When I was 8 years old, I had a dream that I died.
I was on the swing behind my childhood home. As I kicked higher on that swing, a man came out onto the back porch. He was waving a gun. Jolted by fear I leapt off my swing to flee. He shot me in the chest before I hit the ground.
My omniscient self watched as I exploded upwards into the air- arms outstretched like wings. Instead of crumpling to the ground, I flew joyously skyward, through the branches of two big oak trees that still reside in my parent’s backyard. I remember arching and twisting, soaring and plunging back toward the earth, even more nimble than a bird… as if I were part of the wind.
The aspect I fall short to describe each time I recall this dream, is the feeling that took over my heart. It was a feeling that didn’t surpass words, it defied human language all together.
Imagine the most blissful, orgasmic, all encompassing love and freedom that you can conceive.
Then multiply it times infinity.
<jinx personal jinx>
Suffice it to say, I woke up a different little girl. My 8 year old self laid in bed for a few minutes trying to reclaim any residual morsel from my conceptual death. I had never in my short time on earth felt so completely rid of all fear… so intensely at peace with… everything? Nothing?
In sixth grade my great uncle died. I tentatively composed a letter to his daughter and told her ‘not to worry.’ Uncle Nunny had become the wind, and it was the most amazing feeling you could imagine. Times infinity. I told her not to worry because I had dreamt it.
Two years later I sat in an eighth grade classroom. At 1 pm on a hot May afternoon, third floor of a 19th century building, and I was craving a breeze. I was also craving an escape. Not necessarily from the heat… rather from hormones, frizzy hair, and a brain that seemed bent on sabotaging my self-worth. My desk was the by the window.
A gust of wind came out of nowhere that day.
As the teacher reviewed clauses and verb agreements, I gazed across the expansive front lawn. There I watched all the free adults and children too young for school, walking leisurely in and out of the public library next door. The breeze picked up and fluttered across my face. I thought of Uncle Nunny. I thought of flying out of the window across the lawn where all the ‘free’ people could walk in the sun and read picture books.
I wonder what my teacher had been thinking that day? Did she feel hot and tired like me? Did she know that I was dreaming about flying? Did she know that I was pondering the meaning of death? Did she know that even at 13 I thought she was ridiculous. Did she know the absurdity of analyzing sentence structure, when I was trying to find meaning in life?
There were probably a lot of frustrated kids like me, who grew up and became teachers. They became teachers so they might try something different:
I know you’re looking for meaning. My class will be a safe place to start searching.
And on that first professional development day those new teachers eagerly arrived to learn how they might do such a thing. There they met a district consultant armed with a power point presentation entitled:
How to read your district’s report card: A guide to learning standards
You will listen for 2 hours about how to measure Language Arts, Math and Science. They will not talk about Visual Art. Or love. Or Meaning. And it’s in that moment that the new teachers get it. All the memories click full circle.
So that’s why she droned on and on about homonyms.
As the consultant talks about adequate yearly progress I turn and gaze out the window at the wind… contorting an American flag too and fro.
Five years later I lay into bed listening to the wind. I swallow I little harder than I mean to... Is it just my imagination or does Texas wind blow much harder than in Ohio? Austin and graduate school whispers promises, and I have this feeling... This feeling that if I play my cards right, I can fly right out into the storm.
One month later I'm leaving teaching. Leaving my family. Leaving my partner. When they ask me "WHY" I can't say for sure, but I'm certain that soaring in a windstorm wouldn't make sense. I'm 30 and I worry perhaps I'm too old to to fly.
One night as I cry myself to sleep I fall into a dream. A tornado picks me up and flings me into the atmosphere. I am terrified. Until I'm not. The storm is like a cradle, the wind holding and coaxing: LET ME DO THE WORK it whispers. Finally I listen. It occurs to me as I get tossed about that I have been the storm all along.
I am flung out of a dark vortex into a sunny Texas field of grass. I lay on my back and gaze around. Everything looks completely different, yet I am overcome with a feeling that I want to be in this new place. A man in a suit walks over and extends his hand to help me up.
I would meet that man one year later at my first fine dining serving job in downtown Austin. When I saw him the first time I instantly remembered the dream: ("Oh hi there. I didn't expect you here.")
I would work at that restaurant all during grad school. He was the sommelier. We weren't particularly close. I didn't see him after I left. I never told him he had been in my dream before I knew him. That would have been creepy.
Seven years later I'm holed up in a west Texas cottage, getting ready to take the next steps of my tiny art business. I look back on what I've done and it's surpassed anything 12 year old Becca could have conceived. I still teach, but now I fly. I still make art, and I listen to the wind. But as things grow, so does my fear. What if I fail?
An icy wind is ushering in a cold front across the desert. I've never heard west Texas wind... is it my imagination or does it blow much harder than in Austin? The walls creak, the dots connect in my mind...
8 years old, Uncle Nunny, eighth grade English, district report cards, tornados…
They don't tell you in business classes to listen to the omens of the earth. They don't tell you that the universe speaks, if you'll listen to her messages.
The evening wind wails outside my tiny Marfa cottage. I am surrounded by desert. All of my closest friends are 500 miles away.
LET ME DO THE WORK, it howls.
No expense report is needed to assess the deep sense of meaning resonating in my heart. No excel spreadsheet will track the new meanings I may construct. In fact, if I never tell a single soul… the wind and I will share in this secret moment of evolution together… and I will wake up tomorrow just a humble artist without a single bragging right to speak of.
But I will have listened.
And that is the most important thing.