Musings From My Cave


The old root cellar, a cave under a mountain.

The book is coming along—slowly, often joyfully, sometimes painfully. This is hard work, yet it really is the only thing I’m good for.

In theory I can do almost anything; certainly I have been told how. In practice I do as little as possible.  I pretend to myself that I would be quite happy in a hermit’s cave, living on gruel, if someone else would make the gruel. Gruel, like so many other things, is beyond me.  Margaret Atwood

So I’m here in the mountains, happily ensconced in my cave.

Thunder is no longer the voice of an angry God… No river contains a spirit… no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain cave the home of a great demon. No voices now speak to man from stones, plants and animals, nor does he speak to them thinking they can hear. His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied. Carl Jung

That’s why I come here, where summers are cool and I reconnect with nature. When I’m in Florida I always imagine that when I return, my writing will flourish.

I would get a lot of writing done if I lived in isolation in a cave under a swamp.  Claire Cameron

Or a mountain… That’s what I keep telling myself.

I like solitude.  I”m very good at being disconnected.  I do a lot of disappearing. People who know me go, ‘Oh yeah, Mailman, she’s gone into her cave again.’ I’m like that, a bit of a hibernating bear. Like that crocodile that just sits there in the water and doesn’t do much.  I was always a bit of a dreamer as a kid, so that hasn’t changed.  Deborah Mailman


Ever since I dreamed about a huge elephant breaking down a door to get out of a cave, I’ve been curious to know what’s inside. And who is this elephant? Why does she want to get out? What does she know that I don’t? At first I was terrified of what might be in that cave.

Thus it was that in obedience to the law laid down by his mother, and in obedience to the law of that unknown and nameless thing, fear, he kept away from the mouth of the cave. Jack London

But my need was such that I had to enter. After a few years of working with my dreams, my fear began to fall away and my cave became a sanctuary.

Truth is a demure lady, much too ladylike to knock you on your head and drag you to her cave. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out. William F. Buckley Jr.

We live life in the marketplace and then we go off to the cave or to the meditation mat to replenish ourselves. Ram Das

For me, I think [art] exists in a cave. I am in a cave. Haile Gerima

I’ve learned a lot from exploring my cave.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear.  Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.  Joseph Campbell

What I want to see…

Now I see…

How you’re still always trapped.  How your head is in the cave, your eyes the cave mouth. How you live inside your head and only see what you want. How you only watch the shadows and make up your own meaning. Chuck Palahniuk

And I know that…

You are also caught with the fact that man is a creature who walks in two worlds and traces upon the walls of his cave the wonders and the nightmare experiences of his spiritual pilgrimage. Morris West

I love my cave. It’s where I hear my soul, see my dreams, make meaning.

I’d rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave. Karl Pilkington

The cavemen, when they saw the antelopes, they had to scratch them on to the caves because they needed to express the immediacy of what they were being affected by – and I love that. That is why I do what I do. I need to express myself. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Each story, novel, poem and play presents a vision of the world that illuminates the dark cave of life we stumble through. We can see better where we’re going, what sudden drop to avoid, where the cool water is running.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

For a long time, I thought I was getting wiser. And in some ways I was. But my cave is also a place to escape the harsh realities of life.

There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other.  When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave and seek prey only for himself. Samuel Johnson

Johnson was right on one level. Detaching from the world’s toxicity is a path to self-discovery and a means of self-preservation. For me, that’s been especially true in the last couple of years. Still, it’s equally true that

…Spiritual opening is not a withdrawal to some imagined realm or safe cave. It is not a pulling away, but a touching of all the experience of life with wisdom and with a heart of kindness, without any separation. Jack Kornfield

The world is only as fair as you can make it. Takes a lot of fight. A lot of fight.  But if you stay in here, in your little cave, that’s one less fighter on the side of fair.  Libba Bray

“How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it! We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 2022! Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world? Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are? I’ve heard rumors; the world is starving, but we’re well fed. Is it true, the world works hard and we play? Is that why we’re hated so much? I’ve heard the rumors about hate too, once in a long while, over the years. Do you know why? I don’t, that’s sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes!” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

My life has been a fight to speak my truths, to not cave.

Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have essential and long overdue meetings on those days.  J K Rowling

But I also need to stay in relationship with the world. It seems I’m always walking a thin line, holding the tension between two equally valid truths.

At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide. F. Scott Fitzgerald

What are my convictions at seventy-five? Oceans in which I swim. You and I are made of quantum particles of star dust and photons of light, each one unique, every one connected with every other in an underlying sea of love. A place where every individual is separate and unified at the same time. Where all are known and loved.

Welcome out of the cave, my friend.  It’s a bit colder out here, but the stars are just beautiful.  Plato

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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21 Responses

  1. Jeanne, this is truly brilliant and beautiful. You have given us an extraordinary treasure, tied together with your ever questing spirit. Thank you.

    1. Wow, Sally. Thank you. I treasure your affirming words. This is why I need to come out of my cave once in a while. Otherwise I forget the beauty that awaits me here.

    1. Thank you very much! I see you are also an introspective writer. I liked “Clara’s Tears” and thought you made an excellent point. Best of luck on your ongoing journey. Jeanie

  2. My husband has his ‘man cave’ and I have my ‘womb with a view’ – both are painted pink to represent new birth. Loved this tribute to caves, Jean, now get ye back to the book!

    1. Hahahahahaha! Yes, ma’am! Two more chapters down since I entered my cave, five more to go. At this pace I might just make my deadline!

  3. Thank you for this enchanting post Jeanie, it made me smile … it makes me think/feel that I’m returning to my cave after being away for several weeks in Europe, mightily enjoying the outside and all it has to offer by way of history and beauty and much else besides, but there’s something so lovely about returning to my own cave, and caving in to it’s own charm and beauty. The stars are just as lovely, just that much colder as we’re in the grip of winter here in the southern hemisphere! Happy July 4th …perhaps bitter-sweet in its way …

    1. Welcome back to your cave, Susan. Stepping out of it for a while to experience the world’s wonders and beauty is a joy and such an eye-opener, isn’t it? You bring back so much of value that enriches your perspective and infuses your cave work with freshness and vitality.
      Yes, this July 4th feels different from past ones. We used to have big family celebrations, but our hearts just aren’t in it this year. I woke up this morning thinking of the founding mothers and fathers, John and Abigail Adams in particular–their hopes, ideals, courage, strength of character–and wondered what they’d think about some of the disturbing elements of our country today. Would they have tried to change anything in our Constitution if they could have foreseen some the negative consequences? I’m thinking particularly about the electoral college and the Second Amendment. But I realize that nothing really changes if people don’t change. It’s what’s in our hearts, not our laws, that makes the difference. That’s why I place my hope in the transformation of individuals, one person at a time.
      Enjoy your winter hibernation and the knowledge that spring always follows. And thank you for writing. 🙂

  4. Hi Jean,
    What a beautiful spot to write in! I’m looking forward to the new book. I read Dream Theatres a few years ago and have been working with my dreams on my own.
    The main problem I have encountered is that my dreams are incredibly long and detailed. I often have several each night and it takes a very long time to transcribe them. The amount of material I have to work with feels overwhelming. Any suggestions?
    Thank you for sharing your work with the world!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Thanks for writing. And thanks for letting me know Dream Theatres was helpful to you.
      Having so many long dreams to work on is a wonderful problem to have! It sounds like your unconscious is ‘excited’ to have your full attention and is compensating by sending you an inordinate amount of dream material. Obviously, that can be overwhelming. You’ll always have a struggle to balance your outer life with your inner work and everyone addresses this in different ways. Plus, this will change as your self-knowledge grows and your life circumstances change. I used to have 6 or 7 dreams a night in the first couple of years, but now I’m lucky to remember one every couple of weeks.
      The best advice I can give you is to trust yourself and follow your instincts; there’s no right way—just your way. You don’t want to get so discouraged that you stop dreamwork out of frustration, so you need to find ways to make less work for yourself and keep it interesting.
      Here are my suggestions:
      1. Write (or record…however you do it) very brief summaries of every dream you have each night, just a paragraph with a few words that describe the theatre, the plot and its development, symbols, characters, and emotions. Jot down a few key words beside or after each paragraph: i.e., angry animus, attacking me, fear, hiding, helpful woman. Over time you’ll develop your own shorthand methods that help you capture and remember the essence of each dream. This information will be valuable in a few years when you know more about your animus and your feelings toward him and want to revisit old dreams to see how you’ve changed.
      2. Choose the dream that most interests you and has the most energy, and work on it in more depth. Ask yourself why your animus was angry at you. What part of you gets angry like that? What is it angry about? How did you really feel when he acted that way? What part of you feels afraid? Why? What basic assumptions about yourself, or men, or the world does this dream address? Why is this the theme of this dream? Is this a healthy or unhealthy assumption? Where did it come from? Etc.
      3. If you can’t work more on a dream on the day you have it, just jot down the above info, along with its number and date, and see if you can find an hour or two at the end of the week to run through your dreams from that week and work in more depth on the ones the capture your curiosity or interests. Don’t worry if you forget a dream or can’t remember everything about some of them. Your unconscious will keep sending you the same messages until you get them.
      Be assured that you are doing the most important work you will ever do in your life. By knowing and learning to love yourself you’ll make a big difference in your own life and the lives of everyone you know and love. Even beyond…..
      My best to you, Jeanie

      1. Thank you! Those are wonderful tips, and I see that it will be less overwhelming this way. I had this strong feeling as I was reading the last bit about my unconscious sending the same messages till I get them. I thought: “my unconscious is my friend, and won’t give up on me”. A beautiful thought!

    1. Jeanie ~ the sound on this version is a bit sketchy but if you haven’t seen this, tolerate the few quite areas and check it out. It offers a access into the astounding reality of caves and early human presence therein.

      1. This is wonderful, Richard. Filled with mystery and wonder. That’s how my cave feels sometimes. It’s an awesome experience. Thank you. Jeanie

  5. Thank you, Jeanie. Wonderful quotes and connecting comments from you. I love that elephant breaking out of the cave. I feel the power of the cave in my worlds and the necessity for daily retreat for creative work, for silence, for inner connection, for watching my bluebirds feed their nestlings and the goldfinches devour grass seeds. My cave is visually wide open to the world, a house of windows without curtains except where people sleep, a place to watch and wonder, a place to dream and reflect. And have visitors.
    This serene beauty and quiet solitude can be a trap because even though I might write about the political situation or talk about it, I feel the need to enter it and be there as a witness the way the Quakers gave instruction at my first anti-war demonstration in 1967. Hearing loss and vertigo, plus Vic’s death push me more than ever into that cave of solitude. I’m comfortable and productive there (in terms of writing, creating workshops, submitting articles, and growing flowers and vegetables). The world calls me again as I write about witnessing and how essential it is for me to follow Kornfield’s advice. And also this beautiful quote: “The world is only as fair as you can make it. Takes a lot of fight. A lot of fight. But if you stay in here, in your little cave, that’s one less fighter on the side of fair.” Libba Bray
    So much holding of the opposites to be done until that inner protective cave is with me to matter where my body needs to go.

    1. Thank you, Elaine, for your loving reflections. I love your last phrase: “holding the opposites until that inner protective cave is with me no matter where my body needs to go.” That’s what we’re really seeking when we explore our cave isn’t it? To be aware of the wonder and beauty that’s with us all the time? A noble goal and comforting thought. Jeanie

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