The Nature of Dreams, or, Dreams about Nature

My dreams lately have been beyond vivid (which is their usual style). They have been vivid, persistent, disturbing (unusual for me), and nature-focused.

Last week, right after my mother died (I think … it’s possible it was right before) I dreamed I had mushrooms growing out of my body. I noticed raised patches on my legs first, like small skin lesions, then on my torso, and as I discovered them, they grew. Then I noticed a very large one, without the stem, above my right breast. They were pretty at first but also disturbing, especially the speed with which they spread. I couldn’t understand how it happened so fast, and I was wondering how to remove them without damaging my skin.

underside of Amanita flavoconia mushroom (Kezar Lake, Aug 2014)
underside of Amanita flavoconia mushroom (Kezar Lake, Aug 2014)

Of course, I googled it. Dreaming of fungi or mushrooms growing from the body has many meanings, surprisingly, since it seems like such a specific symbol:

  • “When there is a fungus on the skin or protruding from it, there is emotional distress or physical distress, or your body is literally trying to fight off an infection.”
  • “To see fungus in your dream represents negative emotions that are expanding and growing in your unconscious. You need to find a productive way to express them before it grows out of control.”
  • “Mushroom – soon you will do something that will surprise everyone around.”
  • “Represent a short-term positive eroticism.”
  • “To see mushrooms in your dreams, denotes unhealthy desires, and unwise haste in amassing wealth, as it may vanish in law suits and vain pleasures.”
  • “See mushrooms in a dream – to long life and good fortune.”
  • “Mushrooms can grow anywhere, on anything, in any condition and in any climate. If the mushrooms in your dream appeared by surprise, or were given as a gift, this may indicate some exciting changes in your near future. If your psyche is alerting you to some changes, you might want to keep in mind that change also requires us to be versatile. If you are uprooted you can easily plant yourself somewhere else. Mushrooms can also represent our soul in this way and may mean that someone is ready to expose their soul to you or adversely you may be ready to share that part of yourself with someone else. In the way that that mushroom represents a soul, it also represents longevity and rebirth.”

Additionally, we talk quite a bit about fungus in my permaculture group, as mycorrhizal fungi networks are key to soil and plant health in a complicated, complex way that amounts to: fungi is necessary for most plant growth.

maybe Hypholoma capnoides (conifer tuft) fungi in moss (Kezar Lake, Oct 2014)
maybe Hypholoma capnoides (conifer tuft) fungi in moss (Kezar Lake, Oct 2014)

And this year, I have been obsessively focused on fungi every time I’m outside, taking hundreds of photos of them. Though I don’t eat them, I am enchanted by their beauty and variety.

So, who knows?

This morning, I awoke from an involved dream in which I was teaching my first adult ed class on insects. Unfortunately, I knew very little about insects (even less than in waking life) and apparently had not researched the topic or made a class syllabus. Some of the class members knew much more, including a man who raised roses and spent a large part of the class — which was a field trip, outdoors, to find insects — talking about aphids and how to control them. Some in the class grew yellow or pink roses, while others didn’t grow roses; all were obviously disappointed that I didn’t lead the class better. One man left within 15 mins of our field trip beginning. I was carrying an insect reference book and trying to keep up with what others were saying and what I was supposed to be teaching. I thought we might check under rocks and logs for some insects, but then I doubted I could identify them or say much about them beyond an ID.

greenaphidsonaweed2Oct2013I’m not even sure what to google for this dream. It was about teaching, badly, or generally being prepared and not knowing what one is expected to know, but the insect and aphid aspects also seems important to me. I do spend a lot of time in waking life trying to get various insects identified from photos (via books and online expert sources),  though less at this time of year than in spring and summer. I don’t grow roses but have consistently had small yellow aphids on asclepias (milkweed) plants.

“Bugs” obviously connote feeling bugged, annoyed, but this dream didn’t feature a bug per se … more the absence of bugs. Instead, we merely talked about them, and particularly about aphids  — “If you dream a lot of aphids, in the near future you will meet on your way a dishonest person, which at first will seem honest and trustworthy” and “Aphid teaches the importance of nourishment; spiritual, emotional and physical. Are your basic needs being met? Is it time to jumpstart your metabolism?” for two interpretations. And I think at one point I told those who were there to hear about butterflies that we would talk about them but that other insects (and I was unsure in the dream, but not in waking life, if a butterfly was even an insect, which shows how little I knew) would also be discussed.

Connecting the two dreams, perhaps, I found this interpretation of “aphid,” which seems like it could apply equally well to fungi, which uses waste products to facilitate growth and which is resourceful in an ever-changing environment:

“Part of Aphid’s medicine is about self-empowerment. You have all that is needed within and it’s time to seek and find. She demonstrates resourcefulness, riding the winds of change and making the absolute best of the situation. Use what is considered a “waste product” to your sweetest advantage.”

Not sure where that leaves me, though. Except instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, there are fungi and aphids up there. Ho ho ho.

Living in Transition

I could have sworn I had posted something about the idea of “home” in all the years I’ve been blogging, but if I have, I can’t find it now.

deer were here, 28 Jan 2012I was prompted to think about it again this time by my friend Lynn’s class this fall on “a sense of place,” and by another friend, Caroline’s, post recently titled Staying Put, in which she writes, inspired by Wendell Berry: “We can’t love a place until we know it, and we can’t know a place until we are willing to open ourselves to its mystery, its intricacies and complexities, its willingness to invite us into conversation.”

Like Caroline, who calls herself a “former nomad,” I have never stayed put. Many of my friends (including Lynn) have lived in the same house or the same town for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I think my imagination is pretty well-developed, but I have trouble envisioning what this would be like: to not consider every box that comes into the my piece of sky, 22 July 2012house for its packing potential, to not browse house listings (daily), to know how to get places, to not need to find new grocery stores and hair stylists, to never walk into a new library or church for the first time. To never have to make a complete set of new, local friends. To not feel the delicious, displaced, lonely, and anticipatory burden and freedom of living in someone else’s house and tending someone else’s garden.

I’ve lived in 24 places in 50 years, in 18 towns, in 6 states. I’ve spent another combined (estimated) two years in one- and two-week vacations across the U.S. (focus on Jekyll Island, Rehoboth and Myrtle beaches, New York City), and in the UK, Spain, the Caribbean; and another year or so of summers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, most summer weekends for six years on a lake in central Virginia, a cumulative month in San Francisco with a friend’s dying sister; and another 6 months perhaps on the train, travelling coast to coast several times, to New Orleans 5 or 6 times. I’ve spent some time in every U.S. state except Hawaii, Alaska, South and North Dakota, and Michigan.

I’ve lived in my latest state, town, neighbourhood, house and yard for exactly three years now. For the first two-and-a-half years, I felt like a tourist in this town. In fact, the Marti Jones song, “Tourist Town,” came to mind often as I walked and drove through town: “I’m tempted to hide away / I’m tempted to hide in a tourist town.” I felt hidden in plain view, recogising almost no one and unrecognised by almost all.

hummingbird in penstemon, 23 June 2012And I realised that I liked it, most of the time. A few palm trees, sand, the sound of seagulls, and some ocean would have improved the experience, but on the whole, I appreciated feeling anonymous, invisible, unknown by my fellow townmates. I also appreciate being known (or at least recognised) now. Both states feel deeply healing, in their owns ways.

The social theorist Michel Foucault’s idea of a heterotopia is extremely appealing to me; he speaks of heterotopias as “‘counter-sites,’ places positioned on the … outside of all places … irrelevant to the practical functioning of everyday life.” They might be reserved for “people undergoing transitional crises: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women, the dying.”  They can also be places of deviation, where “individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed”:  prisons, retirement homes (idleness is a deviation in our society), psychiatric hospitals.

But they don’t have to be places of abnormal deviation and crisis. They can be cemeteries, gardens, theatres, cinemas, museums, libraries, fairgrounds, festivals, ships … In fact, they can be tourist towns, which remove people from their normal daily lives and which usually exist outside of time and flourish for only for part of the year and then close down.

Some places — gardens, museums, cinemas and theatres, e.g. — juxtapose many shade garden etc, 2 July 2012places or scenes in one place. They may even contain mini-heterotopias and places of transition within them, like a bridge, an archway, movement from a sunlit meadow to a dark forest or from a gallery to an open rotunda. Some, like museums and libraries, constitute “a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages,” while others (fairgrounds, vacation villages) are “absolutely temporal.”

As described by John Doyle at Ktismatics:  “Heterotopias open onto heterochronies —  disjunctures from the evenly spaced and empty continuum of time. Theater time passes differently from the time that surrounds the theater. The cemetery is a juxtaposition of the end of time and eternity. Museums and libraries accumulate past time in a place outside of time. Resort towns exist only at certain times of the year. Entering into a heterotopia often requires a rite of passage: enlistment in the army, arrest and conviction, death, travel. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence” because it is “a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea.”

monarch caterpillar on asclepias, 6 Aug 2012I’m starting to wonder whether my true “home” isn’t perhaps a heterotopia, or some sort of liminal space* I am continually passing through. A wholly unnecessary space, “irrelevant to the practical functioning of everyday life.”

A tourist town, a dis-placed place. No-home. A place removed from ordinary time. A kind of folly.

It’s where I, perversely perhaps, seem to feel most at home. Not “home” in the sense of feeling rooted and attached but rather in the sense of feeling relaxed, satisfyingly connected, most myself, engaged in discovering and exploring the new and mysterious (as Caroline put it, “willing to open ourselves to its mystery, its intricacies and complexities”). I feel paradoxically at home as an unrooted, uprooted stranger passing through a strange and passing land.

I seem to prefer being neither here nor there. Even as I mhosta shoots, 3 May 2012ake each new place “my own” — no matter the USDA hardiness zone, no matter which birds sing in the trees, no matter whether I am in the midst of the most-craved ocean and marsh, or of mountains, lakes, rivers, swamps, meadows, prairie, forests, desert, or tundra — I am aware of the illusion of terra firma, of an everlasting place, this eden.

I think, through practice and perhaps by nature, I have become skilled at inhabiting places in such a way that they feel real to me — real like the smell of fried food and popcorn on the boardwalk, the shriek of gulls fighting over a clam shell, the glare of the high summer sun beating on sand, the warm taste of coconut and pineapple in pretty drinks with umbrellas, the overlay of pop music and oldies coming from every other beach blanket — even as I know that this place too will shutter up when the season is over (though the gulls will remain).

Rehoboth boardwalk at night, 12 Aug 2011

* From Wikipedia: In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning ‘a threshold’) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants ‘stand at the threshold’ between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.”

The Bog

We like to visit the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog (PDF of trail guide) in New London, NH, when we can. So far, that was last October (twice) and this June and mid-July. We hope to get there again in August and September this year and earlier in the spring next year. (Skip to slideshow below if you like)

The Philbrick-Cricenti bog is a kettle hole bog, created when stranded chunks of glacier melted, leaving ponds in holes in the ground. A bog has no inlets or outlets; this distinguishes it from a fen, which is also a peatland but which is fed by groundwater, so its acidity is lower than a bog.  A bog’s acidity is around 4.0 pH.

There are several excellent resources online about this bog in particular:

  • Jack Share’s blog, Written in Stone, offers two excellent postings of his visit to the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog in May 2011 (Part I, Part II). If you’re thinking of visiting, check out these postings first. The first one provides a wealth of information about bogs, followed by extremely well-captioned photos of his visit, focusing on ferns, the sphagnum moss, the bog boardwalk, and the depth of the bog. The second one continues the visit, with pictures of pitcher plants, sundew, rhodora, cotton grass, etc.
  • The New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands also has a good page on this bog: Visiting New Hampshire’s Biodiversity: Philbrick-Cricenti Bog . At least in my browser, hovering the mouse over the images doesn’t pop up a caption, but you can see what the pictures are by right-clicking your mouse on top of each photo, then clicking View Image Info. The “Associated Text” identifies the subject matter of the photo. It’s cumbersome, but I’ve used this method to identify plants in my photos.
  • The New London Conservation Commission offers several pages of captioned photos:

The slideshow is arranged from October (9 Oct. and 16 Oct, 2011) to June (10 June 2012) to July (19 July 2012, when we went with a group and a white-throated sparrow sang the whole time). When we visit again, I’ll add more pics to round out the year.

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Ovens Mouth East Preserve Walk

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

On Tuesday, 29 May, we walked on trails in the Ovens Mouth East Preserve in Boothbay.  It’s the easier of the two Ovens Mouth trail systems; Ovens Mouth West is said to be ‘difficult,’ and as the day was rainy and the trails muddy, we opted for the less steep and rigorous path. Ours was slippery enough.

What we enjoyed most on this trail was watching the tidal waters swirling around and flowing apace. And we were happy to finish up before the rain started again! (You can see the fog and mist coming in in the later photos.)

Enjoy the slideshow!

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Penny Lake Preserve Walk

(Click photos for larger views)

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

Last week, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we walked on trails in the Penny Lake Preserve, abutting our motel. The waterway starts at the motel, and there are trails that begin just beyond the Carousel Music Theatre building. We saw a muskrat in this little creek. There’s also a beaver lodge here.

creek near motel, PLP, 28 May 2012

I’m standing on a bridge to take the shot above, and the shot below is taken looking the other way off the bridge:

lily pads in flower, PLP, 28 May 2012

Some cardinals seemed to have a nest in the low thicket near the creek, judging by their regular presence there.

The Penny Lake trails offer wonderful and varied walks. There is one very accessible trail through the property, which is partly wooded, partly bog and lake, and partly meadow, as well as several other narrower trails to explore. Below, the central trail is the accessible one, leading to the lake, and the grassy one to the left also goes to the lake, through the meadow and woods.

two paths diverge in a meadow, PLP, 29 May 2012

The bird life is great! We went at the not-auspicious birding hour of about 11 a.m. on Monday and still saw cedar waxwings, phoebes catching bugs, sparrows, a yellow warbler, a hawk, red-wing blackbirds, and others; and we listened to a loud chorus of large green frogs in the lake (more of a pond, really).

Eastern phoebe, PLP, 28 May 2012 Cedar waxwing, PLP, 28 May 2012 frog, PLP, 31 May 2012

On later visits, we enjoyed watching the phoebes, flocks of cedar waxwings, a great blue heron, mallards, and either beaver or muskrat or both swimming in the pond. Both rodents are said to inhabit the preserve’s waterways. There is a beaver lodge near the lake, as well as one in the creek abutting the motel, and we are almost certain we watched a muskrat swimming near the motel — it had a tail and was fairly small. (I didn’t have my camera that evening.) The next evening, we saw what may have been beavers in the marshy area near the lake … we couldn’t see any tail and one of these was a larger animal. (They were too far away to take photos of but we got good looks through the binoculars.)

Great blue heron in flight, PLP, 29 May 2012I startled the great blue heron two nights in a row and couldn’t get a good shot of it.

Some other flora, fauna, and scenery:

hawthorn in bloom, PLP, 28 May 2012
hawthorn in bloom

path with spruces, PLP, 28 May 2012
path with spruces

blue jay, PLP, 28 May 2012
blue jay

wooded path, PLP, 28 May 2012
wooded path

Clintonia flower, PLP, 28 May 2012
Clintonia in flower

Dragonfly against water, PLP, 28 May 2012
dragonfly against water
Wild Sarsparilla, PLP, 28 May 2012
Wild Sarsaparilla
Bunchberry, PLP, 28 May 2012
Two Lady's Slippers, PLP, 28 May 2012
Two Lady’s Slippers
Canada mayflower, PLP, 28 May 2012
Canada mayflower
bridge into woods, PLP, 31 May 2012
Bridge into woods
morning, PLP, 29 May 2012
Marsh/lake in morning
bench in meadow, PLP, 28 May 2012
bench in meadow
Pickerel, PLP, 29 May 2012
Pickerel in lake
Dandelion, PLP, 31 May 2012
Dandelion in meadow

School House Pond Preserve Walk

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

Sunday, we walked the trails of the School House Pond Preserve, at the north end of Barters Island. School House Pond is apparently what the locals called the small cranberry bog that’s in the middle of the trail system.

We walked the white loop, and the yellow loop, and in between we got a little lost on the multi-use trail, part of which is made up of boulders and ledge (easy to walk on, but not easy, I would imagine, to use a wheelchair or stroller on).  We were on the trails for about an hour and a half, again going slowly to take photos.

The focus on this walk was pink Lady’s Slippers. They were everywhere we turned. Lady’s Slippers bloom only from mid- or late-May to early- or mid-June, and these trails hold a bounty of the wild orchids.

Enjoy the slideshow!

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Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve Walk

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

Saturday, we walked on trails in the Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve, right in Boothbay Harbor. Before we got on the trail, an abutter, out in her yard gardening, told us she’d picked up a lot of ticks on the trails the day before, so we sprayed liberally with OFF before heading in. The entrance to the trail system is a little hard to discern — it starts on private property, with a residence to the right — but we spotted the BRLT sign on a tree on the left and made our way henceforth.

baby snake on trail, LCMP, 26 May 2012

A few hundred yards from the entrance, we almost stepped on this small garter snake in the middle of the trail. Near the end of the walk, we saw a larger snake, just off the trail.

star flower, LCMP, 26 May 2012

Lots of star flowers (Trientalis borealis) all along the trail, too.

view of LCMP meadow, 26 May 2012

And lots of views of the pond from the trails.

pathway, LCMP, 26 May 2012

Even though the walking paths are also open to ATVs, we didn’t see or hear any, and, as you can see, some of the paths were pretty narrow.

pond, LCMP, 26 May 2012

This is the pond at the apex of the trails.

meadow view, LCMP, 26 May 2012

A view of the lobster cove meadow. There’s milkweed here, so summer should find the meadow radiant with monarchs and other milkweed feeders.

sign about bullets, LCMP, 26 May 2012

On the way out, we checked the kiosk and noticed this scary sign about how well bullets can travel.

In all, we probably spent about an hour here, but we stopped often to take photos.

For us, the most striking thing about this walk was that it sounded like part of the woods were a rookery. First we thought perhaps woodpeckers, then kingfishers, then blue jays … something with a harsh rattle call, and with dozens of them echoing and bouncing off the trees. We could hear it all around us, but we couldn’t see the birds.