A Fertile Dream: What Wants To Grow?

It’s morning. I walk downstairs and find a note taped on the glass door leading to the back porch. It’s a rectangle of construction paper, dull, dusty black. The note says “Elaine” in silver ink in my dead husband Vic’s handwriting.

I look out the window, beyond the porch and across the yard, and see Vic digging a deep hole in rich dark soil. A round bushel basket sized planter on the back porch steams with compost.

Vic sees me and yells, “The soil is hot and fertile.” I’m overjoyed to see him happy, healthy, and strong.

And then I wake up.

The joy stays as I lie in my warm bed. He hasn’t visited in dreams recently and I miss him. “He’s still my Green Man,” I say to myself. “My Honey Man, the fertile masculine, both departed and here, gone and present, dead and alive, and always within me. His note tells me to pay attention to something that wants to grow.


The note grabs my attention. It’s the color of rich compost. The silver ink makes me think of the feminine moon and lunar reflection. Elaine, wake up to this new and still unconscious possibility.

“Elaine, this rich soil will grow anything. Elaine, what should we grow? Elaine, I’m digging so you can plant. Elaine, I’m dead but I’m still here.”

Every day I recognize Vic as both gone and here. How is he here? People try to pin me down. “He’s right here with you? Don’t you know that? He’s guiding you and guarding you. Don’t you feel that?” Somehow I’m comfortable with the mystery of gone and here without more explanation.

In his last hours, I felt Vic leaving, moving fast as he gasped for air like a long distance runner, waiting for our youngest son to arrive before he surrendered to death. He didn’t seem to hover or hang around after that. I didn’t feel him near, at least not in body. I heard the words of the Heart Sutra:

“Gone. Gone beyond. Gone totally beyond. Oh, what an Awakening.”

In this compost dream, Vic is here and very alive, still my Green Man and Dream Man, preparing the earth for new life. Flower and vegetables? Butterflies and bees? An inner awakening in me? No controlled straight-edged rows in this Green Man’s garden. Just black rich soil..

My Green Man invites me to join in the delight of seeding new possibility. The dark soil flies and I smell the fertile steaming earth.

Just 11 days after Vic’s death, almost 13 years ago, I dreamed I would live in the house of the Green Man and painted this image of my experience. The Green Man still lives within me and gives me firm footing.

What needs to grow?


I don’t know the answer to my last question. Similar to here and gone, I live with the opposites in the dream mystery. It’s a mystery I don’t need to solve, but it might solve itself in time.

Do you find dreams meaningful or do you have other ways of accessing your inner self through creativity or play? The poet Deborah Gregory wrote a poem dedicated to Vic and me called The Goddess and Her Green Man. I hope you’ll enjoy many of her poems once you visit her website. For a detailed article about my Green Man dream, see The Green Man’s Guide to Life or my book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief.

  1. Dearest Elaine, what an extraordinary dream! Above or below, it’s hard to beat the magic of a new day dawning. And that your dream began in the “morning” surely means that this is the time for something new! How very exciting! This is such a fitting post for “Imbolc” as the Wheel of the Year begins.

    I just looked up the Greek origin of your name and discovered that “Elaine” means “sun ray or shining light” and feel certain that this was also being communicated to you. It seems that something will be coming to “light” and there in the morning light was your beloved Vic, Green Man, happy, healthy and strong animus … rearing to go!

    Oh, and the heat rising out of that compost is a rich, positive image I feel. What life lies there beneath the steaming compost? And how your dream ego and animus have come together in this beautiful way … much like the Goddess and Her Green Man!

    Your animus is there with you, guiding you … first the seeds, then the flowers, next will come the butterflies, then the eggs, the nursery and then flight and freedom … there’s a new story whirling, waiting in the wings, of that I’m sure!

    I love it when you include your painting and couldn’t help but wonder what colour blue and green make if mixed? And does that mean anything to you? Thank you so much for including links to my website and Blurb Books. Sending love, light across the oaks and oceans between us, Deborah.

    • Dear Deborah. I agree, it’s a new beginning, Imbolc dream, but I’ll have to wait to see what wants to grow. The idea of having something come to light is so appealing in these dark, depressing times. At least my inner animus is doing well and having fun in the fertile soil which is surprising. I feel confused about where to go in writing or whether to go anywhere–and unfocused about what I need to do with life. This isn’t unusual in these crazy covid times and winter accentuates the feeling of being stuck. I’ll have to wait for more clues about what needs to grow. And growing something in that rich soil is obviously my dream animus’s joy.

      I look forward to spring (at least 2 months away here), and the first Monarchs that arrive in June. The Monarchs are doing well in the Mexican Biopreserve because of cooler weather there this year (closer to what temperatures used to be). This means they’re staying clustered in the trees until it’s warmer in the United States and there are flowers for them here. When blue and green are mixed, the name of the color is cyan. I’ll think about whether that means anything to me. Another mystery.

      May you be well and have faith (that’s what I tell myself). It’s a challenging time for everyone in the world, so May there be Peace and Compassion.

      • Yesterday I picked up my pen for first time in months. Today your post has blown new life in it. Thank you. Hmm, Cyan is the colour of Uranus and the colour of hospital gowns and the colour of Robin’s eggs. It’s just that when I saw your painting for some reason I just wanted to shake it up like a snow globe. I know, we poets are a crazy bunch!

        • That watercolor was one of my middle of the night early grief scrawlings–but it had a sense of how I felt. Naked, held up in a strange way, and the strong sense of Vic holding me while floating into other worlds. There was a Mercury-Venus-Sun conjunction on my Uranus the day Vic was cremated and transiting Uranus was trine my Saturn. Time to take back my Saturn projection. It was also the season on Bluebird eggs and they’re that same color.

  2. Your Green Man is your Dream Man. Oh, my! I like how you pointed out that your dream became a reverie, the joy lingering as you lay in your warm bed. And as the heat rises out of compost, so is the promise of spring and new life coming: flowers and veggies – yes – and bees and butterflies. Monarchs especially.

    Yesterday I visited the dentist. Although it was just for a cleaning and I got a good report, last night I dreamed three of my teeth fell out; I remember holding them in my hand and gasping. When I woke up, my fingers felt an even row of teeth. What a blessing!

    Wishing you continued health, warmth, and contentment in these wintry days. And thinking of Shelley’s Ode: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

    • Marian, our watchful friend Deborah told me I hadn’t responded to you–but I know I did and somehow my response disappeared. Computers are helpful and they make me crazy. I’m glad Deborah noticed.

      The Green Man can only come in a dream and that’s the only way I see Vic, too. It was a gift to see him so vital and joyful. It’s nice that Disco is old enough to let me stay in bed a moment to remember a dream, write it down, or light a morning candle and say a prayer. She’s become patient in the morning and I’m grateful. I can’t wait for all those spring things, but the weather tells me warm days are far away and I need patience. So much snow, even if the sun shines today. I’m glad your dental appointment went well (so did mine), but then there are those dream teeth falling out. That feels meaningful in terms of old sturdy reliable structures going to make space for new structures. Thank you for your good wishes. By this time of year, I’m done with winter, but winter is never done here until the end of March and sometimes mid April. Still, the days are noticeably longer and it’s nice to see sunshine today. Shelley is hopeful, but I rely on the big pile of firewood on the front porch. (Thanks for your patience with my response.)

  3. What a wonderful way to wake up and start the day. I, too, was recently wakened with a dream-visit of my daughter who died one month shy of ten years ago (ten years – isn’t that amazing?). I don’t remember anything about the dream except that it was about her. What I do remember is how she said,”Mom” so loud and clearly and closely that it woke me. It left me smiling all day long and I can still hear her voice calling me.

    • I’m glad Marika comes in dreams–and calling your name reminds me of Vic writing “Elaine” in big letters. Hello!! Yes, ten years is amazing and it feels like such a short time. So much grief and so much growth in that hard decade. What do you imagine Marika wants to tell you or why she came at this time?

  4. What a wonderful and rich dream Elaine. From the note on the glass pane to that steaming pile of compost. Dreams really do enhance our lives so much. We seem to be led further and further into the mystery. The questions you’re asking right now while in the deep winter of it all, are already being answered. How lovely to have Vic present as a positive animus!
    Love to you-thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Susan. Isn’t it a gift when we get a comforting and yet mysterious dream? I can usually count on the loving presence of Vic in dreams and in inner conversations. I find myself conversing with him (active imagination style) during these pandemic times when I spend so much time alone. “Vic, can you help me with this? Vic, the snow is above my knees and it’s overwhelming. Vic, I miss telling you my dreams and hearing yours.” And on the conversations go. He was a well-developed positive animus figure and frequent character in my dreams before his death and that only strengthened.

      I think of you and your family often in relation to covid in South Africa. The variants are all here, too, but we’re in the dark because the previous administration didn’t track or test things. I got my first vaccine last week because of my age and that’s the best we can do at this time–but so many people need vaccines. We have so many people who refuse the vaccine which always amazes me since I grew up in the time of polio, but I hope and pray some of those fears will soften in time. We’ve been bathed in fear for 5 years so it doesn’t end quickly.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful meditation on your fertile dream!

  6. What a lovely dream, Elaine. My departed husband appears in my dreams from time to time. In one early dream he was so PHYSICALLY present and 3-dimensional, solid, that I just wanted to hug him for the rest of the dream.

    • Thanks for sharing your dream, Lynne. I had many dreams of Vic after his death–sometimes grieving for him, sometimes searching for him, but sometimes just hugging him. Those hugging dreams are the best, especially in these times when we get so few hugs. Sending you love (and help with snow removal).

  7. Your posts are a great comfort. It is your spirituality it makes my heart of sing to know that someone somewhere understands. Bless both you and Vic

  8. Oh, Elaine, a fertile Imbolc dream, indeed! I felt an inner stirring just reading it.
    What you wrote made me think of the book I am reading now, “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May. Her story is a reminder that “wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful… Yet it’s also inevitable… We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.” And your beautiful dream is giving you a glimpse of the new possibilities that are already taking place. What needs to grow is still a mystery and, I love what you wrote: “It’s a mystery I don’t need to solve, but it might solve itself in time.”

    I just had a funny realization – when I first looked at the picture of steaming compost on your blog, I really thought for a second that it was a photo from your dream!

    So you now have a planter on your back porch filled with rich compost, but you also have a deep hole in fertile earth, which makes me wonder what might be buried/planted there as well.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing so generously with your readers.

    • Wasn’t that a great dream, Anne? And the book you’re reading sounds just right. After 2 feet of snow, the sun is glaring today and I’m about to go out with the dogs to fill bird feeders and throw balls. If I get ambitious, I’ll put on snowshoes and begin tromping a path toward the woods.

      I’m mystified about what needs to grow–and I don’t think my ego list has the right answer. Waiting feels right. The photo I found of steaming compost with public access rights looked a lot like the compost in my dream, but no round pot. I grow some vegetables in the kind of round cloth pot in my dream because it keeps the plant leaves drier and healthier. So dream Elaine has a round container of compost on the back porch where I keep my Monarch nursery in the summer. Round is always encouraging. She also has a deep hole for planting something or many seeds. My son (in waking life) dug lots of comfrey out of the area where dream Vic was digging and transplanted it to his place. Comfrey is a healing herb. Hmmm… This dream sticks with me, so I’ll see where it leads.

      Be safe and well–and I hope you have access to a vaccine. I got my first shot last week. Will it help against the new variants? I have no idea, but it felt like the right thing to do.

  9. Yes, I was able to get my first vaccine last week as well. I also have no idea if it will help against the new variants but agree that it definitely felt like the right thing to do.

    I woke up this morning thinking about the note in your dream, and it just popped into my head that Vic was speaking to you in “sign” language. Somehow that made me smile.

    • I’m glad you got a vaccine. Yes, sign language. He often left notes around, usually on a kitchen counter or dining room table, but sometimes in my suitcase if I traveled without him. It always made me feel loved.

  10. Wow, what a wonderful dream. Thank you, dear Elaine. It is always so calming and feeling released when we dream of our soulmate. I dream of Al often, it is interesting indeed that I have a lot to do during the days and my brain is full busy with these and those, and at night, I dream of Al, and when I wake up, I feel happy and released, though, unfortunately, the next day, I can’t remember it well.
    Gone and here, here and gone. These words say a lot, dear Elaine. As I read your memory of the time when Vic was leaving, it reminded me of mine, as Al surrendered to death. These memories are still heart-breaking. And of course, the people around me say to me the same words; he is still with you, in your heart etc. I don’t know but, I think there is something real in all these. (Gone and Here) I just can feel it. I will look forward to the Green Man.

    • Yes, a wonderful dream. Maybe because we love Jung, we’re comfortable in a world of opposites and paradox. The sense that, at his death, Vic was leaving for an important journey and gone beyond didn’t make him feel any less here with or within me. I didn’t know that would be true or last so long when he died. At first, I only felt the ache of his physical absence, but I soon felt his psychological/spiritual presence. I imagined he would fade from my conscious and unconscious mind, but I was wrong again. He was in my dream last night except in this dream I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to meet him and couldn’t find my cell phone to call him. I woke up frantic–and wrote down the dream. Searching is a common theme in my Vic dreams, but not in this fertile soil dream. He was right here. (I have a notebook and pen by my bed and force myself to wake up enough to write down a dream no matter what time it is, because by morning I’ll forget the details or maybe the whole dream.) It’s cold here with deep snow. I look forward to the Green Man, too.

      • Oh, my dear, a confusing dream. It is a good idea to have some papers beside the bed to writedown dreams. Here is also deep snow all over. Have a beautiful and leisurely weekend

  11. There is so much “soil” here, I feel an inadequacy of relevant words. I can say that, in watercoloring, if you mix blue and green, you can get the color of dirt, sometimes muddy but often rich in deep browns and almost blacks. I am a person who often does the opposite of advice given, and this was true when I began my first art class about 6 years ago and was told I shouldn’t mix these colors, for I would get mud. I learned that mud and dirtiness were most helpful sometimes, especially when painting water. I access my inner Self through art, observing that of others and playing with my own watercolor or photographic experiments.

    I rarely remember my dreams, although I know when I’ve had them. I’ve done all kinds of rituals to access their images, but do not remember in the morning or even just after they’ve apparently appeared. I have had, throughout most of my life, a dream state called hypnogogia (often defined by the experts as hallucinations). Hypnogogia occurs just before going completely to sleep and includes a variety of sensory experiences, i.e. distinctive sounds, visual images, tunnels of light, fragments of dreamlike events. (Hypnopompia is the opposite and occurs in the transition of moving from sleep to just before awakening.) Both states have occurred throughout most of my life, since early childhood; however, hypnogogia occurs more frequently. I use any “message fragments” I believe I receive in this state as a MUSE – for writing and painting. Perhaps it a gift that in some way makes up for the fact that I seem to be unable to regularly access the remembering of my dreams.

    • Mixing brown and blue makes the color of dirt? I didn’t know that, Anne. I’m not a painter, but I play with paints sometimes and have notebooks full of images. I like collage, too. I painted my dreams when I was in the deepest hole of grief. Painting calms and nourishes when I take the time, but I rarely take the time recently unless I have a BIG dream. My last big painting project was a headless tree goddess in acrylic which is a good medium for a novice since I can paint over my messes.

      We all have different ways to access the unconscious. My husband remembered dreams sometimes, but his primary access was through synchronicity. I have many artist friends and some are dreamers, some not. Hypnogogia sounds like a way to connect to the same fertile unconscious. I sometimes dream in fragments and write each one down in the journal beside my bed with a note about what happened or what I was feeling the day before. Sometimes one brief image opens new doors. Your way sounds shamanic and similar to the kinds of experiences I had using psychedelic drugs in the 1960s.

  12. What richness there is in your dream and the associations it brings up. Perhaps the depth of meaning and connections you find in your dreams and everyday life, and in the art you create, are part of what keeps Vic so close. You respect and pay attention to messages from your unconscious and in return, it rewards you with equally meaningful messages. As you know, this complementary relationship between conscious and unconscious is what Jung called the ‘transcendent function.’ Your posts are wonderful examples of the reality and value of this very real, but little understood phenomenon.

    • Thank you for taking time to comment and share your wise perspective, Jeanie. I love tending dreams and when I had this one, I knew it would be fruitful to work with it. I look forward to my twice a month appointments with my dream therapist to dig into dreams. She’s been a support for almost 13 years. Dream Vic was so present with his enthusiasm and happiness about planting and growing. I always see dream Vic as the Vic within me, still taking the role of positive animus and still supporting my conscious feminine values as he did when he was alive. Sometimes dream Vic has to remind me of something neglected on the feminine side. Stay safe and warm and maybe this summer it will be easier to get to North Carolina.

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