My third poetry/prose poem chapbook “The Acme Employee Handbook” is still in the publication process, although happily, the publisher has a cover artist now! Hopefully, we’ll see some samples soon. Over the weekend, I sent “Cheesehead” off to a few publications that accept “long” short stories (which are 7,000+words, according to the collective wisdom of the interwebs.) So, besides a long narrative poem I want to write about Calamity Jane, and a vaguely considered short story, the only thing I have left to work on right now is my novel. Over the last few days, I’ve made good headway. Mr. Typist observed me clacking away like a madwoman and asked me why it was flowing today, when on other days it doesn’t. I didn’t have a good answer for him, except to shrug and say, “Sometimes it comes, sometimes it don't.” I know this is a terrible attitude for any writer to have. We’re supposed to find “tricks” that allow us to create even in an uninspired or fallow stage. But I find that with creative writing, I’m at the mercy of the mysterious whims of my intuitive process. And I’ve come to understand and value the gift of the blank spaces, the quiet times, the writing that happens in the times when the writing doesn’t happen. I attribute this wisdom to a brown bear I dreamed of, which I will get to shortly.
It’s Fall, my favorite season. I’m still sad. Life is still very hard right now. I remain in an edgy period of daily struggle and worry. But I’m grateful for Fall, for the change in the air. I’m grateful for the brightness and beauty that blooms before decay and death, the fiery brilliance of the leaves, a fierce final flame-out before they die and become nutrients to feed new life. It’s comforting right now, this specter of death, this reminder of the endless cycle of renewal. I have to stay focused on the seasons, the cycles, or I forget that all states of being are transitory. I start to attach to the state I’m in as permanent, and then my system floods with fear, reactivity, and depression. The fall leaves are sustaining me right now. The bite in the air lends an exquisite alertness to my heart and limbs I haven’t felt for many months.
A few nights ago, I dreamt of a giant brown bear. He came to me gently and slowly, leaned against me, and nuzzled my neck with his great warm bear nose. “I am going to show you images of my life,” he told me. I was a bit panicked by the presence of this gigantic, heavy, potentially terrifying animal, but he was warm and kind, so I sat very still and tried to take in what he was telling me. All I remember from the dream right now is that he showed me images of traditional Balinese dancers, which confused me, because I knew he wasn’t from Bali. He was an Alaskan Brown Bear. Apparently my bear friend has had quite an adventurous life, because he didn’t show me images of himself scooping up fish and snoring in a cave. All the images were of humans doing various good or bad things—heading into battle, politicking, repairing riverbanks, enjoying culture, dancing in front of bonfires, creating poetry. Apparently my animal totem is The Most Interesting Bear in the World. He doesn’t always show up in an unknown writer’s unconscious, but when he does, he tells them to dream, dream, and dream again.
Bears represent power, resourcefulness, and self-sufficiency. But more importantly, they give birth in hibernation. They have the ability to connect to deep intuitive wisdom through the mediums of sleep and meditation. I hope that as I settle into the deep winter, the fallow time, I will dream wild dreams, create new things, and have the patience to wait, and write them when they are ready to be written.