I’m going to tell you about them anyway.
Last night my dream self encountered one of those bizarre amalgams of ordinary nagging subconscious fears–of being late, of having to go back to school, of climbing high, unguarded–and of extraordinary sights and colors and happenstance.
Jim was back with me in this dream. Even in my dream state, I knew something was very wrong and he wasn’t truly there with me. He was quiet and serious. He wasn’t teasing me or joking.
In this dream I had to return for another year of law school, and somehow I showed up a few days late. An odd professor (by law school standards, which differ from physics standards; should the point require illustration, I knew one physics professor who dressed only in purple velvet suits…or, quite possibly, the same purple velvet suit) seemed to be in charge.
He had issued an edict that all the stairs be removed from outside school buildings. Access now only could be made by means of an acrobatic leap, with the hope of catching hold of a door sill and clambering up.
(Did I mention that in real-life I have been missing a good chunk of stairway recently? Long story.)
Because I had been late to this much-transformed school, the terminology was new, but I was expected to understand the unfamiliar names and protocols being tossed around–much the same way it seemed I was expected to understand the barrage of medical jargon through which I tried to come up for air in the aftermath of my husband’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.
The dream was and was not about photography, Jim’s passionate art.
In the evening, in my dream, we had only to step outside the school to see incredible wonders of shape and color: an old sailing ship bathed in intense blue and violet light; flowers blossoming in swirling shapes and uncanny combinations and glittering like perfectly cut rubies and sapphires. One had to venture only yards up another hill to see an entirely new and equally improbable gorgeous scene. In my dream Jim was silently snapping pictures, capturing all of these glorious sights.
In my dream, I tried and tried to take pictures but my camera wouldn’t work. It captured only a single magical image: I had just taken the leap from one of those fiendish stairless stairwells and saw what looked to be a swirl of white butterflies above me. Finally, I heard the click on my uncooperative camera just as I realized that in fact I was watching a cluster of rainbow-colored birds that immediately turned sideways, evaporating from sight into the blue.
The genesis of the most curious parts of this dream was no mystery upon awakening. During a dull errand–fetching milk–I had left the store to a cloudless blue sky, then paused and looked down for something I had dropped. When I looked up, the sky was filled with twittering birds–too many to count. I grabbed my camera from my pocket and began blindly pressing the button in the seconds before the entire swarm turned as one and seemed to evaporate into the sky. They all disappeared.
Then a single bird swooped slowly back into my view and hovered before vectoring away.
You told me life was long but now that it’s gone
You find yourself on top as the leader of the flock
Called to be a rock for those below
When I reviewed my pictures, there were several squares of pure blue, and only a single image appeared: the huge fleeting flock of birds, just before they all evaporated from view.
Several nights ago I had driven through a Boston rainstorm at night and seen a tall ship moored, surrounded by blue-violet light.
These facets of my very ordinary days had wended their way into my sleep–a sleep that is no longer entirely “the hours I can’t weep“–and there they become magical.
In Our Town, Mother Gibbs spoke to the ghost of young mother Emily and exhorted her not to come back to replay a happy day of her choice. She reminds Emily that she will not know what lies ahead of her as she relives that day. After all, as in an Ode to Horace:
Don’t be too eager to ask
What the gods have in mind for us,
What will become of you,
What will become of me,
What you can read in the cards,
Or spell out on the Ouija board.
It’s better not to know.
Mother Gibbs tells Emily to at “least, choose an unimportant day. Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.”
Jim wouldn’t chose a landmark day either, could he rejoin us in that way. Even knowing what lay ahead for him, I’m certain he wouldn’t have chosen our wedding day; after all, then he would miss being with our children. He wouldn’t have chosen the day of one child’s birth and forsaken the others. He wouldn’t have chosen the day of a great celebration because, as much as he would want to spend time with family and friends, his attention would be diverted from the core of his ordinary everyday life: us, being outside, thinking through a menu of problems at work, eating lunch with a colleague, picking up his camera and snapping pictures of a bird.
Each day was important enough for Jim.