In this difficult time of a world pandemic, the simple has become pregnant with meaning. Yesterday I went outside, within my designated 100 meters and I picked a sprig of wildflowers. With ceremony, I brought them into my new “office space” and placed them in a deeply meaningful purple bottle. At the time, I had no idea of the depths of meaning of this simple act.
I had found this “beached” bottle many moons ago. And it is only now as a result of the pandemic that I have begun to discover the mystery of the find. There is no genie in the bottle, but a “mysterious” past that apparently began in the early 1900’s.
I have held onto this bottle for probably over twenty years. An important piece of my adult journey began in the presence of this bottle. As a professional psychologist and mother of young children, I sought out personal analysis in the presence of a deeply warm and compassionate analyst, the late Claudia Johnson-Upshur. We began to work together when she had an office very close to my home. However, eventually she remarried and moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a three-hour-trip from my home in Richmond that included traveling over and through the 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnels.
This trip was not simple, especially in the pouring rain, as I nervously negotiated the long bridges. However, in Claudia’s calm and welcoming presence, I learned about myself as a wife, mother and professional. And I developed an increasing fascination with Carl Jung and eventually decided to pursue a second half of life dream to train as an analyst. I don’t remember much of the content of my analysis at this point in my life. But I remember with nostalgia and longing, the feel of the space and place of my internal work.
Claudia’s office was framed by a collection of angels and other miniatures from her sandplay collection. Her comfortable couch welcomed the analysand with a blanket and a doll. And Claudia sat with her back to a beautiful picture window that opened onto scenes of nature. Even her bathroom walls bore meaningful quotes of hope and inspiration.
The grounds were magical, with a fountain, a garden, and benches. After many of our sessions, I went outside to sit and contemplate. Thus, my analytic hours became a retreat in the true sense of the word.
My favorite place was not the garden or the bench. Rather, it was perched on a small and semi-hidden dock along the bay. Here I could hear and watch the waves lap against the shore. I could use the inspiration of my internal work to contemplate and write. Sometimes the tide had come in, and I had to carefully make my way through the shallow water to perch on the dock. Once, I tried to capture the moment by taking a photo. The sun blinded my eyes and thus, I could not check the quality of my creation. I was amazed at the product. The dock appears as a ladder to heaven.
One day, I noticed the purple bottle nestled amongst some greenery next to the water. I am naturally curious and have been known to collect many odd things from nature. I picked up the bottle and felt its solidness and weight. It filled with wet sand. I am a lover of mysteries since my childhood. When I was young, I was fascinated by tales of bottles washed ashore. I Dream of Jeannie was one of my favorite TV shows. I didn’t really imagine finding a genie in a bottle. But I liked to think of finding a life-changing note in a bottle that drifted in from the sea. Perhaps I would learn of a shipwreck or solve a mystery or gain a pen pal from across the world.
I knew I needed this bottle. Perhaps, it was yet another way to hold onto the blessing and mystery of my journey with Claudia and the beautiful space and place within nature.
Now, the entire world faces innumerable challenges and suffering. My wide world of work and travel is reduced to the 100-meter rule. I cannot venture far beyond the four walls of my home. Yet, I am lucky to live in a small village where nature is just outside my door. When I went outside yesterday, I knew I needed to hold onto yet another piece of nature in the yellow flowers.
The flowers needed a vase. And the bottle became the vase. And suddenly I became curious. My bottle has a name etched in the glass, Taka Kola. I noticed it is from Eastern Shores Bottling Works, Birds Nest, Virginia. So I searched. And I suddenly learned that the bottle is an antique and that there are people who collect such bottles. Taka Kola was a well-known soda brand form the early 1900’s. Coca-Cola eventually challenged the brand in court and it went out of business. My bottle has something that I only notice now. On the bottom is etched patent pending. Upon searching, I learned, It is worth a little bit of money as per eBay, but thankfully not enough to make me consider giving my treasure up for sale.
Suddenly I am even more curious. Perhaps I do need that genie in the bottle, but I would like to know about the bottle’s journey. Had it perhaps remained intact for almost a century amongst the deep waters of the sea? It certainly appears that way. I will never know. But somehow the lockdown my country has imposed upon me has led to a powerful force inside that begins to “unlock” gifts and mysteries.
Thankfully due to the wonders of technology, I can continue to work a bit remotely with my patients. With sadness, I hear and read stories of suffering, fear, sickness, and death. But I also find something else unique to the human condition. I hear the quest for meaning and hope in the day after. I hear the blessings that also can come from the forced slowing down. My daughter, who lives down south with my son-in-law and two young grandchildren said to me, “Our children will remember being at home with a loving family and doing things like baking cookies.”
I cannot ignore the sadness and the fear. But as a woman of faith – faith in God and faith in the human condition to make meaning in the world, I must also find the treasures even in the midst of the darkness.
For too long, I took the wildflowers for granted. I rushed past them in my busy-ness. And for too long, I missed too many mysteries. I am thankful to my simple flowers and to the untold story of the purple bottle.
About the Author: Dr. Robin B. Zeiger received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1985 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also a certified Jungian analyst. Robin practices psychotherapy and supervision. She is also a free-lance writer. She currently lives in a small agricultural village with her husband, Dr. Jonathan Ben-Ezra, MD and their dog, Bella. Robin and Jonathan have four adult children and they are the proud grandparents of two young children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin is trying to find meaning and inspiration in the 100 meters of her home.
Please share your stories of magical finds.