If mind, memory, and story are all stored outside of us in the mind/body of nature as folks like Indigenous peoples and some scientists suggest, then our dreams must absorb these elements that originate in nature. I think of dreams as the language of our body, an unconscious body that is in direct communication with the body of the earth. When we sleep our minds are at rest, allowing our bodies to lead, and to speak.
A few days ago I had a little dream that really intrigued me:
I am at ground level in a lush green forest eye to eye with a medium sized green frog who is, as all frogs are, beautiful to me. We are looking into each other’s eyes. We are lying close to each other and are apparently the same size. I look at him I feel comfort – maybe relief. I awaken feeling peaceful.
To provide some context for myself it is necessary to digress into my personal history with amphibians. Frogs and I have had a very intimate relationship that stretches back to my earliest childhood years. I had a rubber frog as a playmate as a toddler. I read fairy tales about frog princes with a kind of wonder and fascination. As an older child my little brother and I took flashlights into my grandparents’ woods to find peepers during warm spring nights. We didn’t want to catch them; we just wanted to sit with them as they sang. The unearthly chorus was, and is, a symphony without parallel. During the day we caught green frogs in local ponds, always returning them to the water after a brief visit. As adolescents we continued ‘our practice’, and by the time my brother was at Harvard he had acquired two large underwater frogs from South America…
I got married and divorced following the cultural script like a robot. When my children were young I would lie in bed at night listening wistfully to the peepers in the vernal pool across the road, spring after spring, feeling such longing. My mothering years were so difficult it is painful to remember them. I was still a child when I became a mother. Those first ten years of my childrens’ lives were overshadowed by the deaths of my brother and grandmother, the two people who loved me as much as I loved them. The woman – child had become an orphan by the time she reached her mid- twenties. Although I still listened to the peepers each spring I no longer visited their pools. Something in me had gone dead.
Once my children were grown I moved to the mountains of Maine (after having returned to the land of the living) and every spring I raised tadpoles to adulthood in an aquarium at my camp in the woods. In a few years I had a symphony of peepers that rivaled the soothing sound of cascading waters that flowed just outside my door. I also raised wood frogs, green frogs, and toads. Each year for the last 35 plus years I have been catching and raising frogs of some kind every spring, even though now I have a very healthy population of these most endangered amphibians. One of the worst aspects of living in a desert for four winters was that I lost access to the chorus of spring frogs. I have never understood exactly why I need to continue to raise tadpoles to adulthood beyond being able to participate in the frogs’ transforming process probably because I couldn’t shift the trajectory in my own life.
With this kind of history only broken by my mothering years and four desert winters, having a frog come to me in a dream seems prescient. I have only had one other dream about a frog. In that one a child gave me a frog for my birthday… unknown to me, incomprehensible grief lay ahead.
In another month I will be seeking out frogs eggs to raise, but just now I am stuck in liminal space trapped by mountains of tired snow, muddy rivers of water, a frozen driveway and increasingly harsh light.
I must add that every year March brings on a cyclic descent into depression regardless of where I am. When I was told that I had nearly been aborted in early April after my untimely, and unwanted conception these annual descents began to make more sense, but endurance remains my only survival strategy besides spending time outdoors in very unpredictable weather that still includes more snow and ice.
Now I want to return to the dream to untangle its message.
The first thought that comes to mind is that frogs are masters of liminal space. They are born in water with gills as tadpoles and live as adults breathing air at the edge of water or in nearby lowlands. They thrive only when there is enough moisture and rain. On one level it is possible that the frog may be reflecting this ability to live in two worlds – both the watery depths and on land. With that much said, dreams aren’t usually invested in repeating the obvious unless its to validate, rather they attempt to create an awareness or perspective that is unknown or un -owned to the dreamer.
Frogs appear in fairy tales and stories as shape shifters. Often a spell has to be broken to allow the frog (or any other animal) to become human, but I think this ability to transform can also work in reverse.
An unusual aspect of this dream is that the frog and I appear to be about the same size and we lie side by side. What this suggests to me is that we are equal in some way – perhaps parts of each other. Frog wo/man? ( eco – feminists would say we have easier access to our animal familiars than many men do).
The fact that we make eye contact – “I” contact – suggests communication without the need for words; it also might mean that this contact involves living my life on a waking level.
We are also sharing a space that is forested green and lush. The brilliant green suggests early spring just after the snow is gone – it may also suggest an abundance of water is present.
One way to shift reality is to tell a story. Stories are like magic. They have the capacity to change perspectives. Miracles also happen in stories. I had my first human miracle occur last year after I had a dream that said “your life will change radically” when I met a young man who did change my life. Perhaps I can have another?
The story of my frog begins when I ask him a question:
“Can you tell me why I am here with you?”
The frog regards me with a golden eye and remains silent, which doesn’t surprise me. Historically, frogs do not bring me clarity… I feel moist mosses beneath my supine body, hear running water and witness a forest of little lichens that have sprung up at eye level like a miniature forest. I breathe in the scent of water, sweet soil that lies just under our bodies, sense the presence of the complex mycelial networks underground. Conversations between the trees at root level create and sustain this forest that stretches out around us. I feel roots rising up to support us through the rich moist ground. I feel strange stirrings of hope overcoming my numbness. I am grounded. But there is no personal movement, although there is certainly a shift of season because at the time of the dream in day life it is still winter – not quite mud season.
Gradually, as I look around I become aware that we are situated in some sort of circle of emerald green growth surrounded by deep purple crocus. I hear mourning doves and cardinals singing. A magnificent forest of trees, hemlocks and pines, cedar, balsam, maple, oak and ash, surrounds us. All the trees have huge trunks and thick gnarled branches; a few are dripping with lichens. Some tree columns are heavily ribbed, others smooth. The conifers have healthy green needles and the cedar fronds are deep green. This is an old forest full of ancient and wise beings – a forest that is full of magic! …I stroke the frog’s smooth velvety skin and feel comforted by the sounds the trees are making – blood is pulsing through their veins – sap is beginning to rise…
In this peaceful moment sudden illumination strikes as the meaning behind a deeply troubling chained bear dream that I have been carrying around for two months becomes clear. The bear will not be able to free himself. I must sever the silver chain that binds this poor bear to a tree. For some reason it wasn’t obvious that it was up to me to set the bear free – The bear’s anger, anger over the loss of so many of our trees belongs to me.
The trees had spoken.
I cut the chain.
The frog bears witness in silence.
It is the first day of spring.
The story is not finished, but I feel relief knowing that I have set one of the bears free. The loss of so many trees in Maine to the Great Machine of a Devouring Economy is another matter. All winter I have been assaulted by the images of ravaged mountains that have been stripped. These mountains are all around me. I have owned my grief and anguish. Now I must deal with my anger. The question of how to do this remains an enigma. I need to transform that anger into some kind of positive action beyond writing about trees. The sense I have is that what I say goes nowhere.
Postscript: 3/23 – after the equinox I discover that I have made a mistake. My anger has kept me a float keeping me a tree advocate up until the present. But when I cut the chain I not only set the bear free but I also surrendered my anger around the trees… in its place a I received a vision of the future, one I could do without…See next post – The Death of Spring.