On Shadows, both real and even more real.

Whatever old gunky stuff clogging up my lungs, infecting my body’s arsenal of “what is no longer needed,” seems to have been mostly purged yesterday — we’ll see! Don’t get cocky, Ann!

Yesterday’s purge came one day after I had cleaned the bathroom, in anticipation of Katarina moving in.

First I show you the empty drawers with the pile that they held. Ye gods, says my inner “Mom,” how could you show the world your shadow side? She wouldn’t use the word “shadow,” but I would. She’d say these two pictures are “unseemly,” or “ugly” — anathema to a Libra — and I, one of two Sagittarians in our large family, would simply call them “honest,” “truthful.”

Actually, to be really honest and truthful, I’d say that she wouldn’t give a hoot about how I, or my “belongings” appear to others, now that dementia has claimed her. She and I have fun now that her own need to appear a certain way to others has just about vanished. Well, not quite — but almost. And certainly, at this point, having to watch her every step so she won’t fall, she has very little interest in making sure that I’m towing the line.

bathroom drawers

Closer: yuck!

closer look bathroom

See the blond, oval-shaped thingie on the top left of the pile? That’s my Dad’s hairbrush, the only thing of his that I kept — though I don’t use it, my hair being in the “bed head” style that I affected at least, what? 15 years ago? No brush! No comb! Just wash, towel, shake, and go! This, after a lifetime of combing long thick blond tresses that I totally identified with as my Best Feature.

I'm on the left. We always lined up "in order."

I’m on the left. We always lined up “in order.”

Notice, in the above photo, that I have buck teeth! Usually I didn’t smile, so they wouldn’t show. By the time I was in third grade I started to ride the bus to Boise to visit the orthodontist, by myself! I begged to be able to go by myself, after having been escorted by an older girl the first time. Very exciting. I got to spend the whole day on my own, traveling, with no one looking over me. All I had to do, while walking free as a bird around tree-shaded Boise after my appointment and the lunch I ordered at the Owyhee Hotel, was to make sure that I kept the the hotel sign visible (a tall hotel, sign at top). Except for my horse, those Saturdays in Boise were my first taste of physical, mental and emotional freedom.

And . . . the fact that my doctor dad could afford to “fix” my buck teeth. . . how fortunate I was! And I knew it, even then. Very grateful that I wouldn’t be called “rabbit” anymore, once they had been sufficiently “braced.” As we know, kids can be cruel.

That childhood experience of shaming has colored my view of “plastic surgery” and other aids we use to “fix” our self-image for others. Not that I “believe in” plastic surgery, but I can’t condemn it outright. My own experience with other’s attitudes towards my less-than-perfect “blond, blue-eyed” self still sear memory.

Before I cut my hair off entirely, I affected a sort of bob for a few years. That was fun, but I still had to brush or comb it.

With my friend Laurie (she’s on right) at our tribal 50th birthday party, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Which reminds me of a story told about our Dear Old Dad, who left this world nearly two years ago at 96. It seems that about 24 hours before he began the active dying process (by finally agreeing to slip a tiny bit of morphine under his tongue — which relaxed him enough so that he could let go), he was standing at the sink the bathroom, busily and meticulously brushing his teeth and hair. My brother-in-law (and hospice nurse) Matt, just outside the bathroom’s open door, said he was amazed at how long Ben was taking, and finally said so, in his usual mild, humorous manner. He says Dad responded, curtly, “Why, what’s your problem. You in a hurry?” And kept going for a few more minutes.

I still laugh at this story.

So I have that hairbrush, which I don’t use, but it still sits in one of my bathroom drawers, having survived the ruthless winnowing process of two days ago. Basically, I made two piles out of the one you see, one for “first aid” the other for “alternative healing.” And let the rest go. Those drawers slide easily open and closed now.

So where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to give you an update for today, a day when puppy Shadow and I headed into the woods of InDiana, above Griffy Lake. Shadow’s name of course, is very meaningful; he dogs me like my own shadow does, to the point where i sometimes trip over him; his hairy muscled body and faintly bad breath gunk me up sometimes, just like my own shadow does, gunking up both the bathroom and my own body.

Here he is, barely visible, like shadows normally are. Check for the bit of blue, center left, that’s his leash. Follow it to the left end of the log, where Shadow is in shadow.

shadow in shadow of log

See him? I admit, I can barely see him, I just know he’s there. Kind of like my own shadow. Most people don’t see it, unless I show them, but for me, it looms large.

For you, here’s Shadow, alert and illuminated, a bit further along the trail.

shadow in light

How’s this, for truth? C.G. Jung:

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

I’ve been talking about the shadow as projected into the body, or the environment; Jung puts his finger on the spiritual/mental/emotional shadows that accompany them, and are perhaps their source. As the Buddha says, what we hate and what we love (read: “are attached to), both aversion and desire, are the sources of suffering.

I like to think I’m as detached as the Buddha apparently was, but whenever I take an (always cocky) “selfie” of my 71-year-old face, all the flaws and and crone hairs on chin and flabby wrinkled skin and strange look in eye, and messy hair, ete. etc., just about do me in. So, obviously, that Libra Mom of mine, my memories of her in her prime, have still got me. My Shadow, lives, and not just in the form of a little dog with hair the same color as my own short, faded, bed head bob.


Gross. Gross. Gross!

Oh well!

This morning, talking with new housemate Katarina on the screened porch as she ate her breakfast, she told me about black cohosh, it’s use as an aid for making transitions, both in the birthing process and in menopause. Her teacher speculates that perhaps black cohosh can also help ease the dying process as well. Hmmm.

Interesting tidbit! I will file it away.

Meanwhile, even though I no longer have a fever, I feel like this log, kind of weak, and certainly bent over, low to the ground.

old, sagging into ground

BTW: tell me, what is held in shadow more thoroughly, than our own personal death? Hopefully, we can bring that collective fear of all fears, the one that just about everybody wants to hide and pretend is not real — please, not real, or maybe real for others, but not for me! — into the light of day. For once we do, the world will change.

“Death is psychologically as important as birth, and like it, is an integral part of life. … As a doctor, I make every effort to strengthen the belief in immortality, especially with older patients when such questions come threateningly close. For, seen in correct psychological perspective, death is not an end but a goal, and life’s inclination towards death begins as soon as the meridian is passed.” — C.G.Jung

About Ann Kreilkamp

PhD Philosophy, 1972. Rogue philosopher ever since.
This entry was posted in 2014, conscious dying, conscious grieving, elder wisdom, zone zero zero. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to On Shadows, both real and even more real.

  1. Dear Ann,
    I’m thrilled to see your drawers flung open and expunged! I have those very same drawers and I’m a Virgo. I have availed myself of your website for some years and feel like I know you as a friend. Your site is one of three that I check in with daily – maybe more than once.

    I don’t watch tv or buy into mainstream media but I do search for and find news that gives me hope for the planet as I watch awareness blossom in unexpected places. Thank you for all that you do. Having recently completed and self-published a book, I can appreciate the hard work you put into Exopermaculture. You inspire me!

    I’m a life-long gardener, artist and novice author. My spiritual side is strong and I am wide open to all that is. Right now I’m waiting for the butter beans I just blanched to cool enough to put up so I had better finish this letter but, thank you dear Ann for your efforts. They are working. You are an inspiration to so many and as for that “selfie” that you ditched so much…just look at yourself! Look at all the light! You are lit up from the inside out! Silly talk of gross, gross, gross. We all know better.

    I love you.

    • Hey Rosemary! Thanks for the thumbs up! I did need to show this “attachment” of mine to having a photo that doesn’t look the way I actually look! Obviously, a disjunction between inside and outside. Glad you liked the drawers. Did you see the refrigerator?


      Especially glad you chose this post to respond, as you’re the first one who did, and I wondered if this time I “JUST WENT TOO FAR!” That everybody who reads me, when you get down to it, is my Libra mom. Oooooo — and you a Virgo with drawers like mine? On the other hand, Virgo and Pisces often interchange. Some Pisces act like Virgo and vice versa. More than any other opposite signs, they just can’t seem to keep their borders . . . no matter how much Virgo wants to, Pisces wins.

  2. bumpercrop says:

    So glad you are recovering from the new moon fever.
    I am a Pisces-Aries cusp, with ascendant in Sagittarius, and moon in Scorpio. I have always been drawn to understand the shadow. It makes sense to me to be as aware as humanly possible of my own weaknesses and projections. I find the more I am willing to observe the fears and anxieties within myself, the more free I am to return to a peaceful and balanced state, while being very aware of a given situation. I came very close to death at one point in my life, and believe it or not, it was a healing episode. This past weekend I went swimming in a sink, at night, with light only from the super new moon. Sinks go straight down a steep declining hill, and the cold water itself has no place to find grounding. I was thinking of deep bottomless, cold water as the shadow. I have read that drowning is a big fear for most of us.
    The ego shadow serves the purpose of the survival instinct, for keeping oneself intact, beyond that, the unexamined ego shadow can cause unecessary pain and separation. The key word being unecessary pain .Therein lies the irony..
    . It does take work, and courage to be introspective and observe my own ego at work, and often painful. But it is so liberating as well..
    I think you are beautiful Ann. I agree with Rosemary. There are many blogs online to grab our attention. But you take the zeitgeist and interpret the information in personal creative ways. Never pollyanish, implementing the Sagittarian honest, and earnest frame of mind, yet, optimistic, using humor and a basic belief in the inherent good of this odd,local, peculiar neighborhood of Earth..
    Thanks for sharing your pictures and very human stories with us. What a heroic dad you had, complete with the gallows humor, I think his hair brush serves as a reminder of his courage in facing the ultimate shadow, fear of death.

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