Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem
So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. Christopher Reeve
I woke the other morning with a dream still fresh in my being, vivid and in color and eager to be remembered. I stood on the sandy bank of a river in my dream, a tidal river, I think, and the current was swift, and when I placed one foot into the moving water, I could feel it, as though I were awake, the way my leg tingled with the cold, the way the current began to pull at me. I knew I needed to get to the other side and I couldn’t see how I could make it happen. The river was too strong, its grasp fierce and unrelenting.
It was two days earlier in waking life, on a sunny Saturday early evening with a north wind blowing and the air clear and refreshing, that my husband Cam and I traipsed from Wetmore Landing along Lake Superiors’s rocky shoreline. And two miles into our hike, as we approached the tip of Little Presque Isle where mainland and small tree-covered sandstone island are separated by an isthmus of water, we came upon it, a crisis unfolding. On calm days, it is easy to wade waist deep out to the island and it is a popular playground for those with an adventurous spirit. But on this day, the wind had kicked up and the waves had risen to three-feet high and the water had become confused. And there was the current and the riptide and the adventurers trying to make their way back to the mainland. It had blown them off their course and when we arrived, a rescue already was taking place. Bright orange life rings and preservers had been tossed to those in trouble. Others were holding onto a paddle board as a man wearing a preserver was pulling them through the current toward shore. The coast guard had been called and a boat was on its way, and the Search and Rescue, ambulance and sheriff showed up as we stood by and prayed. And all made it to shore and all were okay and the story’s ending was a good one.
But I do wonder whether the incident that we witnessed in the bright waking hours of a Saturday early evening was working its way through my dreamtime in the predawn two days later. It had felt visceral to me that Saturday, watching the young people fighting the current and plowing their way back to the safety of the shore. When we were their age, Cam and I had experienced a similar struggle with current. We had crossed a river in coastal Maine just a few inches deep at low tide to play in the waves on a long sandy stretch of beach line. And, we had body-surfed for hours, eaten a picnic lunch in a warm patch of sand, watched the terns dive into the water for herring. And before we knew it, the tide had poured in and the river had filled up and the water was swift. Holding backpacks and running shoes, we stepped into the current, then paddled through the swiftness to the other side. And, though I was a strong swimmer during my college years, the power of the undertow frightened me. It is hard to remain clear-headed when you are being pulled from your center by the current.
And maybe my dream, my nighttime dream, also has to do with the river of energy being carried along during this pandemic. There is the news media filled with corona counts and a sense of divisiveness and a power to draw us in, to pull us down to a place where we can drown in its waters, and there is uncertainty in the air for sure. For the most part, I have done okay, only dipping my foot now and then into the media’s swift current, and breathing in the air’s uncertainty with a sense of adventure that we, the big “we”, the global “we” are being offered the opportunity to forge something new from this chaos, something more expansive and loving. It has been easy to stay positive as I hike the trails through the Upper Peninsula’s forests and lake shores, as I stay connected with friends on Zoom and at safe distance in person, as I write my poems and essays, as I spend time with Cam. Yes, this has been easy — and I breathe it in with great gulps of appreciation. But what about family? What about travel beyond these sweet forest borders? What about grandkids and kids who live more than a thousand miles to the west and siblings and cousins who live more than a thousand miles to the east? What about a rendezvous with these kids and grandkids in one direction and a memorial service in the other direction for a sister who passed in early June? And what about visiting a mother-in-law who lives in the south of Michigan? When I try to figure it all out, when I add to this mixture a husband who is facing his own challenges back in the world of dentistry during a pandemic, I’m at a loss. The river seems wide, the water wild and my ability to cross questionable.
Sometime in late April, I began to envision it. I didn’t have to try; it just came to me in daydreams, a clear image of the two of us. I think by then I knew that plane travel would be risky for quite a while, that Cam and I needed to figure something else out, another way to connect in person with family. It was always a brief snippet, my envisioning, a back road, and the two of us in a vehicle big enough to sleep in, and music playing and us singing and this wonderful wild feeling of freedom. And in May, I began to say it out loud, that a small motorhome or camper van was the way to go, that maybe renting one would be a possibility, that we could do it, travel west and east this summer. And then June rolled around and dentists returned to work and things became more complicated and we didn’t act, not soon enough it seems, or with a clear notion in mind. So here we are, Cam and I, near the end of July, on the banks of a river wondering how to get to the other side. We have not found a motorhome available to rent; others must have had the same daydream. But we have claimed some time in August and are looking at the river and knowing there must be a way to cross it. And that daydream, of the back road and the vehicle big enough to sleep in, and us singing, and a sense of freedom, it’s still very much alive in me.
So I’m not sure how it happened in my dream a few nights ago. There I was, standing in the sand at the edge of the river, knowing the current would have its way with me, knowing it was too dangerous to even try, just standing there, and that’s when the dream shifted. I’ve had dreams before where I’ve flown with the lightness of a bird, one time in autumn across the whole Upper Peninsula of Michigan looking down at a sea of blazing gold and red trees. It’s a wonderful feeling to fly in a dream. And this felt wonderful, too. All of a sudden, I was lifted up, by what I don’t know, lifted up above the churning swift water, and carried to the other side, just like that, with ease and grace. And there I stood on the other side. And that’s when I woke up.
And maybe I’m waking up now in this moment, realizing I can be there on the other side of the river, in the place I want to be, feeling the open road, the sense of freedom with a partner I adore and connection with family. Maybe we all can let go of the struggle, let go of fighting against the current, maybe we can allow ourselves to be lifted and uplifted to a place where solutions come easily and new feel-great possibilities open to us, and our dreams manifest in ways better than we can imagine.
Lake Superior Shoreline: