image of Dust Disk Around Star HD141569

False Light Image of Dust Disk around Star 141569

Great Balls of Fire 

I still contend that images taken from NASA telescopes like the Hubble closely resemble brain scans. Or at the very least, these incredible images reflect the ways in which I visualize my migraines. That black spot right in the middle is how restricted my vision feels. And the surrounding magma represents the pain. The blue corona depicts the throbbing sound waves in my ears. And that big flash in the top left corner: That’s my light sensitivity come to life.

Or maybe it’s all just space dust.

Let me leave you with Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky.”

 

 

 

More later when pain dissipates. Peace.