A Call from the Edge

September 12, 2014

When I see herds of animals running towards me, I do not care what will happen to me. The animals come from a single direction, as if a predator is pursuing them or they know a cataclysm is imminent. Many different kinds of animals push up against one another as they run for their lives. Their hooves fling tufts of earth into a smoke of dust and dirt. They are frantic to escape. I feel their collective panic and fear in the bottom of my stomach. I am afraid for them and feel helpless. Though I think I will be killed by the stampede, I remain unafraid of the animals. Then they all turn to the right of me as they continue to run for refuge, leaving behind a massive cloud of dust.

In my arms, I am holding a baby creature no larger than a medium-sized cat. I do not know if this small being is a human baby or not, or even a bit of both. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I must protect this infant.

I head toward a huge hill of white immediately in front of me. As I get closer to it, I understand why all the other animals have run away. Down this hill, that I now see is an unbroken sheet of white ice, a frantic, starving four-legged cat—a pure black cougar—chases after the animals that have run away.

The cougar is ferocious because it is starving. As the cougar rampages down the ice hill towards me, I hunch my body over my fur-baby, making us both small. With my right shoulder, I burrow into the ice hill in an effort to protect us. I let go of any worry that the cougar will kill us for food. The cougar runs by us.

Sporadically, throughout my life, I’ve had lucid dreams. However, up until my first diagnosis of breast cancer, I had little insight into the gifts that dreams are—for me and for community. Upon that diagnosis, I became aware of a heightened level of instruction from my dreams. Most of the time they were epic, and yet when I awoke, I could recall them in exquisite detail—writing down their images for pages. Although there has been an ebb and flow to my remembering them, my gratitude for dreams like the one above is profound.

Between the first diagnosis of cancer in 1996 and the second in 2001, when I had a mastectomy, I had dreams so powerful that they’d wake me up screaming aloud and crying or shaking. In one dream, there were only words of instruction: “Learn everything you can before you die.” Sometimes I had dreams that were complete but were only sensations. In one, I felt someone—some spirit—breathing over me. In another, a presence spooned behind me in my bed beneath the covers. More than once, I awoke to the sight of a dark, footless spirit hovering menacingly by the side of my bed. I began to pay attention.

That this dream came to me the night after another September 11 anniversary symbolizes both present-day and ancestral trauma that I believe is universal.

On September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were bombed in New York, I was halfway through an eleven-month course of chemotherapy for a recurrence of breast cancer. I was doing my best to recover from the mastectomy. I was in Zimbabwe, having traveled there five months after the mastectomy to undergo initiation with an indigenous healer and six other individuals. On September 11, at 3:30 p.m, I was circumambulating the fertility tower in the thirteenth century ruins of the Shona Empire in Greater Zimbabwe. At the exact moment when the plane hit the first tower in New York, 8,000 miles away, I had the following visions:

In the first, I saw blood and pillaging. People were running with calfskins on their bodies and spears in their arms. Men’s dark, naked bodies were covered in blood from being impaled by spears. They were decapitated. Innocent women and children were also victimized and desecrated.

When the second tower was bombed, I saw a woman suspended in the dark heavens, giving birth to a new Earth. She struggled to push the Earth out from between her legs with such anguish that her cries filled the cosmos and reverberated in a way no spirit, being, or galaxy could ignore. All energy, beings, stars, spatial wormholes and unborn planets, heard her screams and moans. They knew what she was suffering through, and why she was willing to do so.

In Zimbabwe, I was not afraid. In preparing to go there, I became willing to free myself from the bondage of everything I knew. I was required to take a leap of faith into a new way of behaving in the world, no matter what the personal consequences. I had to let go of everything familiar. I could no longer spend my time on anything not aligned with healing. I had to let go of control, numbing domesticity, friends, family, and a marriage that was not serving the needs of my soul. I was required to let go of the illusion that I might live, and to embrace the fact that everything—including me—was impermanent.

I had no idea when I said yes to go to South Africa that I’d be irrevocably dismantled. Nothing familiar remained. My body, now surgically altered, was the least of the changes. It was as if I was dissolved down to my bones. This transformation was necessary to equip me with clear vision to walk, less encumbered, to meet the future. After September 11, I wasn’t sure there would even be a future. Old assumptions and a former order all had to be replaced, but with what?

This is the call of the dream. It reminds me—us—that we need to question everything we’ve taken for granted: all non-essential activities. Everything that seduces us away from following a sacred order needs to be thrown away. I think the dream reminds me of this while also warning that what we once knew and depended upon is no more. We need to prepare.

In reviewing this dream now, I think that it is a clear warning that the end of this world is imminent. It’s as if the breath taken in immediately before the trauma is the world’s last. It’s a big breath, and the entire body of the earth reverberates with it. Its exhale will be the next tsunami. The last gasp here is both environmental and social. Everything is disintegrating—our world, our families and, ineluctably, the future. We are in the last inhale. The cataclysm is about to happen.

The animals know this. They are trying to tell us.

I also know that a fierce protectiveness is being called out in each of us. We must stand, unafraid, in the direct trajectory of harm to preserve the gifts of this earth. If we do nothing to protect them for the future—if we do not heed the call of the innocent in our arms—there will be nothing and no one left to protect. What is closest to our hearts, in this moment, will be gone in the next. This is the impassioned plea being made by the animals.

In a workshop in the late 1990’s, Deena Metzger, a spiritual teacher for many, shared her belief that “Everything we love can be saved.” Fierceness is required to save it. There is no time to lose.

About the Author

Laura D. Bellmay: A retired fundraising and development consultant, Laura began writing for the love of the craft after her first cancer diagnosis in 1996. The Collinsville Axe Factory Players hosted a reading of “Holy Communion”, her essay about growing up Catholic in 1950s “baby boomer” housing in Foxon, Connecticut. Laura was featured in a series of articles in The Uxbridge Times in 2006. She lives in Collinsville, Connecticut on a stretch of The Farmington River protected as “wild and scenic.” She has learned, gratefully, how to live in harmony with breast cancer.

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