Subtle as an axe to the throat

I am a dreamer.

I am prone to drifting off into my own little world of ruminations, ideas, and plans. It seems to hit me all of a sudden like, and the world around me melts away into the roaring sound of my little wheels turning over thought after thought after thought.  It is not uncommon for Husband to give me a little nudge and ask, “Where did you just go?”

Sometimes I tell him. Sometimes I don’t.

Not only do I daydream, though, I sleep dream. A lot. Vividly.

I remember the first nightmare I ever had. I was around 5 years old. The Wicked Witch of the West was chasing me through the woods near

Granny’s house. I slip down on the trail slick with pine straw. I hear her evil laugh and look up to see the Witch raising an axe above her head to chop mine clean off. I roll away, jump up, and keep running only to slip, hear the laugh, look up, and roll out of the way again just in the nick of time. Over and over, until ultimately I rolled away and right off the edge of the bed, waking up when I hit the hard, wood floor. I didn’t go in the woods without looking over my shoulder for years.

As a teenager, I had different dreams. Art school. A mall within an hours drive. Neighbors. I dreamed of exchanging cutting witticisms with Dorothy Parker and the great minds of the Algonquin’s Round Table. I lived Saturday night seafood buffets at the Iron Skillet exchanging niceties with my fellow shrimp lovers. I dreamed of leaving the country far behind me and heading to Metropolis to live the glamorous city life.

I never made it to New York or even out of the State. I did make it to Birmingham, where going to the movies was not an all-day trip to town. Where you could buy a beer and drink it in public with your seafood buffet without your Sunday School teacher seeing you. Where there are neighbors, lots of them. Neighbors who walk by and wave. Neighbors with putting green lawns. Neighbors who set the apartment building on fire. Neighbors who fall out dead in the doorway. In their drawers. Hardly glamorous.

The other night, I dreamed I was at Mama and Daddy’s house out in the woods. I looked out of my bedroom window, and where there had once been a thickly forested hollow was a treeless subdivision of little, cheap houses with toothless, trashy people sitting in the doorways blankly staring out. I ran down the driveway wondering how I had missed this awful development. At the end of the driveway was a half-vacant strip mall. Across the road was another. I ran down the road past shack after dirt yard shack. I hollered at Mama that she should have just burned the woods down rather than sell out like that! What had happened to our little slice of Eden?

I ran until I woke myself up…heart beating, hot and sweaty.

Now I daydream my way through busy days of work, school, sports, and band. Long lines at the grocery store, the bank, the tag office. Crowded restaurants and crowded malls. Hours spent in standstill traffic to go the whole nine miles from home to work and back again. But my dreams have changed.

Now I dream of getting back to the woods. I want to again think it odd to hear a car driving down the road after 9 o’clock at night. I want to listen for the first whippoorwill. I want to smell the pines. I want to be free of neighbors. I want to be quiet. Rested.

Henry David Thoreau said, “I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” I agree that there is a magnetism to the familiar, to the woods, to home. It is about as subtle, however, as an axe to the throat.

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