I’m not one to put much stock in dream symbolism, which is odd, considering quite a few characters in my fiction experience prophetic or telling dreams. It makes for interesting fiction. But in real life? Nah. Our modern minds are so cluttered with the constant barrage of images, ideas and detritus of our days, I can’t imagine anything truly meaningful can break through.
One of the few exceptions, in my opinion, is the fear dream. My mother is the perfect example of this. Her towering fears and worries take the form of snakes in her dreams. She’s had many a nightmare in which a giant snake threatens to bite, strangle, or otherwise overwhelm her. I understand this kind of dream, but for me, it’s spiders. Walking into a web covered in spiders is the pinnacle of terror in my dreaming world. Whenever I have one of these dreams, I try to figure out what fear or uncomfortable situation I need to face. But snakes have never taken this form.
So I’ve been pondering this dream I had a few nights ago, concerning a python-sized snake. It wasn’t menacing in any way; I didn’t fear it in itself. It lived in a pool of water, in a kind of wildlife sanctuary, and a man was trying to sell it to me. I was reluctant, thinking of all the work involved in owning it-a special terrarium, feeding it, the burden of responsibility it represented. It would cost time, money, attention, resources I didn’t think I had. I also knew that my relatives and friends wouldn’t like it very much, and may even be horrified-especially my mother! But I felt obligated to take the snake; I left with the creature and a lot of misgivings.
The strange thing is, once I got it home and into its special enclosure, I was glad I had it. It was an amazing animal, beautiful in its own slithery, rippling way.
I usually forget my dreams pretty quickly (unless I’m deliberately paying attention and jot them down immediately out of curiosity’s sake), but this one stayed with me. What does the snake mean? Does it represent writing? My decision to commit to it involves time, effort, resources that I often fear I don’t have. Maybe my friends and family think I’m crazy, maybe they think the writing is ridiculous. There’s no evidence of this; just my own internal doubts. But my decision to own my writing inevitably leads to gratitude and relief: this is the life I want, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Sounds about right. But then again, maybe the snake means nothing. I’m reminded of the Star Trek Next Generation episode, in which Data is trying to analyze a “dream” he’s had. He’s cutting up a piece of cake in the form of Counselor Troi. He’s perplexed, and finally asks her what it might mean. She tells him not to worry, that sometimes a cake is just a cake.
And sometimes a snake is just a snake.