Last night I dreamed that I was sophomore at a school I have frequently visited in my dreams over the years (though I doubt it exists in the real world). It's a pre-K through high school, single story building where the elementary school and high school portions are separated by a covered walkway that leads to the principles office in the middle. It's yellow aluminium siding with a red roof and the grass is always extremely dry and yellow. I've never dreamed it any other color. But I don't believe it's out in the desert either.
For this dream, we're under a tornado warning and the school has been in lock down all day. In fact, no one is allowed to leave. We're going to have to spend the night here.
I'm working with the pre-K classroom. Teaching them art is what I chose to do with my free period every day. So we've been drawing and painting and making cardboard forts to keep them busy and distracted so they don't have time to be afraid.
Now it's dark and bedtime. Many of the kids are settling down on their nap mats. Some are sleeping in their forts. And I'm quietly walking around doing a head count and checking on all of them when one of the youngest startles awake. Before he can cry, I lay down on the floor beside him, our faces even, gently smile and slowly close my eyes like I'm falling asleep. He follows my lead. And as soon as my eyes are completely closed, I know he is sound asleep again.
I open my eyes, but now, it's the middle of the day and I'm in a hilly location in the full bloom of spring. I'm twelve.
I'm sitting on a ledge, dangling my tenny shoed feet and drawing while I wait for my friend's brother to pick me up. I have no idea who my friend is, or what her brother looks like, nor why he's picking me up, but that doesn't matter. I'll know him when I see him.
A jeep pulls up in front of me and it turns out that my friend has two brothers. The nondescript sandy blonde old enough to drive, and their gorgeous middle brother who's three years older than me and has jet black hair and bright blue eyes. And there's no back seat so I'm required to sit on the bench seat snugly between them.
As beautiful as he is, I don't like this. I don't like touching people I know, much less people I don't. But I keep quiet and clutch my notebook like a shield.
The older brother starts driving us to their house and the younger keeps trying to start conversations and giving me encouraging smile...or would be if I'd look at him. I answer his questions, but ask none of my own and keep my eyes firmly on the road ahead of us. My tone isn't unfriendly, but it certainly isn't inviting. (I was a very prickly natured child.)
We're zipping along country roads at impossible speeds, no seat belts, and open top and my hair whipping in the wind behind me. Suddenly, he jumps a gulch, Dukes of Hazard style, and I glance off to the left, my eyes following out to the larger river below, taking in the scene in slow motion.
Down by the river, the colors are incredible. Golden rod yellow, bright pinks, splashes of lavender and royal purple. Down by the river, it's fall. And there are people. Some fishing, some having a picnic. Children running around and playing tag. But from this distance, from this height, they're just specks of moving color in an impressionistic pastel, and I can't help but whisper, "Beautiful!" in sheer awe at the colors.
Her lovely brother briefly catches my eye and smiles to let me know he can't see what I see, but he can appreciate that I see it, and I turn my eyes away from him and close them to form the memory of that view in my mind so that I'll be able to recreate it later, my fingers itching to explore those rich, vibrant colors.
And when I opened my eyes again, it's night again. And I'm my age now, outside in a clearing in the woods by myself, at least for the moment.
I'm not scared, or worried. Nor lonely or cold. I'm peacefully taking it all in. The chirrup of crickets and tree frogs, a gentle choir around me. Lazily floating lightning bugs, flickering their languid and urgent language of love. A gentle breeze that comes through to ruffle my hair and caress my face.
I breathe in slowly and deeply in contentment. And breathe out any stress that may have been contained within me, slowly tilting my head to the clear dark sky full of stars I don't recognize, and don't have to, in order to appreciate them in wonder.
Then my alarm clock went off.