Some months ago, as spring erupted in San Francisco and the seeds I had planted were beginning to flower, I experienced the most powerful nightmare in my conscious memory. I don’t tend to have bad dreams often, but in recent months they seem to have increased in frequency and startling nature as my subconscious mind urges me to pay it more attention.
In this particular dream, I was in a cabin in the middle of the woods with my ex (in the dream we were together). He tended to the roaring fire in our large stone fireplace as I lovingly held our newborn baby; the entire ambiance exuded cozy contentment. I remember vividly the rustic quality of the wooden walls, the exact scent and warm hue that the fire cast over us, the soft weight of my sweet child filling my arms.
Suddenly, I realized that our child was no longer breathing. I have never experienced such terror, in waking life or dreaming. I performed baby CPR (funny how the mind recalls the Red Cross first aid class from 18 years previous) and the child began projectile-vomiting black bile.
I woke up.
I was in shock.
Even as a deeply feeling person, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced something so profoundly upsetting. I saw the metaphors clearly; that warm, nourishing, hygge quality that blanketed the beginning of the story, the home and the life that we had created together, isolated in nature, wrapped in beauty. The clearly defined gender roles that, regardless of modern-day theories of construct, felt natural and right in that moment. The child, symbolizing the continuity of our lineage, of our love, of life.
And then I watched that beautiful image suffocate and die in my arms. I was desperate to save the life that I had created, reaching deep into my memory to find something that might salvage what was already lost. And the toxic black bile, so violently expelled… maybe this whole dream had been dying long before it was apparent to me, to us.
The emptiness was fathomless.
That sorrow and darkness left me aghast, pain manifesting in ways that were obvious, as well as in subtle repercussions, gradually rising to the surface for clarification and transformation.
The day of my dream, I contacted my friend [and wet plate photographer] James Wigger to see if he'd be interested in shooting a project around this traumatic experience.
This series of photos is the result.
A wise man once described some possible titles for this chapter in my life which was coming to a close. "Intimacy with the Holy Darkness" or "The Superpower of Surrender" or "The Redemption of Loneliness" were all apt. But the one that resonated the most was "The End Is Secretly the Beginning."
An appropriate title to accompany the final image; an abstract, beginning as somewhat of a joke, maybe even a cosmic one, as I look back on it. My bush is huge these days so I suggested we shoot a plate to celebrate that, and vaginas in general. Not in a vulgar, pornographic way, obvi. In a "let's-respect-and-honor-the-source-of-life" way. And I have to admit, it's pretty fantastic metaphor for natural cycles and the process of rebirth, even if we didn't intend it to be. Fittingly, the plate didn't 'turn out' and the resulting image is a blurry void. A source of life and most months, death. Naturally.
I wanted to make something of the powerful sensations I was experiencing. Rather than holding them in my mind and body, I felt the need to express them somehow. The supreme love and nourishment. The unbearable distress and the emptiness that followed. And of course, the potential for a personal renaissance.
Months later, years later, I am still processing. I am still feeling, deeply.
I am fortunate to have trusted friends who hold me in my vulnerability and heal me with their innate, nurturing wisdom. I am blessed to have collaborators who are willing to be a part of my process, and who let me into theirs. I am grateful to have this opportunity to do work that is meaningful to me, that speaks to deeper themes than surface-level T&A.
Over time, I begin to integrate the nightmares into my cache of wisdom and strength.
With practice, I move through the loss, breathe through the sorrow.
With hope and determination, I carry on to write the next chapters; "Liberation from False Concepts of Freedom" and "Where the Wild Things Are".