I’m going to be offline for a few days, going to the southwest Washington coast where the great Columbia River gathers together the energies of 260,000 square miles of North American continent and funnels them to a powerful meeting with the Pacific Ocean. One of my favorite spots at that nexus is Cape Disappointment, pictured to the right, and certainly an all-time great destination name for setting reasonable travel expectations. I’m looking forward to the trip but…disappointment is OK too.
As I’ve alluded to here and there, water has been a growing presence in my awareness these past few weeks. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the impulse to define and clarify the Soul Cartography work, which I wrote about just the other day. “Clarifying” means, at this point, doing some reading in psychology (“soul” = “psyche”) and various aspects of map-making (the “cartography” component). Each of these words points to elusive realities in different ways; the result is something of a kaleidoscope of shifting dimensions, sort of like the churn of the wave action at the base of a rocky cliff.
The depth psychology I’m reading (C.G. Jung and James Hillman) appeals to me because it doesn’t seek to minimize or explain too precisely the mysterious workings of human inner life. It’s a juicy embrace of aliveness without apologies or reductionism, and that’s just perfect. A few principles are emerging: much of what’s happening inside us is unknown and unknowable; there is a deep connection to half-understood purpose that leads us toward our path; the way to health and wellness is to bring our conscious mind and will into alignment with that shadowy path and walk it with with openness and trust. There’s a lot more to it than that, I’m sure – we’ll see what else emerges. I’m finding it’s reading that needs to be done with one eye outward and one eye inward.
And then there’s map-making, and what that has to teach us about our journey toward self-understanding. In a way this is a field that is even more mysterious and elusive than psychology, but what is abundantly clear is that making visual representations of any kind, certainly including maps of the physical world, is a highly imaginative, value-laden exercise in revealing one’s assumptions and ways of thinking. I’m reading Jerry Brotton’s excellent History of the World in 12 Maps, which looks at how maps of the physical world are always manifestations of ideology and world views much more than they are representations of “how things really are out there.” How much more so the exercises I’m leading, diagramming the patterns and flows of one’s life story!
So the task of exploring the undiscovered territory of the psyche using the tools of spatial representation – there are some challenges there! Having gone through the process myself, and witnessed others doing the same, uncovering important truths and gaining in self-awareness, I’m confident in the approach and the core Soul Cartography exercises. But I’m gaining a greater respect, more humility, and a stronger desire to keep looking for the right ways to share and lead them.
I’m going to let it all go for a few days and bring my attention to the rushing waters of the Toutle and Cowlitz, the awesome inexorable power of the Columbia, mother Ocean waiting to receive her, and the countless eddies and tides, waves and ripples that are everywhere at work. Like us these waters have hidden depths only partially revealed. As with us, they can be approximated in charts and maps, enough so that they can be navigated, and in some small degree understood. And beyond any understanding they continue to flow, as do we all.
And since I seem to be pointing to books lately, here’s a good one that is helping me reflect upon and experience the many manifestations of water with greater awareness: How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley. One of many excellent books by this fine observer of the ways of nature.
Drawing the unseen is no easy matter.