Roses for the Dead
~ Lawrie Hartt
This past week, I brought roses to the dead — 36 white blooms for the 36 righteous ones of mystical Judaism, the ones who though unknown to anyone keep the world turning towards justice and beauty and the gathering of light. We had gotten word that the Mt. Carmel Jewish cemetery here in Philadelphia had been vandalized and I knew I had to go and once again bear witness. Hoping to be there quietly and unnoticed, we arrived to a wide scattering of local and national news trucks with their satellite dishes and roving reporters, a hovering drone camera, a circling helicopter and the mayor, gratefully without an entourage.
Inside the cemetery, headstone upon headstone upon headstone lay toppled. Over 500 of them, by some accounts, (though news reports only gave credence to 100), massive granite stones heaved off their foundations over and over and over, over and over and over again. The sheer physical fierceness of the destruction was assaulting and inescapable. Such vituperative madness can knock the wind right out of you.
The five of us had come for the dead, for those whose resting place had been assaulted here and the previous week in St. Louis, for their descendants, for the Jewish community, for all communities subjected to vicious violence, for any of us torn up by fear, and for the ground and trees, once again bearers and witnesses to all of it.
We walked among the toppled graves, now and then resting a hand on a stone. We said little. Two of us were drawn to a small patch of grass near a section of many toppled stones where it seemed a human bulldozer had come through with an avalanche of destructive zeal. There we all sang. We asked for protection for what we love. Mostly we were silent.
A couple approached us, looking for their relatives’ graves, not easy to find in the expansive hillside of mayhem. It turned out we were sitting right beside them. Together we spoke the ancient words of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning. We honored the tradition of laying pebbles on the gravestones, and I offered them white roses to place there also.
Without knowing that in Jewish tradition, a cemetery is made sacred for burial by walking its perimeter seven times, one of us had imagined the five of us walking the circumference of the burial ground. So, we walked slowly, sometimes in silence, sometimes singing, picking up trash, stopping again to lay pebbles and white roses on top of toppled stones.
Being in the midst of violent devastation can feel like being swallowed by an undertow. No sooner do you poke your head up than the current of outrage and sorrow grabs your feet with the weight of generations and pulls you back under. On that afternoon the only lifeline was a hand and pebble placed on a stone, the ancient words of mourning spoken among strangers, a chant, a rose, a restless silence offered in the presence of the undertow’s power. The wind, in her own way, was sweeping through like sweet medicine.
We had intended to be at the cemetery incognito. Yet the next day, we found ourselves on the front page, above the fold of the Philadelphia Inquirer in a large photo of the five of us praying amidst the toppled stones. That drone camera had taken our photo had been taken from above. The caption read, “Visitors pray amid the damage.”
I saw it then, in that moment when our gathering was shown to us from a distance. We are visitors, guests on this earth, borrowing time from a slice of eternity. And there’s sure damage all over, ancient and modern, the unquiet dead calling out from their forgotten hiding places, and the current deluges of hate, anger and fear in their daily cataclysms of destruction. And then there’s the circle of prayer, that geometry of wholeness called into the middle of all of it, as witness and legion singing and silent, never a solitary venture, for even if you are alone on a hill, the air and the ground and the sky are singing with you.
“Visitors pray amid the damage.” It’s a good job description for our time.
For many years, Lawrie Hartt has apprenticed to the teachers, ancestors, and beings who have come in her dreams. A counselor, teacher and writer, she gathers circles of community rooted in learning how to live in reciprocity with our human and non-human kin. Though in her earlier life she served as an Episcopal priest and trained as a classical pianist, she remains most at home in the world of improvisation.
Trump Nightmares and the Medicine of Resistance
~ Miriam Greenspan
The morning Donald Trump was elected President, I shook like a leaf. My whole body trembled with fear. I had to sit down. It was as though I’d just heard that someone I love had been attacked or killed.
This was no irrational anxiety—it was a profound bodily intelligence, registering the enormity of the threat Trump poses to our democracy and to the world. It wasn’t shock that shook me. I wasn’t surprised by Trump’s win. I’d predicted it many months before when most people were treating him like a bad joke. In a moment of electric intuition I felt it in the air—that the United States was ripe for a demagogue. I could feel this in my body in the same way that a victim of assault can feel a predator close by. She can sense the presence even if it’s not visible.
My sensitive antennae have been fine-tuned by my history as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. My parents survived two different fascisms, one from the Right and one from the Left. Newly married just before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they honeymooned on the run, landing in the Soviet-occupied sector of the country, where they were greeted by Communist fascists who put them on cattle cars and imprisoned them in a Siberian gulag for the sin of being “suspicious persons” (i.e. Jews on the run from Hitler).
When they returned to Poland five years later, their world had disappeared, their families turned to smoke in Auschwitz and Treblinka. I was born in a refugee camp, my first home for the first four years of my life. I came to this country, a scrawny kid with big eyes, knowing in my bones that the world can steal your life in a heartbeat.
The fear that I felt as a child in the Displaced Persons camp, and growing up in the south Bronx, was not only a response to the dangers of my immediate environment. It was an energy I carried transpersonally, transmitted to me by parents traumatized by genocide.
For years before and after my parents told me their Holocaust stories, I dreamed recurrently of an un-nameable Onslaught on its way to destroy everything in its path. In the dream, I am trying to save myself and others, packing my bags to get on a train, unable to pack quickly enough to escape the approaching cataclysm. The dream always ends with a feeling of overwhelming dread.
The dreadful menace in this dream is personified for me now, in 21st century America, by Donald Trump. My childhood fear that the world is not safe is now a common feeling for millions of Americans who have been privileged enough never to have felt it before.
Who feels safe in America today? If you’re not afraid, you’ve either drunk Trump’s Kool-Aid or you’re not paying attention. What we’re witnessing is the advance of a uniquely American brand of fascism. Especially if you’re anyone with a history of anxiety, depression, or trauma, it feels like there’s no place to rest. Not in the past. Not in the imagined future. And not in the present, with its escalating madness. In a time of rising chaos, as Trump’s administration and a fascist-enabling Republican Congress do their best to actively disable or passively collaborate with the dismantling of democracy, our collective dreams carry the truth that is either intentionally or unwittingly obfuscated by the White House and the media.
In the weeks and months following the election and inauguration of Donald Trump, I began to fill a dream journal with nightmares. The feeling of radical unsafety is the heart of most of these dreams; being hunted, losing my children are recurrent themes. There are three that seem particularly important at this time. I have listed them in sequence.
I am living in a new house and looking out glass doors at the length of the backyard. At first glance this is a luxurious strip of land but looking closer I see that the land is completely arid and desiccated. The soil is cracked and yellow and marked with deep crevices. Looking out to the left I see the ocean and think “Oh! Ocean view property!” This seems promising but then I see that the surf is rolling in. The storm surge will soon flood the house.
I had my first dream about climate change in the late 1970’s. I dreamed the seasons out of joint and the sun too hot. I have had many since then. But in this post-Trump dream, climate change is on my doorstep. Drought and flood, two of the rising environmental threats brought about by an overheated planet, are immediate threats to my home.
This was my first dream response to Trump—that with him as our leader, the ecocidal madness of our civilization would now be driven up to the highest notch. The ascendancy of Trump is a threat to the earth and all its sentient beings, a threat that, if left unchecked, will speed our way to planetary disaster.
I am walking through a house and there’s a single bed in a small room. I’m about to lie down when I alarmed by a man in my bed. It is Trump, wearing nothing but loose white underpants, expecting me to have sex with him! His body is covered with little blond hairs, a big bloated mass of air and fat. He is smiling a smug little grin and very pleased himself. Then he turns to show me his backside and says “Oops! I took a dump in my pants!” He thinks his being full of shit is amusing. I am filled with a disgust so overwhelming that it is palpable when I wake up.
This dream speaks for itself. People of good conscience are experiencing en masse a kind of moral repugnance and nausea, responding to a noxious, noisome poison circulating in the air, a poison we are breathing in and that we cannot escape—though we can try to mitigate its effects.
The bulk of my dreams for the next several months had do with being hunted by violent men, running, trying to escape. The terror of my parents’ world, now mine. Other dreams concerned my fears for my daughter’s health and safety. Esther is a beautiful soul with a multitude of physical and mental disabilities who relies on state funding to support her in the group home in which she lives and the day program in which she participates. In one dream, her funding dries up—again, a very rational fear. In another, I dream that, from now on, babies born with any physical or mental impairments or infirmities will have to be buried alive or killed and then buried. Hitler declared Jews, homosexuals, and people with disabilities “useless eaters,” unworthy of life. Trump has a similar contempt for human life and a penchant for creating scapegoats.
Dream #3 Thanksgiving night, 2016
I’m on the street. People are hunting for me. I am their prey. There are laws that, if broken, will get me arrested—though it’s unclear what the laws are. There is danger everywhere. I’m holding a small container of homeopathic medicine. A man walks up and he is about to arrest me for this. I am defiant. I take two homeopathic pills in front of him and say, with a smile: “You don’t expect me to police myself, do you? I’ll go on until I can’t anymore!” He is charmed by my attitude (though he was menacing at first) and lets me get away with it—like a Nazi with his ‘favorite’ Jew. My refusal to be docile makes me interesting to him.
Here’s how I see this dream: it is the turning point in which the traumatized victim of my Trump nightmares becomes a woman of courage and resistance.
What is the medicine of my dream? Homeopathy is a delegitimized medicine. It is not covered by insurance. It is not recognized as medicine. It is debunked by scientists who speak of ‘anecdotal evidence’ while knowing little about it and who claim that it is anti-scientific. It is a disputed medicine—accepted as legitimate in Europe while American ‘scientists’ continue to witch-hunt it. (I have never heard of a single instance of homeopathy harming anyone whereas Western ‘scientific’ pharmaceuticals are responsible for untold deaths and irreparable harm).
In homeopathic medicine, a micro amount of something that is poisonous is medicine for the condition that it would cause if taken in larger amount. In this dream, I am taking in a poison in benign, healing form. The medicine’s power is that it transforms something potentially dangerous into something curative.
I am brazenly resisting the laws that would keep this medicine out of the hands of the people. I will not police myself i.e. I will not buy into the culture that says I must regard the medicine as criminal. I am an open practitioner of forbidden medicine—a homeopathic witch! My relationship with the authorities is personal; i.e., I am face-to-face with someone who would jail me and openly defiant. This is in contrast to the ways in which I have to be hidden in order to survive my persecutors in the recurrent dreams I’ve had since Trump came to power. In this dream, I step out of being the victim of persecution and I am smilingly taunting my persecutor that I will resist his authority until I die. Resistance is this: a personal act of defiance that stems from a refusal to be dominated. And the willingness to die for this refusal. Standing up entails courage—the willingness to master the fear of death. It’s not just a matter of changing consciousness but of actions in the world.
In a sense, the medicine is the resistance itself—for it is the resistance that heals our helplessness and fear. The healing of our democracy will not come about without this resistance to the tyranny of Trump and his enablers.
This is the dream I return to when I need to remind myself to live with my fear in a post-Trump nation as gracefully as I can. And to resist in whatever ways I can the fascist advance. For me, given the constraints of my life, that resistance has to do with writing as clearly and forcefully as I can about Trump and fascism, guided by the wisdom I have received from my ancestors.
The Jewish sage Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav said, “The entire world is a narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid.” I don’t think he meant that we should not feel afraid, but rather that we should not let fear overtake us. We should not be cowed by our nightmares. We should not let fear propel us to jump off the bridge or to push each other off.
The great theologian Abraham Heschel said: “God is waiting for us to redeem the world.” May we find a way, together, to strengthen the narrow bridge of this world that so desperately needs to be redeemed.
Miriam Greenspan, M.Ed., LMHC, is a psychotherapist in private practice, consultant, writer, and internationally-known workshop leader. A pioneer in women’s psychology and psychotherapy, her first book, A New Approach to Women and Therapy, helped define the field. Healing Through the Dark Emotions: the Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair (Shambhala, 2003), a Boston Globe bestseller, won the 2004 Nautilus Award in psychology for “books that make a contribution to conscious living and positive social change” and was chosen as one of the best spiritual books of 2003 by Spirituality & Health Magazine. Ms. Greenspan’s work has been featured in numerous magazines, including Psychology Today, Ms., Body & Soul, Shambhala Sun, New Woman, Tikkun, Spirituality & Health, the Sun, and Ode. Miriam is also a published poet who has completed a manuscript called “The Heroin Addict’s Mother”.
Nourishing the Future
~ Sharon English
In my dream, I’m walking on a trail by the river Thames in London, ON, near the neighbourhood where I grew up. I enter the ravine, moving into the woods, and find myself at place I know well where the river bends. The current’s powerful here, and on the opposite bank rises a sandy cliff full of swallows’ nests. I swim across, emerging on a ribbon of sand at the cliff’s base. Suddenly, I’m naked. I roll in the sand vigorously, really getting it into my skin and hair. Then I lie back, waiting.
A rope or belt, interwoven with shells, comes up from the ground and hooks me by the neck, hard. I resist briefly, instinctively, then surrender, and am pulled into the earth. It’s utterly dark, and for a while I see and feel nothing but the rope now loosely about me. Then a place appears, dimly in the distance: a small beach against a rock face with a cave opening there and a little fire burning before it. It’s night. I come and sit by the fire. I can sense water close by, though can see nothing but my immediate surroundings and stars overhead. The white sand is fine and cool. All is still. I feel like I’m in a spirit world, or our world long ago.
I lie down, thinking to sleep. A crab emerges from the sand and crawls onto me. Though briefly unnerved, I accept it. Then many crabs emerge. They crawl all over me—and they begin to eat me.
This happens fast and slow. My awareness is focused on them: their eyes glinting in the moonlight, their delicate legs, their smooth hard backs and strange claws. I’m a floating awareness now; I’ve become food to nourish them. They eat neatly, until everything is gone and only my clothing and bones remain. All of this feels utterly holy: a great, spiritual event.
The crabs disperse, some toward the unseen water and some nearer to the cave, where they lay eggs in the sand. Disembodied, I observe, aware that I ‘am’ the crabs now and that I’m making possible the next generation of crabs. This feels totally right.
I find myself crossing the Thames River again—but the I who emerges on shore is not the same person. I feel distinctively other. I’m barefoot now, and wearing a long blue dress interwoven with shells, with shells adorning my hair. I feel beautiful.
What does it mean to be devoured? According to the dream, it means offering oneself fully to the needs of others—in this case, earth and spirit. Doing so ensures there’s a future. Doing so brings to life the shelled one, the beautiful barefooted woman in blue.
All of us learn early on in this culture that humans occupy the top of the food chain. We choose what we eat. We call the shots! And do we ever do that: we eat and eat, and regard those who dare nibble us or our food as vermin. In this dream, however, there is no ‘top,’ only the cycle of life and spiritual transformation.
It’s time to give our old identities over. We must act—and the action required is to stop: stop interfering, stop controlling, stop thinking we know best. Be naked, and surrender. Trust that Earth, which has created us, knows what to do. Crab will take it from there. Crabs are scavengers and meticulous cleaners. Sensitive and tough. They operate on land and water. What better creature to consume our tainted selves, and create new life?
Our sacred task now is to dissolve pride of ‘first place’ and lordship, to give over our old identities on behalf of the law of creation. Can we trust this earth? How can we not? The best of who we are can feed the future of all beings. This is the path to becoming earth-human, spirit-human—integrated human beings. Then there will be a future.
Sharon English has published two collections of short stories, Uncomfortably Numb and Zero Gravity, which was long-listed for the Giller Prize. Her new novel, What Has Night To Do With Sleep? attempts to find convincing ways to evoke the earth, its non-human creatures and the cosmos as conscious agents in life. She’s currently the director of the Writing and Rhetoric Program at the University of Toronto, where she teaches creative writing.
Truth and Silencing
~ Kristin Flyntz
It is a bright, sunny day. I am outside with a shopping cart, collecting evidence. Two men are standing nearby and depart upon seeing me.
I pull out a small silver key. It will open a mailbox in which are documents that will serve as evidence. Before I can open the mailbox, one of the men returns. He is tall, broad-shouldered. He doesn’t like what I’m up to. He smiles down at me. He thinks he can charm or cajole me out of it. I tell him, “Go away. This is not your truth, this is not your story.” He replies, “But it has to do with me”, intimating that he should have a say in how the story gets told.
He looms over me, and I feel he means to do me harm.
He beats and binds me, then seals my mouth shut with duct tape before dumping me in a body of water. The key is under my tongue.
This dream came a month before the U.S. Presidential election, when already there were signs that the truth – including our understanding of and relationship to it – was in jeopardy. Fast forward to May 2017, following the introduction of “alternative facts” into the national lexicon; baseless claims of voter fraud during the election and wiretapping of then-candidate Trump by President Obama; and of course, the unceremonious and controversial “dumping” of several high-profile individuals who had ties to investigations involving the current President and members of his campaign and/or administration. Perhaps, as in the dream, whatever emerges from these investigations—provided they are allowed to continue independently and unimpeded—ultimately will not be “his story.” Regardless, this is a man who seemingly cannot rest until every story becomes a story about him, and who will go to extreme lengths to shape the narrative in ways that he views as favorable to himself. If present day headlines are accurate, this includes attempts to silence those who would potentially discredit or otherwise undermine him.
Dream #2, April 2017: I drive through an urban area, followed by a white pickup truck. Its driver’s side door is emblazoned with the words and logo of an organization that traffics humans. In its bed, the truck carries large garbage bins, the kind distributed by the local waste management company.
From my rearview mirror, I can see into the bed of the truck. The top of one of the bins opens. Inside are three young female faces. One of the girls wears a red scarf around her head. In the middle is a girl of maybe seven years old. Against the darkness of her skin, I see the whites of her terrified eyes as she meets mine in the mirror. Her white teeth gleam in a grimaced cry for help. Another bin opens; it holds three young boys. Dazed and despondent, they look ahead, not seeing, the light gone out of their eyes. Toward the front of the bed, a bald woman in a hospital gown crouches with her husband. In the back of the bed, another nearly bald woman, gaunt and curling in on herself, looks up into the face of her husband. He cannot meet her gaze, his graying head hung low in what I know is his shame for being unable to save her, them, from this fate. Foremost in the bed, sitting behind the driver, is a younger, bearded man, and I wonder if he is a guard.
I make a plan. At the next stoplight, I will get out of my car and jump into the bed of the truck. I will open the bins and set those poor people free.
But I keep driving. It will never work, I say to myself. I will not be able to move fast enough. The guard might shoot me, and then what good would I be? I do not stop. I do not help.
Later, at home, I have taken to the couch, ill – my stomach gripped by pain and nausea. My mother and sister sit across from me, wondering what is wrong with me. I tell them two inane stories about minor grievances from my workday. They are silent, listening, watching. Finally, I am overtaken by guilt and shame for what I have done – what I have failed to do – and for what will happen to those people because I looked away. I cry, “Now can I tell you the truth about why I am so sick?”
Upon waking, the dream lodges in my body, as real as a waking event or memory of one, and when I tell it, I am undone. The faces of the children, the searching eyes of the old woman, and her husband’s broken spirit assert themselves, and I cannot wipe them away.
This dream comes post-election, amid travels bans, increased deportations, a worldwide refugee crisis, and a proposed healthcare bill that may potentially create dire circumstances for millions of Americans. It wants my attention. It magnifies the stakes and impact of what it wants me to see and understand. It challenges the stories I tell myself about the kind of person I am, upending my sense of righteousness by holding up a mirror too big to ignore, urging me to ask and answer: Who or what suffers so that I can feel safe and comfortable and enjoy countless conveniences? To what do I close my eyes and heart because helping asks more of me than I am willing to give? When do I silence myself from speaking out against something I know is wrong? How many seemingly “minor” betrayals might add up to the moral equivalent of abandoning a truck full of trafficking victims? And, lest I get stuck in a paralyzing vortex of self-scrutiny and blame: What actions will I take, however seemingly small or insignificant, to become trustworthy?
More than ever, these questions seem urgent and worthy of exploration, given how high and how fast the stakes have risen for so much that was already in jeopardy.
Taken together, these dreams illustrate silencing, both externally and internally imposed. In addition, they expose the illusion of safety and make clear that speaking and silence, action and inaction – all come with risks and consequences. The question for this dreamer is not which choice poses the greatest threat to her personal safety, but which choice will keep her humanity intact.
In both dreams, the key to the truth is in the body. In the first, it is secreted away under the woman’s tongue. Tongue is the organ of speech; it is also another word for language. The key to the truth is under her tongue — perhaps beneath language — at least spoken language, e.g. in dreams.
In the second dream, a woman closes her heart to the suffering of others, remaining passive and silent; her unspoken shame makes her sick. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tongue is directly connected to the heart; a heart out of balance impedes our ability to speak clearly and with a strong voice; disharmony in the heart can also manifest in stomach disorders such as ulcers.
Amid the chaos and distraction that increasingly defines daily life, it helps me to remember that more often that not, my body tells me much of what I need to know about what is true. The “gut” feeling, the rising hair on the back of my neck, the knot in my stomach, the goose bumps on my arm–these are sources of wisdom from beyond my thinking mind, keys to truths that cannot, and will not, be silenced.
Kristin Flyntz is the assistant editor of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two feline companions.
Raped by Monsters; Crossing a Rickety Bridge
~ Aviva Rahmani
Since the Election of this administration, and the crushing of resistance at Standing Rock, the task of establishing alternative models has become infinitely more challenging.
February 7, 2017: Mitch McConnell silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren in the Senate.
“(A) rebuke of Warren came after the Massachusetts Democrat read a letter written 30 years ago by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship.” -CNN
February 8, 2017:
T.’s militants ring Warren with bayonets in the midst of a rally crowd trying to free her, while Gov. Christie rapes her in their circle. I thought it was about the De Vos appointment.
Now I think the ether was screaming through the zeitgeist that we are all being raped by these monsters. It isn’t only women who are being attacked. Anything vulnerable, beautiful, or wise seems under attack, which is why Christie and De Vos featured in the dream as representing attacks on civil integrity and public education. Women in this country are being implicitly raped by the Republican Party, led by Donald Trump. We are being raped by the normalization of rape culture, assaults on Planned Parenthood, and the Health Bill proposed to date. As a woman, I am outraged by this suppression of human rights. As an artist, it increases my anxiety about my own and others’ freedom of expression. The dream viscerally illustrates my fears. As the producer of The Blued Trees Symphony, it makes the songs of the tree-soloists in that project more complex and dramatic in their crescendos.
The mission of the Blued Trees Symphony is to define human relationships to other species, to trees, water and soil as the basis for public good, a definition that could save humans from the worst consequences of the Anthropocene Era and a fossil- fuel-based economy. Each measure of the work is 1/3 mile long, and the painted trees represent aerial songs, referencing musical notes, chords and transitions determined by local biogeography. Miles of trees in the path of natural gas pipelines have been painted since 2015, copyrighted as one sonified biogeographic sculpture and then prepared for litigation against the eminent domain takings of natural gas corporations.
In April 2017, I was notified that I would be the first Fellow for Contemplative Practice from A Blade of Grass (ABOG www.abladeofgrass.org),in partnership with the Hemera Foundation. Their support came as the full malice of the t. regime unfolded against resistance to natural gas pipelines at Standing Rock. May 4, 2017 I performed an excerpt from The Blued Trees Symphony for the Fellows reception that was a recitative of legal text and singing with the audience from the Coda, created for the days before the November 2016 Election. The following two days, the 2017 Fellows gathered for workshops with ABOG.
Monday May 8, 2017, I woke from two new nightmares.
I have been directed to climb down a wide, deep, sandstone well to get someplace else. The deeper I go, the darker, the more shallow and inconsistent the foot and hand holds, till I begin screaming for help, but no one hears me. At last, I am heard and know someone is coming to help me escape and find the correct route to safety. I wake before I am rescued.
I am part of a large party crossing a rickety bridge, many on horseback, when two of the horses begin to panic, throwing their riders. I rush in to help in the chaos.
In both dreams, the situation was dire, but hope was en route and I was part of the rescue.
I began The Blued Trees Symphony in the belief that now was the time to develop new models of public good and justice, based on recognizing our interdependence with other species, and our dependence on clean water.
All three dreams express my own sense of globalized mortal terror. As I develop The Blued Trees Symphony, it seems that with others, the prospect of a totalitarian fossil fuel regime in the country, while we long for rescue, is terrifying but not hopeless. The well in my dream is the terrifying world t. is creating, in which artists are trying to find our way to a better future but are forced to descend into ever deeper and more dangerous depths. The bridge is the transition we must effect from that old, corrupt world that threatens all life on earth, to one that might survive the Anthropocene despite current chaos. In the last dreams, despite the threats, I see a mosaic of alternative visions for our future. We may yet survive. The hope is that when a small group of like-minded and determined people with vision assemble, amazing things can be accomplished.
Ecological artist Aviva Rahmani began her career as a performance artist, founding and directing the American Ritual Theatre (1968-1971), which performed throughout California. In 2009, she began presenting performance workshops on her theoretical approach to environmental restoration. Rahmani received an Arts and Healing Network award in 2009 for her work on water. She is currently an Affiliate at the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), University of Colorado Boulder. In 2015 she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Ecology Residency with the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) to work on the Newtown Creek superfund site.
The Blued Trees Symphony (2015 – present) is an international project that has been installed and copyrighted in the path of natural gas pipelines across many miles of the American continent at multiple sites. It is an aspect of Gulf to Gulf (2009- present), a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)- sponsored project exploring how art might affect climate change policies. The Blued Trees Symphony was awarded a NYFA Fellowship in 2016, as well as a grant from the Ethelwyn Doolittle Justice and Outreach Fund of the Community Church of New York, Unitarian Universalist and in 2017 received an award from A Blade of Grass.
Everything is Alive and Communicating
~ Shula Levine
I sit beneath a graceful old tree wrapped in tattered sacred cloth. Its deep, calm presence fills me.
Soon I am traveling below the surface of the earth along the roots of the tree, am aware of being underground, and of the incredibly complex network of information and life force all around me. Aware of respiration. The entire community below the surface works together in intricate beauty to feed and breathe and decompose and regenerate. Everything essential comes from this energy pulsing around me. Information is passed between species, bugs, roots, the microbes of the soils itself. Everything is alive and communicating. I am aware that I can’t possibly understand this language, but I am also aware that all I am supposed to understand is this gorgeous complexity. The Earth is quite literally speaking.
Then I am walking on a quiet stretch of ocean beach. It is a familiar place, the shore of Wellfleet, Massachusetts. A seal raises her head from the surface of the ocean and makes eye contact with me. Then she is guiding me beneath the surface of the ocean. Again I am aware that my senses are not equipped to fully comprehend what I am being shown, but I have a sense of vast intelligence being transmitted. I experience something like synesthesia—hearing smell, and tasting sound–there is so much information pulsing within the water, between species, between elements. I am aware that though I am unable to perceive and receive all that is here, it is enough to feel awe and deep reverence for it
Then I am on what feels like an abandoned city street. It feels like a poor residential neighborhood, run down, a heavy feeling of despondency in the air. There are no people in this scene except for one young boy, maybe eleven years old, sitting on the steps of a building. It is as though he has been waiting a long time for something to happen. I move toward him with the feeling that we are in a silent movie—sound has been muted, a stark contrast to the fervor of sound and energy in the soil and ocean. I have the sense that I am supposed to drum for him. I feel hesitant, awkward, self conscious, but there is a frame drum in my hand, and I realize that I am supposed to reconnect the boy to an essential life force that has been exiled. I start to drum.
Then I am in the midst of outer-space. It is dark, but there are an infinite number of distant stars shining. I feel the stars are radiating love, streaming unending love and nourishment and protection to the whole planet and to all beings on the planet. I laugh, realizing what a grand truth this is. There is so much love streaming toward us all of the time.
This vision came to me in April 2017 as the Trump administration’s “alternative facts” attempt to undermine the legitimacy of scientific evidence and minimize the impact of environmental catastrophe all around us.
I believe that this vision calls us to “listen beneath the surface,” to be in direct, primal relation to the Earth—to awaken to the mysteries of the natural world that are just beyond our human senses and intellectual capacities. Elemental energies are showing us what is true, the ongoing processes by which the planet is a living organism, trying to survive and heal herself.
This vision also calls us to bring tools of ritual awareness and sacred sound to heal the broken places in society. And ultimately, it offers the gift of experiencing the vast, unifying energy of love that permeates every aspect of the universe.
Shula Levine is the mother of an un-schooling teen, a birth doula and hospice volunteer. Her writing practice and dream work support her ongoing explorations of life within and around her.
Cobra Issues a Warning
~ Laura D. Bellmay
May 8, 2017. I am visiting people in a community of healing. I am a stranger here. We prepare for ritual and for me to travel somewhere on their behalf. The community bestows a huge dump truck upon me for the journey. The truck is full of muddy water. I search on the outside of the truck for a lever so I can dump the muddy water out. However, there is no lever.
I travel to a place that is the Coliseum. An entire world community prepares for ritual. In silence, we enter this huge open-air structure with a dusty dirt floor. Tall, thick walls of stones about 50-feet high surround us. The walls that encircle us are a formidable circle of protection. Many people from many different countries who speak different languages all gather in this Coliseum. In spite of how many there are, everyone gathers in silence to form a huge circle inside the walls.
An invisible Cobra enters the circle. An iridescent orange scarf floats on top of the serpent’s unseen head. Because everyone sees the scarf, each knows the serpent is present beneath it. The crowd is hushed.
Cobra stops moving. It arches upon its tail in its full power with its fan fully spread. From this position, it moves its head slightly to the right and “points” to a man in the 8 o’clock position in the circle. Everyone in the circle is dumbstruck realizing that a powerful spirit is present and is pointing out wrongdoing in this man.”
The beginning of this dream speaks to me of the situation at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where the Dakota Access oil pipeline has been laid beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and burrows beneath a part of Lake Oahe near the Reservation. As of this writing, oil has begun to flow through the pipeline, which is a threat to clean water for many along these two major rivers and for those who depend on Lake Oahe for water. In addition, the pipeline desecrates the Indians’ sacred ancient burial ground.
The water is in a “dump truck”, and is undrinkable and unusable. Disposing of the putrefied water by releasing it into the earth has consequences. . The community knows this. They require this woman to carry the dirty water to a place where it can be purified. The dream instructs us that we must carry what we are given to carry – in this case, water in need of purification – on behalf of healing for the community. The water protectors and allies of Standing Rock understand this.
I arrive at the Coliseum, a place where believers of certain faiths were persecuted for sport and enjoyment. The Roman Coliseum, the same culture that stripped away the sacred, peaceful matriarchies that existed for 5,000 years previous, fed on the violation, oppression, and domination of others. These victimized religious “outcasts” were a threat to the power structure of the day; they were captured, tortured, and defiled at the pleasure of those in power. Animals, too, were defiled— torn away from their homes, starved, and abused in confinement until, mad from mistreatment, they were released into the Coliseum’s arena to feed on the victimized and starving humans. Those in power in the Coliseum believed it was their right to dominate by fear, intimidation, and torture. Dishonor, desecration, and humiliation were the strategies the Romans used to violate the bodies, spirits, and families of the Christians who were just practicing their faith. We see a contemporary version of this in the plight of the Standing Rock Sioux.
In the dream, however, there is a sacred ceremony at the Coliseum. The intention of healing is present. A restoration will occur. People from countless places, countries and continents, all speaking different languages, have traveled a long way to be here. They are each ambassadors of their peoples. Thousands of people gather silently to form a circle within the Coliseum walls.
During the ceremony, a traitor is uncovered within the group. People feel betrayed (by their leaders). In numerology the number “8” is known as the karmic equalizer. It is the number of wealth and financial largesse. It is the sign of “reaping what you sow.” A day of reckoning is here.
The cobra, the most powerful symbol of kundalini energy, arises during times of ecstasy or catastrophe. This kundalini experience t brings deep wisdom and the possibility of transformation Here, the cobra carries a warning.
It is the orange scarf, not the cobra, per se, that at first captures the attention of the Council. Orange is the color of the second chakra, which is located below the navel. The main energy of this color is creativity and feeling. It also carries meanings associated with water and water flow.
Thus, Cobra, which symbolizes catastrophe and transformation, appears to a group of healers gathered in Council to consider the peril of the planet and issues a warning.
The sacred waters were “muddied” by the pipeline expansion. The water protectors of Standing Rock fought hard to make amends to the earth and to stop the pipeline. Their efforts are not in vain, they never were. They have created good karma. In the dream, numerology shows us that though those in power have betrayed those who have put faith in them, equilibrium will be restored.
Laura D. Bellmay is a retired fundraising and development consultant. She began writing for the love of the craft after her first cancer diagnosis in 1996. She won the “Best of Letters to The Editor” from The Hartford Courant in 1991. The Collinsville Axe Factory Players hosted a reading of “Holy Communion”, her essay about growing up Catholic in 1950s “baby boomer” housing in Foxon, Connecticut. Laura was featured in a series of articles in The Uxbridge Times in 2006 and her essay, “Into the Garden” a short story about her coming to terms with her mastectomy after a recurrence of breast cancer, was published in the 2011, Winter Issue of Barefoot Review.
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