Blue and white toy boatLast weekend I had the pleasure of sitting with a circle of dreamers at Caritas Spiritist Center. It was another chance to sit with Jeremy Taylor and so many others in my Dream Family. All weekend I had the feeling that my name would be pulled, and it came out last, the final dream focus of the weekend. I had two that I’d flagged, but the moment I heard my name, I knew which one to read for the group.

One of the images present in the dream is a toy blue boat that I owned as a child. I received it on my fourth birthday and it’s still knocking around the house of dreams. Boats remind me of my mom, who spent her childhood playing in water. The presence of a little girl in the dream offers me the parent’s perspective. Both of these associations make me think of the ways my role as a mother is changing as my daughters grow, the praise and grief of watching them need me less. What will I do with myself? The creative life is chomping at the bit, bringing with it the fear of tapping into it at the rate it seems to want.

But the projection also came up in the circle that the blue boat I’m riding in this life is depression.  With that projection came the reminder that meeting life with an open heart enables me to overcome the depression.

In idiom, we speak of “my ship coming in” to denote great success, usually after long labor, or “that ship has sailed” to speak of an opportunity that has passed. Boats have ancient and archetypal associations as well, including the womb and cradle, the voyage of life, birth and death. A boat provides a thin barrier between a person and the water, and so is a symbol of safety in the presence of great danger, and of riding the currents of life. According to The Book of Symbols, included in its metaphorical meanings, “The boat denotes those things, material, spiritual, energetic, that suddenly appear on our horizons and are brought to shore.”

In the dream I shared at the workshop, the toy boat also carries associations of play and innocence, when I could live life “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,” and life did feel like a dream.



I consulted the following books for this post: J. E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols; J. C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols; and Ami Ronnberg and Kathleen Martin, ed., The Book of Symbols.


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3 thoughts on “Boat as metaphor”

  1. Like Kim, I really enjoyed all your insights. And I have a very concrete and non-metaphorical memory of your fourth birthday, in that hotel in La Jolla. I remember coveting that blue boat a bit, though at age eight I was mature enough not to show it. Decades later I found an identical one on a store shelf and bought it to satisfy the child I had once been. I’m not sure where it is now; under the bathroom sink, maybe.

    I remember being in the bathtub at that hotel and sailing milk-carton boats on the water. And the funny wooden bathtub boat I made out of scrap lumber, three rectangular pieces stacked up like a ziggurat and nailed together to make what looked like a battleship. And I’m flashing on the Door-Deck-a-Hedron, the silly pontoon boat my husband made of trash, with a deck made of a discarded door, and all the fun we had riding it around the lake, with our pirate flag flying.

    Boats really make me think of Mom too. I remember how she taught us how to fold paper boats. After she died, I looked up origami funerary offerings online and they reminded me of those old paper boats, so I bought some gold wrapping paper and folded dozens of paper boats for her. I still have one sitting on my desk here at work as I type.

  2. Thanks, Kim! Karen, I have a lot of memories of that birthday, probably because it was in a strange place. I still have one of your folded boats too.

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