On the first day of the first year of the new decade, I had a dream.
I am walking through the grass in a garden. I look down and see a tiny feminine figure curled up in the midst of the green shoots. She has a blond bob with bangs and she’s a little bit plump. I think she has wings but they are all closed around her. My husband Ian is walking behind me, not far away. I call him over and ask him if he’s seen her before. He says, yes, he’s quite familiar with her. Then he walks on in the direction of the cabin where we’re staying. I decide to talk to this little person.
She stirs and sits up. “Hello,” she says. She’s wearing a blue checkered gingham dress with a white apron, white knee socks and tiny black mary-janes.
“Um, are you a fairy?”
She tilts her head. “What do you think?”
“Well, you certainly look like a fairy.”
“Then I suppose I am.”
“Is this where you live?”
She looks around. “I suppose so.”
I feel a bit distressed. The conversation is too simplistic, almost mechanical. “What’s it like to be a fairy?” I ask.
She looks at me with round eyes. She doesn’t seem able to answer the question. I can’t figure out whether she is not comprehending, or she is being deliberately obtuse.
“Well, have a nice day.”
“Thank you,” she says.
I walk on a little further and then I look down. There she is again. This time she’s sitting on a small, smooth stone. To get here she would have had to have moved faster than me.
“There you are again!”
“Yes I am.”
It occurs to me that Ian talked about this fairy just the other night. Didn’t he? Oh, no, it wasn’t a fairy. It was the moth of wisdom. He told me that he had met the moth of wisdom in a dream. It was a white moth, the size of his hand. He said to the moth, “Gosh, you’re not very big.” And the moth said, “Well, you’re not very bright!”
I stumble on towards the cabin. I’m unnerved by this “fairy.” She has powers I’ve never imagined. She can get from one place to another at the speed of a thought. Clearly, she flies. And she seems to be with me.
I get to the cabin and go in through the screen door. There’s a large pool table in the room, and on the opposite wall I see two long stick bugs. They’re each a couple of feet tall. One looks like a dragonfly. The other looks like a damselfly. I’m freaked out and I call for Ian, who doesn’t seem surprised to see them. He says he’ll go and get the landlord. If he can’t find him, I’m pretty sure Ian will get rid of the bugs in his usual, humane way. He’ll trap them in a jar and carry them outside. He’ll need a big jar for these creatures!
The landlord comes in, a pleasant young man in his thirties. He sees the insects on the wall and says, “Oh you don’t need to worry about them. They’re harmless.”
Just then it occurs to me that the bugs are the fairy. Not only can she fly through space at the speed of a thought, she can shape-shift. And not only can she shape-shift, she can divide herself into more than one shape. Who knows if she’s a fairy at all? What is a fairy, anyway?
I start to panic. Will I ever be rid of this creature? Will she be with me everywhere I go?
“Really, they’re harmless,” says the landlord again. “They won’t bother you at all.”
In that instant, I realize that I can choose to see the fairy as a friend, or I can distrust her and then we’ll be locked in a battle. It’s up to me. If I can accept having her around, she just might show me something new, and maybe even wonderful.
Needless to say this dream has been with me through the last few months, flying over my left shoulder, in my peripheral view. I’ve had many conversations with people about the coronavirus and everyone is looking at this “bug” in their own way. Some are experiencing relief from a life that had become almost unbearably stressful, and others are experiencing the reverse. They’re stressed out, working long hours on the front-lines, in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care residences. Some people are excruciatingly lonely, others are mourning lost loved ones, businesses and income. Everyone has been thrown into a state of uncertainty, and most of us have the sense that the world on the other side of the virus will be different. We hold the promise that it will be a better world, a humbled world, perhaps a world willing to revision the way cities are organized, the way we interact with one another, the way we consume, the way we relate to our sibling human and non-human beings, the way we care for the natural world. I hear the words “silver lining” a lot, often coming from my own mouth.
I know from years of living with chronic pain that if one treats pain as an enemy to be conquered, the relationship with one’s body becomes a battleground. Whether it’s our own body, or the body of a country, the body needs to be heard when it speaks–especially if it’s crying out or sounding an alarm. There is a direct correlation here with fairy tales. To break a spell, the character who is free has to listen to the character who is imprisoned. The princess who is trapped in a castle, the brothers who have been turned into swans, the prince who is locked in an iron stove … all these characters know what needs to be done to set them free. If their instructions aren’t heard or followed, the suffering will continue with dire consequences.
A few weeks into January, I had a second dream. It was a simple image. I was standing at the top of a long flight of stairs. A woman was standing at the bottom holding a little paper creation she had made. She urged the little creation to go up the steps. As she hopped lightly towards me, I realized that she was the fairy. She held a flower, also made of white paper, and she wanted to give it to me. “But won’t your creator miss having the flower? Isn’t it a part of you?” I asked. She just smiled and insisted that I take the flower.
Featured image by: Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
Little drawing by me.