Bealtaine, usually celebrated around May 1, is a festival that honors the bright, warm, and transformative power of fire and the sun. Traditionally, people would walk and drive their cattle around a bonfire or between two bonfires, or leap over flames or embers, for protection and growth. Yellow flowers representing the sun adorned doorways and windowsills.
Times of growth and transformation can also be times of danger. We set off on unfamiliar paths and sometimes don’t quite know where we are going. Or it’s time to leave a familiar path and we resist until we are literally forced to shift direction. Our dreams can warn us of potential danger to come. Sometimes we listen – and sometimes we don’t. I have already written about ignoring a warning dream and fracturing my right ankle here.
I am facing a transformative moment in my life. Since birth I’ve had impaired vision in my right eye from a condition known as amblyopia, in which one eye does not develop properly. The cause of this condition is that my right eye turns or crosses inward. Instead of working well together, my infant eyes produced two images. To avoid the confusion of double vision, my brain stopped paying attention to nerve signals from my right eye and focused exclusively on the left eye. The right eye never developed fully. This has resulted in poor depth perception and accommodations in body posture to position my left eye more toward the center of my field of vision. I tend to be a bit clumsy and accident-prone.
All my life I believed what I was told – that after about age 6, visual impairment from amblyopia could not be repaired. Recently I have discovered this is not true. The brain can learn to work with the weaker eye, and the two eyes can be trained to work together, through vision therapy, even decades into adulthood. It requires a significant investment of time and money. And, perhaps even harder, it requires me to change long-held beliefs.
I was on the brink of committing to vision therapy, but was hesitating. Then twice in a week I received warning dreams. In the first, “I move to my right on the highway and sideswipe another car, causing a lot of damage. It’s frightening.”
In the second dream, a man in my neighborhood asks me over to dinner. I accept, with my wife’s knowledge and encouragement, and go to his house. He immediately and violently attacks me, threatening to hit me over the head with an axe. I fight back, try to escape, call for help, hide. I wake up terrified, speak to myself out loud, calling myself back into my body, telling myself this isn’t actually happening to me physically at this time. I’m safe in bed.
I had no idea what these dreams meant, and I was too busy at work to take the time to figure it out. Two days after the second dream, as I got off light rail after working a long day, I saw a colleague still on the train. I turned to my left, knocked on the window and greeted him. As the train left the station, I walked alongside, still turned to my left. I walked into a metal pole, hitting my head hard above my right eye and giving myself a spectacular shiner and a mild concussion.
Another evening, driving on a residential street near my home, I pulled to my right to make room for an oncoming car – and knocked the side view mirror off a neighbor’s parked car.
The connection of the first dream to the subsequent driving mishap seems obvious. But what about the second dream?
Dreams often communicate through metaphors. The second dream was much more frightening and extreme than walking into a pole – but similar enough to get the message across: “Watch out for your head!” Frightening images and experiences in dreams draw our attention to things we might otherwise ignore.
If you have a dream that seems like a warning – especially if you have more than one in sequence – pay attention to the overall theme rather than getting hung up in specific details. (I was pretty sure none of my neighbors was an axe murderer.) Be aware of situations in which you might be likely to get injured, and be especially careful. If I had listened to my dreams, taken care when moving to my right, and watched my head, I might not have walked into the pole or broken the car’s mirror.
But I ended up with a beautiful shiner, a good story, and a commitment to change the way I see. For that I’m grateful.