(photo by R.B. Millsap)
In the dream, I rode the river like a magic carpet, floating on nothing more that a scrap of material beneath me. I lay still, relaxed, stretched out on my stomach with my hands folded under my cheek, lulled by the gentle motion as the the wide, rolling river undulated beneath me.
I studied the scenery as I drifted past the city skyline, past buildings and houses, past schools and playgrounds, past people strolling on paths along the river. With sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes, I looked up through the branches of the willow trees lining the riverbank, gazing into a soft blue sky.
I was content. I wasn’t afraid of falling in or being snagged by sharp, dangerous things just under the surface. I was, at that moment, as peaceful and comfortable as I can ever imagine being. I was free.
Of course the irony is that just an hour or so before, waiting for sleep, I had been anything but content. I’d tossed and turned, kicking at the blankets, restless with worry. My mind kept pulling at loose threads, deconstructing, mulling over decisions, pondering the charged state of the world, always going back to, circling again and again, each of my children.
In the dark and quiet room my ears echoed with the dull pounding of my own heartbeat. My eyes, no matter how many times I closed them, flew open with every new troublesome thought.
I don’t know why it is that the things that weigh the heaviest on us, the things we carry, come alive at night. When the rest of the world is sleeping, worry lives in me the way my babies did before they were born, kicking and rolling as soon as I lay down, prodding me, keeping me awake. Forcing me to stare at the ceiling looking back and ahead.
Finally, exhausted, I remembered a piece my daughter used to play on the piano, Debussy’s “Jimbo’s Lullaby.”
It is an odd, shifting, restless piece, constantly changing from soothing melody to a jangle of notes. And then back again. She practiced it for weeks, and still, today, when she’s home from school she will occasionally sit down and play it again. The girl, and the song, were on my mind as I finally drifted off to sleep.
When the radio clicked on the next morning, and I slowly swam to the surface of a new day, I manage to catch the hem of the river dream as it slipped away in the soft light of morning and I held onto it and as I went through the day letting it play at the edge of my mind.
I found myself, at odd moments, humming the song. The night had not been kind but in sunlight, remembering the sensation of drifting so peacefully, I could release the things that had so disturbed me the night before.
I practiced the lesson of the dream. I gave in. I let go. I let the swift current of a busy day carry me away.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org