Listen… I have become unstuck in time.
It was, in fact, a dark and stormy night in the forests of southern Togo, just after M. and I checked into our lodge. As I lay in bed, my mind fell in and out of sleep, not quite approaching rest and not quite relapsing into reality. The water dripping from the ceiling every eight to ten seconds kept jolting me back up, like a fish hook drawing me to the surface of consciousness while the rest of my body dissolved into trance. The mirror on my right and the two windows positioned to my left— both cardinal Feng-Shui sins— made my spirit feel restless.
I’m not sure what in this environment caused me to snap, but— just like Billy Pilgrim did (“does”) so many times across his existence— my mind slipped into a very different place and time. I might as well have fallen into a parallel universe. I entered a lucid dream that was deeply personal, intimate, (re)traumatic. It’s something I’m not yet brave enough to retell in words.
I woke up gasping, tears rolling down my face, inhaling this feeling of stillness and shock one gets after seeing something one does not understand. The water had stopped leaking. I felt simultaneously comforted and troubled. I didn’t know how to feel.
But I suddenly felt like I was being watched.
My body froze up. I flickered my eyes between the windows and empty living room, scanning for signs of life, expecting something large and terrifying to loom from the shadow in the corner. Minutes passed by, but I didn’t feel them under the weight of the ominous air.
But nothing ever emerged. It was simply the enormous stillness and my longing for something that no longer existed.
Retreating into Nature for a few days has reminded me how much we naturally exist within a dichotomy. We, like Nature, are both physical and spiritual. We, like Nature, are both cruel and beautiful.
I like to imagine Totoro the forest spirit had wandered into my universe, where he dropped off this dream into my subconscious before disappearing into the rain. I grin when I think of him watching me through the window. Cute and terrifying. But cute, nonetheless. Nature— just like humans— can also have a sense of humor.