Yesterday morning I awoke with a start.
Frankly, I'm surprised it wasn't more of a jump or even scream -- for the reason I awoke with a start was because I was dreaming that a bear was attacking me. This is not exactly a reassuring dream when you live in a cabin in the mountains in the middle of a forest -- particularly when there are most definitely bears in the forest around you. Nope. Not reassuring at all.
The dream was rather simple -- and perhaps that is why it was so terrifying: somehow simplicity can seem more real, more scary, more unmanageable. We expect challenges, we brace ourselves for them. We never expect the most obvious. It is why they say we never expect the unexpected. Of course, I think the thing we truly never expect is the Spanish Inquisition.
But that's another story. To the dream....
I dreamed that the power was out (yet again!), and I had to go out at night to give my dog his last "potty break" of the day (yet again). Of course, with the power out, this meant the motion sensor lights on the side of the house are out (yet again).
This time, unlike the night recently when the power did indeed go out, there was no moon out. So the night was pitch black -- nearly impossible to penetrate even after one's eyes adjusted. This meant I could barely make out anything -- the trees, the rocks and stumps, nothing. I would put out my hand in front of me, and not even be able to see it. Total darkness.
The kind of darkness you can only get when you close yourself up in an interior room with no windows or even a crack under the door. The kind of darkness that as a child you would thrill in -- the way it made your heart race, and your palms start to tingle and sweat. The kind of darkness that just begged for a "game" of Bloody Mary.
I did the Bloody Mary chant once as a child. Several friends and I squeezed into our tiny half bath on the main floor of my long-time family home in Washington, DC. It was an interior room, no window, and only the slightest of cracks under the door. We shut the door firmly, turned out the lights, stared fixedly into the mirror, and started chanting "Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary"...
And all of us swore we saw a light flicker on at the back of the mirror and start to move towards us, start to get stronger and larger. Someone screamed, someone scrambled to get the (damn) door open, and after staring at each other pale-faced, we never spoke of it again.
But I digress.
Back to the cabin. Back to the pitch blackness. Back to being unable to see more than a foot in front of me. Back to a small white-gold, even "wheat" colored dog running off into the dark...
Still, I know the area surrounding my cabin by heart now. Never before has there ever been a late night animal sighting. Sure, once Rilke went off towards the back of the house, disappearing for several moments -- and then came running back at full speed, with two quick stops to turn around, bark furiously, and then continue his helter skelter flight towards me.
But that was just that one time. And I saw nothing. So really, I'm sure it was just my dog's active imagination. Because dogs have imaginations too. So really, just an active -- make that over-active -- imagination.
Wildlife surrounding my cabin be damned.
(And no, my neighbors who live a mile away from me as the crow flies are NOT allowed to butt in right now and point out that they see moose, mountain lion and bear at their home regularly. Not a word. NOT. A. WORD.)
Yet, my dream did not acknowledge the reality as I have known it -- it embraced the reality as it (absolutely positively) could be. It embraced the idea that there is wildlife out there....and it is just a matter of time before worlds collide.
I stood in the dark in the clearing next to my house, where normally I would have set off the sensor light, and be bathed in a warm glow from the light, from inside. Instead, I stood in the dark and stared off down the path I have trod many atime that leads away from the cabin and towards the confluence of two rivers.
Rilke, as he has many times, trotted off, nose sniffing and twitching madly, down that path. My eyes had adjusted, so now I could see beyond just one foot to probably about three or four feet. Still nothing compared to the usual night, but more than when I first stepped outside.
Rilke had been swallowed by the darkness, and I stared fixedly in the direction he had disappeared. I held as still as I could, barely breathing, trying to listen as intently as possible.
Silence. Dead silence.
I breathed slightly, and in my dream, time seemed to slow, as did the images and the thoughts. I could see my breath barely escape from my mouth, and hang in the air as the slightest of mists... Hanging there, expectant, waiting, still...
And then I heard a branch crack, off ahead of me and to my right -- off where the trees grew thick. My head swung quickly in that direction and I caught a dark shape shifting, moving... Shadows? Imagination? My mind playing tricks?
Then I saw a golden white blur go flying by me -- it has always amazed me how fast my dog can run on short little legs. I could hear his nails clicking against the occasional stone, and then skittering over the short walk to the deck stairs.
I turned to follow the sound, to stare dumbfounded at the blur bounding up the stairs and disappearing onto the deck. And then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up -- and I actually remember shifting uncomfortably in my bed.
I slowly started to turn back around and spotted green eyes, glowing -- no more like sparkling, no more like burning -- in the dark. Like the light in the mirror, they first appeared faint, flickering, and then steadier, larger and clearly coming closer. It was the steady lumbering gait, which implies an easy trot but instead is a deadly gallop.
Behind the eyes was just that same deep, black shadow. The clear concept of heft and weight while at the same time absolute nothingness. An absence of all.
By the time I had turned square around to face it, the bear was upon me.
I sharply drew in my breath as I fell, and started awake.
I know dreams have deeper meanings, depending on who you talk to, either processing bits and pieces of our conscious and subconscious or representing emotions and actions. I also know that in the past my dreams have foretold happenings, usually not good ones. And yet I also know that to this day I have never been able to figure out one of the most terrifying, yet simple dreams, I have ever had -- a dream from my childhood that I swear continued past when I awoke.
So perhaps others have more insight than me. Perhaps the dream meant nothing, or it meant everything. Perhaps it was simply a dream.