From it's earliest appearances in our lives, fear can take over our bodies so completely – it's difficult to remember that we can have a conversation with it.
As a child, one of my household chores was to walk our day's leavings out to the compost pile, often in the deep dark of the country night. The unknown became palpable in rustling noises, in the way the ground seemed to bump and rise unpredictably under my feet, in how the ice-glazed snow pushed up my pantlegs and scraped at my bare skin. By the time I had dumped the coffee grounds and orange peels behind the barn, I was ready to run flat-out back to the house. Sometimes I controlled the impulse and made myself walk. Sometimes I ran, but then caught my breath and composed myself before I walked inside.
We often don't want to admit the fluttering wings in our chest, the feeling that we must hide, run, or escape. If we can't act on those sensations, then we feel the helpless shutdown – the pit in our stomach, the lack of air, the feeling we may faint. In this dark small place, we experience with our warm blood the cold fact that nobody leaves this world unscathed, much less alive.
What I love about the symbol work done at Apple Farm is that there arises, from the body and beyond, a new response to this fear. Sometimes our dreams seem to give into fear – sometimes they feel fearless. But over time and with some attention, they usually balance into a view that is nuanced and surprising in both its originality and resonance. The dreams invite us to our own transformation.
I once had a terrifying dream in which my young son shot several people in an institutional setting. Why this dream, full of fear? Well, though I was no longer a child afraid of being alone in the dark, as a young mother I was afraid of being alone with my own parenting decisions, of trusting my own instinct, of stepping away from the conventional. Though it was frightening, the dream showed me where that fear of being alone in the unknown could lead. The dream offered that it was better to leave the collective – as scary as that felt – than to risk losing our family's humanity.
Listening to the dream engaged me in a conversation, even as my body felt nearly overwhelming panic. It has taken years and a fair amount of Apple Farm time to fully inhabit and understand that conversation. But engaging with this dream and others has led to new choices which, though not always safe by conventional standards, have led to a far greater love.
Our family has walked our own path. We have chosen life learning over school; we have chosen living with symbols over institutionalized religion. In all of these we acknowledge the fear, but look to the wholeness of love. These choices are my version of whistling in the dark, a song I offer my young self from all those years ago.