Do you have your best ideas in the shower? Have you ever grappled with a question all day only to wake up from a nap with a sudden answer? How about looking madly for something and the moment you give up you remember where you left it? What if your daydreams are like breadcrumbs on the path to your own genius, but you’re too busy to follow them…
W. H. Auden said our daydreams are meals at which images are eaten, “Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.” Indeed, how many images get served up daily on our imagination plates only to be left untasted?
A friend of mine recently went elderberry picking with a wildcrafting mentor. She taught her that elderberries have powerful medicinal qualities, especially to fortify the immune system against the flues and colds which spread at the same time of year the berries ripen. Our land is abundant with plants that simply want to serve us, she explained, but we are abysmally unaware of their abilities.
This image stayed with me like a pebble in a sieve. It reminded me of our community, local and large, made up of humans whose gifts are overripening on the vine. This heartbreaking waste is the creation of a culture that tells us to get our heads out of the clouds. Unfortunately, that’s where the best ideas are plucked from.
“It takes a lot of time to be a genius,” wrote Gertrude Stein, “you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
About seven years ago, I got laid off from a fancy job with a record company. Overnight, I went from being a card-carrying executive to an unemployed bum. To my amazement, the same people who had praised me for the position I’d landed began to bombard me with judgments for “doing nothing.”
But it was within my own psyche that the real wrestle took place. For months I dreamt about being shoeless in the city. I had lost “my standing” in society. My identity was so wrapped up with workaholism that I was terrified of all the nothing stretching out before me.
Night after night, I tried to regain my footing. Sometimes I’d find one shoe and not the other. Other times I’d find a pair that was beautiful but impractical, sewn out of purple cabbage or covered in rhinestones. I’d go shopping at the dream-mall and find a sensible pair, but they were always too small.
Frustrated, I recounted my recurring dream problem to my best friend. She took one look at me and, (as best friends are wont to do), saw my ripening fruit on the vine. She said, “Maybe being barefoot and vulnerable is not your problem. Maybe you just need to be somewhere it’s safer to walk. Somewhere that encourages your soleful standpoint.”
After that, I never had another shoeless dream. Instead, I set about doing an enormous amount of nothing and voraciously daydreamed until the Dream School was birthed some nine months later. To bring something of authentic value, I had to resist my internalized culture that preferred me busy and “heeled.”
Instead of judging yourself for being dreamy and unproductive, why not set about some nothingness today. Let your mind wander off into the metaphorest. Notice the ideas that appear there like wild animals in the quiet. Follow your daydreams through until they yield some juicy fruit, and remember to taste them with a touch of relish.