Tag Archives: dreams

water was everywhere

DSC_0336I remember the rain, the gentle yet relentless rain, a percussive background to your rattled breaths. You were leaving, and water was everywhere.  Tapping against the window.  Filling your lungs. Running down my cheeks. Even my dreams were of a tidal wave.

Later that day, the sun had set but the rain persisted. There were beads of water clinging to the body bag as you rolled from your home into the car that took your body to the scientists that could learn from you, and from the terrible cancer that never flinched.  One of your final mandates had been to hang  Christmas lights, and the lights stayed on continuously during our vigil through your final days.  The droplets on the plastic bag reflected the glow of multi-colored orbs, a million tiny rainbows glimmering in the darkness

Its raining in San Antonio today, two years after you died. I stand outside and let a few drops of rain kiss my face.

I have lost you, but still, there is snow and ice and rain and steam and babbling streams and crashing waves. I seek waterfalls in the desert, I soak in my bathtub in the quiet of the night. I breathe billowy puffs of air in the cold. The water still holds me, and and clings to my sadness with the light of a million tiny rainbows.

 

JANELLE MARIE SHINER

8/29/53-12/13/11

025 - Copy

 

 

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released from optimism

I sort through the vestiges of a past life.  A fifth grade report card.  Figure skating trophies. A yellowed love letter.  Photographs.

I have literally carried this box of memories with me for miles.  I have moved at least 15 times since graduating from high school. How many creaky steps have a I slugged up with these relics in my arms? How many shelves have they sat on, gathering dust?

Some things I’m keeping, some things I’m throwing. But even what I keep doesn’t hold me anymore. These artifacts tell a story that today seems of little consequence, the story of a young person who no longer exists. My mother’s death is the red smudge on my timeline. It it is the plot twist, it is the sentinel event. What came before is the story of someone else. I don’t dislike this person, but she isn’t me anymore.

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Chacala, Nayarit. Age 16.

Terry Tempest Williams wrote in Refuge that losing her mother released her from her optimism.  I used to be someone that furiously planned, incessantly dreamed, a person hypnotized by the promises of the future and happy endings. But then life happened. I have said I do, and later I won’t. I have watched my mother get sick and die. My missteps and a few macabre twists of fate have cost me dearly, in every way. I have tasted the bitter knowledge that all my dreams won’t come true, can never come true.

But here is the thing- joy isn’t sequestered in some future date, nor is it bound up in the past. Joy is neither encased in romantic love, nor unlocked only by achievement.  It simply is, and it is right here for the taking. So I find my salvation in the now.  I am not mesmerized by a past which is no more, and I refuse to be transfixed by whispered promises that lie beyond the horizon. I hold my memories loosely, so as to not get too attached to things which are no more. I am released from the bounds of optimism. I no longer subscribe to the blind faith that things will get better (even if sometimes they do). I no longer practice the religion of anything that pulls me away from the present moment. Which gives me the space to relish the earth beneath me, the sky above me.

The now is the only place where I find peace.

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Sierra Ancha Wilderness. October 2013.

 

books that changed me: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

pilgrim-image

I have been a voracious reader since the young age where, in a flash of insight, markings on the page suddenly aligned to form words and meaning. I don’t know how old I was- four, five? But it seemed as though overnight a reader was born. One day I couldn’t read, the next day I could. It didn’t feel like a process of learning to read so much as a discovery of a latent ability. Like a baby swimming after being thrown into a pool, it felt natural, reflexive. Once I could read the basics, I graduated almost immediately to my parents books and magazines. I was insatiable; no stack of unread material would hold me for long. Still today I read fast, frantically,  and with an enthusiasm akin to how one devours pizza and beer at a Super Bowl party. But of the thousands of books I have gobbled in my lifetime, there are only a handful that have permanently changed me.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was on a long list of possible choices for my summer reading list prior to the start of my senior year of high school. I don’t recall why I picked this particular book, perhaps pulled in by a terse description as a “treatise on nature.” Or by a chance selection, an adequate supply at the local bookstore. Or maybe the hand of God pushed the paperback into my hands. No matter which scenario holds the best version of the truth, read it I did.

I was a 17-year-old city-dweller. I had no experience with most of the creatures Annie Dillard described with loving poetry – the muskrats, the birds, the plankton. But she illumined the mystery, the struggle to find meaning, and the sacred natural rhythms that surrounded me. She explored the land in her backyard and found traces of a divine I wasn’t sure existed, but it made sense to me without giving me specific answers. She voiced what I had felt intuitively, subconsciously, but hadn’t had the words to speak– that the closest thing to a power I’ll call God, for me, can only be found in growing, green things, and in the mountains and the birds and in blazing sunsets and sparkling stars and peeling birch bark and howling winds and the downbeat of a song. She was hungry to see it all, to understand the mystery. I read her words and found in my heart I was hungry too; I wanted to take everything in as she did: the shimmering lights and the looming shadows. Her words enlightened me to myself while simultaneously pushing me forward, cracking open my worldview and reminding me how little I knew, how much of the world I could discover if I dared.

It has now been nearly 17 years since I first read this book, a second lifetime repeated upon itself. I’m reading Pilgrim again, same copy I had in high school. My fingers trace the yellowed pages, the quotes that I underlined with a neon green pen. I don’t know if I see more clearly now than I did back then.  I don’t know if I fulfilled the dreams that were in my heart, the potential I believed was coursing in my youthful veins.  But here I am, again kneeling at her sacred words with my hand on my heart after carrying this book with me for at least 15 moves, thousands of miles, both literally and figuratively. It has sat on every bookshelf I have owned for 17 years. So while to reread something might pull me away from a new discovery, I believe there is a reason I have carried it with me all this time.  I believe it is time to start again.

the encounter with the bighorn

DSC_0153sheep
They grazed near a crystalline stream, in the prolific fields of wild grape which covered the reddish deser rock in thick layers of green, snaking tendrils. A group of six female Desert Bighorn Sheep, accompanied by a rambunctious lamb, thrilled with bouncing off his elders’ rumps and frolicking through the leafy vines. With their appearance the canyon went quiet- as though the hikers and the birds and the insects knew we were in the presence of holy beasts, animal sages here with a message, or a blessing, or maybe for a delicious sunset meal. We caught the words, the buzzing, the song in our throats and quietly watched in suspended awe. I crouched on the cool sand, unobtrusive as I could be, and snapped photos. The sheep appraised me with yellow eyes and a cool stare but kept chewing on grape leaves, bottom jaws rotating in an exaggerated swing.
 

 
 
I had longed for an encounter with these rare creatures, and my day finally arrived. I gazed, transfixed, while my eyes welled inexplicably with tears. Maybe from appreciation for their gentle reminder to enjoy the tenderest leaves of life.  Maybe from the overwhelming joy at being in a beautiful place, in the presence of beautiful creatures. Or more likely, I cried from the gratitude that, even in the soup of heartbreak, dreams can still come true. They may not be the dreams I had before, the dreams that built the walls of my former life. But new beginnings give birth to new dreams, and they are coming to fruition
 
 
 

freedom

I have a tattoo of a birdcage on my calf.  Last night, I dreamed that the ink on the birdcage was fading away; it was becoming nearly inappreciable in spots.  I was disappointed and returned to the tattoo shop in order for her to redo her work.

“No” the artist said. “Its supposed to do that.”

I wish in life we could have what limits us fade away to nothing with minimal effort, the natural decomposition of walls and bars and ceilings.  Sometimes its more complicated than that. Sometimes we have to sweat and bleed and sob and pray before the flood gates fall, the doors spring open, and then suddenly, we are flying free.  Other times, it happens spontaneously and unexpectedly, and as we float along we suddenly pass through a channel into a different land than something we ever envisioned or dreamed of.

Regardless of how we get there, freedom is an exhilarating feeling.  The rustle of the wind through flight feathers, the fresh air blasting up the nose and into the lungs, soaring into a land of new beginnings.

 

dreams while camping

Last night, I dreamed my mother was dying.  She lied unconscious in her bed, with ragged breathing.  I told her family and friends that this was it, in the matter of a few hours, or a few days at most, she would be gone.

And then she woke up.

She strolled into her kitchen looking as good as she ever did in life.  Radiant.  Beautiful.  My first words to her were not “I love you!” or “I’m so happy to see you!”  They were “you were dying!”

She just laughed at me, shaking her head as though she couldn’t believe I could be so silly to think she could be dying.

She hugged her friends and family.  Everyone rejoiced.

And then she turned yellow, thin.  She took to her bed.  Once again, she was dying.

I woke up from this dream at sunrise in the forest.  A grey light had seeped into the tent. It was so quiet, I could hear my own breathing.

And my mother is still dead.  There is no happy ending to the dream, but maybe there is a message.  My predictions, my ambitions, my rages mean nothing. There is only what is. I cannot create, or alter, but I can accept. but I can accept. In a way, I am helpless but I am also empowered.  To enjoy the beauty of life, of the now.  Of my breath warming the sides of the tent, collecting into sparkling drops of condensation.  Of the grey light, snaking its way through the pines.

 

 

 

dreams unlimited

I just smeared on the last of a bottle of lotion my mom gave me.  It was from the Body Shop,  “Dreams Unlimited.” We were shopping the weekend before they left for Houston, seeking a cure at MD Anderson. Grandma wanted lotion, and it was the only scent she liked.  I liked it too, so along with the bottle for Grandma Mom bought me one as well.  Its hard to believe I won’t get more gifts from her, and when things that remind me of her wear or run out I feel the loss all over again.

Its just lotion, and too perfume-ey at that.  It seems silly to cry about the end of a bottle of lotion.  But I can’t help myself.

I tried to save it.  I didn’t use it that often, but it started to evaporate in the bottle. Some things just slip through your fingers, no matter how much you try to hang on.

I wish dreams really were unlimited.  But sometimes they run out of gas, hit a wall, die on the vine, go up in flames.  Sometimes new dreams grow from the ashes of those that burned to dust, and sometimes not.  But there are dreams that just aren’t meant to be.  Heartbreaking, isn’t it?