I dreamed that I was sailing into some far away place that scarcely existed at all. Donít scoff: Dreams mean things to some people, especially Indian people. Our paradigm has this world, the previous one and the next interacting. Dreams, then, are deeper immersions in that interaction.
While Iíve only sailed once in my life, the experience left me moved and humbled all at once. In my dream, I was alone, and though I donít know how to sail I was doing so. The skies were dark and the sea lurching in rage. Spray washed over me and it was cold, the wind sharp as Masefield penned:
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gullís way and the whaleís way where the windís like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trickís over.
There were dark shapes dancing in and out of the black billows. Thunderbirds, likely, bringing roars and rumbles. I scan the skies for them often in waking hours, and chase them along back roads and dirt paths. But in my dreams, they are enormous, and they carry messages I canít quite hear. My world is a world of interactions between worlds, I guess. Sometimes I am surprised that itís so incomprehensible to others. I was raised with the notions of interactions. I know that mottled-brown birds may visit me in the spring and they may or may not be corporeal. I know that thunderbirds weave in and out of stormheads, massive and dark. I know that Aunt Maryís wolf came across the reservation to guide her soul to the hereafter and every Indian there saw it come, saw them depart. These are the worlds colliding in my soul.
I used to carry a half-dime in my pocket. It was my grandfatherís. I carried it in case I needed to pay passage. A toll at a crossroads, perhaps. The boatsman across the river. It had become so worn from riding in my wallet I stopped carrying it and sometimes I feel uneasy, as if my time to pass over may come and I will not be able to go.
He could pass easily between worlds, my grandfather could. He had a key, but took it with him. Thereís a whole box of keys in the old house, tiny brass jewelry box keys, huge padlock keys and many old skeleton-type keys. None are magical though. I know. Iíve tried them all.
But in the dream there was a distant shore, a green, mossy shore. Smoke rose from a lush rainforest and when the sailboat touched stem to a black sand beach, my father was there waiting, in his khaki pants and plaid shirt, an abalone and turquoise bolo around his neck and a fire in his eyes. I recognized that fire in my dream. It was the same fire I saw in my grandfatherís eye and sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I catch a glimpse of it in my own. Itís the fire of homeland. Itís the purpose of place and the meaningfulness of roots, strong and deep. But then he was gone and I was walking that beach, waves lapping at my feet. Now and then Iíd catch the hint of eyes in the rainforest, and I knew it wasnít Aunt Maryís wolf, but it was a watchful spirit nonetheless.
Then I was awake, and I lay in the dark wondering what it all meant, what interactions had just occurred. The dog woofed softly outside, almost as if reassuring me somehow, comforting me, as if she could sense my unease. Sometimes she sees creeping shadows, too, and woofs at them softly as well.
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. (Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator)
I toss and turn for a time, but fail to understand what I dreamed. Perhaps, half of me says, itís just stress. Itís too much ticking time clock and concrete and fluorescent light. That part of me urges forgetfulness, but I know thereís meaning there I canít grasp. I know thereís erudition, if I could just place my finger on it.
But then it comes to me. It is about the journey. The journey my father last took for our family. He reminds me that this life is only half the voyage, that the rest of the journey begins at the flicker of the candle, into the great mystery, the undiscovered country. There are guardians to keep me safe, half-dime or not. There may be stormy seas but there will also be safe passage. His birthday would be this Sunday, but my father sent a gift to me instead.
I never want to leave this country; all my relatives are lying here in the ground. And when I fall to pieces I am going to fall to pieces here. Shunkaha Napin (Wolf Necklace) .