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Not fully awake nor fully asleep, I made myself come to full consciousness. It was late, the sun spun lights upon the polished hardwood floor of my bedroom. Outside my window, parents kept up with their kids to the elementary school in the next block, with toddlers plodding along next to their strollers, with dogs yapping at their heels. Yet, the makings of a significant dream were being dissembled the more I tried to make sense of it. Left only with the impression of a frothy cathedral, its gothic arches lost in the clouds, I put it aside, took my medication, and prepared for the day.

Later, it occurred to me that upon awakening other mornings, I had glimpsed other medieval cathedrals, but no stories to accompany them. Only that I was alone and hushed by the beauty, that silence spoke eloquently of Presence, that centuries of prayer molded the wooden kneelers placed in front of the marble altar. Questions flooded me. I yearned for an interpreter to open up the historical significance of where I was and why I was there, but none occurred in the dream.

As a younger woman, travel to European medieval cathedrals certainly fed my psyche with their soaring spaciousness and my time, there, spent in prayer. And yesterday’s YouTube study of the German Holbein father and son, religious artists of cathedrals, saddened me; reformers of Martin Luther destroyed their renderings with knives, hatchets—whatever they could lay hands on. Such images were forbidden in religious settings. Such impressions certainly provide dream material, at any time.

So, what do I make of this series of frothy—the specific word given by the Dreamer—to describe these medieval cathedrals? Perhaps the spirituality implied by such historical landmarks is unsubstantial: Here in this moment; then pop, it’s gone? That my greater need is to rely upon God’s plan for my purification than upon my own practices? That I really don’t know what any of this is about?

So, I begin and end with questions …

There is gratitude, and then there is “wondrous gratitude,” a phrase taken from Step XI’s Recipe for Recovery (2015). There is gratitude from habit, and there is gratitude from attention. There is gratitude from the head, and there is gratitude from the heart.

Happy the individual who experiences even a smidgen of gratitude, either given or received. It does make a difference: the dark curtain of negativity parts ever so slightly, evoking smiles that whisper, that chirp, that crinkle otherwise dour jaws. Living with ourselves and others becomes freer from tension, opens worlds of giggles.

For those engaged in psychic cleansing through practicing the Twelve Steps of AA, however, gratitude takes on new dimensions, colors the ordinary with turn-around looks, and tickles belly laughter, at times requiring Kleenex, for tears. In my perception, experiencing “wondrous gratitude” floods the psyche with wordless unconditional love that sings and blows pink soap bubbles that meander, then pop with surprise.

To wrap words around “wondrous gratitude” is one thing, but quite another, to experience it; years of hospice abound with them: the stillness of contemplation, the next right word at my word processor, forgiveness of self and others, guidance through meaningful dreams, savory suppers of Shepherd’s Pie when hungry and other foods, my weekly helper whose expertise leaves her sparkle and willingness upon everything in my home, the next right book, the daily CPA Zoom member response that untangles my self-made knots, my CPA sponsor whose courage demonstrates stellar recovery and challenges me to work harder, the items on my gratitude list at the end of the day, and so much more—all evidence a Higher Power responding to my willingness to learn and change.  

The key to this attitude is unflappable “conscious contact” with Higher Power. His inspiring company leaves me “wondrously grateful”—a foretaste of eternal life.

Colorful butterflies in lavender field.

At 7:10 A. M., I awoke with this dream of laughter:

I have joined a small mixed group of retreatants for a weekend of prayer and meditation in the forest, the sounds of the river, nearby, humming with frogs, insects, and badgers. One of the women cannot contain her laughter most of the time we are together; at any moment her blue eyes giggle, her toothy grin sets off anyone near her, even the director. It is now Sunday evening and the time for departure has come. No one wants to leave here.

In the dream the small mixed group of retreatants recalls my annual Gloucester retreat; though silent, its camaraderie warmed everyone’s spirits, with our sinfulness dissolved in recognition of our foolishness and lightened by tears and laughter.

The forest, the dream’s setting, suggests an unknown place filled with challenges that scour the insides of honesty. Change is demanded. No one frequents such a place without being forewarned of its dangers. And the river is critical for deep psychic cleansing.

One of the women sets the tone for this retreat, like none I’ve ever attended. Her perspective on life differs from those around her, and from her depths emanates an authority supporting her sense of humor and inviting participation. So compelling her range of light-some sounds that no one can long resist. Initial hesitancy crumbles like week-old cake with discolored icing. Hearts, long moth-balled in dank attics, expand and dress in the new clothing of relationships. What was a prickly group has become a community with meaningful ties, ribboned with colorful laughter of many tones. No one wants to leave here.

My takeaway from this dream is to excavate my humor, long buried beneath the woes of transition work. I’m not the only human being ever to lose her body.

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