Over the last decade, I have had this intermittent dream. This dream has sometimes haunted me but it has mainly kept my spirit fed. It’s one of those dreams that feel very real in the midst of my slumber. So real, that I wake up disoriented and it takes me a few moments to establish what is real and what is make-believe. It’s only until now, with the most recent rendition of this dream that I’ve started to claw at the surface of it’s meaning with the hope that I can pin down the purpose of this dream through intrinsic interpretation. The dream always begins in the same exact setting. My actions and decisions in the depths of the dream have always been the driving force as to which direction I take to reach my destination. A destination that is still very much up in the air, because in the dream, I never reach it. Not that I’m aware of, at least. I would like to take some time now and share the dream with you.
I am awakened on a mountainous boulder, balanced high above an extravagantly raging river flowing furiously with Old Man Winter’s runoff. The morning wasn’t breaking so much, as it was infiltrating my blurred vision. I am entrenched in some vastly splendid wilderness. The only sound other than the deafening silence of loneliness is the symphonic sound of an unhinged river’s rage. My first thought, is whether or not the trout are biting? Where’s my fly rod? Nowhere. Son of a bitch, I mumble to myself. My head floats on a swivel as I assess my surroundings. There is a vague plume of smoldering grayish smoke about a football field’s length from where I stand. I assume that it’s the remnants of last night’s fireside chat.
I am awestruck at the spectacular scenery that encompasses me. It’s the most beautiful sight I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The morning sun is awakening from its slumber and painting the mountains purple in their majesty. I think to myself, what a sight for sore eyes. There is a chilled crispness to the air that is evident with every breath I exhale. I shiver with the essence of something similar to seismic activity rippling through the core of me. This tricks my mind into believing that a shroud of warmth will follow in the friction of my frivolous movement. Which it does, but only for a waning moment?
Without an inkling of warning, the radiant brilliance of sunshine is swallowed by the looming threat of a surging storm. The wind begins to carry a swiftness behind it that nudges my stability into a stumble. My balance is reclaimed and I manage to reorganize my thought process, simultaneously. My complacent moment of reflection is now superseded with a sudden urge to seek some place a bit more sheltered. I succumb to the shivering sound of silence again. I am cold and extremely parched from thirst. I barely gather myself and plot my escape from this elevated pedestal of uncertainty. The only way down is a slippery slope soaked in sketchiness.
I start my descent down a path I have no familiarity with whatsoever. The brewing storm begins to serenade the uncharted wilderness with a booming, marching thunder, sprinkled with flickering bursts of magnificent light. A steady mix of cold rain and snow beckons from above. My walk turns into a sprint, scared and unaware of the conditional circumstance that awaits my lack of carefulness. I stumble again but this time balance escapes me and I fall. By hook or by crook, I manage to pick myself back up. My head is screaming with a sharpening discomfort that buries pleasure with pain.
In the depths of my agony, I realize that I clumsily yet successfully maneuvered my way down the mountain. I stagger around for a moment and slowly digest that I have no idea where camp is now. The smoldering smoke from before is now thick and heavy-it’s density has consumed every bit of clarity. I start traipsing through the fog, I have no sense of direction and Vertigo is just sitting back, waiting to confuse the issue more than it already is. I walk for what seems like an eternity feeling like I will never reach a destination. I think to myself, am I dead? Is this Purgatory?
Thirst is all I can think about, what I wouldn’t do for one sip of water. My head is still screaming at me and the smell of something with a metallic tinge is following me like a wafting cloud. The genesis of exhaustion steals my strength and I decide to take a breather. I lay down with my burdens in hand and close my eyes. Thirst and warmth fill my mind but even the comforts of home can’t keep the exhaustion at bay any longer, I fall asleep. Even with all of the misfortunes that have graced the day I sleep like a rock.
I am startled awake by the sound of snarling animals. Scared, scarred and shaken, I quickly stand up, dizzy. Sudden fear enshrouds the dizziness and I make sure my presence is noisily felt. Adrenaline allows my equilibrium a chance to achieve even distribution. I can see nothing in the fog, but the snarls are now more of an echo and seem further away than I originally thought. I gather anything I can find that will help me defend myself, nothing more than a few sticks and stones, hopefully they wouldn’t break my bones, I whispered to myself as I collected them. At least my sense of humor was still going strong, I thought proudly. Gingerly I walk in a brisk manner towards the opposite direction of the echoing snarls. They seem to be growing closer the further I get from them. In the shuffling madness, I catch my breath and I start to run again. All of the sudden, the stability of solid ground was flooded by a soaking, icy, and buoyant excitability.
Hallelujah, it was water. Miraculously, I had happened upon the river again. I fall to my knees; my hands interlock themselves into a chalice. The river is littered with glacial silt. I remind myself to not let gluttony get the best of me. I allow myself enough to quench the parched feeling that had hindered me throughout this pilgrimage. I am tempted to indulge until my heart’s delight, but I know that will only be detrimental to my well being down the road of this journey. In my ecstatic behavior of blessedness, I neglected to notice the snarls were still very much on my tail.
The denseness of the fog was lifting itself in a tedious manner and visibility was beginning to show itself again. The only way to safety was through this river of Doubt. I vaguely glance upon an echelon of rocks, strung together and placed conveniently for my stride. I take the steps one by one, slow and steady wins the race, I thought. I turn to look for whatever it was that has been trailing me since my fall. In the faint distance, I can finally see what has been hunting me. I see a pack of wolves, plotting their next move, for they are as thirsty for blood, as I am for a drink of fresh water. I have a hunch that I haven’t seen the last of them.
I continue down the stepping-stones gracefully and the river grows mighty in its wake. The farther I follow this path into the remote midst of this river, the more vibrant and sunny everything becomes. The air has a warming touch to it now and I was gaining strength as clarity was becoming more constant. The steps were starting to demand longer strides and I even had to wade in the water from time to time. Then came the next challenge.
I had walked these stones for at least a mile and still no sign of the west bank of this river I now call Doubt. Now here I stood on the last solid rock. The glacial silt seemed to ablate itself from Doubt. Roughly twenty feet below me was a budding stretch of backwater; followed by another pattern of rocks that perceived a promising path. I carefully careen myself down the last slab of solidity that I could see. I am knee deep in Doubt now, her waters, clear and chilly. I drink from her until my heart’s delight. I am amazed at the autumn hues that grace the forest around me. The bursts of orange, yellow and red, paint the landscape with a buffering beauty. I shiver again from the soothing sensation of purpose, and wade with wonderment. The reverence I have for this wilderness is deep. As deep as the river Doubt is about to get.
The pattern of rocks only got further away as I waded towards them. In my carefree comportment I didn’t notice that Doubt’s waters had risen with rapidness. I began to panic, and as it grabbed my legs, well you know? It pulled me in. The icy and submerging blanket of water acted like shock therapy and triggers my instinct for survival. I notice a large piece of driftwood floating with more grace than me and push my way towards it with every ounce of energy I have left. As I am within arms reach of my saving grace I shiver again; followed by the most acute pain I have ever known. The last thing I remember resembles the immersion of drowning.
I am revived on a pebbly beach; spooning a piece of driftwood as big as me. My head is splitting with an ache but the air is consistently warm now, almost arid. My damp clothes are the only thing between the luxury of warmth and me. Doubt had turned into a creek that was now just a trickle of murky looking sludge. The harsh reality sinks in that I have drifted far away from where I believe I belonged. I take off my top layer of clothing and lay them out to dry. I canvas my newfound surroundings and see that there is only an inkling of shade to be had for maybe two hours a day. There is a monumental mountain behind me and nothing but sagebrush and high desert for the foreseeable miles ahead of me. Hunger pangs are making themselves known now. I scrounge for something to eat. I find nothing but a handful of ants they are crunchy and sour. I make a fool of the pangs by chewing on some sagebrush. Shade becomes my shelter from a fierce heat. I take off my shirt and use it as a pillow. The shade summons me silently to sleep.
I wake up blistered from the scorching sun. The sun was at its daily peak burning everything that lies in its wake. Shade was nowhere to be found. I put my shirt on and it feels like I’m being stung by a hundred bees. The pain quickly becomes unbearable as it feels like I am being broiled. I have no choice to go back into the wilderness, but first I had to climb him. We will call him Monument. He was as massive as he was intimidating. He abruptly interrupts the rolling desert plain and sprawls 7000 feet into the horizon, almost out of midair it seemed. I was more ready for this climb than I thought I was. I start singing at the top of my lungs, maybe I was hoping for one last possibility that someone might hear me. “Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.” I try my best at copycatting Robert Plant but I am positive I did it no justice, whatsoever. As I expected, only silence followed, still I felt a little crazier than just a few minutes before. At least my sun-drenched sanity was still sticking around for the time being.
“Time to go.” The voice said as clear as the day was. I spun around, spinning with bewilderment. There was no one within a day’s walk around me. The voice was shrilling with a sense of comfort. Maybe it was the sternest approach that would not allow me to take the demanding tone lightly. Without question, I blazed my own trail up that mountainous Monument. I must’ve gotten my underrated second wind because I covered an extensive amount of ground, in a short period of time.
The wilderness was becoming thick again. Humidity filled the air and night was falling with a dampening dew. The colder air acted like aloe on my scorched skin. I slowed down but kept moving at a steady pace. My path now carried more clarity with it than I had seen so far on this everlasting journey. My motivation was bullying me into another exhaustive state but the adrenaline wouldn’t quit pumping through my blood. I came to a sudden stop. There is fork in the path that splits into two directions. I am pleasantly surprised by the sight of a sign. For a sign, signaled hope. The sign shared with me the following information. Here lies the confluence of two, once mighty rivers. One was called Humble, the other Ego. It suggests to choose between the paths wisely for there may not be another opportunity to for you find your way back to back to promised land. I kneel and pray, the voice answers. I walk towards the merging trails. I converge in the midst of both of them and I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I bushwhack my way through Fear and leave it behind, where it belongs. I hear the distant voice of a child.
“Daddy, Daddy, wake up.”
I stutter my way out of a slumber, “I’m awake, play with me.” The bed is as comfortable as I remember it. “I want blueberry pancakes” the child says in his angelic voice.
I lie awake and realize my purpose now. The light in my chest cannot be held at bay any longer. I make pancakes and his joy fills my cup to the brim.
This dream exemplifies my ongoing wilderness experience, metaphorically speaking. I have wandered through the wilderness of my soul for most of my adolescence and well through adulthood. Every direction I’ve ever chosen or whatever path I ever wandered has led me to this moment. I have succumbed to temptation that at times lead me astray. I have also chosen complacency and comfort over listening to the call of my wilderness. I don’t do this out of spite. It’s just that nowadays, we get so wrapped up in all of the stagnant distractions of daily life. The reality nowadays is these distractions can do significant damage to our mind, body and soul. We are all so caught up in the Busy these days. Deadlines, desperation, and past due amounts have taken our lives and are holding them hostage. What they seek in return is a complacent sense of fractured satisfaction. Do enough in life to pay your bills and die, sounds like a capitalist’s wet dream? When we breed this mentality we fail to realize the spiritual struggle wrestling within each and every one of us. This is because we ignore it, simply because we believe it will always be around. Which it isn’t. All doors that open are meant to be shut at some point. We tend to disregard the inner voice always echoing in the wilderness of our souls and the depths of our imagination. That voice may well be the will of God. I now understand the importance of listening carefully to that voice. It’s even more important to engage conversation with that voice through prayer and spiritual discipline. The struggle for integrity is real and living a life full of conviction isn’t easy nowadays with temptation lurking in every darkened alley. It’s going to take strict discipline and an even stronger will to follow that unbeaten path that pushes you towards spiritual salvation.
*This is a condensed version of what’s to come. My eyes are growing heavy. Good night.
I leave you with a song by the Reverend Al Green.