Archive for the ‘slough’ tag
I was lucky to get this photo of a Red-Necked Grebe in one of the sloughs on the Saskatchewan prairie. That I was able to get this close without it diving and again going beyond the range of my camera was pure luck. I think I could use a new camera with longer telephoto capabilities. The problem isn’t necessarily the cost, though that is significant, it is the fact that a proper DSLR camera and lenses take up so much space and weigh a considerable amount. The size factor is the most prohibitive for me. I need a compact camera so that I can carry the camera with me to most locations with little effort. It all comes down to choices. Do I go with a full-featured DSLR and become more stable or continue my wandering ways packing as little as possible?
I followed this grebe for quite some time and took quite a few useless photos in the process as the bird kept diving to reappear in unexpected locations. There is no doubt that the bird was aware of my presence. What was my fascination? Why take so much time with this photo when I knew that the result would not likely be rewarded? Well, the only thing I could offer is that I was fixated on the task. I was simply hooked.
There is no doubt in my mind that this grebe is symbolic of the individual diving into the unconscious in search of nourishment. I noticed that the grebe was solitary unlike most of the other birds who liked to gather in pairs or larger groups. There is something important about being alone and the journey of individuation, a journey that has many descents into the unconscious contents that draws my attention.
“Underlying the symptoms that typify the Middle Passage is the assumption that we shall be saved fy finding and connecting with someone or something new in the outer world. Alas, for the drowning midlife sailor there are no such life preservers. We are in the sea-surge of the soul, along with many others to be sure, but needing to swim under our own power, The truth is simply that what we must know will come from within. If we can align our lives with that truth, no matter how difficult the abrasions of the world, we will feel healing, hope and new life. The experience of early childhood, and later of our culture, alienated us from ourselves. We can only get back on course by reconnecting with our inner truths.” (Hollis, The Middle Passage, pp 95-96)
I have to admit that I had been holding to the hope that some special person out there somewhere would complete me. I know that many cling to this hope, especially the lonely men that I have met who were living as expats in various countries. They left their lives gone bad, lives which had left them broken. But rather than look within for the sources of their own pain, they seek a woman who would love them, would complete them so that they wouldn’t grow old as miserable hermits. These men feared solitude. Is this my excuse as well?
It is possible, in my mind, to be in relation with a significant other and to “reconnect with our inner truths.” I look at the example of Jung who engaged not just in one such relationship, but in balancing two intense relationships: one with his wife, Anna; and the other with his mistress and colleague, Toni Wolff. At this point in time, I will risk that it is possible to do this work while still being engaged in relationship.
When I took this photo out in the countryside where it was so quiet that one could actually hear silence, I thought about how lonely solitude could become. At the time the photo was taken I was with my brother-in-law and was struck by how easily he slipped into a state that seemed not to “need” others as he wandered from my side to investigate. He suffers Alzheimer’s and is indeed alone with himself. From what I can see, most of that alone-ness is filled with anxieties.
I wonder at times about being alone, sometimes thinking that it would be easier, that there would be fewer distractions, fewer interruptions. What books I might then write, what photos I might then take, what learning about “self” I might then discover! But each time I find myself alone, I slip into lethargy and do less. Anxieties seem to surface and paralyze.
I “know” that I must learn to bear the anxiety, but I cling to the hope that in relationship to an “other” I will be saved the pain of loneliness, that in relationship to an “other” I will have meaning and purpose.
“Indeed, next to the fantasy of immortality, the hardest fantasy to relinquish is the thought that there is someone out there who is going to fix us, take care of us – spare us the intimidating journey to which we have been summoned.” (James Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul, p. 11)
Well, I’ve thought about this for so long, chasing the idea all around my head and heart that I only get dizzy. My heart says that this “other,” this someone is there. My mind says that this “other” is found within, not without. Now, if I understood Jung correctly, I must continue to hold on to this polar opposites for a something else to emerge that reconciles these opposites.
The last number of days I have been posting photos taken featuring prairie sloughs, the prairie swampland. In each of those photos I focused on the positive, on the source of life that the water provides. However, like everything else, there is an opposite side, one that is negative and dark, one that embraces shadows and death. It would be unwise to enter into this swampland unaware of both of the faces of a swampland.
This photo was taken just a few steps from the previous photo of a duck. This bush is dead, drowned in the stagnant water that has overwhelmed. It seems that too much water, the source of life, kills. Getting lost in the unconscious contents means losing the conscious world and becoming trapped in the underworld and appearing to be insane in the outer world where one has left one’s body.
One needs to enter the unconscious domaine to discover more, to become more conscious. There is no question that the high one gets in discovering treasures (and consciousness is treasure) that point to a higher and more valued “self” can become addicting leading one to dive in too often or too deep. One must protect the self by constructing a safe container. That is the job of the ego.
Since we live in community, even the timing of journeys into the unconscious must be considered. It isn’t any different than my needing to time my physical journeys to visit a slough or a forest or the hills. I must weigh my need for presence and connection with others and then carve out my private time accordingly. It can’t be all private time or all relationship time. As always, there must be a balance that is individual specific so that the individual can maintain optimum psychic health.
There is something more to be gained than greater self-awareness, there is also the “bonus” in that one can now be more aware of others, being able to see the dark as well as the light in those others. Of course, Jung says it best when he said:
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” (Carl Gustav Jung)
For those who don’t know, this is a Red-Winged Blackbird, a very common bird found along the small ponds, marshes and sloughs that are found on the prairies. It is a cheerful bird with a pleasant song, though it is a bit shy as it flies away at the least disturbance. On the prairies in Saskatchewan, the term “slough” is used to refer to all small bodies of water. I love hanging out in swamplands as anyone reading here can already guess.
Swamplands are a vibrant place of life, not just a place of dank muck and vicious blood-sucking insects, though they are there too. Walking on the edge of a swamp is liable to have one end up covered in mud and wet as well as scratching at insect bites. Unless one is very careful, a slip will quickly have one covered in the ooze that has the odor of death and decay clinging. Yet, it is only by walking on the edges that one can get close enough to appreciate the stuff that would otherwise be hidden.
What amazes me the most in terms of the swamplands, is seeing the vibrancy of life. Ducks, Mudhens, Loons, Geese, Muskrats and Beaver are just some of the life forms that find these prairie swamplands a place of feasting. It is interesting to see the ducks stick their heads into the water with their tails up in the air as they find nourishment under the surface.
This is what we also need, to descend into the unconscious, our personal swampland, in order to find nourishment for our souls.