I had a memorable dream the other night. In it I was talking with a woman who was maybe in her 70s with white, wavy hair. She was kind, in a no-nonsense way. We were sitting across from each other, with her slightly to my right. We had been together for a while, I think, although I can’t remember what we had been doing, only that we were now talking about writing. I sensed that she was a wise and knowledgeable teacher and I wanted to learn from her.
We were discussing a story about three men, possibly cowboys, who were currently lost in the desert. I didn’t know if the men were real or if we were making them up. I had paper and pen in front of me, and she was guiding me in finding the right words to describe how these men must be feeling. She said that we were going to “reconstruct what was already there and then turn the existing story into a poem.”
I got excited when she said this and wanted to tell her that I had recently done the same thing on my own, only the story was about me seeing a picture on the internet of an older rock star. I hadn’t seen him in at least 30 years, and at first I didn’t recognize him, as his hair was now white. But after looking at his eyes for a moment, I knew him. He was still beautiful and there was still that spark. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Here he was at almost 70 and he looked the same to me. In that moment I was able to understand that we remain the same person on the inside that we always were, no matter our age. I had felt compelled to write about this insight at the time, and then for some reason I also turned it into a poem.
In my dream I didn’t tell the woman about this. I only smiled and eagerly continued with our writing exercise. As I looked down at the paper I saw the word “marooned” written on it, although I didn’t remember writing it. She continued to prompt me in finding the right words to describe the men and how they must be feeling while being lost in the desert for who knows how long. I came up with the word “parched” although I imagined they would feel more desperately thirsty than just parched. But the woman liked that word so I wrote it down.
I woke up before we finished the story. As I lie in bed staring at the tree outside my window, the dream was still with me, lingering in the stillness of my room. I smiled as I thought of the woman who came to me and I thanked her. I wanted to revisit the dream, and so I did. I closed my eyes and imagined the last image I had, something I learned to do to complete a disturbing dream or nightmare in an empowering way. Although this dream wasn’t disturbing at all, I missed the woman and wanted to learn more from her, and I suppose I also wanted to learn the fate of the three men. So I imagined her still sitting across from me, slightly to my right, just as she had been before.
Now I saw that we were sitting in a bus, and through the windows I saw a dusty desert with faded red mountains in the distance. When I looked at the woman her eyes moved to something behind me. I turned around, and sitting in the back row of the bus were three weary-looking cowboys. They seemed a little dazed and were staring at nothing in particular. One of them raised a bottle of beer to his lips and took a slow sip. I knew that these were the lost men, but that some time had obviously passed since they had been wandering around in the desert. I imagined that the scene I missed was of them finally being rescued, and then of them guzzling water until they had their fill. Now they seemed to be content just sitting in the cool safety of the bus, waiting for whatever happened next.
I turned back to the woman and smiled. It was then that I noticed that we were the only ones on the bus; the two of us and the recovering cowboys. I looked beyond the woman and saw that the driver’s seat was empty. When I again looked to my wise teacher, she smiled and nodded. It was time for me to take the lead. And so I did.