In a dream, I see myself walking through a magnificent garden toward a flowing fountain, or perhaps I am sitting beside the fountain watching a man approach along a flower-lined path. The quiet of the sanctum fills me and affords an opportunity for reflection. Peace sweeps over me, and my anxiety is gone. The garden is a place of repose, retreat, and recuperation. Everything about it is magical, tranquil, floral, and whole.
Dreams often present ambiguity. As I walk or sit, I see the man sitting by the fountain or walking past, and instinctively I know that one of us is convalescing from a protracted illness. I look down at him as I draw near, or up at him as he goes by, and I nod a greeting. He returns my gaze and declares that his health has improved and he is nearly well. He wears a sweatshirt, khaki trousers, and moccasins and appears normal in every way, save one. Out of the top of his head grows a small tree, about a foot tall.
I bow my head, and something pushes against it, but I cannot see what it is from my inclined position. I straighten, and groping upward with my hands, I feel a tree protruding from the top of my head. At first, I want to cut it off. I know that if I do, however, the stump will rot in place, putting in doubt the long-term benefits of the severance. The tree is sturdy, and its leaves are blue. I cannot explain how I know its color, because I am unable to see it, but the azure image is clear in my mind.
The tree bothers me. I understand that it carries meaningful symbology, but I still don’t like it. It strikes me as strange in two ways. First, it seems to be a protuberance that should be removed, like a tumor that puts unnatural stress on the tissue that surrounds it. Second, I fear that my head will transform into soil in order to facilitate its growth. I imagine my scalp turning brown and crumbly, and I am perturbed by the sensation that it is changing into dirt.
A relationship seems to exist between the transformation of my head and the survival of the tree. When I become ill, lightning strikes the spot where the tree starts to grow. I am probably in more danger than I realize at the time, but the crucial moment is past, and I find myself in a spectacular garden with a tree sticking out of my skull.
As I sit next to the bubbling fountain contemplating my recovery, I imagine myself ramming into the knobby head of a monster. The tree splinters, and the monster bleeds, but eventually both of our wounds heal. During the struggle, the monster pushes harder than I do, but the tree amplifies my will to fight, provides a buffer between my foe and me, and serves as an effective weapon. It gives me outer strength, but ironically, its inner power is a source of both my illness and my cure. Its roots are invasive, but stability and balance characterize its union with my body.
After the battle with the monster is over, I decide that I must remove the tree from my head. I pull it forward with both hands and yank it out, roots and all. The brutal operation is painful, but the implantation comes off, and to my surprise, only a little blood flows down my face. I believe the open sore will heal, but surely an indentation will remain. I walk to a secluded spot in the garden, place the tree in a hole in the ground, pack dirt around the roots, and add water until it begins to grow.
For the first time in ages, I am able to stand up straight. While the tree is on my head, it weighs on me and affects my posture. Now standing erect, I see the monster approach, and I hide behind the tree. The trunk has grown quite large and stands solidly in the earth, and the monster is unable to harm it. I am confident that the tree will always be present in the garden to shield me, and if the monster runs around it to find me, I can climb and take refuge in its branches well above the beast’s reach.
So the tree has gone from my head to the ground in the garden and has become the guardian of my existence. From time to time, my hands migrate upward to feel the indentation in my skull, and a creeping fear enters me that the dent may fill in and that my head may heal completely.
Two reasons exist for not desiring this. The first is that I want always to remember my ailment and the miraculous way in which my reclusion in the garden saves me. The tree grows first in me and then is transferred to the garden, but no matter where it stands, it serves as the source of my healing. Second, should I again fall ill, the cavity will provide a spot for expedient placement of a new tree, resulting in quicker healing that time around.
The tree, the garden, the man, me. I am confused as to who walks, who sits, who suffers, and who is whole. Perhaps neither the man nor I can claim wellness, but the tree grows in the garden all the same, and the indentation is still palpable on top of my head. From time to time, I reach for it to assure myself of its continued presence, and when no one is watching, I press downward with my fingers to ensure that it does not fill in and disappear.