“In many tribal cultures, it was said that if the boys were not initiated into manhood, if they were not shaped by the skills and love of elders, then they would destroy the culture. If the fires that innately burn inside youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, they will burn down the structures of culture, just to feel the warmth.” -Michael Meade
For over a year now I’ve been having dreams of men.
At first they were nightmares. An ex-boyfriend pounding on the door of my home, screaming to be let in. A group of teenage boys closing in on me at the end of a dark alley, hands gravitating towards their back pockets for knives. I wasn’t always the victim. Once I stood by the side of the road and observed a girl held at gunpoint in the passenger seat of a moving car. I watched the taillights glow and dissolve into the desert night.
And then every so often, I’d meet a boy.
Always the same boy. Sometimes I laid out on a white hospital bed and watched as I gave birth to him. Sometimes he was a toddler, sometimes he was my age; a wild, mangy thing with long, tangled blonde hair and ruddy cheeks, his forehead and grubby hands creased with dirt. He wore spotted woodpecker feathers in his hair and a smile that made me itch with joy. I loved him instantly. He’d take my hand and lead me through white cities and barren tundras. Or he’d drive, singing softly as we careened across dark highways lit only with the dim, pinprick glow of stars overhead. He was like a brother to me, or a dear relation. I began to look for him in my dream world every night.
He almost never spoke – only giggled, or sighed, or flapped his arms about like a disgruntled bird. One night, though, I followed him down a dusty road into an old, abandoned neighborhood. I watched as he gestured all around him at the empty houses, the lawns in desperate need of weeding. “We used to have so much fun,” he said. His voice was so clear it ached. “Don’t you remember?”
I woke up feeling confused. But I decided to roll with him. Fine. I’d play along. I gave him a name, a part in my novel, a share of my poetry.
He began to whisper in my ear 24/7. I’d be walking down the street and hear him mutter, “Stand up straight.” I spied his name on street signs, and even accidentally booked a night at a motel with the same name. He found his way into my jewelry, my clothes – cowboy boots, leather jackets, studs and roses. Necklaces with feathers made of abalone shell, a blue glass ring to protect against the evil eye. All the magic and power I’d loved as a child and pushed away as a fearful adolescent came back. Yes, we used to have so much fun. We used to collect rose petals, and dance in the smoke as we threw them on the open campfire. We used to catch moths with our bare hands.
The nightmares slowly transformed. When I had the dream of the ex-boyfriend pounding at the door, I looked out the window to find my wild boy leading him away. I started standing up to my previous dream-aggressors, shouting at them, making them hear my voice. I learned how to say “No” in my dreams.
All my life I’ve been easily shaken and impressionable, especially by the men in my life. But my wild boy has shown me that men don’t have to have loud voices or large shoulders. Men don’t have to be imposing or confrontational. Men don’t have the power to hurt me, either. The source of masculinity is found in nurturing, in protection, and in steadfast love. This archetype is wild and made of earth, his soul mirrors my own. I am him, and he is me.
“Whom shall I call upon, if not him,
who is dark and more of night than night itself.
The only one who wakes without a light
yet has no fear; the deep one, as yet
unspoiled by the light, the one of whom I know
because in trees he bursts forth from the earth
and because as fragrance
he rises softly from the soil
into my down-bent face.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
So this week’s theme is masculine. Men, boys, and all the luggage that comes from preconceived notions and your full range of experiences, whether they be positive or negative. Have at it.