Dreams From My Father

My dad came to me several times in the days following his death. Two of those visitations were in dreams.

In the first dream two hummingbirds flew into the enclosed porch where I was sitting with him, the room he spent most of his last 11 months in, recovering from chemo and radiation treatments, and when I put up my hand for them to land on, they instead hovered above it, boring their long, narrow beaks into the space between my first and second knuckles. I writhed with pain, inside, but didn’t flinch, holding still while they…sucked out nectar? Pollinated me?

As they flew off, I turned and thrust my wounded hand in his direction, imploring my dad to “help me, fix me, I’m hurt,” like I often did in real life. As a doctor, a veterinarian, he was who I turned to when sick or hurt, knowing his gift for healing. Especially of those who couldn’t explain what was the matter.

I looked at the sizeable hole the hummingbirds made – a small marble could have fit, yet there was no bleeding, and it was deep black, the darkest color I ever saw. The closer I peered, the more I realized I was looking into the abyss. Endless, boundless universe.

In the second dream, I was alone at my sister’s house and opened the door to let her cat out. Shortly afterwards, I saw a fox leaping gracefully across the yard, playful, yet intent. Entranced for a moment, I then suddenly remembered the cat was outside, nearby, and I rushed out the door, but couldn’t reach her fast enough. I helplessly watched as the fox grabbed her, sank its claws, and rendered her defenseless. She immediately relaxed, her body slumped and stopped struggling. It happened so fast. Alive one moment, surrendered the next.

That was 3 months ago. I haven’t dreamt since.

Until last night.

In this dream, my friends Tammy and Geof were showing me their grandfather’s house and the rural hamlet he lived in. I was looking to move and wanted to be someone’s roommate, and they thought we’d be a perfect match.

On our way there, I walked ahead of them into town, searching for something. Everything was intensely magnified. The green was greener than where I live now, the surrounding mountains were higher and more thickly forested. The few houses were old, and made of stone, just like the ones I coveted as a child and still hope to someday live in. No one was one the street at all, the townspeople all tucked inside. The scene was clean, orderly, pristine, natural, beautiful.

I walked into one of only two establishments and it was filled with kids – an ice cream shop. The brightness of overhead lights was strong and the hubbub overstimulating, so I left. I didn’t go into the other place – a serious, upscale restaurant, but I knew I would eventually – the twinkling lights on the windows highlighted the warm festivities inside. When I get settled in…

Then, feeling guilty I had rushed ahead without my friends, I walked briskly back down to the park, and found them relaxing with their grandfather and their son. We reunited.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After the first 2 dreams, I looked up Hummingbird and Fox in Ted Andrews’ book of animal totems, “Animal Speak, The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small.”

Hummingbirds represent tireless joy and the nectar of life. The most skilled flyer, they can change direction on a dime, fly thousands of miles – a seemingly impossible journey for a bird who needs to eat constantly, and are fiercely independent and revel in their freedom.

Foxes are a symbol of shapeshifting and camouflage, a sign of a new world growing and opening up, a beneficial creation in the works. They’re charming, and will distract you with jumping and leaping antics, until they pounce and capture their prize.

Now, a little back story about the small town and my friends’ role in it. Three years ago while visiting Tammy and Geof, who live in a small New England town, I listen while Geof shares some crazy thought he has that I might be happier moving out of NYC and to someplace like Vermont or Maine. I mostly ignore this idea at the time.

Months later, I’m invited to Maine, and suddenly remember Geof’s words. I rediscover Camden, where I once wanted to move, two decades earlier. It feels right this time. I pack up my life in the city, and here I am today, loving it.

Sooo…are T & G arbiters of my geography, and if so – is this about my inner landscape or the outer one? Is everything about to become more orderly and amped up?

How is my life shapeshifting? Am I about to capture my prize? Surrender to something?

Was one of my dad’s last gifts to empower me to live joyfully, on purpose, and suck from the nectar of life?

I figure my subconscious has been at work these months integrating the wisdom of my father and of the animals he tended, with my own beliefs, gut feelings from friends, and divine guidance. The unfolding ways of how I’ll live the rest of my life.

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You Say Po-TAY-to, I Say Po-TAH-to

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

On good recommendation, I read a story of wonderful suspense this week.  The American naturalist John Muir recounts an Alaskan adventure with an unlikely companion, a little black mutt named Stickeen.  At one point, they venture far onto a glacier in driving snow, and are faced with a huge crevasse they must navigate to return safely to camp.  How they fare I’ll leave you to discover, but know that this predicament, though not always as dire, can be universal – the turning point of our life, and teach us much about ourselves.

I find myself sometimes in a similar place with my writing:  encountering a chasm I have no idea how to traverse.  I stare at it, walk the length of it looking for a bridge, even attempt to jump across, when I’m feeling brave enough.  What I’ve found is that having companions on the journey keeps me from giving up, because even though our drive for survival is instinctually powerful, when there’s another being by my side the drive becomes exponential.  In these circumstances, I  am empowered by a greater responsibility, and gratefully hitch  myself to my imagination on one side and to my companions on the other, and then get a running start…

In writing class today, I was asked by another student where my creative discipline comes from, for I write just about every day.  Different days yield different answers, and today I reference some of those treasured souls who inspire me, the ones I do not personally know:

  • Julia Cameron, an author who taught me to write Morning Pages, three lengths of (mostly) drivel & (occasionally) gems every single day, and the lifelong habit that it forges.
  • A. A. Milne, who created the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore characters, each who exist inside me and show true simplicity, equanimity, curiosity, joy and acceptance.
  • Henry David Thoreau, who had the courage to meet himself alone in the woods and advise us to “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined,” which is inscribed on a bracelet my mother gifted me many years ago.
  • Ani Difranco, a folksinger who circumnavigated corporate structure by starting her own record company at age 18, and who expresses herself with stunning integrity, intelligence and lyricism.
  • Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian sculptor who taught me to see the essence of objects and ideas through his distilled, elegant forms.

These are all people who persevered over crevasses and chasms, I am sure, to let loose their voice, their vision, their life’s purpose.  I am never without them, nor many other creative souls who listened to the knowing deep inside and shared their gifts with the world.  It is not enough that one recognize the inner voice;  we must liberate it, nurture it, guide it.  We must relentlessly practice it.  Discipline is crucial, as is the community we cultivate in order to support it.  Ultimately, we do not operate alone.

On a different day, I might answer that my discipline comes from considering the alternative – having to go get a job.  At this point in my journey, I will do anything to avoid punching a clock, having a boss, or submitting myself to someone else’s vision or rulebook.  For me to live authentically, I must listen closely and follow the rhythm of my own drum(heart)beat.  There’s magic there, and freedom and joy and – yes – commitment, struggle, even gaping holes in the glacier.  But to be alive is to discover oneself, and that is the most exciting  adventure of all.  Won’t you accompany me?

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