The Third Instar
Nymphs, Caterpillars, and shedding our houses
I often dream of houses. My houses are amalgamations of places I have lived but often with the addition of ominous courtyards and corridors begging to be explored or promising to be haunted. Left alone to tend to memories and shuttered traumas, the Craftsmans, Victorians, tract homes, and apartments warp and wend. They are as familiar as they are alien in my dreams and rarely welcoming. Yet, I visit them often looking for things lost, departed animal companions, and people no longer in this world.
Despite my occasional check-ins, I neglect these places past and have almost always forgotten to pay their rent for years. I worry about how I’m going to cover all that is past due and still pay my current mortgage. I can’t remember why I never broke the lease or why I left so much behind. I wake up from these dreams with a spike of panic, thinking of all that I am about to lose.
I’ve never been sure why my subconscious chooses the architecture of lived places as the framework for its tasks. Perhaps it’s that there have been so many over the years and they make a great selection for dreamscapes. A house, after all, is just a shell and doesn’t necessarily reflect who we are or what we might become. It just protects us from the elements and gives us a place to put our things. And I seem to like keeping a lot of things in my dreamscape houses. In fact, I’ve been doing inventory in my sleep for the past month.
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There were a few things left in early childhood bedroom at my Dad’s house and I took my animal encyclopedias and some toy blocks. There was nothing left in the bedroom at my grandparents’ house where I spent the rest of my childhood and I couldn’t find any socks or shoes that matched at my mom’s house.
The apartment from early 20’s was a different story. It was packed with possessions. Drawers were filled with odds and ends I had bought in duplicate and didn’t know why. My closets were overflowing and with so many cute dresses and tops but none of them fit. I trailed my fingers across the fabrics, admiring them but accepted that I would never wear them again.
There were knickknacks on every tabletop and shelf. They were beautiful and I examined each one, but I could see no use for them. However, in a tiny drawer, I unburied an emerald pendant on a silver chain that according to the dream I had lost many years before. I took that with me. I also took two guitars, an illustrated book of birds, and a couple of limited printing, special edition books.
I woke up after this dream with the sense that I had completed some huge task. In fairness, I had, at least metaphorically, rummaged through half a lifetime, carefully considered what to take and decidedly left everything else behind.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I took with me and about shedding all these houses like a skin. These were the houses of the Maiden and the Mother and I am no longer either. My shell should now be home to the Autumn Queen, the Maga, so that she can do the work required to become the Crone. I imagine these stages like instars, the stages of development in a nymph or a caterpillar. Patterns, colors and proportions change with each instar, often in spectacular ways. Yet, to get to the next instar and become something new, they have to molt. Arthropods must slough off their exoskeleton before they can assume a new form.
A body is just a house for all the amazing and seemingly impossible magic that kicks around inside of each of us. Our bodies change. We age and we can’t really shed our outer covering (at least not yet) but I think we can still molt and that we become something more than we were when we do. I think the hard work of becoming hinges on this molt. The work is in what we choose to keep and what we leave behind when we let go of our houses. I hope I chose well.