words and images by mk swanson
Better Living Through Alchemy

Better Living Through Alchemy

I had a dream in which, instead of renting a house or staying in a hotel, I was painting a house all white on the inside. The house is mine in the dream, and even though it’s small and the yard is tiny, I feel happy. When I woke up, I wondered why I was painting it white–that seemed boring.

Before going to bed, I was reading Robert Bosnak’s A LIttle Course in Dreams, just enjoying a book I’ve read several times before. In it, he talks about the stages of alchemy: the nigredo, or blackening, associated with darkness, chaos and rot; the albedo, or whitening, associated with silver, purification and the moon; and the rubedo, or reddening, associated with the sun and flowering.

It occurred to me that maybe the dream is telling me that my nigredo is over. Perhaps I’m purifying my house, like I did with my real life house to get rid of the smoke-yellowed paint. Perhaps I’m gessoing my new creative house, making the canvas ready for the next phase of work.


  1. Weird. Not the dream, but the coincidence. On my return journey from Sarasota, I heard a Scandinavian "food designer" talking about how, since white is the color of mourning in many cultures, she made a mourning meal of all white foods–and found that, 1) white foods complement each other in taste, and, 2) that they tend to be fairly mild flavored, and comforting.

    If your whitened dream house has a kitchen, open the refrigerator and see what's there!

  2. Tabitha, thanks for your idea! It has added to the alchemy. I continue my research into dark and light. Last night, I was being pursued by two dogs, one pale and one dark.

  3. Okay. The Google Editor nixed my comment. But it was important enough (to me, at any rate), that I'm going to post it again and hope it gets by the censors!


    This is in response to your comment on the recent Slippers "Six Impossible Things" post.

    It's so weird. When I started Slippers, I imagined that the tags would read, Tarot, Yoga, Meditation, Dowsing, Nature, Dreams, Guidance . . .

    But instead, they are so much more vague and pedestrian. And I don't go directly to the types of magic I actually use. Well, sometimes, but so much more rarely–and more hesitantly–than I'd imagined I would.

    That's one of the (gazillion!) reasons I value our friendship–and your presence on the blogosphere. You're willing to go straight for things that I want to hear about with no qualifications, no softening of the edges.

    I loved that you listed your own personal magics on the Slippers post about gratitude. That list warmed and moved me. I just don't know how to write about that stuff yet.

    But I'm getting a little closer. There were, after all, the bees.

    I love you.
    jme/catel (Little cats? Herd-able cats?)

  4. First, "catel" are clearly impossible (herdable cats would be a contradiction so great that the world fabric would disintegrate), so that dovetails beautifully with your topic. Second, but not secondarily, thanks for noticing that I am revealing more of my secret nature than I used to. I don't know where I am headed with all this self-revelation and self-improvement–I still feel very afraid–but I think it's good.

  5. Some wise(ass) person suggested people do one thing that scares us every day.

    I think I'm pretty much keeping pace with that–if parking garages and roofs count.

    jme/calat (the Cadillac of cats?)

  6. Hi Mary Kay,
    I just got up from reading chapter two of "The Places That Scare You" by American Buddhist monk Pema Chodron ( my daughter loves her and I've also heard Anna mention her writings.)

    I've read you blog and find myself feeling unentitled to to be privy to such deep and well articulated thoughts. My own only result in nausea, sleepness nights, and a few unexpected outburst to unsuspecting family members, or even worse, coworkers.

    So, I stop at 4 feet and don't go into the deep end of the pool.

    Back to the Buddhism thing, I read to page 19 and the last sentence is as follows: " In Buddha's opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives."

    I immediately thought of you.

  7. Susan, I have reread your beautiful comment every day, twice a day.
    This process is splendid, except when I feel sick with fear. I wonder what the word for that would be–spirituacrophobia?

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