A Canyon Dream

Last night I dreamt a dream…
It was a long dream. I first remember being at the bottom of a steep canyon, very wide but hemmed in by nearly sheer walls that rose in all directions around me. A labyrinth, a maze cut by ions of erosion. There was a river at the bottom. I walked beside it for some time before I came to a place where it seemed I could begin to climb. I started up a seam in a wall above me. It was steep but there were many shelves, almost step-like outcroppings. For hours I ascended, and after a time I became aware of the fact that I hadn’t seen anything alive, no plants, no animals, just barren stone.
At one point I turned and sat on a rock to look behind, to see where I had come from. Thousands of feet below me I could see the river I had been walking beside. It seemed a sliver trickling along. I found it curious that I heard no sound from it as it wound along its path. The only thing I could hear was my breathing, my heartbeat. Occasionally a breeze swung through the rocks and blew my hair into my face. I had hair…
I turned and started up again.
It wasn’t a hot day but the sun was bright as I climbed over the edge of this great canyon. I stood and gazed. At last I could see the whole landscape, vast, windswept, and barren. Mountains bordered the valley I stood in. The canyon I’d just climbed out of was a deep winding gorge cut into the earth. I assumed it had been eroded by water, but water seemed so out of place here.
I studied the place for quite a while before I saw it, in the distance to my left, something green, alive, a tree. I headed toward it. The ground was fairly flat and solid stone, but it still took a long time to get there. As I got nearer I could see this was an ancient place. The tree was gnarled and huge. Its trunk was as big around as a school bus. Its limbs, like massive arms, stretched out and held a thousand thousand branches. Finally I arrived and climbed into its shade and found a stone to sit on.
As I sat and pondered where I was I remember thinking that I knew this was a dream and I wondered what it meant. As this question touched my mind I heard a voice. From just above my head I looked to find a squirrel perched on a small branch holding two pine nuts. He extended one toward me. “It’s you. Ya hungry? “He said.
I reached out and took the pine nut, cracked it with my teeth and replied. “What’s me?”
“This place.” he said “It’s you”
“What do you mean it’s me? I’ve never been here before.”
He laughed, the way squirrels laugh at people, or cats or anything that walks below their tree.
“No, it’s you, you made it. It’s what you told yourself you were going to get to someday. “Someday” you were going to come here and make it green and beautiful. We’ve been waiting a long time. You’ve been down there by that river looking for something for a long, long time. We wondered when you’d finally decide to come up where you could see everything, if you’d ever decide.”
He started to gnaw on his pine nut then held it out toward me.
“Here, open this for me and let’s get started.” I took it and cracked the shell between my fingers and handed the nut back to him.
“Get started on what?” I puzzled out loud.
“Greening this place up and filling in the hole.”
“What hole? What do you mean?”
He looked at me and shook his little squirrel head. “See that?” He pointed along the way I had just come, toward the canyon I had just climbed out of. “That’s what you have to fill in now.”
I was confused. “Why does that need to be filled in and what would I fill it in with? That’s a pretty big hole.”
He nodded “Yes it’s a pretty big hole. You’ve been digging it for a long time. But you need to fill it in now before this place will start to green up. To be real honest I’m getting tired of eating just pine nuts. I read somewhere that pine apples are much better and much easier to crack.”
I looked out across the bleak landscape and then turned back to the rodent “What do you mean, I dug it?”
“It’s what you think of your life to this point,” he mumbled as he chewed on the nut.
“My life has been this empty and barren?”
“You’ve got to look at the whole thing.” He replied. “You built all this.” He waved his arms from the canyon toward the mountains in the distance. “You’ve actually done a great job structurally, you just haven’t gotten to the good stuff yet, until now. Honestly, most people never make it out of the canyons they build. Once you’ve made it this far the rest can go pretty quickly. Getting here is the hard part. But we have to start with the hole. Do you want some advice?”
Somehow it didn’t seem strange that a squirrel was offering me advice so I conceded. “OK, you seem to have been here before. What do you suggest?”
“First” he said, “before you decide what you should fill it with you need to know what it is.”
I stared out across the space, and stroked the little clump of hair below my bottom lip.
“OK I give up. What is it?”  A pine nut bounced off my bald head as he disgustedly replied, “What’s the big hole in your life, brainiac?”
“Oh…” I pondered a moment then looked up at him. “I guess it’s that it’s been a lifetime since I felt any passion, since I’ve truly loved something, someone outside myself?”
The squirrel pumped his fuzzy little arm “Cha Ching! Cha Ching! But you’re here now, so we can begin.”
Still confused I asked again “So what should I fill it in with and how?”
“Well” he mused, “What makes stuff grow and become green, duh?”
I laughed and said “Miracle Grow!” I was momentarily proud that I could joke with a talking squirrel as I watched his little squirrel face grimace. “Or water.” I quickly conceded. “But where do I find a few billion gallons for such a project?”
“You still don’t get it do you, he said? You’re creating all of this. Will it to be so. Imagine a solution and it will come to pass. The only limits here are the ones you create. It can happen as quickly as you desire it to, or it can take forever. How long did Adam and Eve stay in the garden? A week? A million years? Remember, time only exists between your ears. It can be a big problem or a small one– you can choose.”
“So you’re saying that if I pick up that stick over there and strike that rock at the base of the tree, so much water will gush out that the whole hole will be filled with water in a matter of seconds, and suddenly everything will become this green, lush, garden I’ve always wanted to live in?”
“No” he said, “I’m not saying that… You are.”

 

I thought about the words for a few minutes and their improbability, but after stroking the lip hair a few more times I stood and walked toward the stick. I crouched beside it, examining it. I picked it up, tapped it on the ground a few times, tossed it in the air, caught it and turned back toward the squirrel.
“This is just a stick,” I said.
“Yes and you are just a man he replied. “But I heard a friend tell me once that, as man is God once was, and as God is man may become. You gotta’ start somewhere.”
I tossed the stick like a baton a few times as I walked back toward the tree, toward the stone I had pointed at before.
“I can just tap it right here and command that 40 year void in my life to be filled with something alive and wonderful and it will just happen?”
The squirrel’s tail twitched back and forth nervously. “Are you just going to keep talking or actually do something about all this?”
I thought to myself that he did seem to be a rather impatient creature. I took the stick in my hand and threw it as hard as I could against the stone at the base of the tree. As the stick struck the rock it exploded. A huge torrent of water shot out from the roots of the tree. I jumped back toward the stone I had been sitting on. The squirrel just sat there getting wet from the spray that was soaking us both. It felt good. He was smiling. I’d never seen a squirrel smile before.
I turned and looked in the direction of the canyon. This great stream of water was flowing across the surface of the earth and disappearing over the edge. The squirrel leapt from his perch and landed on my shoulder, and like I was his pet Clydesdale, his tiny paw slapped my ear and he said, “Giddy up! Looks go see what’s happnin’.”
We weren’t half way to the edge before we could see the canyon had become a lake. As the water rose to the rim of the canyon the earth began to change. Out of the stone earth plants began to grow. Right before our eyes, what was at once bleak and dead was swelling with life. A wave of life rushed from the canyon rim toward us. It spread in all directions. What was desolate was becoming lush and full.
The squirrel snuggled up against my neck. “Ain’t love great.” He said. “Love is were God keeps all the good stuff.”
We stood for a long time watching as trees spent a thousand years growth all around us. The rodent jumped from my shoulder onto a nearby branch that had appeared and grabbed a fruit hanging there.
“Just remember,” he said. “You can uncreate all this just as easily as you created it. You must never forget what brought you here. You must never take it for granted, for love is not a possession, it is a gift. Cherish it. Nurture it. Keep it green and alive and it will feed you for eternity.” He turned and scrambled up the tree.
I turned away from him and began to ponder the words he’d spoken, to breath the feeling that filled me so completely. Then from high above my head his squirrel chatter rang out again. “Oh, one more thing,” he said “As you start to get used to this place you may want to consider the possibility that at this very moment you are at the bottom of a canyon wondering along…

 

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