I dreamed I was gathering fruit in the misty morning, stuffing my backpack full of the kinds I liked best, when the trees opened up to a great and spacious field. My attention was drawn to an impressive-looking pear tree that was backlit somehow. A bunch of us headed over there, but as we got closer, the mist grew darker, like the brightness of the tree and the darkness of the mist were linked.
I saw that people were lining up along a little path, holding onto a handrail so they could get up to the tree without falling. They were walking carefully, looking straight ahead and singing slow, somber hymns about being happy. It was unconvincing. I talked to a few of them and they told me about the pears. I said I had tried plenty of pears earlier and they were okay, but I wouldn’t wait in line for them. I showed them persimmons and pomegranates I collected from the edge of the field, but they were having none of it. They said the other fruit was nothing more than decoy pears, and seemed suspicious of my motives and determined to move forward. I shuttered. The sight felt painfully familiar.
I found an open spot in the procession and ducked underneath the railing, then carefully made my way down to the banks of a swift-moving river. It looked a bit sketchy to cross it myself, but there were others down there and I met some cool people. Several of us helped each other cross by linking arms. We got our pants wet, but whatever. We all made it across.
On the other side, some soulless developer had built a mid-rise office park and strip mall, which was bustling with people. A sports bar was broadcasting a football game at full volume, and people were in there laughing and enjoying each other. My friends and I poked around the shops a bit, then crossed the parking lot and headed toward the hills.
I saw several paths leading up with signs forbidding entrance, but one of them was calling my name. My friends wished me well and I headed up alone along an outcropping of rocks. It wasn’t always easy going. At times my only guides were stacked stones – cairns – left by previous travelers as trail markers. These were helpful and comforting, and they made me think about trust and our shared responsibility to each other. Eventually the markers stopped and I realized I was walking my own path, so I gathered rocks and built cairns of my own.
Soon I met a girl heading my way and we agreed to travel together, which made everything better. It was a long climb, but I felt alive and wouldn’t change a thing.
At a certain point, we rose up out of the mist could finally see. We sat and rested, and like a hero I took out my backpack full of fruit. I learned that my girl had brought along some leafy greens, walnuts, and sunflower seeds that she had foraged from a little further down the valley. We ate together and told each other everything – about the darkness, crossing the river, and how she got ripped off at that little strip mall. We agreed that while there is danger in leaving home, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do it. We swore to never sing somber hymns to our children.
From our vantage point on the hill, we could see that the mist that had surrounded us in the valley was a little finger of fog that would push in from the sea and blanket the low-lying areas. We decided we weren’t going back. Other valleys spread out before us in a seemingly endless display of beauty. We packed up and headed further inland, still carrying the fruit from our foggy little valley into the wider world to claim our lives together.