Vivid Dreams, Vivid Waking

The night before last I slept long and soundly, and I am someone who views a good night’s sleep as quite a happy accomplishment. I even dreamed, and as usual I remember the dreams only as an irrational and inconclusive procession of images, but random fragments lingered in my head as I awoke. What I recalled most vividly were children dressed in white and playfully running across a green grassy field, and a sense of celebration. Some of them were versions of particular children I had taught long ago, and some were wished-for children who never came to be, and others were just generic kids, symbols of hope and tomorrow, and they were filled with light. One of them told me I had done good, and I was so moved and grateful to have mattered, that my face crumpled, and I wept, crying almost clownishly, crying like a river that needed to flow. But I woke up still worried, and all of my wanting felt as sharp as a knife.

Today was a windy, blue-sky day, the mountains rising in the distance with great clarity, crowned by plump white clouds, and I drove along a fairly deserted stretch of Highway 101 to Santa Barbara. I was well north of the disastrous mudslides, and it would be easy to think that all was well in our idyllic little town, but we could hear rescue helicopters flying above, and there was a sense of disbelief and sadness. Seventeen people have perished and others are missing, a hundred houses have been destroyed, and roads are impassable due to flooding and debris.

Life to me seems brightly lit these days, everything intense and impactful, shimmering with meaning that I cannot fully grasp, and I move through it all feeling vulnerable and small. I’m bracing for a major surgery next month, and maybe that gives each day a deeper significance. Someone told me that I’m brave. I’m definitely not. Someone else asked me if I were going to write about the experience. I suppose I already have, and I’m doing it right now, but I don’t know how I’ll feel afterwards.

And I wasn’t sure how to wrap up this little blog post, but I happened to notice a poem by Mary Oliver that my cousin posted on Facebook this evening. It’s called “I Worried” and it ends like this:

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up.
And took my old body
and went out into the morning
and sang.

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