You do NOT have to be a writer to come– just a seeker who loves the written word, and trusts the power of the wilderness of our Montana Haven to inspire the wilderness of your unique mind! Come find your voice this February… For more info, and to contact the Haven team, go here! The best holiday gift I can imagine…
February 28-4 (a few spaces left)
I wake up most every night at 4:00 a.m., and have as long as I can remember. It can be scary there, in that raw, nascent, dark of night. It’s when I feel most alone. As a child, I would listen for the Milwaukee Railroad in the distance, just to know there was someone else awake at that hour. And it would lull me back to sleep.
I wake for different reasons:
Usually it’s because I’m dreaming something that I know I need to pay attention to, and somehow my conscious mind pulls me out of my unconscious concoction where the world is as weird as it is profound. Some strand of reality calls and says, “That’s enough of that. You wandered enough into the wilderness of your creative unconscious. Now wake up, and stare into the moonlit room of your real world, and lie there in the soft safe pillows and see what it had to teach you.” It’s a different kind of seeing, in the dark, when you are still more soul than flesh. Like being born.
Maybe your heart is racing, and you brought yourself back to reality because you thought you might die, being chased like that. Maybe you saw something you didn’t want to see, and like the hero on her journey, you needed to come back with the elixir to save something of yourself before day wakes. Maybe you bound yourself into such an impossible situation that you beckoned yourself back into a less complicated world, but with the clear understanding that your real life is just as impossible in its own way, and it’s time to stop the madness. In every case, what I have dreamed is so exact that I can’t help but believe in a parallel universe. I mean, how could I have just imagined this house and every single detail of it, when I’ve never laid eyes on it before? It doesn’t really matter. I only know that I have. And that there’s quite likely something to learn from it. Sometimes I come out of a dream laughing. Sometimes, I’m weeping. I believe that I am working out something in my dreams that I’m not quite able to in my life.
Sometimes I wake at 4:00 a.m. dreamless, because the moon is full and it’s shining in my window and flooding my bed in shadows. Then I just lie there and trace the silhouettes of the fir trees that tower around my house. I’ve been told that the lungs are replenishing themselves at 4:00 in the morning, so I take deep breaths, usually like this: in 1..2..3..4..hold 1..2..3..4..exhale 1..2..3..4… Sometimes I repeat a line to go with the breathing—something I need. Often it’s Julian of Norwich’s: all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
4:00 a.m. finds me in a trance. An in-between place. Untethered. Where I meet myself outside of the everything else. I lie there in that trance, pushing back against full consciousness, and try to receive what there is to feel, know, fear, learn. But without purchase. This is the time to let it wash over me to the shores of the waking hour, still far away. I lie there and let my unconscious mind give itself to my conscious one, however scary, strange, symbolic, even if I forget it by morning. It’s okay to forget. I know that what I experience in that trance stays with me in a woven way. Unseen. But sometimes there is something so powerful there, that I know I have to keep it close. So I write it down on a notepad I keep next to my bed. I don’t turn on the light. I don’t want to wake fully up. So sometimes I can’t exactly read every word the next day. But the gist of it is there.
And every so often, in that 4:00 a.m. trance, something hatches that I know is as holy as I know holy to be. Whether by dream or moonlight or breathing or words, that suspension between dreams and complete waking delivers a pure thought which can’t help but summon an idea. A pretty good idea. Whole books have come to me in that trance time. The design for my writing retreats came to me in that between place. Often I am delivered a sentence of truth that I know I have to use somehow, if only for my motherhood, or my own navigation of life.
So I’ve been starting my day by writing down what it feels like to wake up on those shores. Back to reality, whatever that is. Sometimes it’s one line. Sometimes it’s a long riff. It’s not a crafted piece with a beginning, middle, and end. It doesn’t have a narrative trajectory, or a thoughtful premise or landing place. It’s a piece of ash flying up from a fire and floating a bit on the heat thermals before it falls and joins the ground. These trance-thoughts are ungrounded, but maybe more grounded than I know. After decades of this 4:00 a.m. floating, I have learned not to feel so alone there, not to feel so scared. Instead, it’s my safe haven for whatever needs to show itself, and why I love the word haven so much. We all need one, yes in the world, but also in ourselves. So from my 4:00 a.m. to yours…