I just finished my third week here in the Adirondack mountains of New York. Sabbatical, so far, has treated my family and I well. We have slept as late as we want, gone to bed as early as we want, read books, watched several sunsets, swam in the mountain lakes, hiked, ran, biked, kayaked, and fished. It has already been life-giving.
My mind has relaxed and I am learning to enjoy a present moment. My body is rested and getting back into decent shape again (I’m on pace to run 100 miles this month). The days are longer and laughter comes easier.
There is no doubt I entered this sabbatical with some expectations: I hoped for time to play with my kids, to read and to write. And for some odd reason I pictured a lot of alone time, walking the mountain trails.
What I didn’t expect was the dreams. Strange dreams. Vivid dreams. Nightly dreams. I’ll share one:
I dreamed I was a priest (the fact that I had just finished reading Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory probably influenced this dream). I was dressed in priestly attire, and kneeling at an altar. Head down and eyes closed, I was praying, begging, for permission to undress. I looked up and saw people gathered all around. Some standing at a distance, wagging their heads in smirky disapproval. Others were standing close, pulling at my clothes as if trying to undress me or to have them for themselves. Still others seemed to be silently praying. I wasn’t certain if they were praying with me or for themselves.
I quickly bowed my head again and closed my eyes. I didn’t want to even look at the people. I didn’t want to see the faces. It was as if I already knew what their face revealed. But I didn’t want to see it. It was too much to know.
I began to pray again. As I prayed, I saw my priestly robe turn from white to blue. Bright blue, like the sky. I saw clouds rolling through the blue sky. Thunder clouds with heavy rain. It was very dark.
There was suddenly the heavy presence of a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look and saw no one. I asked who it was that touched my shoulder. No one knew.
I was grateful for the gesture. It was just a momentary touch of a hand. But it was far more meaningful than what others had offered.
I began to pray again. But I was losing interest. The begging stopped. The praying stopped. My prayer at the altar seemed so self-absorbed. I wanted to know who had reached out and touched my shoulder. I stood up and walked away from the altar still dressed in priestly attire. I walked outside to a bright blue sky. I went looking for the hand. Everywhere I looked. And kept looking. In dark places, in well lit places. In the mountains and in the valleys. In the city and country. The robe grew dirty and worn but mattered little. What mattered was the hand.
That was my dream. Maybe it was from too many books and too many cups of coffee. But I remember the exact night. I know the next day. I awoke with a different awareness. Smirk if you want. Pray for me if you wish. But something happened to me in the night. In a sabbatical dream.