Daylight beckons me to stir out of my bed, but a relentless heaviness drags me under into the realm of sleep and dreaming.
The path I walk on is covered by water, like a shallow trough. It is a gray, overcast day. To my right the landscape drops off revealing a large body of water below, which flows beneath the place we stand. We must be on a bridge, I think. A female companion walks just before me, oblivious to our surroundings, but me, I am captivated by the movement of snakes in the water below. “Look!” I exclaim. “Look at how magnificently they navigate the water.” We both stop to look as a long, earthen-toned snake effortlessly glides side to side passing beneath us. Relieved to view them from a distance, I suddenly notice movement in my peripheral vision: a large water snake is headed our way, its head poised as if to strike. How can this be? The water here is very shallow. I alert my friend and step out of the water onto the muddy bank to the left. The ground here is steep, with patchy clumps of overgrown coarse grass. I step carefully to get a good footing hoping the snake will not follow me on land. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust, but when they do, I see that an even larger, earth-coloured snake is coiled in a shallow hollow only a step away from where I am. I try to warn my friend, but am too late. She jumps out of the water and throws herself directly into the mushy mass of snake. “Back up carefully,” I warn her, trying to discern the head of the snake in this enormous coil. “But try to move quickly.” The large mass slowly comes to life, shifting its weight, readying for movement.
Startled, I awaken. Not again!
I have dreamt of snakes frequently over the past several months, each one prefacing change within our lives. I have come to dread their appearance. But these snakes are different, not the bright coloured greens, reds, or blues of previous dreams. These blend into their surroundings, natural components of a larger ecosystem.
I wonder what message they bring. And who is the woman that accompanies? I decide to let her speak:
As I trudge along the shallow waterway, I see only miles of barren, grey landscape before me. Something looms in the far distance, be it denser, black clouds, or mountains, I cannot tell: the greyness of this day offers no light for clarification. The water at my feet is not cold, despite the lack of sunshine, nor are there rocks to heed my pace; it simply appears that the path has recently filled with water that otherwise wouldn’t belong here. The passageway is narrow, and doesn’t offer any apparent alternative routes, so we carry on, carefully making our way. The woman who follows me is distracted, lacking intent, and I am afraid she is going to hinder our progress. She stops to observe snakes that swim in the waters far below us. This has once been an old train trestle, I believe, a passage carved in the side of this hill, overlooking an expanse of inland water. The scene might be beautiful on another day, but the land has not yet recovered from the harsh winter, and the landscape appears battered, with only dried up stumps of what was greenery in a better time. I observe the snakes and wonder at her fascination. Does she not share my desire to be clear of this place; to move on? I sigh. Suddenly, she warns me of a snake approaching. Instinctively, I leap from the water and throw myself on the earth beside me. I land not on solid ground, but on a warm, springy mass, that first recedes, then expands, repelling me. I hear the warning: Move cautiously, and scramble to gain my footing, horrified that I have met my doom. Is this how it will all end?
Maybe we need to let the snake speak:
I am as old as all time, and I have grown and grown over the years, until my size has become legendary. Some think me lazy. Others run in very fear of my physical enormity. Few know me well. When times get hard, I curl myself up and sleep it off. Not much you can do to change things, I’ve learned, so why try to fight. Just go with it. Curl up, and wait for a new day to dawn. Detached inaction, I call it. This certain kind of grayness that lingers in the air is one of those times. That sky is one endless huddle of clouds, obliterating the sun and any hope of a clear day. I have dug myself a nice comfortable hollow in which to coil up for a long rest. Or at least, that is what I thought, until some out-of-control woman, bent on some foolish mission, comes along and disrupts my sleep! Scared herself silly – so silly, she didn’t even see me lying there. Now, I know I am fairly well camouflaged – and that has helped me survive for so long, no doubt – but there ain’t no mistaking my massive curves, if you’re paying attention. I know I am slow to react, and like to just let things roll off my back, but this woman got to me. The full of weight of her jumped on my sleeping back, and I am not taking that lightly. I need to get a look at this disturbance. I blow myself up to full size, pushing her off me, and begin to stretch. Ohhhh that feels good – the first stretch of the day, coming out of a long slumber. I stretch and breath in a long, satisfying inhale, waking up each and every fiber of my inner strength. I unwind, raising my head and opening my eyes. Two women are beside me, or should I say, besides themselves. One, the perpetrator, is struggling to regain composure. The other carefully stepping out of my way. “Hello Ladiesss”, I say, disarming them yet again.
“So sorry,” the clumsy one mutters. “Didn’t mean any harm, really.”
I see the head of another snake go slithering by, laughing, and realize that he has been the culprit. “Ssstartled, were you?” I ask.
“What? Oh, yes!” Then the inevitable: “You talk!”
“Well, yesss, I do. Sssshould we wassste time on that?”
“Oh no!” exclaims the other. ” Not at all. We are very sorry to have disturbed you. Can we ask you a few questions?”
“Give it a ssshot,” I hiss.
“First off, where are we? Is it always so glum?”
“Ahh, yes….glum. Well, not always, no. Recently, certainly.” I ponder the first question. “Where are we? Well only one answer to that: Where aren’t we?”
“I don’t understand.” The fallen woman seemed to be regaining her composure.
“It’s a riddle,” said the other. “She speaks in riddles.”
Clever girl, I think to myself.
“But why? What is the point in that?”
“You are my practical side, aren’t you?” the clever woman addresses the other. “You are the one that keeps moving even when there is no apparent direction and all looks hopeless.”
“Well….yes. What else would you want me to do? Sit down in the muck and let it overwhelm me?”
“It’s not ssso bad asss that,” I offer. “I wasss quite comfortable before you two came along.”
They both look at me.
“Are you going to eat us?” The practical one asks.
I guffaw. “Terrorize you maybe, but eat you never. You are too full of poison and toxinsss for my liking.”
“She’s talking about your diet. We have been eating a lot of junk recently.”
The practical ones just nods.
“Pretty hard to terrorize now that you’ve spoken to us, though,” the clever one offers. “What are you doing here?”
“Been here forever,” I glibly respond. “Question should be: what are you doing here?”
“Things are not going well for us.” Practical One states.
“I have been struggling with anxiety and depression,” the other offers. “We have been trying for quite a while to stay on the straight and narrow, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Too much uncertainty.”
“So she brought us here,” Practical add defiantly.
“Look, I know you are disappointed, but I have limits. What was the point to pushing on anyways?”
“Ladiessss, I ssee your dilemma. One of you jussst wantsss to maintain the ssstatusss quo, while the other wantsss change.” Their glances tell me I’m on the right track.
“Do you know how many times she has stepped off the path?” Practical sounds more venomous then I ever have. “She is always changing her mind, taking us on side trips, losing her perspective. She would rather we live our life unpredictably, without security and reliability. Can you imagine what others think of us?”
“And I think your narrow-mindedness and conventionality has led us astray. What if we are missing out on our true life purpose? What if all this catering to norms is making us miss our calling? Maybe we’re not meant to conform.”
“That sounds like a cop out to me! What are you afraid of?”
“I’m afraid of living life to someone else’s drumbeat, not my own. I am afraid of never really living out my potential, out of fear that it might not please others. Who cares what others think?”
“You are missing my point!”
“That a certain amount of conformity is necessary for survival. If we don’t keep trucking, this place is all we are ever going to know. We’ll get stuck here. How depressing would that be?”
“So what would you have us do instead. The same thing over and over, hoping someday it will produce a different outcome? That is the definition of insanity.”
“Ahem!” I cough, trying to get their attention. “First off, thiss isss not just somewhere, it is where you are right now. It isss your life. Now, you can argue and over-think it, or you can try and flee it, but you cannot esssscape it. Best to ssstart to live it.”
“Easy for you to say, no offense, but you are a snake.”
“And a dream figure at that.”
“Point taken. A sssnake that hass been around for a long time. A ssurvivor, you might ssay.”
The clever one’s eyes narrow. “Do I know you?”
“Maybe,” I respond coyly.
“A survivor, you say?”
“Were you there when I had that accident at nine?”
“And when I fell off that horse at fourteen and was bedridden for a week?”
“And that time I was abducted and raped. Were you curled up with me in the corner?”
“I know you! You are my inner strength! I wondered where you’ve been hiding.”
“Oh, never hiding, my dear girl, I can asssure you. Sssleeping ssssometimes, but never far away.”
“Will we get through this?” Practical One wants to know.
“Of courssse we will,” I state with confidence. “We’ve got through everything elsssse.”