April 05, 2008

Coils in the murk

I'd offered to give a student a ride home, and she asked me to drop her off at some big event that was happening near where she lived. I figured that since the event was in my hometown, just behind the brick elementary school, I'd stop and say hello to some people too. When we pulled into the parking lot, I could see a crowd of people, all standing around with drinks in their hands.

The parking lot was flooded with snowmelt. Big banks of snow still stood at the edges, but the party itself was held in deep water, almost chest-high. I decided to leave my shoes on, even though I knew they would get wet, and began wading into the water. Even though the pool of water was being held in by snowbanks, the water was warm and murky. I had no shock of coolness when I stepped in. I began walking toward the crowd of people, figuring I'd just make the rounds, talk to whomever I knew, and then go home.

I saw my parents coming toward me, both talking pleasantly to each other. The water was about chest-high on my father, and he had to hold his drink up at an awkward angle. I moved toward them, wading into the water until it was deep, but not over my head. Squinting into the late afternoon sun, I had a hard time seeing who else was in the crowd. I had made my way into the middle of the pool, chatting with my mother as I pushed through the murky water, when I noticed movements in the water.

The man behind me had hooked a snake, a live snake, with a metal hook and was guiding it, calmly and quietly, out of the water. Another man, to my left, had grabbed a snake near the head and was pulling it with him out of the pool. As I peered into the murky water, I saw snakes, curled and writhing, and floating with their bodies near the top of the water just the way snakes always do. These weren't the common water snakes that I know from camp, but brownish, whitish snakes that blended in with the water and sunlight.

"Oh, yeah," my mother said as she noticed my reaction. "They've been pulling snakes out of the water all day."

I decided quickly that I wanted to turn and make my way out of the pool. "Don't panic," I told myself. "Just calmly walk out of the water."

A snake floated up against me, and I grabbed it near the head. "Stay calm," I told myself. Everyone around me was calm. No one else was even talking about the snakes. They were drinking cocktails, standing in the chest-deep water. For some reason, I remembered my grandmother telling me a story about the time she dove into the water, and all these snakes came up around her. She swam calmly to shore, flinging snakes with her arms as she swam, and she didn't understand why her Girl Scout troop, all standing on the shore, were all screaming. Snakes didn't scare her.

They do scare me. I tried not to let the fear paralyze me as I walked out of the water, pushing the snake to the side and letting it swim off. I felt relieved to be out of the water, just standing in the parking lot. I looked back at the party to see if my student was still in the crowd, but I couldn't tell. I decided she'd be okay -- no one else seemed to be bothered by the snakes. My mother and I began walking through this old mansion to get back to my car.

"Something still feels not right," I said. I felt uncomfortable in my wet clothes. Something was wriggling inside of me. I began to shake.

I pulled up my wet t-shirt, and the snake that had been wrapped at my waist fell to the floor. I didn't even have time to see it before it slid quickly off and into a crack in the sideboard. I began stripping off all my wet clothes then, to make sure I had combed the snakes from my skin and hair.


I've had snake dreams all my life. And they terrify me. I wake up, tense, anxious. I can't stay in the warm bed or the dark room. I'm too afraid that there are snakes I can't see, slithering under the bed or even the covers. So I go down into the living room, turn on a light, sit where I can see the floor and know that the snakes aren't there.

Poet Woman tells me that snakes mean change, growth, transformation. She says I should embrace the snakes in my dreams.

I've always been terrified of change. And that's the feeling I had when I woke up very early this morning, in the darkness: I wanted badly to scream instead of patiently guiding the snake through the water. I hated the way the snake's body felt as it turned and twisted under my t-shirt.

I took my computer into the familiar and well-lit living room, to write the dream down, calming myself with the familiar act of putting words on the page. And then I went back to bed to lie in the dark and allow the feelings to wash over me.

25 comments:

Songbird said...

I'm feeling a range of things after reading this evocative post, like I want to leave a stone or a comforting hug or say, Oh I've been there! And they are all true, but they are not enough.
So I'll say this: your way of putting down the words is a gift, and I'm thankful for it.

YourFireAnt said...

Nice piece of writing, Jo(e). Normally I don't much like descriptions of dreams and skim through them, but this one.....

And the way she walked out of it, down the stairs into the living room, at the end, and put the words down.

It reminded me of how hard it is to get to the writing sometimes. To get to it. But (as always) once there, it is familiar, and it comes easy. And it's what I do.

FA

Rev Dr Mom said...

I do NOT like snakes, and my reaction wss one of horror and revulsion as you described all the snakes in the water. Ugh....

But you wrote it all so beautifully...

(o)

jo(e) said...

I'm not particularly afraid of snakes in real life, but in dreams I am terrified of them. The snakes in my dreams are never the snakes of my region -- they are always exotic and unknown snakes.

I feel better now that the daylight is here. Things always seem better in daylight.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty weird. I just woke up from a dream like that. The end of the street by the railroad tracks was completely flooded with water. And right as I got into the water, I was shocked to see these huge-ass elephants about 20 or 30 feet below me (completely submerged in the water, yet somehow still alive). And the only person I remember there was you, and you kept trying to get me to go underwater with you so you could take photos (for your blog, I presume). You seemed completely unfazed that there were huge-ass elephants (redundant, I know) at the end of our street, even though I was wicked creeped out.

-BSWD

jo(e) said...

BSWD: Well, one of the biggest changes is my life is you graduating from college and probably leaving Snowstorm City ....

I wish I had elephants in my dreams instead of snakes. I'm not afraid of elephants.

jo(e) said...

(And you have to admit -- that WOULD be a cool photo for my blog.)

KathyR said...

Well, I would say that sometimes a snake is just a snake. But that doesn't seem like it would be very comforting.

Yes, elephants would be much better. For one thing, they can't slither up your t-shirt.

AF said...

A recurring dream I have is of seeing and sometimes even catching big-lipped, grotesque big-eyed fishy slimy fishes. Sometimes in a flooded basement, sometimes in a deep pond with thirty-foot high, grassy banks. I've figured out what it means--a particular kind of worry. So maybe you guys have some worries beginning to surface? Change, maybe--it's coming, isn't? BSWD, I'll bet when the elephants float and you get to meet them, they'll be fascinating and exciting. You'll ride them feed them peanuts.

Linda said...

I love the connections to your mother and grandmother in your dream, and BSWD's connection to you in hers. Such a great lineage, I'd say. A family full of strong women, able to move through life and show each other the way. What a gift!

Jodie said...

Sure you didn't have to pee?

Dreaming about water always means I have to pee.

(snakes in the water, that's up to Freud)

YourFireAnt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YourFireAnt said...

What I meant to say was that in dreams elephants CAN slither up your teeshirt. And you're right a snake's a snake. Unless it is up your teeshirt with the elephants.

Gosh, this is all reminding me of The Eighties.

;-)

BlackenedBoy said...

I thought that this was an actual story when I irst started reading it. I, too, am terrified of snakes, and so I can empathize with you.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I have an assignment for you.

Make a POEM of the dream. Stay with it until you have truly finished.

Assignment 2: (not part of poem assignment, do separately): Give a voice to the snake or snakes, have them speak and tell you who and what they are. They may be change or growth, they may be sexuality, or they may be something else. let them TELL YOU.

If you choose to accept these assignments, let me know.

Try a guided visualization. Have a close and trusted friend help, or guide yourself. Wade back into the water and take a snake as a friend. Speak to it, let it speak to you. If the snake is wrapped around you, at may be a spirit guide with something important to teach you.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

You may be being invited into Shamanism. Spirit guides often appear in the form of soemthing frightening.

Journey.

Take your grandmother or Poet Woman or another trusted person or guide with you (for protection until you feel safe). Allow the snake to take you where it will and show you what it wants to show you. Look, see, listen, hear. Pay attention. It may be very important

Kyla said...

At first, I thought, "What sort of strange party is she attending?" But once the snakes arrived, I knew. What a dream!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Poem one from dream and dream work.
Dream 2
poem from dream 2

I am NOT saying these are great or anything, it's the PROCESS I am interested in. And the discoveries inherent in the process.

There are more examples there, though you prolly won't need more. If you decide to do a poem, just do it. I will teach you something more than simply recording the dream.

Gawdess said...

the snakes in my dreams have always scared me, I didn't know that they meant change - thought provoking!

kathy a. said...

beautifully written.

the shaken-awake feeling -- for me, it is always dreams of falling distances. my eyes are open and heart pounding before the final splat, and the only thing to do is go read for a while. there is probably some basis in experience, since as a toddler i climbed the baby gate and fell down a flight of stairs, and also got a concussion when i ran by a pool and slipped. but the dreams happen more often when i am behind and stressed, in fear of "falling into the abyss" in one way or another.

naked underwater elephants -- i think this would nicely round out your photographic ventures!

east village idiot said...

I am not afraid of change but I am f*cking terrified of snakes. That dream was hellacious. Nothing is worse than when a good writer describes a vivid nightmare....that includes snakes!

jo(e) said...

Mary: Okay, I'm going to write a poem about it and see what comes of that. And I'll try to include the snakes in my meditation today, although I have to say they do terrify me ....

argon(one) said...

jo(e), you have such an incredible way with words . . . and photos. I began reading your dream, and immediately glanced back to the top of the post to see if I had missed the picture of the snakes . . . but alas the italicized text told me this was a story and not a scene from real life. I don't mind snakes if I can see them and tell what kind they are, but I am terrified of poisonous snakes!dgpmr

jo(e) said...

argon(one): Look to the bottom of this post for a photo of the kind of snakes I see in real life. Mostly, just garter snakes and common water snakes. Not very scary.

But the snakes in my dreams are always exotic snakes. And I'm terrified of them.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Wahn, I just wrote a long comment and lost it.

http://www.dr-dream.com/nightmar.htm

google Dr. Dream and read what he says about nightmares and day mares.

While one can easily say in waking life that you should embrace your snakes, or at least talk to them, I know how hard (impossible?) that can be. I sure wasn't about to embrace or talk to a mountain lion who was about to rend me, eat me alive.

My heart was beating fast with terror for a long time after I woke up.

But you may be at a different point in your work with snakes, as you were able to maintain an outward calm and make appropriate choices. Or reasonable ones, anyway.