Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jungian Dreams and New Sonnet, "Death Watch"

Since the men's retreat I have been having a number of dreams in that light period of sleep before waking, which allows me to remember them. As a psychiatrist I never made much of dreams; I thought Freud made much too much of them. Jung approached them from a different perspective, and the men's retreat I just attended was oriented around Jungian psychology, especially the archetype of the Magician. I have been trying to jot down notes on my dreams when I wake up since the retreat; before it I didn't remember dreaming for a long time, coincident with my depression, which I hope with all my heart continues to lift.

My first batch of dreams were about both manic-depression and the Jungian self and shadow-self. Here's a sample of my dream log with tentative interpretations offered in italics:

I saw a furry cylinder, long and thick as a log, with only the head of a collie poking out. The "collie-log" was in the middle of a clearing, like a grass and dirt parking lot. Someone kept telling me in silent dreamspeak that there were two dogs but I could only see the one. I wondered if the collies were alive or dead. I was assured they were alive but their eyes were black as a raven’s, the kind of glass used by a taxidermist. A man came with a lathe and a plane to sculpt a single piece of wood six feet long, 2” X 1” with a shepherd’s hook on each end. The tool was to get the collies out of the cylinder. The man shaping it was my wife’s late husband’s son. He was young and lithe and muscular but I didn’t see his face. (In real life their son is nothing like him.)

The woodworking figure fits the Jungian archetype of the Magician well. The hidden dog may have been the Jungian shadow, and the reason the other dog looked dead was because without the shadow self the real self cannot function. The cylinder can also obviously be construed as a phallus, or a symbol of masculinity. To be a full man I must see the dog that isn’t there, the hidden dog. And the son was preparing a tool to do that very thing, though I never saw the second dog.

Next I was driving in my van with my wife and saw a Honda Odyssey traveling in the adjoining lane. The Honda stopped and its hood opened up. A white dog and a brown dog, medium-sized, happily jumped into the compartment and it shut. I said to Kathleen, “How come we don’t have that option on our Voyager?”

My sister has a Honda Odyssey and two dachshunds, but the dogs weren't dachshunds. It seems obvious to me that the white and brown dogs represented my self and my shadow, and both were happy to disappear into the den together—and when they did, they vanished, just as when one’s shadow is truly incorporated into one’s self.

Today's new sonnet, coincidentally, also concerns a dog--Kathleen's beautiful blonde service dog, Kenyon. Those familiar with the history of this blog will recall how both Kathleen and I went to jail in Mexico trying to get him back from his kidnapper. He's a Labrador/Newfoundland/Golden Retriever mix, and I wish I had a picture to post of him. I'll try to post one soon. He looks like a long-haired Golden but his head is too large, and his feet are webbed for swimming like a Newfoundland. He is so much a part of Kathleen that he won't even eat if she's away. He moons for her at the door, waiting for the sound of the garage door opening, after which he gets up excitedly and fetches something to give her, usually an old sock. When she enters, I take what she's carrying out of her hands, and she communes with Kenyon for a few minutes: "There's my puppy. You're such a good puppy. Good puppy!" These verbal affections are, of course, accompanied by petting and stroking him as only Kathleen can do. To Kenyon, Kathleen is like the sun, the moon--like the subject of one of Shakespeare's love sonnets. The two are joined at the hip. His condition is deteriorating, however, and we see the time approaching when they will have to be unjoined. We hope it is not soon. In any case, today's sonnet came to me yesterday in the space of about ten minutes. I revised it a little since.

It's been said that it is a virtual guarantee that any poem about a pet is bound to be a failure, and I'd written only one poem about Kenyon before, in free verse, which was roundly panned and thankfully remains unpublished. Here goes:

Death Watch

Kenyon is 11. His hips quiver
When he stands. He can’t assay the stairs
Without the help of hands, though still he dares
To swim and fetch his stick in a swift river.
His eyes, once lucid brown, have cataracts.
His hearing—-well, his hearing has gone to hell.
At fifty yards he cannot hear me yell.
Clearly he’s suffering, although he acts
As if he weren’t; he’s noble to the core.
He still rolls over with a little nudge
And when I splint his leg he doesn’t budge
Despite the pain. I thought animals bore
No pain as humans know it, but I was wrong.
The old boy lives in pain—-but not for long.

Thine in Truth and Dreams,

Craig Erick


  1. Glad your blog is back CE. Thanks for the post.

  2. Sorry to hear about Kenyon; although, I think you've written him a successful pet poem. And thanks for the helpful advice you left on my blog.

  3. Anonymous11:08 PM PDT

    The retreat seems to have helped you out of your mind.
    You might very much enjoy
    Eckhart Tolle's

  4. What about the power of "Then?"

    Hee hee. I don't know if one can write a successful pet poem. My best is one about my daughter's turtle, published in Snakeskin long ago. Maybe I'll post it today, as it's after midnight. Sam, what you mean? My blog go on. Only weekend hiatus.

  5. I’m not familiar with the Magician as an archetypal character. Any recommended sites or books where I can find out more?


Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!