I don’t always remember my dreams, but when I am able to recall a dream, or hold onto pieces of my dreams, they tend to be vivid and visceral- they feel more like memories, or messages than they do dreams. Some dreams haunt me with muscle memories I never truly had; a smell, or a touch, or the unshakable feeling that I am missing or have lost something. Often I will wake up, unaware that it was just a dream, and there are several minutes of confusion as I try to wake up and place myself back in reality.
A year ago I had a dream that I still carry with me because it refuses to go away, a year later it still carries a sadness I can’t seem to shake anytime I think of it. At the time it felt so raw and real that I wrote it down [something I rarely do but probably should more often]. I had a baby boy, with dark, dark hair and my Papa’s blue eyes. He is quiet and petite and I can’t stop staring into the bright, clear pools of his eyes. Birdie is spooning him on the bed. They nap together like this while I watch in awe and adoration. But everyone else around me seems ambivalent to him, like he is nothing, like there is nothing significant or important about his arrival. Whenever I try to show him to someone he gets smaller, and smaller, and smaller, until he is the size of my hand. I try to hide him but I already know that I am losing him and I am powerless to stop it. He turns into a wooden doll I hold in my palm. I wake up and try to memorize his face. We never gave him a name. I cried secretly for days after I had this dream, it felt like a such a real loss, and I never told anyone about it until now.
A few days ago I dreamed about that baby again. In this dream a Barred Owl was sitting in the pear tree in our yard. It was either very late at night or very early in the morning; the kind of deep dark that makes the time of day feel ambiguous. The owl blended in to the sky and the tree, all except his wide and bright eyes, which were looking curiously back at mine. I stood below the tree, in pajamas and barefoot in the garden that was just barely covered, though not entirely, with a light snow. The owl didn’t move or make a sound and we just stared at one another. He was there to give me something, that much I knew, and when I looked down in my arms a baby had appeared. A baby boy with dark, dark hair, wrapped in a grey blanket, staring up at me with big blue eyes, framed with beautiful eyelashes like feathers against his skin. I held him and I felt his weight, his warmth, his heartbeat against mine. I inhaled the smell of his head and felt dizzy and glad. As I stood there I knew he was both real and not real, that I was holding him now but that I would have to let him go. I woke up with empty arms and could only remember the face of the owl. It wasn’t until days later that I remembered the baby and could suddenly so clearly recall the texture of the soft, faded blanket in my fingertips, and warmth of his face pressed against my chest.
No, we are not having another baby. I wish that was what I was writing about but it isn’t. But I don’t think it is a coincidence or surprise that my most vidid and lasting dreams are about babies, because they always have been. Little tiny omens are often visiting me in my sleep, delivering some sort kind of message and leaving me feeling a heavy sadness upon waking. They started when I was a child, they became more frequent and intense when I was in high school, and they continue, even now- maybe even especially since having Birdie. I don’t always know what they mean, sometimes they are metaphors, sometimes they just represent a longing, sometimes I think they are more literal, but almost always, they appear as babies.
Every year I make a commitment to myself that I will write more, that I will finally start writing the stories I really want to tell, that I will be more diligent about sharing my writing. I think that this dream arrived, just after the new year, because that owl was delivering me an invitation, or maybe a gift, to see that I need to treat my writing practice with the kind of love and tenderness that I would a baby. I need to nurture my writing, to get it ready to stand on its own two feet, to help it communicate something to others. To give it my time, energy, and devotion, and when the time comes, to let it go out into the world.
Something I struggle with is making the time and space for my writing to take up space in my life, to treat it as though it is important and valuable. So this year I took a leap of faith in myself and I signed up for an online writing class, taught by a writer I respect and admire. It felt like a really big deal, not because I am nervous to write or share my work, in fact I am feeling really excited and energized to be communicating with other writers and pushing myself outside my comfort zone. The hard part was investing, even a little bit, in something that is just for myself, and that feels embarrassing admit. As a parent and as a partner and, to be honest, just generally as a person I tend to place my needs as the least important, the first to be brushed aside or forgotten along the long list of things that need to be taken care of. This is just as true for the little things as it is for the big things. And there are a million reasons for this, some of which I have been working on my whole life, some of which I am actively working on in therapy, almost all of which are entirely self imposed.
But here I am trying. I am starting by trying to treat this blog a little bit more like a child- giving it care and attention and priority in my life. I am trying to hit send even when my writing doesn’t feel perfect, even when it feels scary to share a piece of myself that feels so vulnerable, even when I fear what other people will think about it. Maybe someday I will dream of that owl again, and I will offer it a gift back; a book wrapped in a worn blanket, a collection of all the things I was able to say when I gave myself permission to invest in my own story.