January 12, 2021

Why We Need Dreams

Dear readers, seekers, and imaginers,

Sharing a dream is an act of intimacy, but I offer this recent one, which arrived during a difficult time. Its powerful message lifted me out of a murky place and reoriented me toward a new vision. As the Jungians like to say, it was a BIG dream, meaning it was not only personal but archetypal, its roots in ancient symbols, its meaning meant for me but also relevant to the collective. Like all dreams, it came unbidden, and just at the right time.

In the dream, it’s twilight, those in-between hours when the world goes misty violet. I’m gazing at a small but lovely fruit tree. As I stand observing it, I begin to notice birds in the branches. A voice advises me to continue looking. The longer I look, the more birds become visible, hopping and chittering among the leaves. I feel a thrill at witnessing something magical, a feeling that returns whenever I remember the dream.

As I write this, the darkness of winter is upon us. We are awaiting the distribution of the COVID vaccine, anticipating a lightening of the dread and anxiety that have been plaguing the country. We are eager for the promise of new personalities in the executive branch and more just policies from all branches of government. Do you feel the same moral and emotional exhaustion I feel?  We will need an infusion of fortitude, patience, and hope to undertake the herculean tasks of repair and renewal ahead.

This is why I am so grateful for the Tree-of-Life dream and why I tell it to you. As I have written about on my Psychology Today blog, the dream message affirms that what we see at first is not the whole story. It suggests that if we are willing to step away from our preoccupations and preconceptions, and “keep looking,” the wondrous hidden beneath the ordinary will reveal itself. To enter such revelatory spaces, however, we need to develop patience and be keen observers, and also to trust our intuitive inner voice.

So much needs fixing in this country of broken hearts and shifting landscapes. So much needs re-visioning. I think of each of you and wonder how you are managing, what you are learning about yourselves during the pandemic. As for me, my life as an introverted writer is not greatly altered. Work on the new novel progresses, though slowly. My happy news is that I am now choosing cover art for my new book of poems, MI don’t have a pub date yet, but I am hoping it will be out in 2021. Please stay tuned; you will hear from me when it becomes available.

In February, I’ll be participating in a virtual event, “(Re)connecting to Art,” hosted by the Art + Literature Lab on art and trauma. Joining me on the panel will be Wilder Dietz, a jazz piano teacher, and Charles Payne, a Spoken Word Artist. Our discussion will be followed by a Q & A and also by a brief participatory workshop. The event is free and will take place on February 27, 2-4 PM CST. You don’t have to be in Madison or Wisconsin to join! Please save the date. You can register for it here.

Dear friends across the miles, please know that in times of great stress, humans have always relied on their moral imagination and creativity to find a new way forward. Denis Dutton, a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, says our desire for beauty, pleasure, play—instincts that are the foundation of art—is inborn. Our dreams and doodles, our lines of poetry are windows into inspiration and hope and connect us to mysterious saving forces. I needed my tree dream. I need it still. In closing, I send wishes that the new year brings you good health, wondrous surprises, and the courage to explore new possibilities.

Stay connected!

Yours with respect and care,


P.S. Those new to this newsletter may enjoy browsing previous dispatches in the Letter Archive where you can invite friends to subscribe, or just pass this note along to any friends you feel will enjoy it. A reminder that I do a monthly blog for Psychology Today called “Transcending the Past” which you can read on PT or on my personal website. If you’re active on Facebook, please keep up with my activities on my Facebook page.

Top image: “Tree of Birds” Vintage print. Public Domain.