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This story is about a recurring dream a widowed friend of mine has struggled with.

The Empty Well

The lofty walls of a large well loom about and above me as my spirit unfolds into dream.
Smooth as marble, they disappear into desolate darkness above, where ebon clouds enshroud the sky.
Icy wind benumbs my face
and the night is too black for me
to see the cold, rocky soil underfoot
that drains the life from my legs.

The cold wind cries out as I shiver,
turning my gaze upward as it rolls the clouds aside
to reveal the polestar overhead, shining brightly
over a moonless sky from the summit of the heavens.

Silver starlight frames the threshold of the well against the sky; its wide aperture a symbol for the void inside my heart. Yet within my soul the starlight shines more brightly than without,
and imparts an understanding that arises like the dawn: that I have come to a still point on the axis of a world midway between life and death.
A frozen place where pleasure and pain are made dull,
this is a silent place where time passes not.
And I know I am here to mourn for my husband,
who walks no more among the living.

Yet if sorrow has brought me to this cheerless place,
then surely love will hold me here forever,
for it’s love alone that binds my heart
to sorrow and to pain,
yet a love that knows all joy
and lives forever in my heart,
so that if the choice were offered me
to waive the days left still ahead
and hold my lover in my arms;
to tell him once more of my love,
or hear him say he loves me still,
then gladly would I lay them down
and give them all with grateful heart.

Instead I remain, imprisoned in a cavernous emptiness
that pervades as it surrounds me.
Fervently I yearn for any affirmation of life,
but to wish for blessing in this place is to hope
that the heart’s desires might soar without wings.
Still I long for the light of the star far above
to warm and brighten this barren well,
though the distance that divides us
stands before me like a dark decree of unending exile,
forbidding all companionship and comfort.
My heart cries out with longing to escape these hopeless depths, but the bitter wind replies with cries of misery alone.

The starlight falters with her call
as a chill penetrates my body
with the sharpness of a sword's edge,
deepening my desolation and magnifying my sorrow
with solitude’s silent despair.

My left hand finds its way to my breast
and its touch awakens the words of a prayer from my heart. Taking wing like a bird uncaged,
they soar willfully into a dark and dismal sky,
as if striving to attain the gates of Heaven by their strength. And though they come forth of their own accord yet I know these words bear faithful witness
to the yearning in my heart.

"Most High Lord, You are ever my true shield,
but the anguish of bereavement
persists like an open wound in my heart;
and in truth, my strength is all Your own,
but my soul grows faint with weakness
in the face of a sorrow that assails without cease.

“Beautiful Savior, I beseech You
to endow my heart once more with gladness
and fill my mouth with songs of praise,
for only by Your goodness
does all praise of goodness come.

"Spirit of Wisdom and limitless Love,
Yours is the breath of all that lives;
and Yours, the only light
that can redeem me from this darkness.
Thus, wanting hope yet with my all,
Yours is the holy light I seek.
Yet all my seeking were in vain,
except Your goodness fill my cup;
and were I filled by aught but You,
then empty I were better left.

"But now death’s pain is less to me
than the affliction of my heart.
So if what I ask can never be,
and joy will fill my heart no more,
then I beg You, take my breath as well,
and grant me passage from this world.
For what is all this love I bear,
but Your most precious gift to me?
Yet how will Love sustain my life,
if pain shall wrest my heart away?”
The cold air carries my cries,
rebounding softly from impenetrable walls,
to the top of the well and into the empty sky beyond.

As if the wind had lost her voice,
a somber silence then descends,
and though I seek the merest ray,
no light appears to guide my way.

But at length a small seed emerges
from a deep place in my heart.
It moves quickly upward through the layers of my body
to assert itself into my hand.
It is warm to the touch and its color is gold.
It has two faces, like a coin;
it is a marvel in my sight.

As I examine one side,
my breath quickens in surprise
as I see the contours of my own sleeping face;
but as I turn the seed about,
its other side begins to glow
and brings to bear my husband’s face.
His eyes look deeply into mine
as my heart soars with wonder beyond words.

He smiles at me with love uppermost
as I stare at his face in amazement,
for it is as if I saw my cherished one fully
for only the first time, and he me.
My own reflection shines
with such radiance in his eyes
that I recognize myself but scarcely;
yet all I see was always there,
within his heart, and in my own.

Now from his heart, and through his eyes
pure love like water pours
into my eyes, and fills my heart;
and now the understanding comes
that the seed that came from deep within,
though neither light nor dark,
life nor death, self nor other,
yet holds all these within itself.
These pairs comprise its warp and weft,
yet more than these it holds as well,
for in its depths, I do perceive
a light far brighter than the sun,
shining through a living doorway,
pouring grace that knows no bounds
into the field of space and time.

The doors of my soul fly open
and love pours from my heart in great torrents of joy.
But as the flower of new hope flourishes in my heart
the seed grows dark and cold, dying in my hand.

Never have I dreamt of suffering so dire
as the crippling pain that strikes me in this moment.
Distress drives me to my knees
and I put forth a hand to stay my fall,
dropping the seed as my eyes fill with tears
that pour out upon the ground.

Now is my energy spent utterly
by the long journey of my life.
My husband’s body in the earth
effects a weight within my heart
that pulls me down so as to join him forever.
The last of my strength spills away
in tears I cannot hope to stanch.

Each breath brings a stabbing pain
as the walls encircle me with a punishing pressure
that pushes me ever deeper into a dark void of utter oblivion. Unable to stand, I surrender my spirit
in the face of a darkness that grows ever darker.

Yet as the darkness grows complete,
a doorway shines before my eyes;
before its brilliance, darkness flees.

My heart pants with a great thirst to cross its threshold, but too great is the dread that wells up also within me, forbidding that I should draw near.
But the dark pressure impels me forward nonetheless,
and I tremble with helplessness and dread
as I approach the terrible, majestic doorway.

Yet while its border is yet before me,
a song of surpassing beauty reaches my ears;
but whether it is the song of angels
or my own dream within another, I cannot say;
and whether it arises from without or within, I know not. But never knew I anything, if not its vivid beauty; for it compasses me round about, yet pierces my heart from within; and like a sharp, two-edged sword, it carries joy and pain at once. From my lips it draws a cry, to witness what is good and true.

In the body of the song I discern these words,
though they reflect its fullness only faintly,
like waves that dance fleeting on the surface of an infinite, fathomless sea:

“Dear woman, greatly beloved,
Fear not, neither despair,
for all that is seen passes away,
yet the Unseen that sustains all perishes not.

“For this reason, joy is born from sorrow’s shell,
and by its presence, empty hearts are filled to overflowing. By its power, those who walk through the dark valley of death’s shadow will be dressed in the radiant glory that is the birthright of all whose Love is true.

“In every broken heart there dwells
a pure wellspring of endless love.
From silent depths that lie within
comes forth a song of perfect praise
where hope and faith cannot be heard;
for these and every perfect gift
are born by Love, and Love alone.

“Whence comes the morning dew,
but from the silent stillness of the night air?
Yet each new drop brings
the gift of life to the new day,
and no jewel surpasses its brilliance
as it daily sustains the flowers
in the fields of all the world.

“Though it soon disappears as it gives of itself,
yet transfigured it comes forth, every new day,
as its shimmering, fluid iridescence is reborn
in a vibrant rainbow of living beauty
spread abroad over all the earth.

"Yet far greater than these
are the tears that you shed,
for by Love alone they are distilled;
and far deeper, the emptiness whence they arise.
New life bears them witness wherever they fall
for the essence of Love is also their own.

"They shine with the bright light of Love in your heart, which is deep as the sea, and vast as the sky.
Within such a heart dwells the greatest of all,
who by reason of Love was poured out unto death.
From each broken heart he shines bright as the sun;
He is risen in You, each moment anew,
for all things are renewed, and made perfect, in Love.”

Resplendent light surrounds me
as I cross the threshold,
yet it pervades my soul as well, and I see that it issues from the silent depths of my own heart,
flowing like a river, it bears life beyond naming in its current. After a moment that reverberates
with eternity’s boundless breadth, I see that I am still in the well.

The wind now calls out with a loud rushing sound,
as the earth opens beneath me
and the soil at my feet moves
to embrace and envelop the fallen seed.
A thin, brilliant ray of light from the polestar fills the well and a vine grows from the ground where fell my tears.

The words of the song recede into the background
in the way of a wave that returns to the sea,
but its splendor grows and fills my heart with boundless hope, for its music is a praiseful witness to the energies that pour everywhere and endlessly
into the realm of space and time. Thus the song and the power it honors are one, yet how could it be otherwise?

My breath becomes quickened as my heart is overcome
by the movement of the Spirit that comes thus upon me.
For no less wondrous than the movement of the earth
or the splendor of the song is the concurrent stirring of my heart, as the unseen gardener whose hand tills the soil to prepare it for new life
is at once and by that very act churning and refining my own inmost being, and shaking my soul to its core.

Quickly upward grows the vine,
as two of its branches twine one about the other.
I am caught up on a branch and lifted by its growth,
and suddenly my body and the vine become as one.
Moving upward in a spiral path, I understand
that I am being carried through the days of my life,
and I see in the other branch the days of my husband’s life.

Swiftly I am borne to the threshold,
which I know represents the present moment in my life,
while beneath me lie days that have already passed.
They abide in the vine and thus live within me still;
I feel life coursing through them still, as vividly as though they were limbs of my body.

In the moment before the sun surmounts the horizon
as waves of hope overflow my heart,
a cry is pulled from my lips as I see,
gleaming in dawn’s light,
a slender thread as of gold, that arises from my heart
and spirals toward the star above all other stars,
apace with one like it from the vine’s other branch.

Poised at the threshold,
I know myself now to be rooted
in that which is the root of itself
as days gone by remain within me
and the path ahead turns my face upward with hope.
As I abide at the threshold,
the invisible timeless unfolds
from the wellspring of wordless depths
that dwells within my heart,
wherefrom all things arise,
and whereof life and death are but two faces.
Perfect peace pours over me,
and a quite assurance fills my heart.

The sun crests the horizon in the next moment
and its light fills earth and sky with the colors of the day, covering thread and star alike.
Though I see them no more, yet I know they endure,
and will guide me through days that remain still ahead.

And by the light of hope, that pervades as it surrounds me,
I perceive that only in dream did I truly awaken;
and only in weakness found power perfected;
only in affliction was I ever made whole,
for only in dying is life’s fullness to be found.

Yet to experience as my deepest being
the life that spires now from my heart
is like giving birth, and at once like being born.
It is a burst of lightning that brings daylight to darkness, and a thunderclap that fills the sky.

By this I awaken, trembling with life,
filled with the eternal moment,
everlasting yet forever new,
that moves on the sea like the crest of a wave
that knows neither end nor beginning of days,
the moment that men call Now.

Age & Gender & Location {Required}: 47, Nashville, TN, US

Have You Posted Before? Date of Last Post {Use Search and Your Post Name to Help Find Last Post} Male

Re: This story is about a recurring dream a widowed friend of mine has struggled with.

Pryzm,

Wow.

That was so beautiful. I need time to respond but I was touched, inspired, elevated, uplifted, so many truths about our delicate human condition

May

Age & Gender & Location {Required}: 35

Have You Posted Before? Date of Last Post {Use Search and Your Post Name to Help Find Last Post} Female

Thank you! and interpretation

Hi May,

I hope to be a writer one day and I am very glad you liked this story! I can't thank you enough for your kind words - your message made me beam for days!

I posted it here hoping that others would give me some guidance and constructive criticism that I could use to make the story better. So please do!

And when I posted it, I hadn't read the words on the DreamForum page about posting a follow-up interpretation, so here goes with that too!

My strategy was to use universal symbols that live deep within our souls, in the hope that it would help my friend Elaine to experience life again, instead of just trying to think about life's "meaning."

First of all, Elaine is a conservative Christian and I tried to honor her beliefs. And probably the most important feature in the dream is that Elaine is in a well and not an ordinary hole. I think there is a well within us all, and in some sense we are that well (that's why Elaine can't see the bottom in the story).

I tried to incorporate the Christian ideas that God is Love, and that Love makes all things new because I think her dream reveals a search for renewal. But I also tried to include the Eastern idea of the Void as part of the fullness of God, maybe exemplified by the Buddhist idea of the Sunyata (the void whence all things arise), as well as (possibly) the idea of Nirvana itself. I did that because I think the Unseen Source is with us in our emptiness no less than our fullness. And sometimes we need to empty ourselves completely to be filled.

I tried to work in the idea of the World Axis or World Navel, mentioned by Joseph Campbell (as the source of good, evil, life, death, etc.) as the central point from which all these pairs of opposites emerge, and the place where they are reconciled. In many mythologies the Tree of Life emerges from this point; I used a vine b/c of John 15.

I have a lot of agreement withCampbell's idea that every life is a hero's journey that ends in the death of the hero (= death of the ego) so that an authentic human being can emerge.

What else? Well, the seed that comes from her heart is symbolic of a deeper reality beyond the pairs of polar opposites that are the elements of "rational" ought, and is analogous to the Tao. But Taoism is certainly not the only tradition that emphasizes the existence and transforming power of an inner reality beyond those polar opposites; Jung also noted the progress we undergo in maturing as individuals by reconciling these opposites too. I think this is one of the fundamental principles of Analytical Psychology. Jung also mentions the spiral is also a symbol of individuation, and I tried to work that in with the vine as well.

Probably the most important idea I tried to work in is the Zen idea that to be fully alive is to experience life here and now without preconceptions. At first I wanted to get Elaine out of the well. But the well is the birthplace of everything, and since we are all born anew every moment I eventually realized that I couldn't remove her from that. So when she experiences fullness at the threshold of the well, she doesn't (need to) go beyond that point because that is the moment of wakefulness.

I am sorry to go on for so long! But I am sure there are forum members who know more about dreams and eastern mysticism than I do, and I hope some will be able to tell me if I could have imagined Elaine's dream in a more complete way.

Also, I've never written from the perspective of a woman either, so I'm particularly curious about whether anyone, esp. the women of the forum, could help me to do a better job with that too.

And thanks for reading this, I hope you are having a great day. And thank you again for making my heart soar!

Take care,
Pryzm
:-)

Age & Gender & Location {Required}: 47, Nashville, TN, US

Have You Posted Before? Date of Last Post {Use Search and Your Post Name to Help Find Last Post} Male

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