Sometimes Dreaming Is a Patchy, Spiritual Sight.

My friend Zion is five years old.  I see him about five times a year and my visits to his family go  something like this: his parents and I stay up way too late in the night talking and sharing stories, and the next morning Zion and his three-year-old brother are full of chatter and ready to play despite the grown-ups' grogginess.

One day this spring, it was the same story, except that at 7:11 a.m, one minute after my phone alarm went off in the basement next to the air mattress his parents drag out for me on most visits, Zion had bounded downstairs and climbed under one of many fleece blankets that kept me warm during the night.

As I lay there trying to come to some sort of day-time consciousness, he was eager to share with me an astute observation: "I eat my boogers, but fingernails are not digestible."

The topic then turned to Octonauts (a PBS Kids' show), poisonous frogs, and snakes. "Wanna make snake poison with me?" he asked.

"Sure, how do you do that?" I queried, wondering if he had a particular recipe in mind.

"You just mix it up!" Obviously.

"And then what do we do? Do we bite the snake with it?"

"Nooooo!" he pealed with gleeful horror. "You just throw the poison at the snake, and it gets it."

Scientists say that most of the creative geniuses in the world are Zion's age. But by the time we get through twelfth grade, the creative sparks have been snuffed by routine, rules, rigidity, and curriculums.  Then come jobs, college, car payments, insurance.  It's rare to find a creative genius in his or her thirties.

Somewhere along the line all of us were creative geniuses in the way Zion is, weaving seamlessly between reality and worlds of imagination, with nary a pause or hesitation between the two.

"I'm making a home for my [paper] frog, Heather. I'm putting [a drawing of] socks in it, for the frog to wear." 

My brain is OCD about staying grounded in reality most of the time. There are no imaginary frogs for me, no invisible friends, no thoughts flying fast and away from Here and Now into the galaxy of Maybe Here and Maybe Now.

"Maybe poisonous frogs. Maybe we could stir up some poison and throw it at a snake.

Maybe Here and Maybe Now only happen for me when I'm sleeping--or sleep-dreaming--or dream-waking. What should we call that liminal place between sleep and waking--where we are conscious of our physical senses but also aware that there may be much more going on than meets the eye? Sometimes we call it imagination. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it's a patchy, spiritual sight.

In between sleep and waking at Zion's house, I moved seamlessly between awareness of the plastic mattress beneath me and the fleece above me and the distinct words of a conversation happening in my head before the alarm went off. I dream in Zion's parent's basement like I dream many times in my own bed. People talk to me in my dreams. They say things about themselves, or others, or about me. Sometimes, I see things as I fall asleep and wonder if I'll remember when I wake up.

I'm intrigued by the places our minds go not just because the human brain is a wonder, but because I've experienced these words of the psalmist as true:

"I will bless the LORD who counsels me; even in the night my heart instructs me."

Most mornings I wake the way most people do--groggy and reluctant.

But some mornings, I wake with a patchy sense that my heart has been counseled--the creatively genius counsel hidden, secret, given to my heart but not my brain. And all I sense is the joy of it, the peace of it. The Maybe-Here-and-Maybe-Now-ness of it.

And still other mornings I wake with words and pictures, conversations, faces no one else can see or hear. And these ingredients turn into the plot lines for right-now stories and right-now conversations and right-now prayers for right-now people. There are mornings I can tell that God wants to--like Zion--make a safe space--a home--for some living creature through the words in my dreams. There are mornings I can tell God wants to throw poison on a poisonous snake--not on a person, mind you, but at problems or situations that hold me or another precious person in a vice-grip.

"I never remember my dreams," my children and husband have said over the years. But lately, something is happening. Their hearts are being counseled at night by dreams and songs and music and pictures. And I think sleep is the best place for it, the place where our defenses against imagination are down, the place where we are most able to be like Zion, welcoming new stories and plotlines as we'd welcome old friends.

*Psalm 16:7