Outside in our shed is an old, probably now rusted bird cage my mom bought at Goodwill when I was a kid. Long ago, it was home to two parakeets and more recently to a trio of abandoned baby sparrows (Johnny, Nelson, and Jimbo) that we hand raised until they were old enough to live on their own. Until it popped up in an dream last night, I hadn’t thought about it in ages. Dreams have always fascinated me. The mind is a whacky and wonderful thing and this dream was my mind’s creepily odd at its best. In it, I was at my desk, working on spreadsheets for work (are you creeped out yet? I know I am!) when I noticed there was suddenly a bird cage with two yellow parkeets inside handing from the ceiling in a distant corner of the room. It didn’t phase me a bit that I had two birds when shortly before I did not.
A bit later, I was sitting at the desk again and noticed the birds had flown out. The cage door that had been closed was now open. I scooped them up, put them back in and closed the door. A few minutes later, they were out again. Except this time, when I put them back and closed the door, there were two more birds in the cage.
The next time the birds opened the door and flew out, my nephew was there too. Though I took the appearance of a multiplying bird cage in stride, he actually noticed there were now birds where before there were none. Again, I scooped the escapees and put them back in the cage only to find more birds milling around its floor. As I was gently pushing the last one through the door, she got stuck, having turned into what looked from the back like a large rodent. When I turned her around to more closely examine her she was my (now long dead) cat, Tiger. She was exactly like her, down to the bent tail she had had since kittenhood in real life. She started purring the moment she looked into my eyes. Overjoyed to have her back, I cuddled her to my face and petted her.
My nephew, meanwhile sat looking at me like I’d lost my mind. What I saw as the sweet pet of my teens looked to him like a zombie cat that was scratching my face. In the way of dreams, I know this, even though dream me was completely happy and oblivious to any zombie action.
Sadly, I have no idea how the dream would have ended, because it was at that point that I was awakened by the annoying beep of a cordless phone that had been pressed into service by a bored puppy who thought it would make a good teething toy to gnaw on while he waited for me to wake up. And now I am left recording it (so I don’t forget) and trying to figure out what it means. I’ll have to dig out the dream dictionaries later, but right now, I think the cage is my mind and the birds are wishes and dreams (i.e. things like my desire to find a new, more fulfilling career path or quit and open a food cart or maybe join an old-timey circus that magically pops up overnight, like the one in The Night Circus) that I keep pushing down for fear of being too old to start over and accrue student loans. Even when we consciously try to ignore things and be “practical”, the longing for something better is still there in our minds. It is just the classic dilemna of whether we give in and follow our dreams or let them turn into zombie cats that will scratch our eyes and suck the life out of us without our even noticing it. It reminds me of my favorite quote from Paolo Coehlo’s story The Alchemist, which says: “As is true with zombies, you will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” Okay, so maybe I added the zombie part into the quote, but the rest is true. Hearts have big mouths and refuse to shut up no matter how much you try to ignore them.
So, what about you? What are your birds? Are they caged or have you set them free?