Skip to content

Raining Coconuts: Dreams as Spiritual Teachers

green coconuts

Our dreams often give us juicy stories to highlight messages we are ready to understand on deeper levels than our intellects.

When we work with dreams creatively, our dreams can wake us UP.

Here’s my dream from last night as an example:

Title:  Raining Coconuts

I’m on a New York City street.  I’m meeting someone important who’s exiting from a large black car.  It could be armored.  Out of nowhere, young coconuts start falling out of the sky all around us.  Everyone on the street has to duck and run for cover as we’re bombarded by young coconuts.

But then the rain finishes. Now there are loads of fresh young coconuts on the ground.  We pick them up.  We find straws and begin to drink the delicious coconut water.

How did I feel when I woke up? Invigorated.

This dream has several layers for me, some very practical.  I was trying to decide where to take a vegetarian friend to lunch today.  One of the choices I’m thinking of is a place that serves delicious fresh young coconut still in the shell with a straw.  So I will take him there, and honor the dream by doing something in this material realm that happened in the dream….  So it was restaurant advice, and possibly nutrition advice for my body.  I may need some extra electrolytes.

There’s meaning to me on many levels about the armored car as well.  I free associate on this.

Is this something that could happen literally in the future?  Perhaps.  I’ve learned not to dismiss literal meanings of dreams, even if they are highly unlikely.

On the symbolic level, I’ve been through quite a few challenges lately that have felt like giant missiles flying at me unexpectedly out of the sky.  But when the storm has cleared, they’ve in fact been very nourishing experiences.  What a wonderful way to become more open in the moment to the gifts of a hard, scary time, by practicing with such a dream as this!


Honoring the dream at lunch!

A good way to honor this dream might be to actually act out this scene of the falling coconuts in a dream theater skit. Then this truth will be in my body as well as my psyche.  This is what I would do with a dream group.  Today I might just do it on my own, or enlist some creative friends to help, including the one I’m taking to lunch!

To learn more about these techniques of Active Dreaming, you can check out my mentor, Active Dreaming founder Robert Moss’ wonderful books and programs, including the book Active Dreaming.

I’ll also soon be offering free classes and an ongoing online dream group to explore many aspects of dreaming, including some I’ve discovered myself through my travels in the dreamworld.  Sign up for my mailing list to stay in the know!

What the Fairies and Shakespeare Have to Say about Self-Hatred

I can’t rest.  I can’t get anything done.  My demons are chattering.  “When in disgrace with fortune and my eyes,” I mumble to myself, riffing on Shakespeare’s famous sonnet 29, as it’s no one’s eyes but my own who are hating on me this day.  The laundry list of shortcomings is long, but I’m a failure and will always be so is the gist of the litany.  The wiser part of me closes the vampire of social media that awakens when I’m in this state and I bundle up, my feet and my dog leading me into the woods.

tilly woods winter 2015


I  like to listen to my body and intuition when it comes to choosing a path through the forest.  My favorite wild places have different medicines for me.  There’s a still pond surrounded by hemlock and white pine, maples and oaks that I like to sit by and meditate.  At the pond the day before my eyes had followed a dry oak leaf mirroring along the water’s frozen surface.  The pond calms me.

Sometimes instead I head to a moss-covered waterfall where inspiration churns in the pools and I can never stop myself from singing and dancing with the sound and movement of the water.   I’d visited it the week before, admiring the way little pockets of snow in gullies enhanced the brilliant green moss on the tops of stones and cliff faces while the waterfall roared away between both snow and moss.

Now I find my body is leading me to the waterfall again, around the pond, up a moss-covered path dotted with fallen acorns, over boulders, and then to stop in awe as the falls come into view.  I remember the one thing you can count on in nature is that it will change.

Today the waterfall has gone white and icicles hang in rows like teeth from every cliff face.  The falls are still roaring under the ice, their exterior transformed into an opulent crystal arc.  I stand up next to it, placing my hands over its hard exterior, listening to the rhythmic splash of the waters underneath.  The pool below is also covered in ice and churning beneath its opaque shell.

“What fairies’ dreams are this?” I wonder.

On a recent trip home to visit my mother for the holidays I’d told her about this place, this moss covered waterfall in the woods.  She said, “Sounds like a place full of fairies.  I hope you left them something.”

“I forgot the first time I went,” I replied, “but luckily I’d found a snakeskin on my walk, and the fairies stole it from me.  It’d been in my hand, and then it was just gone.”

“They’ll take something if you don’t remember to leave them something first,” she said, a bit worriedly.

“Yes, yes,” I said, an old familiar twinge of irritation creeping into my voice at her worry.  “They reminded me right away.  Now I always remember to bring them a present, some dried rose petals, a stone, a fuzzy mullein leaf.”  She nodded.  Good.  You can never be to careful with fairies.

(This is the way that my mother and I talk to each other when we’re alone.  She’s Welsh enough to know that fairies mean business, and she taught me the kinds of places they dwell.  Incidentally, my Welsh witch grandmother also believed I was a changeling, but that’s another story.)

On this bright cold winter day I imagine the fairies are frolicking in a warmer realm, the Summerlands as some call them, but what amazing dreams their waterfall is having!  I meditate next to its ice-muted chant as my black dog Tilly prances above me on the steep hill, mindful of the slippery rocks.  Long icicles hang down from the moss covered roots of a tall silver birch tree growing on the cliff, the long shafts of ice creating what I imagine could be the doorway to a dragon’s lair or a witches’s apothecary (or both together), and the sun glistens over the pool of clear water at the top of the stream that snakes down the ice-covered cliff face.

I sing, I dance, I meditate.  I jot down story ideas.  I wonder if I’ll someday write a musical if I hang out by waterfalls often enough!  The sun gradually weakens, the chill creeps in and Tilly’s plaintiff whimper lets me know it’s time to go. I turn back several times just to take in the view a bit longer.

What’ve I accomplished with my life?  This waterfall has provided me with an answer as good as “a lark at break of day singing hymns at heaven’s gate”, which was the promise, the medicine, of the poem stuck in my head in the morning, I realize.  I live in walking distance to a place like this, a place as beautiful in it’s way as anywhere in the world, a place that fills me with awe and delight no matter what emotions or thoughts I lay at its feet.

I think about this poem, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, one that I’ve loved for most of my life, one that I commiserated with Maya Angelou about in her first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, when I read it at as a teen.  This poem has come into my head so often since, exactly describing those feelings of worthlessness and comparison that seem to take root in young teens.  The poem begins with self-hatred and ends with love, perhaps even divine love.

The fairies seem to whisper, from their dreams in the Summerlands, that this seed of self-hatred is the very same that can blossom into the ecstasy of being swallowed up entirely in the beauty of nature and of the divine, of knowing that everything is perfect as it is, that it’s always changing, that self-hatred doesn’t stand a chance in a place like this.   It’s the seed of the flower and it’s the thirst that’s brought me to the well this day.  I could thank it.

When I turn back for home the final time, I leave changed.  I’m gifted by beauty, though I sense there are more gifts than even these.  Sometimes the fairies leave you presents without your knowledge, either.

First Crush as Source of World-Changing Power, or what I just explained to my inner 12-year-old

My childhood diary has resurfaced from age 12.  My mother mentions this casually, pointing me down the basement stairs to the top drawer of my old cherry wood desk where the white teddy-bear clad book lays in wait for me. What monsters or genies will I find inside?

Holding it in my hands again is like playing Freaky Friday with myself from that age, a total out of-into body experience.  I’m lolling on my twin bed, ballpoint pen in hand, pouring over the pages. I can feel the scratchy cotton bedspread under my slim hips as I cross my legs in the air, starring from time to time out the window at the trees or counting the flowers in diamond patterns in the wallpaper before writing my crush’s name over and over again on the lined pages.   At one point I write about how dumb it is that I’m writing about boys, and how I think about many other things, like wanting to learn how to use a gun, and I specify “hand guns, rifles, and semi-automatics”.

 “When I am 21, I am going to get a registered hand gun and keep it in my purse. Also, I want to take self-defense classes… I’m sure that even with a gun and self-defense classes it would be impossible in some instances to defend myself, but I want to be prepared. Also I worry about nuclear war…. Also my parents.” (They were in a failing reconciliation at that time before divorcing.)

I conclude by stating that it’s actually more fun to think about boys than all of that.

As an adult I’ve studied quite a bit about the psychology of the pubescent girl. Clearly I knew that I was prey, and it was important to prepare myself. I learned this from fairytales and simple observation.

 I also wanted so badly to be taken seriously. I contrast my “dumb” preoccupation with boys with the “smart” interest in guns and concern over nuclear war. I wanted to be tough. My hero was Annie Oakley.

So now it’s time to write a letter to my inner 12 year old, and let her know that I’ve since learned that her budding sensuality is powerful, much more powerful than guns or nuclear war. So. much. more.  It’s nothing less than the force of life, of mother nature herself.  It’s creativity in one of it’s many forms.  It’s kundalini rising. And someday, someday she’ll own it, and then she’ll change the world.  And she’ll learn much more effective ways of protecting herself, too, using that very creative power.  


So in the meantime, Ms. 12-year-old-thing, write that boy’s name as many times as you please, and know that it’s genius, really, because what that name means is “I choose this feeling”. It means, “I’m honoring this bubbling, growing feeling in me, by writing this boy’s name in my diary.  I’m creating a sacred space for this feeling.” 

I’m so thankful that my wise 12- year-old knew it wasn’t truly about the boy.   It was a spell I was casting on myself.  It was, ultimately, a lifeline in a challenging passage.

It’s marvelous to think how the world could change if our girls and their first crush feelings were really celebrated as wise…  all that power.

coochie rose
(I suppose the desire to articulate this is one of the driving forces behind the novel I’m writing. )

How Poetry Can Save Your Life, a POW story for Veterans Day


“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are really princesses only waiting to see us, once beautiful and brave.

Perhaps everything terrible is, in it’s deepest being, something helpless that wants help from us.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen.

If a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows passes over your hands and over all you do.

You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you.

It holds you in it’s hands. It will not let you fall.”

–Ranier Maria Rilke, from his Letters to a Young Poet


Nevermind that I like dragons a bit more than I do princesses.  Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet have sustained me through all kinds of rising sadness since first reading them at age 14.

When I was 12 my teacher told our class about a friend of hers, a Viet Nam Veteran, who’d managed to keep his mind sharp and his spirit sane while being held captive in a small bamboo tiger cage for a year  by reciting poems to himself.  He loved poetry, and knew many poems by heart.  When he was back in the U.S. being examined by doctors they were amazed by his mental and psychological fitness.  He seemed to suffer fewer PTSD and cognitive impairments than other former captives.

My teacher told us this story to underline the importance of memorizing poems.  You never know when you might need them.  I’ve made it my practice to learn poems I love by heart ever since.  While I’ve never been held captive in a tiger cage, I have recited poems to myself while standing shoulder to shoulder in a stalled NYC subway car, waiting for an ambulance after a car accident, or sitting in a hospital waiting room, their words creating a spell, holding me in their hands like the life in Rilke’s letter.

My teacher was right, I never know when I’m going to need them, but they’re there, a true refuge, soul solace in the face of anything.

I think about that veteran, her friend who I never met, and he continues to inspire me to memorize more. Wishing all veterans this refuge today, and always.  And as the days continue to get shorter here in the Northern Hemisphere, wishing everyone the truly practical, life-sustaining medicine of a good poem.



Memo from the Spirit World: Share Your Strong Dreams

magic pool

This message has been brought to you by snail girl.  It makes me a little queasy to tell you this, because snail girl isn’t really used to having an audience, but we really need you to start sharing your strong dreams.  Here’s what I mean:  You can dream into the great river of story, into imaginal realms that are larger than your own subconscious mind.  There are vital medicines for us all in these places, and we need them.  Now, please.  We need them now.

How do you know if you’re tapping into something larger than yourself?  You can feel it. You’ll feel connected to your heart, to your higher self, to love and to mystery.  You’ll feel like you’re on to something.  And you can even get “proof” sometimes through research, if your the sort of person (like me) who likes a little proof and loves to sleuth stories.

Here’s one of those dreams of mine to spark yours:

I’m swimming in an illuminated place. The water glints with silver mixed with an impossible milky blue like it’s swirled with bright noon sky and cumulous clouds and flashes of moonlight.

I realize I’m not alone.

All around me are golden beings, like humans, but they’re covered in fur and their forms and faces resemble otters. These are golden otter people. We’re in a large river.

I’m tense, and I see the tension reflected on the faces of the otters.  They’re looking to me to know where to go, but I’m not sure. I’m afraid of making a mistake, but I swim on and they follow me. I’m not quite my usual self. I feel very small and young. My arms and legs are puny compared to these glistening otter people behind me. I have long dark hair and my skin is a dull gray.

We swim past wetlands full of irises and water lilies in all the shades of the rainbow. I’m overwhelmed with their beauty, but know that I have to keep going. I realize too when I see the flowers that we’re swimming between worlds. We’re searching for something, for the otters to find a home and also for a way to communicate through all the worlds. We have something very important to share.

I wake up.

The night before I have this dream, I send a large prayer up for water. I pray for all the waters of the world, give thanks and pray for the health of my local waterways and reservoirs, and also for the Animas river that’s recently become toxic to life.

I feel deeply comforted and intrigued when I wake up. On a purely psychological level the dream has a lot to offer me, but it feels bigger than that. There’s a numinous quality, a feeling of Spirit presence, that I’ve come to recognize. So I decide to do some research. I look up Navajo stories connected to otters, as the Animas river runs through Navajo country, and it was a Navajo woman’s plea to pray for water that sparked this dreaming.

After a quick internet search, I find a version of part of the creation story with some interesting parallels to my dream. In this Navajo story, First Woman sends different peoples, beginning with the otter and beaver people, the best swimmers, back into another world to bring fresh water to the humans so that people can survive, as fresh water has yet to be created in this world. The otters and beavers go into the other world in search of fresh water, but are sidetracked by beautiful rainbow-covered lilies, and it takes snail girl to finally succeed in bringing fresh water through the realms to make human/animal life possible. She doesn’t even realize that she’s succeeded at all, as she drops the water when she reaches home, and passes out from exhaustion. First Woman is able to use the puddle snail girl drops to create all the fresh water that people need, and then she tells snail girl that she did it after all.

When I read about snail girl, the hairs on my body stand up. Years ago I had a dream with a character called snail girl, and when I was really young I was attracted to the characters in the short play Snails in Suzan Lori Park’s Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom. I’ve known snail girl awhile, somehow.

The message that snail girl brings me is that power comes from this insecure, exiled one, the part of the self that is not at home anywhere but carries her home on her back. True power to heal and cure myself and my world resides in this lowly one inside me, and it is she who knows how to swim between worlds.

I hadn’t read or heard any of the Navajo creation story before having the dream, but after I read it, the two fuse in my imagination.  I learn that the third world in the Navajo cycle had been flooded by water, and that we now live in the fourth world.

My mind starts whirring.  I’ll use a technique from Active Dreaming, do some dream theater with this, acting out all the parts with friends, and we’ll discover the otters’ message. One thing I’m certain of: the message won’t be “just for me.” It’s my hope that it can be used to fuel inspired activism to heal and protect our precious waters.

It’s time for the strong dreamers to offer up all of our strong dreams!  Our world needs them.

Here’s a few steps you can take:

1.  Write down your dreams.  The more you do this, the more you will remember them.  If you don’t remember them, write down your first thoughts in the morning, and you could even write down a made-up dream.  I did this recently on a night when I forgot my dreams  and the next night I remembered.

2. Record how you feel upon waking. (You can also use Robert Moss’s Lightning Dreamwork Game as a template, it’s an excellent series of questions and suggestions and is best played with others)

3. Share. Share widely.  And let the dream inspire some creative action!

(p.s. if you hope you’re a strong dreamer, you are one.)

To be continued…

To learn more about Active Dreaming, check out the work of Robert Moss.

To read a version of this part of the Navajo creation story, go here.

And please share this with a strong dreamer in your life!

Remedy for Environmental Heartbreak. Hint: Keep Going.

I’m sitting in my NYC apartment, preparing to teach at the free environmental summer camp we run out of our community garden down the block when a headline hits me in the heart like a poisoned dart. A river has gone from healthy to toxic in the blink of an eye.

planting day at Children's Magical Garden's free environmental summer camp

planting day at Children’s Magical Garden’s free environmental summer camp

Just last week, during a vicious city heat wave made bearable by the abundant shade provided by our garden’s leafy mulberry and apple trees, we were teaching the children about the importance of water for our bodies and planet.

We sit around our little table, pouring water into stainless steel camp cups, taking a break from more active games to make sure everyone stays well hydrated. I ask the campers if they know where our water comes from, or if they know why New York City is famous for its bagels and pizza. It’s the water!

“The ocean?” one child offers.

“A well?” says another.

They learn about our amazing watershed in upstate New York, and about the Mohikanituck, the river that flows two ways, also known as the Hudson.

“I believe that everything is alive, including water,” one little boy volunteers.

child lemongrass

Water is sacred. It’s really an all-hands-on-deck moment for the human species when it comes to protecting our water, saving our land. I don’t tell this to the children. But they know it.

“I want to be an activist when I grow up,” another little boy says. The other campers nod.

“You can be an activist now,” I say.

“I have to do what my mom says now,” he replies.

“Well, there are many ways to be an activist. You can be an activist with your heart. Just by participating in this camp, learning about nature, deepening your relationship to nature, bringing life and joy into our community garden, that’s being an activist. It’s sharing your heart. And it puts you in a good place to see what the next steps are, how you can help more, when you come from a place of your heart.”

This is a lesson that’s taken me years to understand. I heard Bill McKibbin speak at the Omega Center last fall about the rising sea levels. He showed pictures of children in the Maldives who will one day be refugees because of the rise, which is predicted to be unstoppable now, and as of this past July, we’ve learned it’s much faster than had been earlier predicted. I had to run out of the building after the talk to weep under some white pines. “I’m not doing enough,” was my thought. It was true, and it was a lie.

I talked to the children at the camp about the Clearwater Festival, founded by Toshi and Pete Seeger to clean up the Hudson, and how successful it’s been in it’s efforts.

“Pete was a musician. He wrote a lot of famous songs. So you see, musicians can transform the Hudson River, which means that wherever your passions and talents lie, you can make a difference too. It’s always the most powerful if you act from your heart,” I repeat. When I act from my heart, I have energy, and then I have so much more to give back.

But it was also true, on that day I saw the pictures of the children who were destined to lose their home due to the rising sea levels, that I wasn’t doing enough. It’s still true today. I’m still in seed form. I’m a seed of my own potential, and this time is asking that all of us step up, really as much as we can, to be who we are and lend our gifts to the healing of our planet and people. I can’t worry if I’m doing it fast enough or well enough, but it’s a commitment to do it every day.

This is what I tell myself after crying and praying over rivers turned yellow in the blink of an eye. This is how I keep going, staying on the path, nurturing myself, finding inspiration, keeping my eyes open and feet rooted when the poison darts come, as they do come.

Red Raspberry Leaf is Genius for Women. Here’s Why.

raspberry leaf

I was out harvesting wild raspberry leaf for medicine today and I thought to myself, “This should be common knowledge…” Or maybe the raspberry whispered that to me. So here ya go.

Public service announcement for women and the men who love them: Red raspberry leaf is genius for healing fibroids. Fibroids are a serious, common, totally treatable womb condition, often occurring in women who take on too much. They can put you OUT, and can be your body’s way of tell you, “I don’t give a (insert favorite expletive here) about what it is you think you “have” to do right now. You’re staying put. Time out. Time out.”

Raspberries are wild and create physical boundaries on the land with their free-running stalks. They teach honoring of wildness and how to create strong, healthy, healing boundaries, as well how to honor sexual freedom, especially in women. On a physical level, they are full of vitamins, minerals, and calcium. They’re astringent and help the uterus reestablish healthy smooth walls, especially when their spirit medicine is also part of the healing. They are also much more effective wild harvested than purchased in a box. They have many other uses, such as in childbirth and in the later stages of pregnancy, but fibroids are my focus for today.

raspberry leaf underside

The underside of red raspberry leaf is silver, like the moon, and an indicator of it’s medicinal potential for women. The placement of the three leaves are like the ovaries and womb. The white on it’s stalk is actually calcium, showing rich this plant is in minerals.

Caveat: Like all herbal medicines, they aren’t a substitute for seeing a fabulous ob/gyn or wisewoman nurse practitioner, too. (They are a substitute for many herbalists, but that’s another post.) They aren’t a cure-all and won’t work for everyone, as everyone’s healing trajectories are different. What they are is free, abundant, and they work really well for a lot of women. Also, like many herbal medicines, they work best when used immediately after discovering the issue rather than waiting until it becomes hospital-worthy. They’re great for young, growing women who could use extra vitamins and minerals in their diets, as well as for heavy bleeding with cramps. I could go on and on, but that’s probably enough. Oh, also, raspberry leaf infusion tastes good, a bit like black tea, and can be doctored up with a bit of lemon and honey if you like it that way. It can be sipped cold or iced in Summertime. It’s best to harvest stalks that aren’t producing berries as the medicine will be stronger in the leaves of the berry-less ones. You can add some berries too for flavor if you like.

for a half gallon mason jar, I use about 2 cups fresh to one 1/2 cup dried. I’d ideally let it steep for at least 4 hours, but would use it sooner if need called for it sooner, anytime after 1 hour. I cut the canes and infuse them also.

Sleeping in Trees

The night before last I fulfilled a life-long dream of sleeping in a tree in a magical forest.

The experience gave me about two book chapters worth of material, which I’ve absolutely no idea how to summarize at the moment. I awoke in the morning to a herd of goat kids coming down through the canyon. They didn’t notice me, so I got to watch them up close. One of them climbed a tree (the trees are big enough for goats to climb) and tried to see how far up on a branch he could get. He tried climbing up backwards, then stuck his little goat booty up the tree and did a handstand with his front legs against the trunk before climbing down to join the others. This, and so much more, made the discomfort and cold completely worth it.

Today I was starring out at the sea from the relative comfort of my rented room, picking the tree moss off my sweater and trying to pin-point when my “must sleep in a tree” dream started. I think it may have developed out of playing the heroine in a school production of the Wild Swans when I was six or so. Eventually she goes off with a prince, but the part that stuck with me was her living in the tree for years first.

And of course I know people who’ve lived in trees to prevent them from being cut down, which is a whole different kind of epic story… and I myself have lived for a time a bit uncomfortably outside for similar reasons, but spending a night in an ancient tree, a tree that is not cut and was not cut and is extremely likely to remain where it is until mother nature deems otherwise… a tree that’s there to tell me her stories and dreams and share time with her creatures in her leisure. Ah. That’s another thing.


Eyes in the Night


Easy to feel you’re on a fairytale quest while looking at peaks like that. And I suppose that I am, for story.


Just so you know, last night my thoughts were unruly and painful and I slept little. This can happen even when doing what I love in one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. But the dreamworld seemed to knit me back together again by mid morning, fitting up my heart and my head so they’re in synch once more, and I’m headed back to the forest now. And this wouldn’t be a real adventure if it was totally blissful, I suppose. Yesterday evening was though, and today that’s what remains in my mind.

Late yesterday afternoon I hiked up to the top of one of the mountain peaks, above the waterfalls, and by the time I made it back down into the canyon, the moon had risen. I splashed in the pool of the freezing cold waterfall, its force so strong that I couldn’t swim to under the falls themselves. I chanted Hayy– El Hayy, Alive Eternal, Forever in the Moment, feeling the spray of the falls and the cold water invigorating my body. That’s the essence of waterfalls for me, such presence.

After frolicking a bit in the moonlight to dry off, with no flashlight (I dislike flashlights and never carry them in the woods if I can help it) I was grateful that the path out of the forest was lit by the waxing half moon. It’s so potent to live in a place with limited electric lights, to feel the difference in mood and actual physical possibilities depending on the moon’s cycle. And the stars! Knowing them, getting to see the constellations move, each one reveals it’s own energy, not just a pretty bright light in a dark sky, but specific, a world.

I passed my Chameleon Dreaming Tree, it’s bulbous shape unmistakable in the moonlight. And then I knew I had to go over and give her a hug and a kiss, so I made my way there over the boulders off the path. When I reached the tree I leaned in and immediately encountered a face, about an inch away from my face. It was a head poking out of one of the holes in the tree’s roots. Now these holes are big, and this head was big, too, and furry, and dark and white. The animal’s eyes were blinking at mine. And although I couldn’t really make out the shape of it’s nose, I had the sensation that our noses were parallel to each other, almost touching. Then it disappeared back into the tree.

“Sorry to disturb you,” I said. “Have a good night, or morning, or whatever it is for you…” I added, hoping that it could understand the respect and goodwill in my voice as I greeted it. I was just another creature belonging to the tree.

Bad Omen?

So the thing about listening to oracles and looking for signs and paying attention to dreams is that sometimes they tell you things you don’t want to hear. I’m still in this ancient forest on the island of Samothraki, and almost every day I find a particular huge old sycamore to dream under.  I’ve taken to calling it the Chameleon Dreaming Tree because the chameleons certainly think it’s theirs, or maybe they belong to the tree.  All the trees in this forest resemble other creatures and there’s definitely a chameleon face in this one. They’ve accepted that now sometimes I’m here too, sunning themselves on the roots around me without fear.

So I climb up onto our Chameleon tree, settling onto the giant roots that jut out several feet above the ground like a hammock, get myself into a hypnogogic state and dream about the Sirens, the subject of my novel. They’re much more formidable looking in my vision than they were in the first draft I’ve written.  They hover around me with blood red wings and silver eyes like the moon with no pupils.  And over and over they’re saying “Mou Thessalia”. My Thessaly.

Then a chameleon head-buts my head while poking up between the roots. Time to wake up.

Thessaly, the Macedonian part of Greece. I know that much, but nothing else about the region. These dreams keep leading me to places I haven’t been and know little about. In this moment, I’m not feeling grateful for this. Not on the itinerary, and certainly not in the first draft. But I’ve learned to pay attention if something’s repeated over and over in a dream. So I’ll research it.

Then something else happens.

I look over to my left and see a spider who looks exactly like the one who tried to weave her web on my hand the other day. Same black and white back, orange body, clutch of pearlescent eyes, a web extending from the same dead stalk I placed the spider on two days ago.

At first I’m excited, but then I look at the web. It’s not going to win any design awards. It’s asymmetrical and full of little white blobs of various sizes. This is particularly discouraging to me because spiders have long been symbolic of storytelling. Whenever I see them I think, “time to write.” And this may be the spider who magically tried to weave her web on my hand, which I took at the time as a helpful sign. Maybe she’s just not a very bright spider.

But apparently my spider agrees with the assessment I’ve made of her web because she starts rapidly dismantling it section by section. She’s taking the web, wadding it up into a ball with her front legs, and unceremoniously tossing it behind her. I’m stunned by how much these wadded up balls of web resemble tiny crumpled up papers.

This omen is not good.

Now I’ve studied spiders, and I know that they make a scaffolding web before they make their completed one. I’ve just never witnessed the process. I sit transfixed watching the spider wad up another section into a little white ball and toss it behind behind her and then move on to the next section and then next. No sentimentality here. I can’t get over the resemblance to paper as I watch each part of the web being tossed away.

What happens next is the spider starts moving very rapidly. Peering closely I see that she’s spooling a much finer thread now. And she’s making a very symmetrical decahedron shaped web. I can’t believe how fast this is happening and how fast she’s moving. Finally she pauses in the middle of the web. It’s only been a few minutes and it’s half done.

I go for a hike, still fretting about Thessaly, and come back to check a few hours later on the spider’s progress. The symmetrical web is complete and she’s caught a bevy of tasty treats inside it already. I’m deeply relieved.

I know I’m going to have to remember this spider when I start my revisions…


(the story of this (I believe) same spider weaving her web on my hand is here.)

fairyland tree samothraki