Don't Wait 'til You're Dead - Digging up a Creative Dream

Sometimes a creative dream involves digging into the past

Sometimes a creative dream involves digging into the past

Creative dreams come in all shapes and sizes

I'm excited to have a guest again this week for Don't Wait 'til You're Dead, my series about going after your dreams. Last time I featured my writer friend Susan Spann, who is currently on a quest to scale 100 sacred peaks in Japan. Last week she literally reached the pinnacle of her dream by arriving at the top of Mt Fuji - at sunrise! 

But not all dreams involve closing a law practice, selling your house, and moving to Japan. Dreams come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and all of them want to be lived. This week I talked to Julie Martin, a poet and teacher who has always dreamed of going on a dinosaur dig. A couple of weeks ago she made this dream come true and I've invited her to talk to us about that. 

My hope is that her story will inspire you to go after a dream of your own - or give you the courage to keep going if you've run into some difficult terrain.

On the second day of my dig I worked next to a dear woman who was probably in her 80s.(I didn’t think it would be polite to ask her age!) She has been coming on digs for seven years. Having a knee replacement didn’t stop her - she just kneels on her good knee. She said, ‘I realized I’d rather be outside than inside doing housework. I can’t get any of my friends or family to join me, but being out here, digging for fossils … I couldn’t be happier if I won the lottery!’


Hi Julie! Thanks so much for being part of Don't Wait 'til You're Dead! Can you tell us a little about this amazing dream of yours? When did you start dreaming and how long did it take for you to start doing the thing?

 Some of my earliest childhood memories are of digging.

There was no lawn yet when my parents bought their house in a new subdivision and my brother and I dug all over our double lot until my parents confined us to one area in the backyard. We worked diligently trying to reach the earth’s core. We dug systems of tunnels that connected and spiraled in all directions and were amazed to find one day a salamander had taken up occupancy in our tunnel system. We immersed ourselves entirely in the soil registering nuances of temperature, texture and color: hot and sandy on the top layer, cool and deep brown humus as we reached deeper levels.

I've always been intrigued by the secrets contained in soil and rocks. filled with a sense of awe, wondering what was here before me. As an adult I still love to play in the dirt. There was a wild space near Saint Paul that was the exposed remains of an Ordovician Sea. I used to love going there and collecting fossils. My favorites were tiny columnar segments of ancient sea lilies - crinoid rings. They look like cheerios. I wear one on a string around my neck. This area has been closed for years because of dangerous mudslides. I began searching for other places where I could find fossils.

I stumbled across NDGS (North Dakota Geological Society). They have digs that are open to the public. The deadline had already passed for that year, but I marked the registration deadline on my calendar for 2018, then I forgot about it for awhile.

 What obstacles were in your way?

I suppose all the usual obstacles that people face: time, money, family support, and my own mindset. Raising two boys, my focus for the past 18 years has been caring for them and balancing family life with a busy, demanding job as an inner city teacher. Add into this equation  my husband and I had aging parents on opposite sides of the country. They could no longer travel, so our travel budget and time was devoted to trips to Colorado,New Jersey, and New York. Trying to cope with all of this made it difficult to believe there were any dreams that I could pursue.

Most people have a dream, look at the obstacles, and never get past them. What is your secret for moving past all of the things in the way to where you are now?

I've kept a notebook since I was about 12 years old. In these notebooks I explore my own thoughts, wishes and observations. I have been working on some poems about the fossils I've found, trying to understand why they are tugging at the edge of my attention.

The impetus that urged me to take action can be attributed to hanging out in the Dream Weavers’ Attic. Kerry, you led us through a guided visualization where we were imagining doing something that we loved. I was having an outrageous fantasy of doing some kind of conservation work with orangutans- working hard and getting filthy, then going to an eco friendly spa and getting all clean again. I think the next question you asked was “what is a small step you could take to move in the direction of this fantasy?”

I remembered that I had written information in my notebook about public fossil digs in North Dakota. While it wasn't exactly the way my fantasy went, it connected to the same deep desire. Exploring that fantasy and what was within my power helped me to make a plan and to take steps. Putting the date on my calendar, writing down the action plan to call, gave me the persistence and tenacity to call over 100 times until I got through to reserve a spot to participate on a dig.

Calling over 100 times is impressive tenacity!! Any particular mantra, motto or affirmation that you can share with us?

Not a mantra, but a talisman of sorts.  I wear a fossil, a crinoid ring, on a string around my neck. I also have a favorite rock that I often keep in my pocket and tuck under my pillow at night.  I know it’s strange, but I find solace in these pieces of the earth. I wrote a poem about this particular rock - the elements have worn a hole through it and I learned that ancient people called rocks like these ‘hagstones’ and believed they had power to protect, heal, and gave the person holding it the ability to peer through the hole into other realms.  While I can’t report that I have acquired supernatural powers, I find my rock and fossils to be good company, and a way to keep my questions and dreams at my fingertips.

What about YOUR creative dreams?

I know you have at least one. We all do. For some of us the dream is deeply buried. Others of us have been dream chasers for as long as we can remember. If you don't think you have a dream, take a minute to remember being a child. What did you love back then? What inspired you? What did you want to be when you grew up? Maybe you can't be an astronaut or a ballerina, if those were on your dream landscape back then, but maybe there's a part of that dream you can still pursue, like taking dancing lessons or taking a flying lesson. You're never too old to go after a dream.