With my 70th birthday coming up this year I’d been giving some thought to how I wanted to celebrate. Top on my list was to be with my family, but might there also be something a little unusual and special?
I was still considering possibilities this winter when I received an e-mail catalogue from the New York Center for Jungian Studies about their annual spring conferences in Ireland. Each lasts a week, takes place in a different location, and has a different theme. When I came to the third and last one, my heart quickened. “Jung, Yeats & the Creative Imagination” would take place during April 21 – 27. My birthday week. As if this weren’t enough, one of the presenters was Jungian analyst Monika Wikman!
If you follow my blog you know I think very highly of Monika and her book, Pregnant Darkness. And I’ve written posts about creative imagination. Moreover, although I’d never read the poetry of William Butler Yeats, several people have recommended it to me. One was the founder of Innisfree Press, the publisher of my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work.” Innisfree’s motto was “A call to the deep heart’s core,” the last line of one of Yeats’ most beloved poems, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”
I felt the call. So with the full support of my husband—who, although not a lover of Jung or poetry, is a lover of travel and me—we signed up. We have just returned and it was all I’d hoped for and much more. Since my way of processing experience is to write about it, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts in upcoming posts. I hope some will be meaningful to you.
Our group of 35 people checked into our lodge in rural County Sligo on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, the day before my birthday, we climbed up a steeeeep, hill to the Caves of Kesh. As the bird flies, it wasn’t that high or far, but as the human walks, this was no piece of birthday cake. There was no trail, so we each had to find our own way.
The first part of the hike featured a grove of scrubby trees, a locked gate that had to be scaled, thick black mud, and prickly undergrowth like heather and stinging nettle which we occasionally had to grab to keep from sliding and falling. Some fell anyway. The next phase was up a deceptively innocent-looking pasture dotted with more quagmires, slippery grass, and a plethora of sheep poop, some of which ended up under our fingernails when grabbing grass was the only way to maintain balance. By the way, as you will learn in an upcoming post, poop steadily gained in importance that week until it became a defining symbol for the entire conference!
In Celtic mythology the Caves of Kesh were hiding places for two lovers pursued by an angry King/husband. But it was the climb that held significance for me. Not only have I had many dreams of ascending steep stairs only to find the way blocked at the top, but as a soon-to-be-70 elderwoman, I was on a mission to shatter stereotypes about aging and gray-haired women. Determined to prove to myself and all present that 70 is not synonymous with doddering, I kept going. As it turned out, Fred and I were two of only 14 people who enjoyed the stunning view from inside the caves. I’m proud of us!
So here are a few things I’ve been thinking about my visit to Ireland last week:
- 70 is a number, not an excuse to forego adventure.
- Inheriting healthy genes is not within my range of choices, but staying open, listening to myself, accepting challenges and doing my best are.
- Most successes are the result of sheer determination and perseverance.
- When viewed through the lens of creative imagination, everything—even the names of islands and publishing houses, climbing, caves, stinging nettle, mud and poop—has symbolic meaning for our soul’s journey.
- No matter how difficult the climb may be, following the heart’s call is worth it.
Note: I’ve just seen the ad that’s been placed on this post and I want you to know I have nothing to do with it and can’t figure out how to take it off. I apologize. Please know it’s not authorized by me.