I haven't had a snake dream in a long time. Until Sunday night.
The dream began innocently enough. I was with a group of strangers in a room full of tables and chairs, at an event that had kind of an American Idol feel to it: we were competing for some kind of job. We were raising our hands and answering questions, and I was sort of feeling desperate to show that I was not like anyone else.
A man in a furry vest took me into this side room and told me I needed to do a snake demonstration. The room had cement block walls, and metal tables and cages. The man handed me thick leather gloves and two sticks and pointed me to a glass cage that held two snakes. The snakes were colorful, bright orange and red and black, and both were curled up in sort of figure eight shapes, more like ropes than snakes really. I felt petrified, but I can remember thinking to myself, "I have to do this. I have to show him that I can do this." (In real life, I am not particularly afraid of snakes, especially the harmless snakes we have in this part of the country, but in dreams, I am terrified of them. They seem to be much more than just snakes.)
I figured that as long as I had the gloves and sticks, I could manage to handle the snakes without touching them. But then, somehow, I lost the gloves and the sticks. They were gone. I searched desperately, and couldn't find them. I knew then I would have to pick the snakes up with my hands. I felt so anxious about this that I couldn't talk, could barely breathe. I went back to the glass cage, and noticed that the snakes were outside the cage. They were loose! One of them was beginning to move toward the crack in the wall.
I panicked. The snakes were getting loose! And it was my fault! And I didn't have gloves or the stick! I felt paralyzed. The snake slithered into the crack and disappeared. I made my legs move. I ran out of the building, a big stone, castle-like structure. And there on the green lawn, I saw one of the snakes, curled up. A man was lying on the grass, and I went over to ask him for help. He turned over, and under him was the other snake. I screamed ... and woke myself up screaming.
I hate these dreams. Afterwards, I couldn't sleep. I looked around the dark room and wondered if snakes were creeping out of the cracks in the walls. (Perhaps it's because I'm such a sound sleeper, but I don't think very logically in the middle of the night. I can sort of function in a sleep state.) My husband, who woke up when I screamed, said comforting things and pointed out that we have never had a snake in our bedroom. I told him that I was fine, and he went back to sleep.
I went downstairs to my office to put on a light, to wake myself up and get myself out of this dream world in which snakes come rolling out of cracks in the walls. As I looked at my computer, an email chimed in. The email was from Artist Friend, who happened to be up late working on his computer. I sent him a quick email, to have some kind of contact with another awake human being, and that made me feel better.
My friend Poet Woman has told me that I should embrace the snakes in my dreams. Snakes can represent change, growth, and transformation. And it's true that snakes, both real snakes and dream snakes, appear at times of positive change in my life. But still, the dream was so frightening that I was still shaking as I read the email from Artist Friend.
In the email, Artist Friend talked about going to an observatory with his son to see the Holmes Comet. And I remembered that when I'd had breakfast with Poet Woman and her husband on Friday, they'd both told me to look for the comet too. Poet Woman, had explained exactly how to find it.
So I put on my winter coat and boots, grabbed the binoculars, and stepped out my front door. A bit of moonlight was glittering off the patches of snow drifted on the frozen ground. I took a few deep breaths of the icy night air. Snakes do not live in these kind of temperatures. I could feel myself calming down.
Above my head, stars hung in the darkness, filling the space from the top of the woods to my own roof. Immediately, I saw something different, a blurry shape that isn't usually there. The comet! It seemed to be pulsing, but perhaps that was simply my eyes adjusting to the darkness.
I stood for a few minutes in the darkness, feeling tiny and insignificant. I looked carefully at the comet and then at my own home, with just the light from my office spilling out onto the snow. I came back into the warm house, kicking off the boots and hanging my coat on the back of my chair. Another email chimed in: Artist Friend telling me to go back to bed. I climbed back up the stairs, back to my warm bed, sleepy and calm now, but still wondering why the snakes have appeared to me again.