Friday, May 6, 2011

To Dream

Despite my protests, the day started. I was in bed, lying there as the receding darkness blanketed my form, the covers having been wrapped around me tight as I tossed and turned. The June sunlight impending on grey sky, awoke me, diffused through thin clouds that danced and exposed bare sky with the wantonness of dawn. It was too early for this. In the trees, the chirpy sunshine of a bird that, although I didn't recognize the species of, wished to strangle the beak off of.

Work days normally start early, no matter what time I got of duty, and I will spring like a bow from that last hazy dream, into the light. Still, it's much better than those mornings that start at night, when I'm sound asleep and the phone rings. For there is a voice on the other end speaking with an impersonal dry cadence I know is more protection than uncaring. On such nights, I must quickly pull myself from bed, gathering my things, limbs wooden with regret.

But this day, I am off, not on call, no obligations. So I just lay there, not wishing to get up, snuggled face down, legs splayed, arms out, laid out on a small pillow top altar to the gods of sleep. I know that eventually I will have to get up, but for now I am not bound by some duty to leap out of bed. I'm simply hung up, trapped under a log in a current of time and environment, that has no direction, beneath a sullen sky that will continue to wane towards yet another evening, toying with me, until maybe I'm shot out into the current that had pulled me into sleep. In the meantime, it doesn't matter. Barkley just barely has an eye open, fighting between the urge to protect me from squirrels and that of more sleep.

Weekends are where I catch up on my sleep, but today there are things to do that I've neglected through the last week. A drive into the city for supplies in the truck, to get milk and bread, wine and cheese, some stuff at the hardware store to mount some shelves, the 50 pound bag of Barkley Chow. I pass through the small towns that make up a Midwest landscape, tenacious clusters of farms strung along a lonely river, old barns, listing and tumbling down, gone the way of the ancestors who built them long go, going West, to dust.

Once home there is food to store, laundry, a Labrador retriever to walk, bills to sort through and a friend or two to talk to. A firearm to be cleaned, a book to be read. Then later a bowl of stew and sleep with a soft goodnight to someone far away, invisible words on my lips. Barkley has gone out one last time, the doors are locked, the computer off. The outside is beyond quiet except for the wind. The neighbors all seem to be in for the night, the earth hanging suspending in space, cooling, wearing only a thin veil of smoke from a grill. Time for bed, the rustle of cotton, the panting whisper of breath, the prelation of the night assuming a hundred avatars of dreams.

The house, still and quiet, as if marooned in space by the dwindling of day. Sounds outside fallen to a low fragmentary pitch. Way off in the fields behind, a coyote's howl at the indignation of clouds that cover the moon, no other sound made; prey gone into hiding, insects silent with the dark, everything else assuming their own mantle of hibernation or predation. There are things I'd rather be doing then hunkering down here, but for tonight sleep is what I need. As Shakespeare said, sleep, perchance to dream.

A dream of a day alone in the woods, outlook and perception all contained within a small stand of trees, emotion and thought amplified within the narrow bench of a small tree blind. Dreaming dreams of a whitetail buck tip-toeing across fresh snow, the moon now peering out from beneath the clouds, that deer and myself in perfect isolation, flirting with each other, a dance of life and death, even as the air of our inhibition signals to the rest of the world what they can not possess.

Even as I dream of a brisk fall hunt, outside another season shifts and with it comes the knowing. Lethal winter storms so white on white, as we count the days and worry of a land soon heavy with thirst. Early summer and the death gray-green skies, new life and heavy blood, the silence before the wind. That wind beyond wind, wrapping its fury around us. Full summer harvest, wheat then corn and milo and sunflower. Growth and rendering, loss and life, trickling through the hands like grain.

The sheet gathers around my sleeping form as the images come unbidden, corn and land and a stand of trees. There in the distance, a whitetail, emerging suddenly from the trees as my thoughts coalesced. The winds wail a hymn of our mortality. Our remoteness stands guard over a vulnerability heightened by solitude.

The deer does not answer to me, nor I him, neither answering to one another and thereby maintaining their own sense of mystery, of self. I pull up my weapon to fire, but in my dream the deer just looks at me with eyes that look vaguely familiar and nods. I lower my weapon and let him pass, an invisible whisper on my lips remaining. This night, for now, he deserves the wilderness of his isolation, as do I, to wander windswept dreams.