For as long as I can remember, I have been a lucid dreamer, a nightmare purveyor, and an unwitting psychic archaeologist. From the earliest age, I’ve tiptoed carefully into the night, joining with the deities to walk dark-worlds and see the unseen.
I remember one night, several years ago, I woke up not knowing where I was, who I was, nor my name, or anything for that matter. It took me several seconds to gather the pieces of the puzzle and when I finally did, I noticed my boyfriend of the time standing by the window looking at me in a way he hadn’t before.
I tried to act as if I’d just had a really good night’s sleep, but he wasn’t buying it. My small talk wasn’t shaking the shock from him, so I just addressed it, “I don’t know where I went,” I said. He gave me a sideways guarded glance and said, “You were gone. Gone. You went somewhere. You left.”
I laughed but he wasn’t laughing so I stopped. I mean, he was right. I had left but I didn’t know why or where I went. Plus, I was used it. I’d been traveling in my dreams from my earliest days on the earth.
I was born in Western New York state, known for its blizzards and torrential thunderstorms. My lucid dreaming gave me insight into a bigger story of the land and of the spirit world, both of which seemed more heathen wild than the weather.
“Underneath” Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc., are forgotten stories of killings and kidnappings between two cultures: The Indigenous Peoples and the White settlers. I had no knowledge of this as a five-year-old child but on our occasional family outings to parks and rivers, I’d sometimes see things that weren’t there. I’d see ancestral peoples.
In these outings, I was often with my dad. I loved him. He had a quiet, inner strength about him. He’d been an all-star athlete in college and studied to become an industrial arts teacher. He left early into his teaching career for law enforcement. He had a sixth sense for detective work and hostage negotiation.
I remember once in high school, a nervous announcer got on the PA system and said we could not leave the school until further notice. As we fidgeted and searched for answers (there were no cell phones back then), we were told that a serious hostage situation was unfolding just blocks away. The roads were blocked off, swat teams were called in, and my dad was the lead negotiator. No one got hurt that day. No one.
My dad had this gift, the gift of center. His essence was honesty, and people seemed to know this intuitively. Hostage takers, especially, seemed to sense this even at the most desperate moment of their lives. They trusted him to help them untangle their emotions and untangle (most often) the women and children they held in their grasp.
I asked my dad once if he dreamed at night and he said, “very rarely.” Still, he would listen to me tell him my dreams night after night as I’d stumble downstairs terrified and shaking. He’d listen, then shrug and say, “I don’t know.” I’d watch him shake his head with frustration that he couldn’t save me from them. “You can stay up and watch boxing with me if you want to,” he’d say.
That wasn’t exactly what I wanted, of course, watching Mike Tyson annihilate people in the ring, but staying awake gave me time to shake off the eeriness from my aura and stop the electrical circuit storm I could actually hear in my brain.
Then one day on a sunny fall afternoon, my parents wanted to go for a long ride into the country. We rarely took trips, but the fall leaves were gorgeous, and we wanted to see them. We packed up the car and headed for Letchworth State Park.
When we got there, my dad got my sisters and I ready for nature exploring and knelt down beside us and said, “Now, when you see an acorn, a leaf, or a rock that’s special to you, you can put it in your brown paper bag but only if it’s already on the ground. You can admire nature but let Her be.” I set out on our nature walk collecting acorns and leaves and eventually we made our way back to the car and put our bags there.
We were ready to go a bit further into the park and this scared me. Letchworth was home to a treacherous gorge with loud roaring waterfalls and moaning trees. My dad gave his customary safety instructions, ‘Watch where you’re going. Careful of mud holes and tree roots. Don’t wander off.”
Before long we were traversing a small side of the ravine. All I remember was how close I was to nature. I was holding on precariously to jutting rocks, facing wet clay with my nose, and looking at towering trees above us.
I was enjoying this for a little while but then I had a sense we were going too far. I was getting a warning and trying to tell my dad. He seemed oddly annoyed and encouraged me to keep going.
But then I started to get a very strong message that it wasn’t safe. I stopped and looked around. There, other the other side of the gorge I saw an apparition of an Indigenous man with a hardened face standing on a plank. He looked deep into my soul and I into his. He gave me no expression, but I felt his despair. I knew I was the only one who could see him, and he knew that, too, and then he jumped to his death.
A shock of panic ripped through my body. I reached for my dad, but he was too far in front of me and I was frozen with fear. The ravine roared scarily beneath us and I wanted to tell him what just happened, but I couldn’t. It would sound crazy and I knew there was nothing he could do so I pressed him to turn around.
Eventually, we made our way home. My parents were talking in the front seat about the different colors of the leaves and what a beautiful day it’d been. I kept reaching into my brown paper bag to look at my leaves and acorns, but on the long drive home, all I could see was what I saw.
That wouldn’t be the last time I saw apparitions of Indigenous Peoples and had exchanges with them.
I learned to keep all of these things to myself. People didn’t seem to understand other worlds or to be comfortable talking about dream worlds in a meaningful way.
So, I kept it all inside.
When I hear about tribes gathering in the morning to share their dreams and having seers, elders and interpreters holding space I think, “How lucky.” I’m careful not to romanticize tribal life but I’ve always had a sense of longing for it. Those feelings have broadened into more female expressions of alchemy and ancestry, and I recognize the confluence of these traditions within me now.
When I reflect on our shared history, I understand there were rampant kidnappings, hostage situations, negotiations for captives’ freedoms, and a willingness and unwillingness to leave. It seems like there would be so much to learn from these stories, these complicated relationships, and choices.
I don’t have answers, but rather sight. I welcome the integration of worlds and ethereal beings. I welcome the mystery, the happenings, the unseen experiences and the seen ones.
My invitation to you is to perhaps use quarantine as a time to cultivate your inner strength and knowing your lucid dreaming and intuition. To embrace your otherworldliness. Tune in, dive deep, and sleep well.