I have always dreamed of snakes.
Not the kind of snakes I see in real life. The snakes that live in my part of the world are small and innocuous: garter snakes, ribbon snakes, common water snakes. Nothing poisonous. Nothing harmful. At camp, watersnakes sun themselves on our dock, swim near when we are splashing in the water. They are a normal part of a sunny afternoon in the marsh.
The snakes in my dreams are bright coloured and frightening. They live in darkness. When I was a little kid, I would dream that the floor was covered with snakes of all kinds, curling and dangerous. I would wake up terrified, screaming, afraid to step out of the bed.
Even after I had grown up, moved out, and had kids of my own, the snake dreams continued. Often in the dreams I was living again at my parents' house. I'd be sleeping in a small room with the slanted ceilings that Cape Cod houses have, and snakes would slither out from the cracks at the floor board. They were long snakes, thick long snakes, often green or grey in colour. I would wake up, terrified. Sometimes Spouse would wake up, hearing me scream.
"What is the matter?" he'd ask.
"Remember how my parents used to have trouble with snakes in their house?" I would say. It would take me several minutes of talking, always with the light switched on, before I would realize that the dream was a dream and not the past.
My friend PoetShaman told me that dream snakes are powerful, and that I needed to learn to accept the snakes, learn to welcome them into my dreams instead of being afraid of them. She was working at a science museum at the time, and once when we met for lunch, we went to the cage where the boa constrictor was kept. She pulled this long thick snake out of the cage and placed the snake on me, on my arms and shoulders, around the back of my head. She told me I should learn to like snakes. She herself often gave snake demos and did not flinch as the snake slithered under her long hair or down all around her legs. I stood absolutely still, afraid to breathe even, while the heavy coils of the snake moved and twisted against my hair and against the bare skin of my arms.
The snake dreams have changed over the years. I am not as terrified by the dream snakes as I used to be. Sometimes I have dreams in which I am walking through a garden or greenhouse. I will notice snakes everywhere, green snakes, long and harmless. And I am not frightened. Somehow in those dreams, they are connected to plants and growing things.
Last night I dreamed I was in an old mansion, a huge crazy place with hundreds of empty rooms. I was with a friend and we were looking for snakes. It was a game sort of like hide and seek. We stayed together, but kept running around, finding snakes in different rooms, but the snakes were not frightening. We were happy and excited to find them. In the dream, I was a kid again and so was my friend, but we were grownups, too, if that makes sense, and the snakes were no more frightening than the snakes at the end of our dock in the summer. And yet ... when I woke up, I could feel that same sort of energy, the kind of power a snake dream has. I could feel the adrenaline, the sense of excitement and adventure of discovering snakes.
I stood at my window, staring out at the moon, the dark trees, the night sky, and wondered what the snake dream meant for me right now, at this point in my life.