I prayed in the hospital chapel with my prayer partner Tuesday afternoon, and was sleeping on her couch overnight (cat-sitting), when I had a dream that filled me with truth just before I woke.
In my dream, I was milling with a city-sized crowd doing nothing in particular, when a newly cast shadow fell over the sky, and we all looked up. High in the air, there appeared to float a human-sized moth, dressed in black. The moth began to flap its black wings, and with each beat, a cloud of gray emitted, cloaking the sky until the light was completely eclipsed.
Soon all of us on the ground scattered to hide. I crawled inside a small cave carved into a hillside. Through a tiny gap in the rocks at ground level, I stared out as my world emptied of people and then disappeared below a thick black shroud.
Terrified, we waited for worse. Time passed and all was still. Though not alone in the cave, I was alone in my decision to come out from hiding. I worked my way from the cave and stood by myself on a lawn. Then I raised my arms, lifted my chin, and levitated into the opaque sky. As I travelled up into the blackness, the darkness around the world slowly cleared, and soon I began to fly in earnest, arcing and sweeping across the brilliant blue sky dotted with wispy white clouds, becoming a spectacle is noticeable as the moth.
But the moth was nowhere to be found. When the sky opened completely, I swooped back toward the cave and touched down on solid ground. People I knew and loved gathered round.
“I didn’t know you could fly like that,” they said, still frightened and shivering.
Neither did I,” I said, “though I’ve been practicing.”
Then I took off again, in search of a place I was certain was out there—a place where others, like me, were defying the darkness.
It wasn’t flying, exactly, that I’d been practicing—it was stepping out into the unknown. The unknown, that for me, used to be synonymous with danger. For decades, I lived trapped under the cloak of fear, believing life was always going to get worse, believing that shrinking small and keeping still would save me. Though, in truth, I finally realized, hiding suffocated me. So I began practicing a different way of being in the world.
In my dream I flew straight through fear because fear could no longer scare me into immobility—it no longer had the power to keep me hidden, hunkering down in misperceived safety, waiting for trouble to pass.
Flying is stepping forward, rising to meet risk, learning to hover and dive, through trouble and joy. Flying is allowing ourselves to surrender our masks and egos, permitting ourselves to be seen in all our imperfect glory. Flying is kicking the self-imposed shackles from our ankles, and leaning closer to love. It is living inside the blackness while simultaneously punching through it; it’s combating bleakness that threatens to undo us.
When I flew, my soul was soaring, my spirit was twirling, and I tasted the presence of the divine. I woke with a heart full of conviction, hope, and this knowledge bone deep—fear never leads to freedom.
I say it again. Fear never leads to freedom.
In this nocturnal visitation, the taste of freedom fills me, and such is my prayer:
O holy winged one,
teach us all to fly in waking life,
your will be done on earth,
as it is in your dreams for us.
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.