The horn of sailors, this conch summoned me from the depths of my unconscious. It was last summer, I was spending five weeks at my parents’ home on the Eastern Shore in Maryland helping my father with my mother’s care. One morning I woke with the firm conviction that I needed a conch shell. An irrational demand to my rational mind, I informed my unconscious that just as soon as I could afford a Caribbean vacation, I would gladly procure a conch—not to mention a tan and a piña colada. Over breakfast, my mother suggested that she and I visit the local antique mart and browse for fun. What to my wondering eyes should appear, mixed in with the vintage dishes, furniture and collectibles—one conch shell; my conch shell.
Not one for knick-knacks, the next question became, what to do with a conch shell. This one had been conched, the industry term for how it’s harvested, which meant it wouldn’t work as a maritime horn. A new musical instrument to add to my repertoire of failed musical aspirations was my first inclination. Then, as clearly as the shell beckoned me, I knew I needed to create an homage to my unconscious; a portal for my dreams. I already had the fish, a contribution to my garden from my father; and the abalone were the gift of a meal I enjoyed when I lived in Sebastopol. The bottom shelf of my bedroom bookcase—the obvious location.
Developing a conscious relationship with your unconscious is a lot like learning to swim. Breath, awareness and trust—the same elements apply. Like standing at the edge of the sea, the fathomless darkness feels ominous, until you realize that your own breath buoys you; that less effort means more grace.