It takes four days for the impregnated cell to reach the uterus then multiply from one cell to eight, to a hundred. Two weeks more and those cells multiply and become layered in concentric circles like a tiny labyrinth: the inside layer will become the respiratory and digestive systems – breath and nutrients; the next layer becomes the thyroid for balancing the body’s chemicals; the middle layer will become the heart and circulatory system and the skeleton; and the outer layer will form the nervous system, and our lovely skin.
By the end of the third week the brain and spine begin to form and it takes on that curved look. By day thirty it will sprout little shoots that will eventually form arms and legs. Still this little hope is only the size of a grain of rice. Two months from that fertilized egg the embryo becomes a fetus and all the internal organs are in place. Three and half months the fingers will form a fist and everything is ready to grow into its birth size — the fetus will double in size in that one week. At seven months the eyes begin to open and close and what started out as a single cell now fills the womb. (Apologies for grossly general descriptions and thanks to Lennart Nilsson’s “A Child is Born”).
That was metaphor, here is the point. All life begins in a darkened quiet, and grows with furious tenacity even as it is concealed and hidden in the old body that spawned and surrounds it. Few, if any, ever get to know that precise moment of conception when a hapless cell minding its own business, and headed for the normal destruction awaiting most such cells, is suddenly fertilized. We never see it coming. It begins and multiplies and grows from nothing into something and we just never know it in real time.
All life begins in the dark, in the quiet. A blade of grass, a tiny purple crocus, an oak tree, they begin below in the dark, quiet soil of potential. A river, a pond, a lake begin underneath in the dark quiet aquifer that bleeds against gravity finally to the surface. Likewise the dreams that catapult us forward in life. They begin in childhood without our awareness and move us forward into young adulthood where they often become dormant. Our dreams, the best dream for our lives, often get lost or betrayed or denied.
This is a season for dream recovery. Hanukkah with its theme of finding light in the darkness, and Christmas with the story about a mysterious birth in the dark of night, and New Year’s with its new beginning in the dark of winter, all can evoke our openness to dreams we once had and dreams that could still be living inside awaiting rebirth. If we pay attention and listen a little harder than usual, and if we get curious about our lives all over again, we may just begin to recover it — the dream that was formed a long time ago. It may have disappeared, been buried, or changed along the way. But it lives.
The dream itself allows us to hold the darkness rather than the other way around. Dream recovery — ‘tis the season.
Good afternoon, and Happy New Year, Cam. The image called to mind an orchard from the neighborhood of my youth. On a west-facing slope of a farm abandoned to modern subdivision parcels, it was a quiet respite on the walk home from grade school. I have a very specific memory of an afternoon in June which merits writing out sometime. And, at my age, and this humble station, I’m finding space and quiet to reflect on the observations in your closing two paragraphs. I suppose the 1970’s houses that now occupy the space have brought comfort to their residents over time, but frankly, this boy’s dreams and imaginings go back to waving grass, gnarled trees and drifting white summer cumulous. But there’s a quiet dream of a better way, still finding its way to the surface. Thanks for sharing.
Cam Miller says
Dream on, Tim, dream on!