Driving home from class last Thursday night, I berated myself for being too little a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants) and too much a “plotter”—more accurately a plodder—when responding to in-class writing prompts. Though distracted, I approached the narrow bridge crossing the Rockfish River with caution. I’d seen deer along the river many times. Sure enough, one sprinted across the road several yards in front of my truck. I slowed, expecting more to follow.
Suddenly, I noticed gapping holes in the bridge’s pavement. I pulled to the side of the road and got out to inspect. Wind tousled my hair and whooshed through tree leaves.
As I drew near the holey bridge, I heard Keith snoring next to me, and our dog Freya grunting on the floor next to the open window. Heathcliff nuzzled my arm on my side of the bed.
On the far side of the bridge, a large bear, more than twice my size, roamed the riverbank. It fixed its beady eyes on me. I froze. The bear stood on his hind legs. Make yourself as big as possible, I said to myself. I reared up in bed, splayed my arms, and growled a huge roar.
Keith placed his hand on my hip. “Okay?” he asked.
“Bear,” I replied.
“Alrighty then,” he said, channeling Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura Pet Detective. He patted me and rolled over for another hour of sleep.
Yes, I drove home from class on Thursday night, and yes, I saw a deer at the river bridge. Yes, I wrapped that into a dream during Friday morning’s waking hours. And yes, I’ve done battle with other dream creatures, but this was my first bear.
I told this story to a friend – we had a good laugh – and she sent me these interpretations from a dream book:
- Coming from school symbolizes the school of life with all its lessons to be learned
- Automobile: ambitious driving force conveying dreamer along destination highway
- Bridge: a linking factor
- Hole: a hidden trap; fear of not attaining a goal
- Bear: an overpowering force
- River: destiny
In my dream, I drove my ambition home from school. The bridge to my success had hidden traps and a powerful bear preventing me from attaining my goal.
I was the bear, and we were shadowboxing.
From Richard Rohr’s May 27, 2017 reflection: “Grace and mercy teach us that we are all much more than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves. These self-made identities are based on hurts and unconscious agendas that allow us to see and judge things in a very selective way. Strangely, your real life is not about ‘you.’ It is part of a much larger stream.”
The river, destiny, was the larger stream or as John wrote about Jesus in chapter 4 verses 10-14, “living water.” I did not attend to that river. I was an egocentric bear instead of the metaphorical deer in Psalm 42 verse 1: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you…
Richard Rohr: “Faith is trusting the Big River of God’s providential love, which is to trust the visible embodiment (the Son), the flow (the Holy Spirit), and the source itself (the Father). This is a divine process that we don’t have to change, coerce, or improve. We just need to allow and enjoy it.”
Next time I’m shadowboxing with dream creatures, perhaps I’ll remember to open the palms of my hands and quote Rainer Maria Rilke: “May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back.”
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