Saturday morning I dream three dreams. I had read we might expect vivid dreams. The moon was moving into Pisces, and there was something about Saturn, too. So I don’t know if my dreaming was due to the power of suggestion or the influence of the cosmos. But I dream deep and true–swing wide the Gates of Horn, indeed. I fall asleep early the night before over my book and sleep later than I can’t remember when, twelve hours all told, unheard of in years. It is day three of my four-day holiday, so I know something is at work here. I dream of hiking in the hills beside an aqueduct, sunlight bright on the water. I see the head of a mountain lion, but it becomes a deer. There are three of them in the tall grass. There is a big blonde boy-dog swimming. I dream of flying over a city that climbs a hill and edges water, the reflections in the water dazzling and dizzying in my flight. I am in a foreign country and fly above a market street that climbs the hillside. It is filled with people walking, but there are no cars. I think later it may be in Africa. I dream of a new home in another town by other water, a harbor or a bay. There is a huge rooftop patio. I decide I will sleep there. I wake up and write down my dreams for the first time since April. I am happy and relaxed and excited, too. I apologize to my cats who are patient this morning. They watch me and wonder, I think, what has gotten into me. “I feel like myself again,” I tell them. And I do, for the first time in ages.
Friday I mean to run errands, to return a book to the library, get toner at Rite Aid so I can print the flyer for our writing circle, buy groceries at Ralph’s. But after my morning chores are done I end up spending the long afternoon reading in the courtyard garden instead. It is hot, warm even under the umbrella. My goldfinch have returned in force, chattering at the tube feeders and from their perches in our neighbor’s tree. I have a full belly, too, and find myself nodding off a time or two over my book. I think about taking a nap, but I don’t want to miss any part of the day, this second in my four-day holiday. My body is heavy and relaxed, just this side of sleep, when I am startled awake. I’ve forgotten to check the login tickets! I picture the support page in my mind, people waiting for help, untended. The thought runs straight through me, an electric shock, my body stiff with panic. I had lost myself in rest. I’d forgotten to do my job. I remember right away, of course. I am having a day off. But the thoroughness with which the shock infused me lingers. I shake my head and mutter to myself. I am surprised and annoyed by my reaction to this deeper rest. I push the thought of work away, resettle myself in the chair, go back to my book. But I notice the feeling that creeps in over the ferocity of that reflexive response. It weaves itself between the pages of my book, this small sadness, as I sink back into the story. Even so, I wrap my pleasure around me like a soft sheet on a summer day and let the sounds of the birds and the afternoon sunlight lull me once again.
Sunday morning my fingers do their weird, anxious thing. I am lying in bed. I’ve been dozing off and on, aware once at dawn and then again at seven, but I don’t surface until late, maybe eight o’clock. I stretch, the epitome of luxurious awakening, and my arms are over my head when I hear this odd sound and stop to listen. It is my fingers moving, making little scratchy sounds, fingernails against the sheet. This is my fourth weekend off, I calculate, make a point of emphasizing to myself. And so my fourth cherished Sunday when I can sink into the quiet of my neighborhood later in the day. I sit on the patio and let myself write. But it is not yet enough, not yet perhaps a long enough string of days, not enough to stop the restless circling of my fingertips. I am too quick to run out of patience with the cats, too quick to snap or yell at them. I do it with humans, too, but I am more subtle. I am not wild and loud like when I was young–sometimes people don’t even know I’ve snapped at them by my reckoning. But I feel it inside, this stingy tightness, this prickly impatience that has no true base in the moment but screams instead to that other angry person years ago who stole things from me. I am a person wound too tight. It is not the first time. Some days I am afraid I won’t know how to fix it, won’t find a way to be less anxious again. It wasn’t that long ago, I think.
Even as I write a part of me knows I will figure it out. I will find a way back to who I want to be. I wrote about this before and laughed when I read it later. I guess it was a kind of Freudian slip. “I want to find my way back,” I wrote, “to the woman who would drink her first cup of teach in the courtyard garden,” and let herself lean back in the chair, warm ceramic cup cradled in both hands, solid heat nestled against her sternum. The first cup of “teach,” indeed. How funny. I want to find my way back to the woman who knew how to stop like that every morning, the woman that knew how to drop down into her peace. I don’t want to be the woman whose mind in wrestling with work, teaching or otherwise, thoughts that assault that first hour of the day. Worse yet, sometimes I am the person whose first cup of tea sits forgotten beside me on the table, cold because I am too focused on the computer in my lap. I want to find my way back to that other woman who knew how to stop or at least pause every morning. And then a kinder voice emerges–a small miracle–and I remind myself I have already come a long way. “Voy a llegar,” I say, and I laugh in the now dark. I am going to arrive.
New moon day, and I want to return to practicing my writer’s craft. I’ve missed it, this relationship with myself, with my imagined readers, known and unknown. I’ve missed the weight of my notebook propped against my thighs, the whisper of my hand inching across it, squiggly lines that harbor meaning etched in black upon the soft white page. I hope I am really returning to my writing now, but I tell myself even only an entry or two for my blog will be a victory. Still, I am hoping for more. I want it back, a part of my days. I can’t say exactly what has kept me away. It is not lack of time, I know, though for a few months I did have less of it. More, if I would guess, it is an unwillingness to meet myself here. But I miss my writer self. And I don’t want this to be my reason, to not want to look or to dig, to refuse to unearth. I want to be willing to scrape away the layers of dirt again, pour water like rain, the hidden made clean, resurrected. I want to thrive again among the new-washed relics.
The doves scatter, twenty or more of them fanning out from the large tray feeder before me. I duck without meaning to, frantic flapping lives darting in all directions. I’m sitting in the courtyard answering questions from faculty in the Users Group on my laptop, feet propped up before me, misters cooling the air beneath the umbrella. And then the Cooper’s Hawk dips and banks before me, and I pull my knees up with a jerk. For one moment it looks like he will land on my footstool, and I’m breathless with his nearness. But he sees me, or maybe I gasp, and he veers toward our Palo Verde instead. He sits in Serena on a low green branch, and I strain to see him, to take in every bit of him with nearsighted eyes. I remember a friend of mine talking decades ago about how she was navigating a relationship with her new lover. “I keep reminding myself to just sit back and stay open,” she said. I do this now while the hawk studies me, beaming love while trying not to put too intense a focus on him. He stays for quite a while, making those wonderful quiet vocalizations I adore. If only I spoke hawk. I stay silent, not wanting to send him away. When he goes, I watch him dive between the fence and my neighbor’s carport and swoop north. A half dozen doves are startled out of a tree and fly east. I hear the water from the mister and the high-pitched sounds of dove wings flying away. I watch and listen, but I don’t see the hawk again.
I want to kiss a hummingbird. Yesterday morning after I put birdseed in the tray feeders I had my hand stretched out to reach for the hummingbird feeder (I like to shake the sugar water up each day) when a little one arrived to drink. My face was a foot away from her, no more. Or maybe her, maybe him. I think she was an adolescent. She drank again and again, tilting her head from time to time as though she was studying me, this large, looming presence. Or maybe I was only splashes of color to her. She wasn’t afraid. She stayed for a long time, resting on the rung of the feeder, sipping more pretend nectar now and again. I wanted to kiss her dear, soft little head. I wanted to stroke the edge of my index finger across her smooth back. Instead, I stood still, all admiration and awe. I kissed her in my mind.
It happened in the middle of the night. I was asleep, then half aware of too many sounds. Popping noises. Firecrackers? Drunks breaking bottles? I pulled myself out of sleep, turning in the room to orient myself, my ears and brain trying to make sense of things. The adrenaline rush left me trembling almost before I knew what I was looking at. There was a wall of fire to the east, trees gobbled up as I watched. There were snaps and pops and people, not voices I don’t think but the sense of movement, of activity, maybe a shout here and there without words. Now I wonder if really what I heard was mostly just the hiss of the fire, the roaring of the beast. I couldn’t tell how close it was, somehow managed to function in spite of the adrenaline flooding my brain with stupid. Passport, cat carriers, shoes. I cried when I found George, knew he and Bentley were okay. The fire department was fast. No one was hurt. Not physically. Emotions, minds, psyches must be a different story. I was at a distance, one short crow-flying block away, my home kept safe. But I can still see that tower of flame and smoke out the living room window. For days the image was painted inside me, a movie streaming across the horizon at an old drive-in theater, lighting up the sky.