When Weird Dreams Feel Weirdly Real

Last night I dreamed that I had been signed up to compete in a 32 mile swim. From the get-go, you'd think I'd question this, but Dream Robin accepted the assignment with minimal examination. Other swimmers showed up to the event wearing streamlined wetsuits. I wore jeans. I also wore only one shoe. Naturally.

Did I show any concern that my jeans would be heavy when submersed in water, making them a highly unsuitable clothing choice to swim 32 miles? No. Did I wonder why I had only one shoe? No. Did I at least have a sensible backstory to explain where I lost the other shoe? Also no. Despite this shocking lack of awareness, while I was standing on the bank of the nameless river waiting for my turn to jump in and start swimming, I do recall being quite upset that I didn't have a pair of goggles. I asked the swimmer beside me if there was a Wal-Mart nearby where I could buy a pair of those plastic mask goggles that cover your nose and leave an oval imprint on your face when you lift them up to clear out the fogginess. They shook their head, then looked away from me without a word.

I don't blame this dream person. I wouldn't know how to converse with me in this situation, either.

I'm not a great swimmer in real life. Technically, I'm safe enough to not drown in the deep end of a pool, but nobody's going to confuse me with a skilled open-ocean swimmer. Yet somehow, Dream Robin didn't seem daunted by this 32-mile challenge, even though I hadn't trained and only found out about the race that morning. 

In the ways that dreams morph without explanation and refuse to adhere to either reality or physics, the river ran up a mountain and then shifted into a muddy creek where the water only came to my waist. I waded this section with my arms aloft, somehow now hoisting a military bag above my head to keep it out of the water. At one point during the race, I had to float feet-first through rapids. At another point, I was required to get out of the water, hike a steep section of the Appalachian Trail, then restart swimming in the Pacific Ocean. (Geography doesn't matter in dreams, either.)

I was still in the water when my alarm went off. It's weird when you wake up tired because you were swimming all night. 

Perhaps there's some symbolism buried in this dream that pertains to my life right now. Maybe it's a strange parable about steadfastness when the waters are murky, or perseverance when the tides want to pull you under, or grit in the face of adversity, or the simple truth that progress comes with every step (or every stroke), no matter how small or tough.

Or maybe, it's just a reminder to make sure I'm wearing both shoes before I leave the house.


I Almost Canned Stuff (and other reports from September)

Today I flipped the calendar to October, which is a particularly satisfying calendar flip. September hints at the promise of fall, but October delivers on the promise.

Right now, in fact, I'm sitting on my front porch, still reflecting on the message from church this morning. The faint breeze makes me grateful for my cardigan, and the orange-tinged tips of trees make everything feel cozy and right. I agree with Anne of Green Gables: "I'm so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers."

We've been on a roll the past few weeks. I've taught my classes, which are going well. We've rented our house for home football weekends, which has required extensive cleaning (satisfying) and extensive laundry (necessary). In waves and spurts, I've embarked on organizing kicks: going through our closet, cleaning out a pantry, and sorting a medicine cabinet. I've capitalized on the beautiful days tucked between rainy stretches to cut the grass, start the process of putting the gardens to sleep, and spray paint DIY projects in the driveway before it gets too cold.

I've also picked pears. A few years ago, Joel planted a pear tree in our back yard. This is the first year that it's produced an actual harvest. Somehow, I'm always shocked when things grow, when this process of fruit and vegetable "production" actually works. I don't know why I'd expect differently, but when I pick apples from my apple trees and pears from my pear tree, it's always with a sense of wonder tinged with disbelief. 

We grew stuff. How did this even happen?

This leads me to two weeks ago when I gathered all the large bowls and baskets from my house and carried them, along with a picker resembling a lacrosse stick that I borrowed from my neighbor, to the far side of my yard. This same neighbor also had loaned me a few dozen Ball mason jars and lids, along with verbal instructions on the sugar-to-water ratio for simple syrup that sounded easy enough even though I knew I'd never remember it. As she sent me on my way, I could tell she had great hopes I'd become a person who cans fruit.

And I tried. Well, I sort of tried.

I picked lots of pears. I filled bowls and baskets with them. I carried them into our kitchen, rinsed and patted them dry, then inspected for soft spots. This was on a Thursday. We were renting our house the next day, so it didn't seem like an opportune time for a first venture into the canning process. I relocated everything to the garage, trusting I'd pick up where I left off once we returned to the house on Sunday.

Sunday came and went, filled with church, post-rental cleaning and laundry, a trip to the grocery store, and who-knows-what-else. Monday came and went, too. As did several other days. 

When I finally went to check on my pears, thinking that I'd bring the bowls, baskets, and mason jars back into the kitchen, that I'd finally commit the recipe for simple syrup to my memory, that I'd boil and seal jars to my heart's content, I had one thought:

I don't even buy canned pears from the grocery store.

I mean, I like pears well enough, I guess. But I've never actually sought them out in canned form. Not once have I entertained a hankering for canned pears so deeply that I've needed to get to the store right away to satisfy that craving. 

As I stood there with my illusions of homesteading crashing to the ground around me, I thought, "Yeah, no. I'm good."

I've eaten the pears with my lunches, shared them with neighbors, and made a pear tart. These assorted uses seem even nicer than canning them.

Who knows? Maybe I'll eventually be a person who cans. Maybe October is my month. Or maybe I'll return the fruit picker and the clinking, empty mason jars back to my neighbor with a shrug of my shoulders. I'll hand over a few ripe, uncanned pears as an offering of apology.

So, yeah. I almost canned stuff. Somehow that feels enough.

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