For June you'll be reading through the first-ever anthology in the growing field of terrapsychology, the study of our deep (and mostly unconscious) relations with the places where we live and work, the creatures and things within these places, and even Earth as a whole.
In the field's first book, my Terrapsychology: Reengaging the Soul of Place, I did my best to offer graduate-level readers a basic schema for examing the psychic presences of particular places. What myths are alive there? What parallels can you find between historic events and personal ones? How might the place be showing up at night as a dream figure? After that book I wrote the Animate California Trilogy to develop a psychocartography of California place by place.
For me, the excitement about Rebearths is that we get to read accounts other than mine, written by people who each do terrapsychological work in their own way. Nor do we stick just to places: matter, elements, and even houses show up as writers focus on how all these and other worldly presences show up deep within us as well as outside and around us.
If you were to attempt all of Rebearths in four weeks, you would have to read seven chapters a day, beginning with my Introduction to the book. That is doable, but if I were reading the book, I would start with the Introduction but then skip around to whatever chapters looked interesting. They are arranged by the following realms of human/more-than-human experience: Elements (from dirt to storms to dewdrops), Places (Flint, San Francisco, Hawai'i, others), Bodies (including our imaginal dream bodies), Things (including stones, uranium, and Bonnie's chapter on Colony Collapse Disorder), Methods (the technical / academic stuff), and Ethicks, which challenges us to think differently about our responsibilities to the world.
However you decide to read, here are a few questions to get going with:
- Read the Introduction and then think about where you came from: the name of the place (look up the etymology), its dominant imagery and recurring motifs. See any parallels? To know where you were born and "why" thematically is to begin to understand your wider story of how to be in the world.
- What objects follow you around? Not just precious ones, but ones that you can't seem to get rid of. If you thought about it from the object's perspective, what might it get out of being near you, not just as symbolic of some part of you, but perhaps you as helpful for whatever individuation objects might enjoy? (See the film The Red Violin for an example of an object's long path homeward to the person who can really hear its soul.)
- Why are our cities so often ugly? What does building this way say to Aphrodite--and what can she tell us about why the world is beautiful, inviting us into deeper participation with it?
- Whether you've left the place of your birth or are still living there, how might that movement parallel the travels (or rootings) of your ancestors? (Hint: I am descended from Clan Murdoch of Galloway, a place that occupies roughly the same part of Scotland that California does North America. Going further back, ancestral maps revealing the passage of ancestors from Africa fifty thousand years ago northward through past the Caucasus through the Middle East toward Spain trace out a giant question mark. Maybe the question is, "Where do we go from here?")
- If you think of your home as a psychic structure--its facade a persona, its most-used room its ego, its attic or roof its superego, its unconscious either in the basement or out back in the yard--how would you analyze it? What shape is your back yard in? What sits above your head in the attic or on the roof?
- Big question: What if it were possible to interpret natural events like storms, earthquakes, etc. as dream images? Is it possible that Earth and the unconscious speak the same symbolic language?
Have fun starting! Will be back soon to respond to comments and questions.