by Diane Joy Schmidt
I knew I was angry and instead I decided to be creative as a kind of escape. We were going to be on a long drive up to Chinle, Arizona, where Frank was to deliver a training to Navajo health care professionals just before New Year’s. It was 11 am when we started out from Albuquerque, and I started daydreaming that thecar we were in was a floating ship and horses and flying coyotes and birds were accompanying us on our journey – and sure enough, I forgot very quickly about our argument and fell asleep.
Later when I woke up I couldn’t stop taking photos of the fantastic blue skydotted with improbable puffs of cloud that we seemed to be flying and floating through as we gained elevation into the evergreens and snow headed out of Window Rock up towards Ganado and I thought – this is enough to sustain me, this beauty.
It wasn’t so hard to daydream, I found out. How fun! Why didn’t I ever think of this before? I’d always felt it was my duty to be as aware as I could as a photographer, seeing what was going on around me, although now and then coincidences would crop up in my photos.
Passing the turn-off for Pinon about four p.m., I asked Frank if he’d heard from Jerome Bernstein lately. Jerome is a prominent Jungian psychologist from Santa Fe who seeks parallels with Navajo understandings.
We’ll be staying at the Holiday Inn in Chinle near Canyon de Chelly, where three years earlier Frank had been a day-long presenter at a Jungian conference that Jerome had organized.
We’re having dinner now in the hotel restaurant, it’s about seven p.m. and I keep thinking Jerome is going to walk through the door. Then, Jerome walks through the door. It’s a Sunday, it’s Dec. 28, it’s 12 degrees outside, and here is Jerome, walking in with his two canes—“like a deer dancer,” he says, beaming. Jerome looks like Christopher Lloyd but with a gentler laugh. He has a great halo of white hair surrounding an otherwise bald pate. He has a friend in tow, who he introduces as Christophe, a French quantum mechanics theorist who is also a Jungian.
Christophe wanted to hear stories. They’d gone for a jeep tour in Canyon deChelly that afternoon but were disappointed that the tour guide didn’t know the stories. So, Frank tells him the Navajo creation story about the Twins going to meet their Father the Sun – the short version. It goes on for at least an hour; the entire story would take half the night.
I ask Christophe, “What are you looking for?”
He says, “I want to go beyond my quantum mechanics view through mydreams.” He says that he wants to hear others, that they may have the answer for him.
I say, “Look right here, you have an answer, you saw something very magical, very serendipitous. What are the odds that in the dead of winter you will run into someone Jerome knows here? We’re over 300 miles from Santa Fe. The last time the three of us, Jerome and Frank and I, met up here was in the spring of 2011, almost three years ago.”
The quantum mechanics physicist says, “The odds actually are not too difficult to calculate.”
“But what are the odds,” I say, “that you will visit New Mexico this one week of the year, come on this trip, and run in to a Navajo friend of Jerome’s, who doesn’t live here either, hasn’t been up here for a year or more, but who had to arrive here tonight, and is not only a storyteller, but is willing to tell you the creation stories that you wanted to hear, and it is winter, when the winter stories can only be told.”
He laughs and says, “When you put it that way the odds are not so easy to calculate.
Christophe then wants to know, is there another world beyond the Fourth World the Navajo say we are in now? Frank says, “They say there are seven.”
For each of us this unexpected meeting was remarkable. I know that Jungians and quantum mechanics theorists are especially interested in synchronicity. I imagine that Jerome and Christophe will be discussing what it means and work on putting it into a context that rubs up against Western knowledge.
I asked Frank what this coincidental meeting meant to him, as a Navajo. At first, he said, with something of the same amazement I was feeling, “I can’t explain it.”
Later he said, “We always, the elders say, that our thoughts and feelings have powers of creation. The four of us, there was this need that we all had, that we thought about, and then we met. When I got to the hotel and saw the sign for the restaurant on the stone building, Garcia’s, I remembered Jerome and all those Jungian analysts, and I had a certain feeling that their spirits were there. So, it’s notcoincidence after all, we all in our minds got there first.”
For me, it’s not something I can put words to. I can only tell the story. But this surprising experience, this out of the ordinary surprise, has renewed my faith in themagical, spiritual nature of things.
There is a reality that does transcend the normal, the everyday.
We worry that mankind will not survive the global warming we have caused, and what the earth is now doing to adjust, “to try to cool itself off,” as Frank has said to me. Some of my friends believe that if we are faithful, and true, that somehow we will survive some sort of transition.
I say that I think that is just wishful thinking, and not being ‘real’ about fixing the world’s problems.
Jerome then says to me, “Well what is real?”
Maybe in these moments when we pray, or meditate, or daydream, or otherwise find a way to take ourselves out of a negative or humdrum frame of mind, we really are creating something better in the universe. I think I will daydream more about flying animals surrounding the space bubble vehicle that I travel across this earth in, my personal merkabah.
A few connections we later learned
Did we create or foresee this meeting or both? How malleable is time and space and how much can our consciousness affect what is to be? Earlier that day in the canyon Jerome had told Christophe he wished Frank was there to tell the stories. Also, sometimes there is unseen help at work — Jerome was bringing Christophe to meet a medicine man the next day, who knew Jerome was bringing an important guest.
Later, I learned Christophe Le Mouël is the executive director of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles. I asked him to tell me something of himself. He wrote back, “I left France (and physics) eight years ago to follow an American woman I met in Paris and we now are parents of one-year old twin boys. My passion is the connection of psyche and matter and I have published a few papers on this topic. This is how Jerome and I got to know each other.”
And, he was in New Mexico during the holidays visiting his wife’s family. Hesent me an essay he had just published in a Jungian journal, “The Necklace ofNumbers,” in which his wife’s grandmother, Ruth Seligman, played a central role.
He had felt very close to her in part because she too had come alone from Europe to America – escaping Nazi Germany in 1936, Ruth was sent ahead of her family to relatives in Albuquerque. The rest of her family would barely escapeGermany in 1938. Christophe first met Ruth just a few days before his wedding to her granddaughter. He wrote that “…Ruth gave me a ring that had belonged to her family. Since it was too small, she hung it on a silver chain . . .” It became part of the wedding ceremony, and a few days after the wedding he dreamed that Ruth is pointing out a mistake he made, and he is correcting it.
“The result is a magnificent silver chain, intricate like a spider web. At regular intervals, there is short silver thread where a number hangs. Each number shines with a white light. The necklace of numbers is a gift to us for the wedding.”
Ruth figured greatly in his integration into American life, but this necklace also symbolized his efforts at integrating spirit and matter. He wrote, “Numbers are inscrutable things. . . . Like the crystals of white light in my dream, their contemplation gives us access to the intimate order of the universe, which is also found within us.” The fundamental numbers of the universe are linked together as are the past, present and future of the people that make up the influences in his life, spiritually and personally.
These understandings also underpin Navajo philosophy, and make healing possible, but to be understood must be experienced.
Read more online at www.dianejoyschmidt.com
Christophe Le Mouël (2014) The Necklace of Numbers, Psychological Perspectives: A Quarterly Journal of Jungian Thought, 57:4 357-383
2016 First Place, Personal Columns, Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies, for “Serendipity and the Power of Daydreams,” “Who by Fire,” and “The Merkabah and the Exegesis of a License Plate.”