Where Are You Hanging Out These Days?

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Deep Dark Forest 200x133Where are you hanging out these days? Are you holed up in a castle or a fortress, up high on a cliff? Or are you lost in a deep, dark forest? All at sea perhaps? Or maybe it’s a desert where you are?

Chances are that, immediately upon reading those questions, you realized that I was speaking in symbolic language; and you knew exactly what I meant by it. The concepts of a castle or a fortress, a forest, sea or desert may have had strong associations for you, and for many of us, they represent a particular state of mind.  Indeed, as our art and literature demonstrates, human beings have had those same associations throughout history. They are universal, and timeless. That is the power of archetype. Meaning is understood, in a word. And the meaning is clear. You don’t need a lot of adjectives. Over the past month, I have enjoyed two wonderful, but very different performances, both of which demonstrated that power.

The first was a performance by a great Canadian icon, Gordon Lightfoot, who sang one of his classics, an old favourite of mine, If You Could Read My Mind.   Here the songwriter has used very powerful images that suggest, in a word, a particular state of mind:

If you could read my mind, loveCastle 300x200 200x133
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie
'Bout a ghost from a wishin' well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I'm a ghost that you can't see

Also this month, I saw the movie Snow White and The Huntsman, in which the setting and landscape - the castle, the deep dark forest, the beautiful green meadow - are as much a star of the movie as were the actors:. In fairy tales, just as it is in our dreams, aspects of the landscape suggest a great deal about the character’s own emotional state. So much of the story is suggested by the landscape, in fact, that it often makes dialogue unnecessary.  If you see this movie, you will know exactly what I mean.

Chained Hands 200x300

So, do you have a favourite fairy tale, one that has a special resonance for you? If you were to tell your own story, what symbols would you use? In what sort of landscape would the story take place? What is the treasure to be found in the shadows? What is it that casts those shadows? What are the chains that bind you? And what would it take to set you free?  Tell that story. You don’t have to share it with others. Write it for yourself. 

And if you need it, I’m here to help.