When I was 8 years old, I had a dream that I died.
I was on the swing set behind my parents house. As I kicked higher and higher on that swing, a man came out onto the back porch. He was waving a gun. Jolted by intense fear I leapt off my swing to flee. He shot me in the chest before I hit the ground.
My omniscient self watched as I exploded upwards into the air- arms outstretched like wings. Instead of crumpling to the ground, I flew joyously skyward, through the branches of two big oak trees that still reside in my parent’s backyard. I remember arching and twisting, soaring and plunging back toward the earth, even more nimble than a bird… as if I were part of the wind.
The aspect I fall short to describe each time I recall this dream, is the feeling that took over my heart. It was a feeling that didn’t surpass words, it defied human language all together.
Imagine the most blissful, orgasmic, all encompassing love and freedom that you can conceive.
Then multiply it times infinity.
<jinx personal jinx>
Suffice it to say, I woke up a different little girl. My 8 year old self laid in bed for a few minutes trying to reclaim any residual morsel from my conceptual death. I had never in my short time on earth felt so completely rid of all fear… so intensely at peace with… everything? Nothing?
In sixth grade my great uncle died. I tentatively composed a letter to his daughter and told her ‘not to worry.’ Uncle Nunny had become the wind, and that it was the most amazing feeling you could imagine. Times infinity. I told her not to worry because I had dreamt it.
Two years later I sat in my eighth grade English classroom. At 1 pm on a hot May afternoon– third floor of a 19th century building– meant I was craving a breeze.
I was also craving an escape.
Not necessarily from the heat… rather from my brain, hormones and frizzy hair, hell bent on condemning me to a life of self-criticism and loathing.
My desk was the by the window. While the teacher reviewed clauses and verb agreements, I gazed out across the expansive front lawn. There I watched all the ‘free’ adults and children too young for school, walking leisurely in and out of the public library next door. A cool breeze picked up and fluttered across my face. I thought of Uncle Nunny. I thought of flying out of the window and across the lawn where all the ‘free’ people could walk in the sun and read picture books.
I wonder what my teacher had been thinking that day I stared out her window. Did she feel hot and tired like me? Did she know that I was dreaming about flying? Did she know that I was pondering the meaning of death? Did she know that even at 13 I thought she was ridiculous. Did she know the absurdity of handwriting drills, when I was trying to find meaning in life?
There were probably a lot of frustrated kids like me, who grew up and became teachers. They became teachers so they might look directly in the eye of their charges and say:
I know you’re looking for meaning. I will give you a safe place to start searching.
And on that first professional development day these new teachers eagerly arrived to learn how they might do such a thing. There they met a district consultant armed with a power point presentation entitled:
How to read your district’s report card: A guide to financial security
And it’s in that moment that they get it. That all the memories click into a full circle.
So that’s why she droned on and on about homonyms.
As the consultant talks about adequate yearly progress I turn and gaze out the window at the wind… contorting an American flag too and fro…
Five years later I lay into bed listening to the wind. Is it just my imagination or does Texas wind blow much harder than in Ohio? As the curtains billow, dots connect in my mind…
8 years old, Uncle Nunny, eight grade English, district report cards…
A simple natural phenomenon reminds me of my mortality, and I’m struck by the irony of it all.
Evening wind in Austin is the catalyst. No teacher. No assignment. No performance objectives. No standardized evaluation to assess the deep sense of meaning resonating in my heart. No excel spreadsheet will quantify the new meanings I may construct. In fact, if I never tell a single soul… the wind and I will share in this secret moment of evolution together… and I will wake up tomorrow just a humble grad student without a single bragging right to speak of…
Maybe if I finagle, I can at least get it on a resume.