I’ve worked directly with metaphor for 30 years, both professionally and personally, and there’s one image that has never let me go:
I am a plant and I’m growing in rich, fertile soil.
On a personal level, when I don’t know what to do or something in life is troubling me, all I need is to open myself to the richness (rich soil) that surrounds me. I can feel myself being held, supported and nourished.
But this image of nurturing soil has also guided and inspired my teaching and writing. My work with metaphor has always been about the rich soil that lies under the surface of our consciousness. That Deep Creative ‘soil’ is very intelligent…it wants to guide us. Its energies are alive and visceral…you can feel them move through you as they shift your perspective and bring healing, grace, new possibilities and answers. The Deep Creative wants us to be the fullest expression of ourselves.
Stanley Kunitz and the Irish poet John O’Donohue are two who have written about key images. In his book Beauty, O’Donohue wrote, “In the end, every artist is haunted by a few central themes. Again and again, they return to the disturbance and endeavor to excavate something new.” These key images typically come from childhood. For example, as a child E.B. White was fascinated by spider webs; he went on to author the bestselling children’s book Charlotte’s Web.
A few archetypal psychologists have looked at key images from a psychological perspective, namely James Hillman (who refers to key images as “acorns”) and Bill Plotkin, who calls them “personal soul articulations.” He writes in Nature and the Human Soul that each person’s soul articulation “employs a metaphor from nature to point to an ineffable mystery—the unique way in which each person belongs to the wild world.”
Do you have a key image? Do you have something that won’t let you go?