Despite winter, my sun porch is warm.
So warm, Mause and I are crashed in a pile of concentrated sunbeams. She sprawls across the floor as if the intensity has disentigrated her bones; a puppy puddle. I slump in a lawn chair packed into what is usually winter cold-storage. It’s early February and instead of cabin fever from endless gray skies and constant lake-effect snow, I’m mainlining vitamin D from a blazing sun warming a bank of south-facing windows.
Sipping coffee, I sigh. My afternoon snack — a bagel with cream cheese and a smear of lingonberry jam — tastes indulgent. I only buy lingonberries during the winter solstice season in anticipation of making a big batch of Swedish meatballs. They were so good, I made two batches, one for a Yule party and another for a decadent meal with Todd. The remaining lingonberry jam has become part of afternoon coffee or midnight tea, depending upon my day.
The snow and the jam are receding, and I feel sad. Sad because I know I won’t buy more lingonberry jam until next winter solstice and I’ll miss the unique tart flavor. I’ll have to find another treat. Sad, also, because the snow has not been right this year. It echos the changing weather patterns of the Great Lakes Region, as expressed in the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines report:
Duluth is perched mid-continent at the western tip of Lake Superior, and many residents are stoically proud of the harsh winters that define the place. “It keeps the riff-raff out,” they assure each other. But in recent years the weather has become almost unrecognizable. According to Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, winters tend to be warmer, snowfall is getting heavier, and summer thunderstorms bring more rain. The disruption begets uneasiness; people who have developed coping mechanisms for extreme cold and plenty of snow now don’t know what to expect.~ Stephanie Hemphill, April 29, 2020
As much as I’m enjoying my bones soaked in unseasonable sunshine and a break from daily scooping, I wonder what this all means. But then I remember that I’m asking the wrong question. I shift and think what is happening. It’s a recent practice I’m cultivating as a Hag (a woman in the second half of life and my choice of symbol based on my studies with Sharon Blackie in her Hagitude program). Dream tending has led me into familiar depths and my mentors remind me not to ask for meaning but to ask for understanding. I’m yet a student, an apprentice, a learner. I’ve yet to a-ha the difference, but nonetheless, I’m practicing the question, what is happening.
My journey thus far has led me to depth psychology (not to be confused with my recent commitment to positive psychology for the sake of addressing mental health in my veteran community). I’m having fun and enlightening and confounding conversations with my son. When I called to talk to him about the positive psychology workbook I bought to use with my Warrior Sisters, he was delighted. He uses his Masters in IO Psychology in his work for Epic. He says his specific role as a BFF to accounts is like that of a coach, using positive psychology.
However, he wondered if depth psychology was outdated Jungian theory. He encouraged me to explore and understand its roots and current place in the field of psychology. It turns out, IO psychologists like my son are in a different world of psychology. His work does not include psychoanalysis. Depth psychology is modern, current, and relevant; it’s a completely different field and yes, it is based on Jung’s work in symbols as a foundation. The reason I’m so drawn to depth psychology is its familiarity.
Depth psychology, according to Susan Rowland, is writing.
For years, I’ve tried to understand and articulate what we are doing here at Carrot Ranch in a collective way. Yes, the weekly challenge is about making literary art accessible, but what is literary art? According to Pacifica Graduate Institute (where Susan Rowland teaches), “Depth Psychology is an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing on literature, philosophy, mythology, the arts, and critical studies.” Literary art is the process of going deep. Depth psychology defines the deep as psyche. According to Jung, the mind has two distinct depths: the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. Further, the Hagitude program I’m absorbing explains the unconscious as the Sacred. The Sacred is Nature. We can experience the Sacred by snowshoeing or kayaking or walking outside or we can experience the Sacred through the realm of dreams — the imaginal.
All these terms swirl about in my head like a friendly flock of chickadees. What I know from experience is that when I write, I go deep. This is what I began to understand as raw literature; the result of writing from the deep places of one’s mind. What if inspiration is the call of the psyche for each of us to remember who we are? According to depth psychologists, this is the purpose of dreams — to remember who we are and to access the Sacred. It makes me wonder if all along, my desire to serve others in a literary community has been to reconnect to Nature. When I learned about the existence of a Masters Program in Psychology and Creativity, I was struck by how it aligned with the forces that drive me: “…deep purpose, enlivened creativity, and devoted service.”
Holy smokes. That’s exactly what I want Carrot Ranch to foster in others. The mission is to make literary art accessible in 99 words. I better understand what I’ve meant by accessibility. I want writers to engage with creative writing in such a way that it gives us purpose, engages our creativity, and leads us to serve humanity through what we write. I want this for all writers not just experienced writers, or educated writers, or whatever limiting label we can apply. Writing is a tool of exploration and I’ve known that tool to be healing. I’ve never wanted Carrot Ranch to be “the best of the west” or “serious writers only.” Writing our individual stories weekly is an exercise in accessing our personal unconscious; submitting our personal stories to form a collection is a creation of our collective unconscious.
Literary art is also read and here is where we serve humanity with deep reflections. The collections have always been inclusive. Because raw literature does not require mastery of writing craft. We practice going into the deep and bringing something back. Every story does that no matter how well one articulates a sentence or punctuates dialog. Every story reflects some aspect of the prompt. And going where the prompt leads is daring to go into the psyche. When people read the collections, its not the “best” stories that make the impact; it’s the impact of the whole because it speaks from and to the collective unconscious.
We are modern-day mythmakers seeking to understand our world one prompt at a time.
A world in peril. Through depth psychology I have also come to understand that Science without the Sacred is out of balance. Science deals in signals, hard facts and empirical evidence. The Sacred deals in symbols. Nature is the Sacred. Humans exist because nature exists, not the other way around. The more advanced we become through industry and technology, the more energy we consume. Energy consumption is marvelous — it gives us lights to see by, warmth for our homes, healing for our hospitals. But energy consumption has a shadow. Climate change. The greater our reliance on energy consumption, the greater the shadow grows. We need more than science. We need the sacred. We need nature.
Reconnecting to the Sacred, transforming the Self — this is the work of tending dreams and writing fiction.
My deep dive is done for now. My smear of lingonberry jam is gone. Until next time. Sweet dreams and deep writing!
February 13, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a smear of jam. Is it across a slice of toast, a white shirt, or something unexpected? The jam could be the focus or detail that ads a twist. Who are the characters with the jam and where are they situated in space and time? Go where the prompt leads!
- Submit by February 18, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
- Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
- A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
- Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
- Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.