Tag Archives: dream animals

Not the same without you 2

Thresholds: Liminal Space and a Grief Observed.

Liminal: The space between places. Not inside, not outside. Like getting to sleep and thinking I am awake ~ yet dreaming already. The room is no longer the room; no longer am I alone. Or awakening, seeing the familiar trappings of the bedroom, yet feeling the traces of the dream thoroughly in waking life and as real as a set of pajamas. Liminal space is the twilight of dreams in which one thing is seen in a different light.


So here are some definitions of Liminal I have gathered around me to help describe this fleeting phenomenon, the phenomenon of fleetingness itself:

  1. Of or pertaining to a threshold or entrance
  2. Barely perceptible
  3. Of or relating to a transitional or the beginning stage of a process, see “inceptive; inchoate, or marginal”
  4. Of or relating to a sensory threshold
  5. an intermediate state, phase, or condition: In between; transitional, e.g., “in the liminal state between life and death.” (Deborah Jowett)


So now I have a dog, approaching fifteen years old and unlikely to make it. She is frail and requires help to get up and down the two steps of the house. She is incontinent. She is well beyond every forecast life expectancy given when she was diagnosed with Seizures (2001),  Cushing’s (2011) and now Addison’s Disease (2013). She has trouble standing up. Doorways terrify her; she struggles between the desire to go out or come in and the fear of falling and not being able to get up. A doormat can and does trip her, and sometimes when the doormat bends back I cannot get the door open fast enough for her weakening systems. Today was going to be the day to put her down, but our vet is out of town.

Libby 2003

Last night I had a dream – one of those deep, unreal, convincing dreams.:

I am at my grandmother’s house. Everyone is in the back living room and there is someone knocking at the den door. I call out that I am coming, As I get there, it is my father (who died in 1999, the year Libby was born). He is there with another relative, not my mother, more like a cousin, younger than he. I can’t open the door because of the mat. I tell them to stand back, I have to close it and straighten out the mat before I can open it again.

A friend of mine who lost his father earlier this year was comforted by the words of a minister: “All deaths are linked.” So his father’s death was linked to his wife’s losses. So Libby’s pending death is linked to the loss of my father, my mother, other pets, friends, and acquaintances. It is linked to my own death, whenever that should be. And there is something about this doorway, in that house where no one would still be alive, that is like the space I am in now about to say goodbye to a wonderful friend and family member.


So, associations in this dream: Grandmother’s house: this is my maternal grandmother’s house where we gathered twice a week for dinner. Very festive, very family oriented. Yet for thirty years, the only time any of the living from that time gather is for a funeral, perhaps a wedding. That will change this summer as an aunt and uncle have planned a gathering. Father: My father’s illness and death was huge in the many changes in my life, sparking in me a fear of my own mortality and that of others. While there has been other losses, none were as close as this. I coped by going to many baseball games that year, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philly, Detroit. Something in baseball attracted me, seeming universal (there are sooooo many more spiritual baseball movies than any other sport). Think, Field of Dreams, the original Angels in the OutfieldThe Natural, or Bull Durham. And this year I have season tickets for the first time. Ever.

Mat. Associations to mat: Mat is where one stands in liminal space. “Wipe your feet, for you stand on Holy ground.” (Misquoting of Exodus 3:5). Also “Mati” for death. Mat as in matted hair of my dog. Mat as in material, matter, something of substance and tangible, as opposed to the intangible or liminal.


So, what does the dream ask of me? What does it mean, what does it want me to do? Part of my reply is that if I could clearly answer that I would hardly need to dream at all. If I knew the answer to that I would not need to write at all or to discuss my dreams with others. Yet the dream as an act of comparison is pretty clear: There is a portal. There is a ‘here’ and a ‘there.’ And what we see in the ‘here’ is linked to the ‘there,’ both in terms of time (such as the days in which family was ‘there’ as opposed to here) and space (in terms of this side or that side of the doorway), and also in something that is beyond time and space, neither here nor there. Dreams, especially dreams like this one, point me to the infinite, that which is beyond any door I know. Beyond this space. Twilight.  Liminal.

Not the same without you 2

Updated July 9, 2014:

Has gone to her reward.

The staff from Belle Mead Animal Hospital were amazing, and Libby seemed so ready to let go of her pain and struggle. The dog who is so full of energy and a will to live now slips into her own dreams, then into the dreams beyond.

My wife, Tricia, is actually staying with our other dog Samantha to work from home  today. I plan to bring Sam for a half day to my workplace and we will see how that goes. Thanks for your support.

Had a dream last night, 7/8/14, first after Libby . . .
May 2009 Smantha Close up
Libby is stuck in a doorway. I am going to retrieve something outside and Sam [pictured at left] gets out. She goes to a garage area where people had left the gate open. People with cars who should have closed the gate. In the dream, as in real life, I am able to flag Samantha down because she is out of shape. Her rehab program starts now!

As for Libby, she starts another program, another assignment, another life. And how grateful are all of us that loved her for the love she brought to us!


Animal Dreams, and Dreams with Animals

Animal Dreams, and Dreaming with Animals

Like many other things in the world of Dream, the research is in, and few experts can fully agree on what it really means. Dogs dream. Horses dream. Pigs dream. Cats dream. What role do we play in their landscape? We cannot be certain. Poetry may be ahead of science in this regard:

Dog Dreaming

by W. S. Merwin

The paws twitch in a place of chasing
Where the whimper of this seeming-gentle creature
Rings out terrible, chasing tigers.

Visions of Sugarplums?
Visions of Sugarplums?

The fields
Are licking like torches, full of running,
Laced odors, bones stalking, tushed leaps.
So little that is tamed, yet so much
That you would find deeply familiar there.
You are there often, your very eyes,
The unfathomable knowledge behind your face,
The mystery of your will, appraising.

Such carnage and triumph; standing there
Strange even to yourself, and loved, and only
A sleeping beast knows who you are.

“Dog Dreaming” by W.S. Merwin, from Green With Beasts. © Knopf, 1956.

 Humans Forget

Humans forget that we are also of the Animal Kingdom. Often, we want to think of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, and then us – more along the lines of a combination between a Benevolent Monarch and an infallible supercomputer. Humankind has adopted the position of superiority, or a privileged status, with regard to other animals. Somehow this seems tied up with Original Sin, the Fall, getting kicked out of the Garden, and being God’s favorite. The story runs that man was given dominion over the animals and therefore, can pick and choose which ones become extinct, which ones work for our economies, which ones we eat, and which ones we entertain in our homes like third world princes. What we forget is that we share the planet – really an interdependent ecosystem, instead of thinking that each of the 7 billion humans is Lord and Master of all other species. The notion that this dominion is harmful is not a liberal ecology position: It is currently playing out as a management issue, and the planet is failing at the ultimate MBA comprehensive exam. Even if you do not believe animals are endowed with soul, most of us must grudgingly admit that people are animals, too. That’s what we forget. We think at times we are gods, or worse. We think we are God. Not you and me, of course, but People do. So easy to forget in these times we are still part of Creation, and not mini-Creators.

Animals carry the Collective Unconscious

Now there is some psychobabble if ever I heard it!  We may dismiss Ken Keyes’ Hundredth Monkey Theory, but observation of the trends animals exhibit toward humans shows that definite patterns exist. The loyalty of a dog. The independence of a cat. The slyness of a fox. The mistrust by birds of man. Now, some of these traits are so matter-of-fact they come down to us through fairy tale and idiom. And people also have their individual conceptions about animals such as Horse, Lion, Tiger, Eagle, Mouse, and the hundreds of other animals that surface in dreams. So an encounter with an animal in the dreamtime can carry the collective unconscious – say, the opinion of the average person of snakes – or they may represent a different element to persons who have their individual connection to the animal represented. Maybe the dreamer has or had a pet snake. Maybe as a child they were part of Guernicareligious worship involving snakes. Maybe they had a pet killed by a snake. Or maybe they were once captivated by the behavior of a snake in a zoo, in the wild, or in the home of a friend. The process of individual association is so important in determining the dreamer’s view of the animal. But what about the animal’s view of the dreamer?

Many views of dreamwork start with the common cultural or “universal” association of the animal and work from there. The animal is reduced to what may be found in a dream dictionary, and the part of the dreamer that quality represents. Sure, I have done this and still do. There are at least a couple of things I dislike about this. One, it is taking the animal out of the context of the dream and reducing it to be an aspect of the dreamer.  This is the common “intrapsychic” approach many of us counselors use and it achieves helpful results, but it may reinforce, with clients recovering from trauma and from addictions, ego defense mechanisms which no longer serve the dreamer. Secondly, it robs the dream image of its own wisdom, perhaps missing an opportunity to unfold to the dreamer something she does not already know. So in a way, both therapist and dreamer harness the image in service to the ego, in something of a colonization of the image. I prefer to engage the image; recognize its autonomy, allow it to develop and to speak from its own realm. This is what dreams do for us; they bring us wisdom we cannot access through waking consciousness. And with animal images, the wisdom is embodies with its own will, it’s own consciousness, and its own affect.

Clients work with their dream animals is experiential and unique. Descriptions in writing never do service to the emotion of a meeting with a dream animal; the making of eye contact; viewing the animal in her element and allowing the trading of places, to allow the dreamer to see the dreamer through the eyes of the animal and to share that bond; these are the things that can neither be extracted from a dream dictionary nor well relayed in a dream blog. Poetry serves better then than does description. Yet few things in dream group tend to dissolve the fears of the dreamer, and few things seem to reinforce more that we are all in this together, than an experience with a dream animal. It is more that they are dreaming us into existence than the other way around.

Even the dream Joseph interpreted for Pharaoh of the seven lean cattle and seven fat cattle seems to reinforce man’s desire to have mastery over the dream images. Joseph learned from the dream the need of managing the Pharaoh’s wealth, furthering man’s dominion over the animals. But wasn’t the message of the dream also that the abundance of the earth, a gift from God, is finite and requires wise stewardship? The more I do this work, the more reverence I have for the images themselves. Just like the dreamers, these images have their own rights to privacy, their own wisdom, and their own emotions and insights. I will close with a verse from an engaging children’s book published this year on dream animals by Emily Winfield Martin:

These creatures are the reasonKathryn Packer Roberts

Dreamers get where dreamers go

Dreamland is too far to run

And sleepy feet, too slow.

Sweet Dreams!