I dream about foxes living on my property—a silver fox and a red fox. In the dream, I do not see them, but I know that they are there—mysterious presences that come through the woods and occasionally make themselves known. In the waking world, I have seen the red fox. Once, in the dead of winter, I looked out my dining room window and saw it walking on the surface of our frozen pond. The contrast of color was startling—its bushy rust colored coat framed by the white and gray tones of the ice-covered pond and the deep verdant green of the pines trees on the shore. It was not until after the fox had disappeared into the trees that I realized I had been holding my breath. The impact of its visit gripped me deeply and allowed me to feel a sense of connection with the land upon which I live. These moments of connection are rare and precious. They enable me to move out of my head and feel an ancient and profound link to the natural world from which we are all born.
According to Jung, as a civilization we have all but lost this primal connection to nature, much to our detriment. As he remarked, “in the last analysis, most of our difficulties come from losing contact with the instincts, the age-old forgotten wisdom stored up in us.” He believed that “the earth has a soul,” and warned against the tendency of consciousness to move too far from its roots in nature.
In his own life, Jung spent a great deal of time and energy immersed in the natural world. He would sit and play at the water’s edge, carving streams and tributaries as a way to bring respite from the matters of the day. He constructed his tower at Bolingen so that he could be alone with the quiet and solace of nature. Existing without running water or electricity, he would commune with the spirits of the place, carve images in stone, and take long walks throughout the region.
While it seems at times difficult to imagine—living as we do in a world in which the Goddess, nature, and the earth, are treated so poorly—“the old mother of days,” as Jung sometimes called her, still exists within the unconscious. The deep wisdom of nature is available to us all through dreams, for example. Here, in the many layers of the psyche, we can encounter her healing medicine. Even if we live outwardly in a world devoid of natural life—city-dwellers, perhaps—we can find sources of connection within the living psyche.
Every dream is, in fact, an encounter with nature and an attempt to bring our personalities into greater alignment with the authentic life of the soul. We are constantly bombarded by messages about who we should be. In much the same way as time spent in nature can help restore a sense of perspective and allow us to fee more whole, so can dreams refund us to an experience of what is right and true for our lives.
As Jung said:
Whenever we touch nature we get clean…People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods or bathe in the sea. They may rationalize it in this or that way, but they shake off the fetters and allow nature to touch them. It can be done within or without. Walking in the woods, lying in the grass, taking a bath in the sea, are from the outside; entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.
To really attune to the wisdom of the dreaming mind we need to slow down and listen deeply. Nature will speak to us if we allow her a voice. Paying attention to our dreams requires a turning inwards—toward ourselves and our inner landscape—staying alert for whatever inklings we may find there.