From an interview with Dr. Jill Mellick
We park by the gingko and walk along a stone path through a torii-style gate. The air is filled with jasmine. We pass by a bamboo fountain and enter into a high-fenced, lush miniature Japanese landscape. We pass maples, green mounds, tall stones, and an ancient, moss-covered stone basin into which water drips slowly from bamboo. A small black dog, clearly under the delusion he is a bird, is leaping heroically in an attempt to open a sliding door to welcome us. His plumed tail is waving madly with ecstasy.
Hello! I’m Jill! You’ve already met my dog!
Jill tries to dampen the dog’s enthusiasm, which is as large as they each are small; the dog clearly thinks we’re interviewing the wrong person. We enter an office through wide sliding doors that open onto the garden and we settle into armchairs in the offwhite room. A wall of books covers every topic from Eastern philosophy to Danish artists. Small Japanese chests host vases of iris; there are peaceful landscape paintings. The dog settles in the center of a Persian rug....
You have an unusual accent!
I’m Australian by birth and upbringing but lived In California for years. My accent is probably mid-Pacific by now! Hawai’i!?
All of them! It depends which hour of the day you catch me!
But what’s your main work?
I’ve been in private practice as a Jungian-oriented psychologist in Palo Alto for over twenty years. However, I don’t only "do" Jungian work. For example, I enjoy expanding at times using my background in the expressive arts. I had the good fortune and for many years direct and teach in the masters and doctoral programs in Creative Expression at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and now sustain a working relationship with the school as a Professor Emeritus. I have delighted in presenting at conferences and workshops in different countries--but I don’t like doing too many of them because I like to have time for the books I write as well as my painting and photography
Your first studies were in literature, weren’t they?
My first graduate degree was in English at the University of Queensland [Australia]. But the arts have always been part of my life. My mother was a composer and pianist and my father, university life teaching and researching Australian literary history.
After you graduated, what did you do?
I taught English at high school and university and then directed a distance education program training people in trades and technical jobs. It was a great introduction to about forty professions with which I had little familiarity and several cultures because we had 7,000 multicultural students in the Australasia area.
But how did you end up as a psychotherapist?!
Well, there was another profession in there first! When I came to California, I freelanced as a textbook editor for a few years. But then I knew I needed to pursue my fascination with psychology -- the power of word and image to express and heal; the connection between psyche and symbolic self-expression, between spirit and matter.... I found a doctoral program that included these interests.
You’re interested in Native Americans, too, aren’t you? How did someone from Australia come to be interested in the Pueblo Indians?
I was introduced to New Mexico early in my time in the States and I’ve spent many hot summers and some freezing Christmases there. I did all kinds of things down there--spent time with friends in the Pueblos, attended ceremonials, worked as a psych intern at the Indian Hospital, studied at the Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts. Then over 17 years I went back and forth writing a biography of a remarkable Native American leader and artist, Geronima Montoya, with writer friend and colleague, Jeanne Shutes.
Seventeen years?! That’s a long time to work on a book!
I was working full time and had a full personal life. Also my Native American friends have a different sense of time and find Anglo questioning rude and tiresome, so writing a biography with the cooperation and approval of all participants was a challenge!
Where does your interest in yoga fit in?
It doesn’t "fit in" really. It weaves itself quietly in and out. I’ve always been interested in contemplative traditions and practices since I was in my teens. When I took a course in raja yoga during my doctoral studies, it was like meeting an old friend. I studied kundalini yoga and meditation practices for about twelve years and received permission to teach.
You travel a lot. For travel’s sake? Pleasure? Work?
I got the travel bug early. My family had all travelled extensively and I was captivated by their photographs and stories. I borrowed money from my father and went to Papua New Guinea to see where he had spent the war. I stayed with two tribes. I was hooked! As soon as I had worked to save some money, I spent a year traveling around the world; Australians do that.
I love to learn about other cultures and arts.
Travel also lets me explore the influence of place on the psyche. I’ve been able to travel to over twenty countries to learn how the arts are used for psychospiritual as well as aesthetic purposes. And I go back and back to special places--France, Japan, Greece, Australia. I use images from my travels in my art and writing .
When do you find time to write?
Early in the morning and late in the evening. And on Kaua’i!
How have you chosen the subjects for your books? Dreams, for example?
I began to record my dreams when I was eleven. I’ve explored them with a Jungian analyst. I attended courses at the Jung Institutes in Zurich and San Francisco, and others in Italy and Barbados. I became interested in crosscultural dreamwork and started inventing nonlinear, multimedia ways to explore dreams . My lifelong personal, academic, and clinical fascination with dreaming gave birth to two books , in fact, on dreams. Then the book I wrote with Marion Woodman grew out of our long friendship; it was a joy to create together and gave me an excuse to illustrate with watercolors.
Not easily! I tuck it into weekends and times away. That’s how I tuck in my poetry, too.
You’ve had some illness in recent years.
Yes I have. I am constantly learning from the wisdom of the body. I am grateful to my intuition and to my body for nudging me to seek diagnosis and treatments before I was symptomatic. Otherwise, I would not be here talking about them. I hope I’ve gleaned some understandings from these times with life-threatening illness that I bring to my work world and personal world.
Never! I look forward to writing, to painting, to travel, to being with family and friends, to walking alone on the beach, to my work. It might sound odd but I love my work; I look forward to each hour in my office. The people I see teach me so much. You never know what’s going to unfold--it’s like making art together.
[Permission to reprint. From an interview with a friend and colleague.]