Thursday, December 27, 2012


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (12/27/2012)


Many years ago in an alternately different life as a clinical hypnoanalyst in West Los Angeles, a client who was barely able to walk was brought into my office, dragging her feet along the ground, supported by her husband and brother.  The presenting problem was her increasing paralysis.  In our second session, she told me about recurring dreams of water bugs and tarantulas dominating and ruining her life, such as water bugs overwhelming her apartment and a tarantula completely filling a room.


As we explored her dreams, we talked about how she could change them if she wished.  After settling on a strategy, she dreamt them again in hypnosis, transforming the dreams by sweeping out the water bugs and deflating the tarantulas.  Later, quite to her surprise, she told her older brother and her husband to “buzz off” after which she began walking normally, even driving, and becoming a docent at the Getty Museum.  She showed me pictures of her older brother with a black beard and black clothing. He resembled a water bug.  Her husband while not the color of a tarantula suffered a hirsute similarity. 


Dreams are often night letters we send to ourselves from our unconscious process to be read in the morning, almost always cast in symbols.  Although the idea of the unconscious process in human beings is popularly identified with Sigmund Freud, it goes back a lot of earlier.  Saint Paul mentions spiritual experiences “too deep for words” (Rom. 8.26.)  A proper reading of the story of Adam and Eve is that this wasn’t an historical account, but rather a metaphorical account about the conflict between the conscious and the unconscious in all of us.  The word “adham” in Hebrew is not a name but a noun meaning “everyman” or "mankind."


While the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Schelling coined the phrase, earlier Shakespeare in Hamlet told a tale of unconscious and conscious conflicts.  “To sleep, perhaps to dream— / ay, there’s the rub.”  In Macbeth, Banquo after his encounter with the three witches says, “A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, / And yet I would not sleep.  Merciful powers, / Restrain in me the ursed thoughts that nature / Gives way to in repose” (II, 1.)


As Plato made clear in the Allegory of the Cave, there’s a difference between appearance and reality which is precisely where the unconscious and gardening coalesce.  The reason that New Year’s resolutions so often fail is that they are made consciously, people thinking they ought to make the resolution.  It’s an appearance of consciousness, not the reality of the unconscious.


Another client for years made resolutions to stop smoking and failed to stop.  Only after a dream in which she saw herself covered with the slime and dirt of tobacco did she successfully stop.  Disgusted with herself for befouling herself, she stopped. 


The unconscious process of gardening is in the soil, not in the plants.  For most people, gardening is in seeds, plants, fertilizing, and watering.  Actually, the heart of gardening is in the soil because without soil everything else is for nought.  The first thing in creating good soil is in the right mixture of clay, sand, and silt.  In the high country we have very little silt.  Most of it has slid down to Oak Creek, the Verde River, and the Valley of the Sun; however, we have excellent sand called volcanic or lava sand and clay.  Mixed together with the addition of compost we have a great soil because the volcanic sand is jammed with nutrients which will be released by the mycorrhizae in the compost.  Clay stabilizes the retention of water.


Tightly packed, too much clay inhibits the growth of roots.  Clay when fired becomes pottery.  Sand allows for root growth, but the water flows right through it.  Mixing the two gives a great basis for excellent soil, and happily both are abundant in the high country.  The next thing is organic material and compost.  Once added, your soil’s unconscious process will be “rarin’ to go.”  Two New Years’ Resolutions: pay attention to your dreams and bury your kitchen clippings in the garden.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera.  Smith emails at and blogs at





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