Recently I did two “time travel” writing exercises from The Artists’ Way.
First, I traveled to the future – to imagine myself at 80 years of age. I spent some time describing how I imagine I will be, if I live that long. I saw a wizened, wrinkled, apple-head-doll version of myself, with smile lines and bright eyes. I saw someone I hoped was light and present, dignified and humble. I wrote about what activities I might do between now and then to be happy (and to bring about this vision). Then, continuing to follow Julie Cameron’s prompts, I wrote a letter to my current self, from my 80-year-old self:
Dearest 51-year-old Becca,
My dear one, my younger heart, trust. Allow. Love. Rest. Slow. Listen. Look. Touch. Smell Taste. Feel. Speak. Sing. Laugh. Love. Love some more. Cook. Eat. Dance. Sing. Celebrate. Trust. Flow. Be the river. Be the banks. Be one with the changes as they sweep through you, over you, around you. Choose without fear, and without regret.
Follow the energy. Befriend it. Encourage it. Channel it gently. Ride it downstream. Dance in it. Let it dance you. Allow things that aren’t flowing to rest, to die. Pursue your curiosity, your love, your play.
Listen to your dreams. They are about the past, and they are about the future. Choose boldly, yet with sharp intelligence and disciplined discernment. Know that you will have to cut some things away to sculpt the future that wants to emerge through you.
I’m sorry I can’t tell you what to choose. I can only speak to you of how to choose. You’re right, actually I’m not sorry J. If I told you what to do now, it would be coming from ‘outside’ you, even though you are writing this.
Should you join this group or support that cause? Should you cut your losses on a current project? These are momentary questions, shallow conundrums. Be faithful to your inner guidance, connected to source, and to web. Dance with and in the flow of life. Be the flow of life.
You’re welcome. I love you. And thank you, for taking good care of yourself, and allowing me to emerge.
–Becca at 80 years old
A few weeks later, I did the reverse, remembering myself at the age of eight, and writing a letter to my current self. I found this one harder – perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood, or perhaps it’s because I’m closer to 80 than to 8??
I remember realizing that I liked “science” around age 8 – not just the individual subjects of geology, astronomy, and zoology as they were taught to me, but they belonged to a larger category and that was why I liked them all. At eight I aspired to learn the names of all plants and animals, and to identify animals’ tracks in the snow, and checked books out of the library to help me and my friends with this. My best friend and I were really into the idea that the god we were being taught about in religious school was actually in the natural world around us, and in the magical fairy house in the garden over the fence, which we labeled “SHC,” after a book I’d read, Shadow Castle (apparently still available, written by Marian Cockrell in 1946!) (We later realized this secret code could also stand for “Shechinah,” the name for the immanent, in-dwelling, feminine presence of god in the world).
Here’s the letter I wrote from my 8-year-old self:
Dear big Becca,
Don’t forget!!!!!!! DO NOT forget rivers and the way ice and wax solidify and show the flow, slow time. Remember how to see the beauty all around you.
It seems to me that adults lose sight of this, that only children can see truth and beauty. Please try to be different. Maybe the world really is as simple as I think it is. Fighting is bad. You can take on a great big project you pick for yourself, and enjoy it, the learning and the mystery, even if you don’t know how big it really is or whether you’ll ever be able to complete it. It is good to have friends to do it with. And books to help you.
Remember me, too. I am still inside you. Maybe I’ve shrunken to a tiny little seed, but you can water me and I will grow. Then we can play together.
And remember Shadow Castle. Remember God is everywhere, in the lilacs, in the rabbit tracks in the snow, even when you can’t see it, it is there.
Thank you for your healing path.
I love you.
When I picked these exercises to do, it seemed unrelated to the other reading and writing I’m doing about time. The book I’m working on is not, I don’t think, about time travel, in any of the many senses of the phrase. It’s about the pace of time changing, not about our location in time changing. Still, I’m trying to understand as much as I can about what time is and how we experience it, so I guess this all counts as part of my research (or, as a fellow graduate student used to say, my “me-search”).
Writing about these now, it reminds me of an old Shirley Temple movie that was a favorite of mine as a child, The Blue Bird. Two children go on a quest for the bluebird of happiness, traveling to the past, to the future, and to the land of luxury, before (spoiler alert!) finding it in their own backyard. I’ve been so grateful to my next-door neighbor Toni, who has become a good friend, for inviting me to do the Artists’ Way with her — she’s like finding the bluebird of happiness right next door!