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 was only until then, and now again, upon another rendition of this dream that I’ve started to claw at the surface of it’s significance with the hope that I can pin down the purpose of its meaning 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 am aware of at least. I would like to take some time now and share the dream with you.
I come to be awakened on a mountainous boulder. I stand upon shaky knees balanced high above an extravagant raging river flowing furious with Old Man Winter’s runoff. The morning wasn’t breaking so much, as it was infiltrating through my blurred vision. I am entrenched in some vast and splendid wilderness. The only sound other than the deafening silence of loneliness is the symphony of an unhinged river’s rage. My first thought, is whether or not the trout are biting? Where’s my fly rod? I look all around and see that it is nowhere to be found. “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 warming fire, or maybe it’s a burning bush.
I am captivated at the spectacular scenery that encompasses me. It’s the most picturesque sight I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The morning sun is awakening from its slumber and painting the mountains purple in their majesty. As the golden hour washes over the craggy cliffs that tower over me to the north, I think to myself what a sight for eyes sore with solitude. 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. Could this be a celestial vibration that I am on the right path? 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. In the sense of simultaneous, I reclaim my balance and I manage to reorganize the awareness of my environment. 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 imprecision.
I start my descent down a trail 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 moves into an opportunistic sprint. I sense a hint of fear and become scared; unaware of the conditional circumstance that awaits my lack of carefulness. I stumble again but this time balance escapes me and I fall. As I fall, I try and let my limbs go limp. I do this under the instinctual cognizance that external limbs are less likely to break or snap like twigs when not constricted with fear. In focusing upon this my head introduces itself to the hardest substance it has ever felt and I fall unconscious. After a few moments, I come around back to my senses. By hook or by crook, I manage to pick myself back up. My head is screaming with a sharpening discomfort that buries healthy pleasure with an unsettling 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 I was before, let alone now. The smoldering smoke from before is now thick and heavy—its density has consumed every bit of clarity I had left about me. I start traipsing through the fog; I have no sense of direction. I feel like 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? Could this be 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 some 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, crossed upon my heart and I 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 short-lived morning I sleep like a rock.
I am startled awake by the sound of a snarling animal. Scared, scarred and shaken, I quickly stand up—dizzy. Sudden fear enshrouds the wooziness in my head and I make sure my presence is noisily felt. Adrenaline alone 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. With a ginger demeanor, 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 an icy soaked, but buoyant brook of excitability.
Hallelujah, it was water. Miraculously, I had happened upon the river again. In a baptismal elegance I fall to my knees, submerging my aching head into the rivers depth; 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 shortened 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 wolf that looked to be plotting his next move, for he is as thirsty for blood, as I was for a drink of fresh water. I have a hunch that I haven’t seen the last of him.
I continue upon the stepping-stones with ease to my stride. 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 was walking these stones for at least a mile and still no sign of the west bank of this river I have now dubbed 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 pulsating 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 vibrational purpose, and wade with bewilderment. 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 from one another 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 that everlasting instinct for survival. I notice a large piece of driftwood floating with more poise than me and push my way towards it through the vicious current 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 come to be revived on a pebbly beach. I was spooning a piece of driftwood half my size as though it was a pillow. My head is splitting with an ache but the air is steadily warm now, almost arid. My damp clothes are the only thing between the luxury of warmth and me. The river 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. For the lush wilderness had become a barren desert. 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 beneath a ballooning bush of sagebrush. This shade could only be used as shelter from the scorching sun for maybe two hours a day. I look behind me and see the monumental mountain reaching for Heaven above while nothing but sagebrush and high desert for the foreseeable future ahead of me. Hunger pangs are making themselves known now. I scrounge for something to eat. I find nothing but a handful of ants. I eat them and it is true, they are crunchy and sour. I make a fool of the pangs by chewing on some sagebrush. The sagebrush becomes a brief but nonetheless shaded shelter from a fierce sun and its cold-blooded 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 the incendiary ants I ate earlier as a snack are stinging me. “Karma, is an instant bitch,” I scream silently. 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 the monumental mountain. The mountain of eternity seemed to rumble with agreement as rocks start to tumble down the slopes with an awaiting earnestness. The mountain was as massive as it was intimidating. It interrupts the rolling desert plain with an abruptness that sprawls ten thousand plus feet into the horizon, almost out of midair it seemed.
I was more ready for this climb than I believed I was. I start singing at the top of my lungs; maybe I was hoping for one last possibility that someone might hear me, or maybe I was just a bit stir crazy, “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 impersonating Robert Plant but I am positive I do it no justice whatsoever—I imagine the Hammer of the Gods are laughing out loud at me. As I expected, only silence followed, still I felt a little zanier yet confident 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 afternoon was. I spun around, spinning with bewilderment. There was no one within a day’s walk of me. Yet the voice was shrilling with a sense of comfort. Maybe it was the stern approach that would not allow me to take the demanding tone lightly. Without question, I started moving with fleetness. I proceeded to blaze my own trail up the mountainous terrain. I must’ve gotten my underrated second wind because I covered an extensive amount of ground, in a short period of time.
Just before dusk I had to slow to a steady pace to assess my situational circumstances. The wilderness was becoming thick and the forest was filling itself out like a puzzling maze. Humidity filled the air and night was beginning to fall. The dew was beginning dampen the environment with a chill that stuck to my bones. Though the colder air acted like aloe on my scorched skin, and I welcomed its comfort. 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, when I thought I heard the snarls again. It was nothing but an insect the size of my forearm, humming a sort of wilderness lullaby. But in the distance I heard the howling of a wolf, and instead of becoming frightened, I felt security wash over me, I was no longer the only living entity within this wilderness.
I stumble upon a path. This is another sign that I am indeed headed in the right direction. And as I come upon a fork in the path that heads in different directions—I become surprised with the pleasantry of a sign. For a sign, signaled hope. The sign shared the following morsel of wisdom. Here lies the confluence of two, once mighty rivers. One was called Soul, the other Ego. One must choose between the paths wisely for there may not be another opportunity for you to find your way to the Promised Land in which you seek. I kneel and pray, the voice answers with a vibrational pulse that echoes through my entire being. I walk towards the merging trails. I converge my steps between the both of them and I walk with purposeful intention through the valley of the shadow of death. I begin to bushwhack my way through my metaphoric fear and leave it behind, where it belongs.
I feel a few raindrops grace my presence and notice a mountainous thunderhead forming over my head. I do not fear this storm because I know it is all in my mind. But as the storm begins to drop golf ball sized hail upon my head, I pray for something to shelter me from the storm. I walk brisk down the path and as I turn a corner, much to my delight there is an old outhouse. I fall with exhausted grace into its storm-shielding demeanor. I am content in the solitude of this ageless four-cornered Calvary. And I see an inscription of scripture carved upon the wall. And just below it was an insignia of biblical times.
He made my mouth sharp like a sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.
Isaiah 49 : 2
As I finish reading this profound scripture the walls around my head start to cave in, and I hear the shrieking laughter of a child. Soon there followed the sweetest voice my ears have ever heard.
“Daddy, wake up. Naptime is over.”
I scream startled waking from an afternoon snooze, dazed and confused. He had dove upon my chest.
Shaking with sudden comfort, he says to me, “Dad, what are we going to do now?”
“Save the world my child, at least for you, that’s what we are going to do.” saying with confidence.
“Okay, but first can we go to the river?” he asks.
“Of course we can kiddo, but after the rain stops,” I say much to his dismay.
The steady rain patters away on the roof, putting my mind at an ease it hasn’t felt in quite some time. My vision is no longer blurred and I realize my purpose now. The light flows from my heart to my mind will never be dimmed ever again. It was time the dream turned to reality.