I was taking a nap in the living room. As I awoke, I noticed Charlie, an old friend who’d been visiting me from Boston, standing next to me. He was about to leave and head back home. Without as much as sitting up, I gave him a sort of awkward handshake, and he walked toward the door with his small carry-on bag.
A few steps behind Charlie tottered a very young horse, a winsome, long-legged, still-slightly-gangly chestnut foal. Charlie opened the door, turned and beckoned his young friend to leave with him. Instead the animal stopped beside my day bed, glanced down at me, and lay down…right on top of me.
Not the slightest bit alarmed, I put my arms around the beautiful animal, marveling at its smell. It wasn’t that I’d expected it to smell bad, but I thought it would at least smell like a horse. It didn’t; it smelled even better, a sweet, warm-nutty scent something like the way your skin smells after you lie in sun for while.
You’d think having a horse of any size lying on top of you would, if not crush
you, at least squeeze the wind out of you. But this foal was nearly weightless.
I felt nothing but its smooth, still-soft coat, its warmth, the slow ebb and flow
of its breath.
It nuzzled with me.
The big cat licked my face and then
nestled its head in the crook of my neck.
WITHOUT A WORD
Charlie had left without a word, and I lay there overcome with wonder at this sweet animal’s affection for me; with what seemed like the opening of a clear channel of silent communication between us. It was as if our spirits flowed together into one. I closed my eyes and, basking in this magical moment, drifted off to sleep.
Later, when I opened my eyes, the foal had somehow morphed into a stunningly beautiful cat. Again, it was not the kind of cat you'd expect to be sleeping with—it was a cougar. It was looking right into my eyes, deeply, as if this was as extraordinary an experience for it as for me.
I studied every hair on the cougar’s face, the meld from fawn to white around its eyes and mouth, the little black spot at the root of each whisker. I could feel that
the animal shared my admiration and wonder.
The big cat licked my face and then nestled its head in the crook of my neck.
I did not lick it back.
When I awoke from my dream, I lay in bed for the longest time basking in the rapture of that transcendent experience. I felt a guest in a paradise of possibility, though, try as I might, I could not go back again and conjure up my enchanting new friends.
Whatever life may throw at us, the only thing
we have to fear is failing to understand its
place in that sacred reality.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
I've shared my dream with my wife and several friends. Inevitably, we traded hypotheses about its meaning. I guessed it might have been inspired by my recent visit with my grandchildren, and our snuggling at bedtime.
My wife thinks that’s too literal, and that the animals and their calming, positive energy were more likely a manifestation of my father, come back to reassure me during a time of extraordinary stress and anxiety in my life.
One friend has an even more literal take on it than I do: that my close encounter with such improbable creatures was merely a playing out of the mystical connection I already feel with all living things. It arises from my deep conviction that every single organism, every rock, every cloud, every drop of water, even the vast emptiness of deep space, is part of a single, universal whole.
And that, when we come face to face with whatever life may throw at us, the only thing we have to fear is failing to understand its place in that sacred reality.