Mining the Jungian
Edwina Peterson Cross
THIRD ROAD TWO ROADS DIVERGED IN THE WOOD, AND I, I TOOK THE THIRD,
THE ONE THAT
WASN'T THERE AT ALL
. . . AND THAT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
Edwina Peterson Cross
I have had deep, paralyzing claustrophobia
as long as I can remember. Even the thought of a small, narrow space
is enough to start my heart hammering, my blood jumping sickly and
trigger a full blown panic attack. There are things I can not think
about. And yet . . .
In a sort of inside out, yin/yang magnetism,
I am fascinated by the idea of underground labyrinths, secret passage
ways, hidden staircases, sequestered lands. One of my favorite stories
is the tale of The Seven Dancing Princesses who go each night down
a dark, secret stair to dance the night away and wear out their
shoes. One of my favorite books is the second of Ursula LeGuin’s
“Earthsea Trilogy,” The Tombs of Atuan which tells of the High Priestess
Arha, the eaten one and the rituals and traditions of the Darkness
in a phenomenal underground labyrinth. My favorite Narnian book
is The Silver Chair, much of which takes place underground and Oh!
I am mesmerized by the land of Bism where salamanders dance in the
fire and you can squeeze yourself some fresh juice from a ruby or
a diamond. This upside down fascination seems strange and mystifying,
but perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps we are always a little fascinated
by our own fears.
My Great-grandfather was a miner, one
who was said to have the ‘Golden Touch’ and be able to intuit where
minerals ran below the surface. He was very successful and struck
gold several times. If he hadn’t happen to own all the banks in
the city when the Great Depression struck, I might have grown up
a lot more spoiled than I did. As it was, my family still owned
a mine when I was young and it became a sort of familial Wishing-rock
when I was a little girl. “When we sell the mine . . .” was something
we said when wishing for those things that there is no use wishing
for because they are too far out of reach. In the same way I hear
people say, “When I win the lottery . . .” There was always plenty
of room in our lives for wishes of all dimensions and stratifications
of wildness because somewhere over the crest of Cedar Mountain,
up past Navajo Lake there existed: “The Mine.” Obviously, I never
went even a little ways down into the mine, though my brother and
sister did. I didn’t need to go inside the mine, I knew what was
in there. I knew it was an endless cave of stunning wonders. It
held everything material I had ever wanted and a good deal more.
It was filled with the scintillating magic of possibility, the enticing
enchantment of potential. It held ‘The Wish’ and was brim full of
dreams. We were gifted with the ability to make that wish again
and again in a million different ways all because a dark hole in
the side of the mountain was ours and ‘someday’ we were going to
They are powerful words: Possibility.
Potential. The inherent capacity for coming into being. Capability
of existing or happening or being true. Opportunity. Choice. Opening.
Expectation. This study and collection begins with possibility and
potential; where two other synonyms meet at a cross roads: Prospect
and Theory. It began when I saw the opening to the Alluvial mine
at Soul Food Café and began to wonder about prospecting with a theory.
I had already begun the mining. Before
the opening of this Alluvial mine, I had already begun to dig. In
the beginning I didn’t know what I was digging for. Though I would
not call it a “Golden-touch,” like my Great-grandfather, I sometimes
have the ability to put my hand down and intuit when and where something
is running below the surface. In this instance I put my hand against
my own heart and knew that despite my claustrophobia, my panic and
my fear, the time had come for me to go down into the mine, because
there was work down there that had to be done.
At the opening of the mine shaft I would
build a Descansos.
brought me to the Descansos process as described by Jungian writer
Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She writes that there is a time in a woman’s
life, usually in midlife, when she has to make a decision - possibly
the most the important psychic decision of her future life - about
whether to be bitter or not. Estés goes on to explain that women
reach the point where they are full up to their ears with everything
and they've had it. Dreams of the twenties may be lying in a crumple.
There are broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises. To cleanse
oneself Estés suggests making descansos. To make descansos means
taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths and
the big deaths have taken place. There were places in that dark,
terror filled mine where old wounds were spewing out toxic poison
gases, doors I had slammed shut on pain and tried to forget that
were now leaking black, acrid fumes that were beginning to choke
me. Bitter indeed. Dr. Estés had been describing me. This is where
I began. This is where I entered the mine and went down into the
For roughly the last sixteen months,
as a person with acute claustrophobia, both real and psychic, I
have gone deep into the darkest mines of my soul and fought suffocating
fears, terrors of the dark, panic at what I might find there, horror
at what I might not find. I have moved a lot of slag and downed
brace-timber, cracked open long sealed shafts until my fingernails
bled and walked into breathless, choked tunnels amid the specter
One of the most important things I have
learned is this: An artist cannot create with selected pieces of
their being. You cannot reach inside for the power that moves and
say, ‘this I cannot touch’ or ‘here I will not go.’ The seals had
to be pried off the doors, the slag mined away before a vein of
gold would appear or uncut diamonds burst like sparks of white fire
from the dark. But more importantly the closed, choked rooms of
phantoms had to be opened so the air could flow through, so the
gusts could blow the dust from walls and floor, leaving me, not
a deep, dark, dirty mine, but a hallowed, hollow cave of washing
I am a writer. Before I walked through
the doors of the Soul Food Café two and half years ago, I was a
totally blocked writer; I was not writing at all. Within these walls
I relearned my skill, regained my craft, recovered my art. Within
these halls I called to my Muse and she came; she has never left
me since that day. Now I believe that this is attributable to one
of the most arcane, mystical and hidden secrets of the Soul Food
Café. Within this mansion of many doors there is such a huge wealth
of material that this secret could be hidden anywhere and it would
be very difficult to find. The mastermind behind the operation is
so clever, however, that the greatest secret of all is hidden in
the place no one would ever think to look. Since you’ve made it
this far with me, I will now share this secret with you. It’s hidden
in plain sight.Right in the top of the front page, dead
center. Cunning, yes?
When I went down into the dark, I knew
exactly what tools that I would need. I
began to write.
For more than a year I worked in the
darkness, with one faithful, patient witness holding a single lantern.
I moved most of a mountain. I kept finding new, deeper and more
intricate shafts. I began to think about supplemental tools and
I began to paint as well. Then I came to that significant cross
roads of Prospect and Theory. Once again it was Clarissa Pinkola
Estés who pointed me down the path toward the tools. I followed
her to her source and began to study the archetypes of C.G. Jung.
In a poem I have written:
I am no Jungerian scholar
I comprehend his thoughts in mist and metaphor
His concepts in analogy and image
I met him in the Dreamtime, walking
This is exactly the case. Here I have
brought some of the theories of Carl Jung to my painting and my
writing. I do so as an artist and not a scholar or clinician, for
what has emerged is based on image and metaphor, idea and extrapolation
and not the letter of his thesis. I have used Jung’s ideas as they
revealed themselves to me in image and word. My goal has been development
of greater self awareness, creative expression and psychological
insight, both personal and in universal.
In the end, I hope to come up into the
world again having passed that balance point C.P. Estés speaks of;
no longer suffering from that bitterness that can rise up like black-lung
from the poison vapors of unexamined wounds. The bitterness that
can strangle a person’s soul and silence an artist’s voice.
I will come back into the mountain air
carrying gems and precious minerals; paintings, poems, stories,
as Hamlet said: “Words. Words. Words.” They will come from the bottom
of the mines, they will come washed in my blood and when I hold
them to the sun, some of them may be spiked with veins of gold or
the milky glow of uncut crystal.
I hope to come back to the surface closer
to conscious. In the end, each of us is responsible for our self
and the long painful work of becoming conscious is, in truth, our
only hope in a world that approaches a phase of human history where
everything hangs in the balance; where the capacity for destruction
may be weighed precisely against our archetypal soul’s capacity
for compassion and love.
I hope to arise from the dust and find
the canary in the cage is still singing.
©Edwina Peterson Cross January 21, 2005
(This collection is dedicated to T. E.
Watson, who held the light unwavering, donned the blue robe with
generous sensitivity, made it all possible.)
Alluvial Mining Claim
the Jungian Archetypes by Edwina Peterson Cross
Mine is the property of Heather Blakey and Miners who have generously
shared their work. Please do not replicate any part of this mine
without written permission.