A boy upon the shore
Questions the abyss
O' er moonlit shells
His spirit flits
Past mountains ground fine
And wood carved by time
He hears the song
And answers the kiss
His destiny, the flavour
Of Amphitrite's lips
There is a place I go to in dreams that resonates in my waking life as if making sure I don’t forget how how to navigate thither. It is a wooded landscape, always blessed with a river, mountains and if penetrated deeply enough, a high shelving beach which slopes into the vastness of the sea.
Whenever I find myself there my dream being will always pause on his way until my fleshly being takes that cue and acknowledges the familiarity of that special landscape. This spiritual “heads up” does not wake me but it does forge a connection between two states. It is analogous to having two stereo tracks and adjusting the sliders so that the channel that is usually muted during sleep is pushed forward just enough to mingle its sound with the dominant channel.
Rather than a re-balancing of sound, however, think of a re-balancing of awareness and you will easily imagine the rare quality of this state. I take this phenomenon as a purposeful blessing which carries responsibility. It first occurred when I was twenty years old.
I was living in Deep Cove with my first wife. Our possessions consisted of two cups, two spoons, two plates, two pots, a frying pan, two guitars, our clothes, milk crates full of books, a record player and our combined collection of vinyl albums. The simplest way to describe what occurred would be to say that I fell asleep with complete awareness of the process. It was experienced as invisible blankets of Morpheus, being gently placed atop my prone form.
With each layer, a physical weight was perceived and a corresponding sense of safety and peace increased. At a certain point, I went unconscious. Immediately on the heels of this oblivion I became aware of being soaking wet. My dream body snapped to attention and sprang up from a shallow warm surf to stand and gaze out to sea. I dug my toes into the wet sand and sharp grainy bits of shells.
The very next thing I did was to reach down and scoop a handful of salt water and taste it. I swished it around my teeth and spit it out. I reached again and splashed two handfuls over my face and hair. It was afternoon according to the sun and no sooner had I taken note of this that I began to laugh. I giggled, pranced, splashed, ran to and fro and even exclaimed to myself, “I’m really here!”
That made me start to wonder where “here” was and at the same time I had a strong desire to figure out how to come back whenever I wanted and to describe that place to the folks back home. I searched the horizon of that calm sea for ships or boats and saw none. My next inclination was to explore the land behind me.
Up to this point I hadn’t turned around and as I did so, the first thing that impressed me was the steep slope of the beach. The second thing to impress upon my awareness was the well-wooded ridge about a hundred yards inland and high enough that one could not see anything of the interior. The third thing I noticed made the hairs on my arms stand at attention. They peeled away from my wet skin and formed a keratin halo together with the small hairs on me neck. My reckless celebration became the caution of any wild creature before crossing unknown ground.
There before me some distance away, just underneath the high sandy ridge and well above the tide line stood an array of massive chairs. They were situated in a semi-circular fashion with the two ends closest to the sea and the center tight against the ridge. I took some moments for me to begin to understand their scale. Feeling watched and exposed, I cautiously walked toward them thankful that they were not occupied.
The only possible cover was in the woods behind and my curiosity demanded to be satisfied on the way to that haven. As I approached, I kept looking up to the ridge making sure I was truly alone. The beach was empty of any visible beings so there was only one direction which required vigilance. As I walked and the chairs got larger, it struck me as ironic that the depth of joy I had felt moments ago, co-existed in a place that generated such apprehension.
With one eye on the high ground and one on the furniture which now I thought of as thrones rather than chairs, I approached. Counting the thrones and re-counting to make sure yielded a figure of twelve. That number put me in mind of biblical themes for the first time since falling asleep. About that time, I first noticed that there were several trails coming down from the woods, descending the sandy bluff and leading to the thrones.
I fervently tried to imagine the size of the creatures who made those trails from the evidence of their passing and found it difficult to be sure. I touched the dark handsome wood of one of the throne legs. I couldn’t reach high enough to touch the seat but I could see that it was upholstered in a beautiful mellow red leather. This covering was fastened with old brass tacks, the heads of which were much larger than my hands. I backed away a few steps and looked for any other clues. A moment later, I felt very strongly that those who sat on the thrones were approaching through the wood and were nigh at hand.
I stood waiting for the beings to top the bluff, convinced that I was soon to be examined by unknown Kings in that unknown place for unknown reasons in furtherance of unknown ends. Just as the familiarity of the salt water and sand had brought joy, the mysterious qualities of the place caused a feeling in me that was seven parts awe, two parts fear and one part dread. The slanting sun had rendered the breeze cooler and it shifted now to blow from the woods toward the sea.
I shivered and watched the tops of the trails like a sparrow watches a stalking cat. Tension increased within me until a point was reached wherein I felt all those previously laid blankets of sweet oblivion being retracted rapidly. The lightness brought about by this served to lift me like a cork and when I broke the surface into my full ordinary state of consciousness, I had complete vivid recall and awareness of where I had been and what had occurred there.
Over the years since, I have revisited that dream-scape. The next series of visits were conducted within the forest and involved leading my deceased father through those woods, over a mountain and up to the bluffs overlooking the beach. In those forays, the most interesting part to me was the phenomenon of my father being in the body of a small child with an adult face at the beginning of the trek. With each successive leg of the journey, his body slowly caught up to his actual adult size. He stopped on the last muddy pitch to the summit of the bluff at a place where I could smell and sense the sea. He said he could not possibly make it. I grabbed his wrist and literally towed him up the final incline. We stood together peering through the foliage at the sun shimmering off the water like molten silver.
“You did it,” I said.
My father has never peopled my dreams since that time. During the ten years or so that I was involved with my second wife, I had one lucid dream but in a different and much more mundane setting than before. The dream had to do with a battle to the death between myself and a very aggressive, ill-tempered bear. The setting was her childhood home in East Vancouver. I won the fight and when I phoned my boss at the heating company I worked for to explain why I had awoken late, he invited me to go camping with him and his family that coming week-end and teased me in a goodhearted way for dreaming of bears instead of pretty girls.
I bore no physical marks from the combat but I was physically exhausted upon waking and had the same post adrenaline rush jitters one would experience on this side of the chain-link fence of reality. One of the longer term effects of these forays is becoming used to sometimes rising from my bed with the physical feeling that I have just concluded an arduous day’s work on the other side coupled with a sense of relief at being able to now take my rest in the automatic routines of modern life and work.
My next visit occurred just before meeting my much beloved third wife, some twenty-seven years ago. In that instance, I came to consciousness within the dream quite abruptly. A mosquito bite on my neck and sweat stinging my eyes brought me upright from the ground I lay on. I was in the tropics, it was near noon and I was looking at a field of sugar cane a hundred yards away.
Next to it was a tangled forest that reminded me of the Louisiana woods. As I watched, a family group emerged, laid a mat and began to set up a picnic on the edge of the canebrake. A man, I guessed was the father, stood after awhile and looked right at me. He beckoned me over in a friendly way and I went to them. I couldn’t understand a word they spoke but I could see the good will in their eyes and sense their kindness in laughter and gestures.
There were two young men, an older woman, the man who had beckoned me and two young women. One of the younger women had a face that registered in my mind like a fingerprint on a piece of blotter paper. I knew I would never forget it. We finished up the meat, rice and fruit that was served. The younger folks picked up some tools and went into the cane while the older woman started to clear up our leavings.
The patriarch took me aside and indicated that we were to walk toward the forest. As I walked beside him, he struck the air behind me with his machete. I heard a yelp and spun around. There stood a squat, ugly man. One whom I recognized from my waking life. I had encountered him in a North Vancouver cafe one rainy afternoon and the memory of it still chills my blood. I have recounted that meeting in a different narrative but I will tell you that he was much older than he looked, always brought trouble and had power on his mind.
My host uttered some words and by the inflection and meter of those words I guessed it was a spoken formula of some kind. The repulsive old man behind us wore a malicious grin with the same nonchalance that a dog wears the stain of dung it has rolled in. Presently, as the man guiding me chanted louder, that smile widened to an incredible circumference. As we watched, the nasty mouth opened, a mottled tongue protruded and a small frog forced its way out of this unlikely door and hopped to the ground at our feet.
I let my eyes follow the progress of the amphibian as it hopped toward the forest. When it neared the edge of the brush I turned back to see the being it had issued from and there in the sunshine was a small black dog. The cane farmer spat at it. It growled and ran off immediately to the trees. My friend handed me a small pouch on a string and indicated that I wear it. He led me to a large tree several meters away from the wall of jungle.
He indicated that I was to sit against this tree. I did so and became aware that I could now understand that man’s speech as if a translator was inside my head. He said to keep the bundle as a protection when traveling between different states. He said that the shape-shifting fellow was a potentially powerful but parasitic entity, thus he was at the core a pathetic creature. I was to never forget that he was always in the woods, could take many shapes and though I shouldn’t fear him, I should never let my guard down. Ever. I was instructed to go to sleep just like I had done on the other side. I awoke abruptly in my Burnaby bedroom surrounded by the trappings of a very toxic marriage.
It wasn’t long before I saw the face of the young woman I had seen in the cane field. I was shuffling through a stack of documents and looking at photographs and bios of prospective nannies for my infant son at the behest of my second wife. I nearly dropped the paper when I saw it and as I eagerly read the thumbnail biography, I was moved to laughter when I saw that the birth date of the individual who’s particulars I was reading was the same as mine save for the year.
Years later when I was extricated from my legal bonds and had done much personal work fixing things within myself before trying any new endeavors, I began to consider formalizing a possible union with that woman in the picture. She had cared for my son prior to the dissolution of my marriage and I had gotten to know her better afterward. Eventually, I told her about the dream I had had. I described the father figure and the others, including herself. Her father and one of her brothers were long deceased and my descriptions of them and the ground on which we had met surprised her very much by its accuracy. It had been the Philippines.
I was reluctant to get married for a third time. Not from mistrust of the woman, but rather from lack of confidence in my own powers of discernment, due to two previous fiascoes in that arena. Just when I was about to surrender to celibacy as being the safest mode of existence, I had another special dream. That one was very powerful and literally changed my life. I described that dream in detail in my story, “Train To Heaven.” Any interested party can find that story in the archives at Radio Lillooet.
Since I have mentioned it, I will give you the gist of what I learned from that lucid dream. I learned to trust. Both myself and the woman I am now with. I learned that we can still arrive at distant destinations although we may lack skills of navigation simply by knowing who to trust and when to trust without fear or reservation. It was fitting that the lesson in trust came after the lesson of the frog spewing imp lurking in the woods. To learn trust was for me many magnitudes scarier than fighting the bear. I do not think that my life would have moved much beyond singing the blues over a bar-top had I not been graced with enough fortitude to set sail and damn the torpedoes.
I married that wonderful woman and some distance into our life together I found myself happily awake in another dream. I was in a lovely meadow of tall grass. The ground was surely North America. It was Spring and I sat delighted with the burbling sound of a small stream nearby. Over the next hour I was visited by rabbits, squirrels, foxes, badgers, weasels, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats and just about every fur-bearing creature smaller than a wolf.
They swarmed me like house pets, jumped on my chest and played at fighting without drawing blood. I talked to, laughed at and petted each and every one of them as they came out of the woods and crossed the field. Eventually I fell asleep in the grass and woke abruptly in my bed in a third floor walk up in New Westminster where my wife and I had begun housekeeping. I felt like a King and glowed from my contact with these creatures. I could swear that I smelled their fur on my hands as I went about my business that day.
In my own belief and experience, in the realm of dreams, there is no single meaning to be drawn. A single interpretation laid out in a psychology text or New Age tome is likely folly. Patience is always rewarded with deeper levels of meaning and confirmation. I am still learning from the dreams I have shared with you here. Each new dream examined against the past and present is further enriched by accumulated living, thinking, listening, looking, talking and reading. The other day a friend of mine described how the angle of the light illuminating the mountains affords an endless variety of interpretations of the same piece of geography. Dreams are very much like that.
Recently I revisited a dream place which I had started to wander several years before moving to Lillooet. It is a beautiful wooded area with well trodden footpaths that lead away from a town toward a river. There are a few small cabins near the river but they are very far between. When I walk along these paths, sometimes in the daylight and sometimes at night, I always encounter bears. Usually Grizzly bears. I have a strong yearning to see their river and I am also aware that they could easily eat me.
A few times I have started out on the trail and have even had the company of other people. Generally, when the bears are far away and I can see them, I have no angst. But when the light is waning or I am suddenly surprised by a bear behind or beside me that I had passed earlier without spotting, my feeling turns to caution, healthy respect and some trepidation. I always work my way back to the little town as quickly and as quietly as I can. There was a significant change in this routine during the time I speak of.
I came to consciousness upon the back of something big, furry and alive. We were already in motion and I want to say galloping but the method of locomotion was different from that of a horse. I was busy watching where we were going and I hooted with glee every time we leaped off a small height or made a sudden directional change. I grabbed handfuls of coarse long hair and pulled my torso down prone as if hugging the beast with my arms.
I could guide the animal with pressure from my hands applied to its right or left shoulders. That was the extent of my control, I soon learned. I had no say as to our speed or our destination. We scrambled down one of the dirt paths I had trodden before. Within hearing of the river I began to notice the bears that always decorated that space. I told my carrier to be aware of this. We passed a big mother lynx with two kittens under a pine and I got my first close up look at that magnificent species. She looked at me intently as if to say, “Now you know.”
Right about then I whooped for joy at being gifted to see the lynx. Then I shouted out a warning to my transportation that the bears were getting a bit thick. What I noticed next, made me laugh so that I nearly fell off the back I was riding. Some of the foraging bears scattered around the perimeter looked up at my commotion. I wrapped hair in my hands and gripped tighter than a bull rider grips his rosined rope just before the gate swings open. I had just realized that I was astride one golly-whopper of a Grizzly and we could go where ever he pleased.
I pressed the left shoulder and the bear responded like it had power steering. We tore past all those bears and ran flat parallel to the river until I saw a highway up ahead. I tried to steer a course so as to skirt around a big clover-leaf of asphalt. There were some flashing red lights. As we powered through our trajectory, I saw a big long car lying upside down. Other than that I could see no damage on it. A lone policeman stood near his cruiser writing notes in a little book.
I tried to steer the Grizzly away from the shoulder of the highway. To my chagrin, the bear ran up to the guardrail, climbed over it and then ran several yards up the ramp leading away from the river. Next he clamored back over the rail and sped straight along the shoulder right into the mess. I rode along, feeling unable to change any of these events.
We whizzed past the police officer, his cruiser, the upside down car and finally a man who had been flattened. Literally flattened. A perfect life sized two dimensional man. There was no blood on him and where his eyes should have been there were only two black voids. I didn’t recognize his face and I marveled at the horrible but bloodless sight. My four legged chaperon seemed disturbed by the flat man more than anything and he spurted ahead at top speed. I could hear his claws clattering on the tarmac. He ran straight over the eyeless horizontal man. I could feel the bear's back pad slip when it trod on the boneless manikin like a loose table cloth.
The last thing I remember was a sarcastic, caustic, tattle-tale voice. It was behind me and I have heard it many times before. It was hurling epithets and accusations at me for purposely treading on and disrespecting the strange body. I knew it was lying and the dramatic vocal manner was calculated to affect those around me more than myself. Nothing could have stopped that bear however. When the bear stopped on its own, I woke suddenly, snug in my trailer. My cat Dusty was napping beside me with one of his paws thrown over my leg.
I needed to drive my wife to Kelowna the morning of that dream and we had to leave at six am. After a coffee we headed out. I drove to Lytton, Spence’s Bridge, Merritt and over a big mountain to the lake. The pass over the mountain was howling with blowing snow and buried in a cloud. I saw a mule deer up to its armpits in a drift. It was looking uphill where a sturdy fence further barred its passage. My need to keep eyes ahead precluded watching to see how it fared but it was gone when we passed over the same ground later that afternoon on the way home. A trucker in front of me put his four way flashers on and I did as well. A few fools sped past into the maelstrom. The blinking red lights reminded me of my dream and I decided to tell my wife about it, later.
We did our business in Kelowna. The highlight of which was when a woman in an office was taking down information and saw our Lillooet address.
“Is that a Place?” she asked in an innocent tone.
We assured her it was indeed a Place. We scarfed some Thai food while watching the parking meter a few yards away out the window. It was also being watched by two police officers in two different vehicles. The thick blue line could rack up $63.00 every thirty minutes from each meter in theory. I covered my too mild food with two kinds of chili and started a nice fire in my belly to see me home over the mountain. I reached the car with 30 seconds to go on the meter and nodded at the policeman with a small grin.
On the way back, near where the stranded deer had been, I saw a big long upside down car. It was even the same style as the one in my dream. There was a policeman, his car, a young man and a young woman all standing by, apparently awaiting a tow vehicle. The car was also remarkable in that it had no visible damage other than being on its back. The roof wasn’t caved in. The passengers were not bleeding or scuffed, the airbags weren’t deployed and there was no broken glass.
We dodged a lot of rocks on the stretch between Spence’s Bridge and Merritt as we wound along the Nicola River. This cleared up pretty good by Merritt and I was so relieved that I accidentally took a wrong exit and found myself Southbound to Hope rather than Westbound to Lytton. Just as my sleeping but very sentient wife was asking why I was going the wrong way, I saw a cloverleaf that looked like a toboggan run, hard packed with snow. I gently veered over, wheeled around a corner as if I’d been there before and after running under a metal culvert that dove beneath the highway, we were on track to try again for the exit to Lytton and a bowl of hot Won Ton.
We drove Highway 12 dodging rocks brought down by the sudden thawing of the past week or so. A few miles from Izman Curve there was a semi stopped with all its lights flashing in a pile of potato-sized rocks. There was no damage but I wanted to ask if the driver needed any assistance. The road was rightfully lonely that particular night. The window rolled down and a brave young woman leaned out into the wind to tell me that she and her rig were fine. She was waiting for the highway department to come scrape the road ahead before continuing. She warned us of a boulder near Izman and another one near the Big Slide.
Soon after returning home safe and sound I had a nap and found myself again on the dream beach I have been describing in this narrative. This time I came to awareness inside a truck. It wasn’t my Suzuki but I seemed to be familiar with all its imperfections and that made it feel as if it was mine. It was the first time I recall having a motorized vehicle on the other side of the curtain.
I was parked on the beach sloping down the sandy shelf and the tide was out. The windows were open to the delicious breeze which I inhaled like medicinal vapors. I have a small bottle of Tibetan Pink Rock Salt that smells just like that salt air. I turned my music down to balance the background of the surf. Sure enough, I fell asleep in that dream.
I was started awake by an effervescent laughter and one of the loveliest voices I can recall. I looked toward the passenger window and there leaning on the sill was a dark haired woman of perhaps thirty years. She smiled in a friendly way and indicated that I should look in front of me. When I did, I was humbled to see that I had let the tide creep up while napping and that my two front tires were completely under water.
“Get in,” I said. “I can use the bit of extra traction.”
She laughed again and hopped aboard while I started the engine and threw it in reverse. The slope of the beach was such that I learned quickly we couldn’t back out. I put the shifter into second and gingerly crept forward while slightly turning the wheel to the left. When I got the truck rolling along just fast enough, I completed the turn and barely garnered enough momentum to climb out onto the firmer sand. Then I gunned the engine and raced toward a notch in the bluff. I could see no sign of the thrones and I was glad. The young woman laughed all the way up and over the last barrier of tide wrack and soon we were cruising along a grassland.
I asked if she’d like to come see one of my favorite places and she assented. I drove to a spot where a few shade trees grew amongst long golden stalks of prairie grass. We left the truck and hunkered down against a fallen log. Side by side and staring out over the rippling grass tops. I pulled a stalk of grass and began chewing on it like cigar. I began to talk of all manner of things. The lady pulled a stalk of grass and chewed on it in mimicry.
I grinned and continued. A tap on the shoulder caused me to turn. The young woman had put so many grass stalks between her teeth that she looked like a shoe brush. We both laughed until we were exhausted. She spoke in a kind voice plated with sterling silver mirth and told me that I was becoming an old white haired man. She talked while I closed my eyes. I floated on the quality of her voice rather than the content of her words. She snuggled beside me and everything melted like a snowflake in a warm wind into a delicious slumber. I awoke at home and pondered who that laughing lady might have been.
The next day, I lay down for a nap and came wide awake in a canoe of sorts. I was in the front and my legs were dangling over the sides fending off rocks. There was a tremendous force propelling the craft. I recognized the water. It was the Nicola River that I had just driven along a few days prior. It was flowing under sporadic sheets of thin ice. There were green algae laden patches, ice blue stretches and some clear water as well.
I was curious where we were going and who was doing the rowing. I could hear the unmistakeable creaky-leather and rubber-band sound that big bird’s wings make. Also I could see shadows with my peripheral vision that certainly were cast by wings. Big wings. When I judged the river in front to be safe of obstacles I turned for a quick look.
Rather than seeing an outsized eagle, I saw the form of a small boy perhaps five years old. That he was St’at’imc, I had no doubt. He didn’t speak and the boat kept gliding just over the surface of the water and ice at a brisk pace. I turned around to continue my job, marvel at the scenery and speculate on our destination. Three times I turned to see the child’s placid face and each time I spun around forward I caught a glimpse of massive brown wings and the shadows they cast on the ice. A ringing phone woke me.
The next day, I had the honor of being one of two guest hosts for Radio Lillooet’s Open House. It was a live broadcast and we invited the public to share stories about how they came to be in Lillooet. Three of us hosts told our tales and played some of our favorite tunes. Two youngsters took the mike that afternoon. One bespectacled lad who appeared to be a natural, so at ease was he while his cousins and his grandma watched him with pride
The second boy was much smaller and younger. He gripped his little brown bag of popcorn like an osprey grips a fish. I held the mike for him as DJ Jeff tried to engage the youngster in conversation. The boy spoke so softly I had trouble hearing him from inches away. He was bundled up and thus had trouble hearing. I squatted down, got near the hood of his parka, put a hand on his shoulder and suggested he look at Jeff instead of the microphone. He turned his little face 90 degrees East and we were right back on the dream side Nicola River flying over the ice. I realized then that it was the fourth time I’d seen that boy.
The Yolngu in Australia speak of something they call “The Dream-time.” They talk of singing their world into existence. The language these songs are sung in is forty thousand years old. They describe “Song Lines” that run through their land and believe that it is these lines and the songs that intersect them that continually call into existence those things that are familiar and beneficial to life and balance.
Some scientists describe much the same thing in the language of quantum physics and probability. There is an Apache gentleman who teaches that reality, just beyond the edge of the moving crest of the reality wave is no more than a set of probabilities. When enough creatures agree upon one of these probabilities, a pivot point is tipped and that particular thread will be the one drawn down into the loom to be woven into our tapestry rather than any other. It is for this reason that one must guard their mind, their individuality, their heart, their spirit and their integrity.
Media today makes the manipulation of information exponentially easier and thus the probabilities and possibilities that we fear or enjoy by turns can appear much more restricted in number and kind than they actually are. I don’t know if there is a multiverse and I don’t know if I will live long enough to see a working provable Universal Theory. To be sure, I don’t care to know those things. I would rather work with what I find in front of me literally and in my dreams.
I have found that these two sides of consciousness constantly overlap, blend their colors and inform each other. It is as magical out there as we are willing and able to accept. We are all part of the process in spite of ourselves. Dancing on the beach, cupping handfuls of salt water and splashing it on to prove we’re really there. I sense that I have slept through much of my forty-plus years of work and have worked hard throughout much of my sleep. Somewhere in the middle is where I now strive to walk so I can keep an eye on both sides of the road.
I often dream of distant lands
Blind to the beauty of where I stand
In my dreams, I encounter a man
Who often dreams of where I am
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.