I just awakened from a dream similar to several I’ve dreamt in the past. At least, I remember walking this trail before — same place, different times and seasons, other people. The last time was several years ago. It always begins walking a trail — the kind of a trail you’d expect to find along a mountain ridgeline — rocky, rough, up and down. The air is thin. The ridge is narrow in places, the sea nearly lapping across, yet miles wide in others.The trial may be right beside the water or well above it, high on a hill.
In the dream, I know that I’ve been there before, and that this narrow ridge of land surrounded by the sea is all of the land that there is in this wide water-covered world. It’s winter and the breeze is gentle but cold. Ice has formed here and there on the ground, so I have to watch my step and be careful not slip. My backpack is light because I’m wearing most of my clothes, as well as a blanket for a warm shawl. The little pack worn on my chest is also light, and yet warm against me, It’s tucked inside the blanket shawl to stay warm as well.
There are occasional old buildings, some nearly fallen, others quite old-fashioned but in reasonable repair. I come to an old building, partly stone, partly aged timber. It’s fairly large and looks like a combination of an inn and a general store. Smoke comes from the chimney, and voices come from a window that is only open an inch or two. From the sound of it, there are a number of people inside.
There is a little gap in my memory here, and then I find myself inside the building, peeling off my blanket and outer clothes to be comfortable in the warmth. My face, fingers, and toes tingle as they warm. There aren’t many people, perhaps twenty or so. Few of them are children, many are old. They stare at me as if strangers are unusual but not unheard of — not afraid, not friendly, but with a “wait and see” air about them. Most of them sit on chairs and benches in a ring around the large room.
An older woman gestures for me to sit at a table in a corner and puts a bowl of stew in front of me, and asks if I’m an òranaiche or a seanchaidh. I reply that I’m a seanchaidh, a storyteller. She nods and then brings bread and a hot drink to go with my soup.
Another gap, and I find myself sitting in the circle beside the hostess, who stands up to tell the people that I’ll be telling a story now. As I also stand, I feel something stirring in my small pack on my chest, so I fold back the top. A small kitten lifts her head up and gazes around at the people with sleepy eyes. All of the people draw in their breath at once and hold it for a moment — then let it out in a sigh. Older ones bend to the children and I hear whispers of cat, kitten, and puss around the room.
The kitten isn’t awake enough to be hungry yet, so I begin, “I’m here to tell you a true story of olden times, which you may believe or not, and my name is Summer SainteTerre.”
“No! No, you are not Summer SainteTerre!” creaked an ancient crone huddled by the fire. “She was here long ago — when I was a child. You would have to be older than I am, and you are far too young.”
Smiling gently at her, I repeat, “As I said, you may believe me or not, as it pleases you, but I am who I am, and my stories are true.”
Chairs creak as people shift in their seats, some looking intrigued, some a bit frightened. The ancient draws breath to speak — and I suddenly wake up, momentarily surprised to be in another time and place. I lie in my bed remembering that I’ve dreamed of walking that trail before, meeting other people, sometimes just passing through, other times staying for a long while, a semi-repeating dream. I don’t think I’ve written any of these dreams down before — perhaps I should. Now, still half-asleep, I’m wondering if this is a possible future after centuries of climate change… or if it’s just imagination, just a dream. It can’t be climate change — as far as I know, there isn’t enough water to drown all but the very highest mountain ridge in the world. This may have something to do with a question I’ve been asking myself: Where do stories come from? All I know is that when I was dreaming, I did say all of my stories are true.
Copyright © 2019 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.