Godly Expectations

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Chapter Three - A Suspicious Death and Who Controls Your Life?

The woods had so changed since she grew up there that she struggled to recognize the landmarks that she remembered. She wondered if any remained. But she found the spring coming out of a hillside with the tree roots framing it. Taking a deep breath, she ducked into the little cave. Wishing she had a flashlight, she felt along the sides of the cave. There was something there! She felt a little metal box and pulled it from its place. Trembling as she looked at it, she tried to imagine what could be inside. When she finally got it open, she was delighted to find a little stone figurine and some beads on a leather string. There was even a little scrap of something with a map drawn on it. How exciting! Unfortunately it was very crude. She would have to take it and analyze it at home.

While she examined the map, someone was watching her. She felt it. But as she looked at it more closely, she noticed a winding line that seemed to be the creek. Once she figured out where she was on the map, she could see not far away that something else was indicated. She followed the line of the creek and got to the spot that it seemed to indicate. What to do? She hadn’t brought a shovel. She would have to come back and dig in that spot.

But she would have to do that later. She was due to meet Victoria at the coffee shop. Victoria had lived very close to Pauline’s parents when Pauline was growing up. In fact, Victoria had a daughter the same age so they had played together and then grew apart once they got to junior high school. Teresa had been serious about college. Pauline had not.

They met at the coffee shop and each had their books. Victoria was fascinated with Pauline’s. “It’s beautiful!” she exclaimed. As they flipped through it together, Pauline saw sections on dreams, on nutrition, on relaxation, and on productive and non-productive habits. While it might have seemed mundane to anyone else, it was so beautifully put together that Pauline loved looking at it, even though it had so much to do with fringe new age practices. There was indeed much to learn from. The waitress came by their table. Anything else I can get you? She asked. “I think I will have a ginger shortbread,” said Pauline. “Did you know,” she said to Victoria, “ginger is good for an upset stomach? They give people on cruises ginger ale if they feel nauseous.” “Really?” said the waitress. “It’s my first day here. I don’t really know if we have ginger shortbread.” “Can you check for me?” When the waitress came back with it, they were deep into the book again. “Oh look, here’s a recipe for ginger shortbread! That’s weird.”

Adapted from David Lebovitz via Arctic Garden Studio.

Ingredients

For the Shortbread:

9 tablespoons salted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

For the Glaze:

5 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons Golden Syrup

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon ground ginger

For the Topping:

Fine sea salt

2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 13x4-inch rectangular tart pan with removable bottom or a 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar at medium-high until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and ginger. Turn down your mixer and incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Mixture will be very crumbly.

Pour the crumbly mixture into the tart pan. Press the dough evenly and firmly into the pan and into the scalloped grooves. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes until set and golden on the edges.

Just shortly before the shortbread is ready (about 5-7 minutes before), melt the butter in a small saucepan with the Golden Syrup. When it is melted and bubbling, quickly whisk in the powdered sugar and ginger, stirring until smooth. Pour the glaze over the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven, spreading it to cover the shortbread entirely. Immediately sprinkle the top of the glaze with fine sea salt and crystallized ginger. Allow the glaze to set for about 20 minutes. Remove the shortbread from the pan while still warm and gently slice into bars.

http://www.alaskafromscratch.com/2013/06/10/ginger-shortbread/ , retrieved August 1, 2014.

“What do you think about studying dreams? Is there really any scientific consensus on where they come from or what they mean? I mean, I don’t think the basic “dream dictionaries” are accurate, but are they from our mind, or somewhere else, or a combination?”

Victoria responded, “Well in our day we didn’t have time to worry about such things. They don’t seem to me to have any practical value though. They certainly don’t predict the future or anything.”

The guidebook, however, had another viewpoint. And Pauline was thinking about her dream about Jesus. It seemed so real, he had seemed so close. She wanted to meditate again. The waitress came back with a fresh cup of tea. The crispy shortbread flooded her taste buds with buttery creaminess. When it was gone, she got up to leave. Victoria decided to leave too. Pauline took one last peek at the bulletin board and found something new. Someone was looking for subjects for a sleep study and there was pretty good money involved. Pauline took the slip of paper with the phone number and details and tucked it into her pocket. They walked outside and Pauline realized she had not dressed warmly enough, and the temperature had dropped. Rain stung her face as she ran to the car. “See you later!” she called out.

Once home, she dried off and changed her clothes. She went up to meditate and put some music on, lit a candle and incense, sat on the yellow couch and closed her eyes. Breathing deeply, in and out, with her abdomen, she instantly relaxed so much she nearly fell asleep. To begin meditating she began to think about a relaxing place. The classic was the desert island, but for her she wanted to be on a cruise ship. The heat of the tropical sun, the motion of the ship on the water, she could lie on those deck chairs all day. And the food! She was supposed to be learning about the best food for her body, according to the guidebook. With her eyes closed she could almost smell the fresh cut up pineapple, the grilled salmon, and the omelets. Hmm, maybe she should take a cooking class. Tyler had expressed interest in that at one time. In the meantime, she could explore different nationalities’ cuisine, and different cooking techniques on her own.

She felt her shoulders drop and her face relax. Images began to float before her in her mind’s eye. Images of the location on the map. She wished it would stop raining so she could go check it out. Pushing that thought out of her head, she thought of Jesus instead. She loved the Psalms lately and began to think about one of her favorites, Psalm 103.

Psalm 103

Of David.

1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits-3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children-18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

These first 19 verses were so comforting. He could heal all her diseases and forgive all her sins. Harder to forgive herself, sometimes.

She was looking through the newspaper later that afternoon, she noticed a cooking class! The local seventh day Adventist church was putting it on, so it would be vegetarian, but that was ok. They were sort of trying to go vegetarian anyway. She had been vegetarian for several months, a few years ago, and Tyler wanted to try it now. Her objection to meat wasn’t so much compassion based as comfort based. She had digestive issues at times and meat (and other rich foods) just didn’t always agree with her. When she went to a Seventh Day Adventist church they used to have potlucks every month. She got her fill of vegetarian foods at that time and also learned how to cook them. Since then she had been eating more lentils, beans, quinoa, and vegetables, but never did enjoy the “meat analogs,” which were soy or wheat gluten based fake foods. She developed an intolerance to gluten, and didn’t really enjoy soy foods at all. The reports were so varied on whether or not soy was good to eat, at least the soy isolates that were so common in foods such as protein drinks. She wondered what they would be teaching at the class, but decided to talk to Tyler about attending with her. Maybe she would make a lentil loaf for dinner with mashed potatoes.

Tyler was late getting home from work that night which was ok since the dinner took a bit of time to make. He enjoyed it and agreed to go to the class if the date worked out for both of them. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to work late the night of the class. It was hard to plan things sometimes, but the class was at 7:00, so it would probably work. She often made vegetable smoothies, using mostly greens but a little fruit as well for their juiciness. She took them with her at times, and their characteristic bright green color always prompted conversation. Why didn’t she eat that way all the time? She knew why. She would get busy and not go to the store, then when she ran out of fresh vegetables she would just make whatever was easiest. Baked potatoes, frozen chicken entrees, or spaghetti. Salads were just as easy-just open a bag or a tub-but realistically those only stayed fresh for a few days to possibly a week sometimes. If she shopped twice a week they could do it. She wondered if she could make that a priority and keep it up. She did enjoy the smoothies. Tyler would even drink them if they were mostly fruit.

Thinking about other areas of self-improvement she could undertake, in a flash, it occurred to her that the guidebook was really just somebody’s idea of what she should do with her life. She used to want to make her own decisions-be an individual-so maybe the guidebook wasn’t such a great idea. Or it could be, if it only guided, and did not dictate. Thinking about this, she felt a kind of split in her mind. There was the wistfulness she felt at times observing someone else prettier, more successful, or more together than she. Then there was also the increased confidence that came from realizing she could do anything . . . just make a plan and accomplish it. There were so many things she had accomplished in her life that she never thought she would. So why would she need a guidebook? What would her best and brightest self look like? Educated, good job or otherwise independently wealthy, best weight for her, fashion icon, healthy and intelligent friends, an expert in something and regarded generally as a great success as an author.

From this point she made short work of cleaning up the kitchen, took out the trash, and sat down to plan the rest of her life. She needed to diet to become thin, exercise to get a fantastically toned body, finish her degree, decorate the house, pay it off, and write books. Her wardrobe would be flattering and stylish. She would find ways to make new friends, by pursuing writing groups and book groups and writer’s conferences. Her spiritual life . . . would be better. She enjoyed going to church, but often felt that her spiritual life could be much richer. Whose fault was that? If you feel distant from God, God didn’t move, as they said. Reading every day from the Bible was a good start, but her prayer life was lacking. Maybe a prayer journal and routine was what was needed. Why did this nag at her so? Every time she thought she had a direction, God reminded her that He came first.

She spent some time in prayer that very evening. She prayed that God would help her become the best she could be, for His glory. She wanted to serve Him and didn’t know what He wanted her to do. What if she was supposed to have a big ministry writing books to help people? Why didn’t she get in gear, and do it?

In her dreams that night she spoke with Jesus again, and He told her again to be herself. She could pursue all those outward goals about her appearance and accomplishments, but a relationship with Him was the most important thing. If you were in relationship with a man, He pointed out, like with your husband, you would want to spend time with him, talk to him, listen to him, and I am the same in a way. That is how you and I build relationship, He said. When our relationship is closer, I can have you help others for me. But in light of your goals, you can reach others through your writing.

Pauline could not take her eyes off Him. He was dressed in white and had a glow about Him, just like you see in paintings of the Christ. What about angels, Pauline asked. I hear some people see angels and talk to them. You are special, said Jesus. You get to talk with Me instead. He took her hand and they walked in a garden. He pointed out the different types of flowers and told which one was good for what, as many of them have healing properties. She tried to remember because then she could pursue this knowledge once she woke up.

She had had a small garden that summer, but it was gone now. They had had several frosts and the plants were all pulled up or cut back. They also had a lot of shade in their yard, which made it tough to grow anything.

What else was she supposed to do today? Was she supposed to meet Victoria? Then she remembered-the sleep study. She pulled the slip of paper out and looked at it. Of course there was only a phone number, but she remembered there had been a large sum of money promised and only a few nights in a sleep lab. She called the number. Apparently the purpose of the sleep study was to determine brain activity of people taking Prozac, since they had to be depressed and taking Prozac for the study. She remembered then that she had heard that Prozac suppressed dreaming. She agreed to go for an interview. When she arrived, there were four other people waiting. She talked to then while she waited, and, yep, they were depressed. She wondered if all the others would be qualified for the study. And what could they not know about Prozac that they hadn’t tested for years ago? She had looked into doing these studies in the past, but they had involved scary hormonal drugs and long periods in a hospital. She thought she could do this. She agreed to come back the next day after talking to Tyler.

She brought it up that night over dinner. At first Tyler was resistant to it, but when he realized how much money it would bring in, he said maybe it wouldn’t hurt to go and talk to them. She had an appointment the next day at 11 and so went back to the medical building. She had filled out a long intake form since yesterday and gave it to them. The usual questions were there including medical conditions, typical sleep habits and soundness of sleep, whether your sleeping environment was quiet and dark, and things of that nature. She couldn’t wait to do the study, and see what dreams came out of it.

The first night she slept in the lab she began taking the Prozac issued by the sleep lab. It caused her to go to sleep rapidly, something she didn’t think possible with all the wires taped to her body. She wondered about the other participants in the study. Some had looked more troubled than she did, she thought with relief. As she drifted into sleep she was thinking of a cooking documentary Tyler had been watching that night when they talked on the phone just before lights out at the lab. Anthony Bourdain was talking about the worst meal he had ever eaten. South Africans had cooked an ostrich egg by cracking it open onto the scalding hot ground . . . their equivalent of the sidewalk being so hot you could fry an egg on it. Of course, it was an insult if you did not partake when they had prepared this delicacy especially for you! She remembered her mother saying “if the president invited you over and served liver, you would have to eat it!” She also remembered answering, “the president could afford to serve something better than liver!”

She fell asleep thinking of food that she had hated (a candy called Boston baked beans), and food that she had read about described badly, and tried to turn the whole thing around to crème brulee and key lime pie. In her dream, she was traveling with the Robinson family, Lost in Space. Their meals always looked nutritious . . . but she wondered how they grew the plants they contained in such a short amount of time after landing, so that they had enough to eat. Not every planet had readily available meat or plants to eat. Did they bring along canned goods? Wouldn’t they have exploded--or imploded--with the shifts in the cabin pressure of the ship? She seemed to remember that they had a machine in the wall with a button they could push to produce Swiss steak, chicken, or pizza. How did that work?

But then, the dream turned strange. She was eating broccoli, and turned green. She felt sorry for Will, who ate grapefruit and turned pink. Penny was eating carrots, and turned coppery orange, like her namesake. Just then the ubiquitous alien monster staggered in and carried off Judy. He looked strangely like a garden gnome, but ten feet tall. The rest of the show, or dream, was therefore about trying to hunt down the monster, save Judy, and reinforce family values. A nice show despite the daughter’s kidnapping. In real life, every show ended with all problems resolved and only occasionally “to be continued” next week.

In the morning, all the sleepers met in a small discussion group before going home for the day. They were to meet every night to sleep except on Saturdays & Sundays, presumably to give them time for a home life but keep taking the Prozac. The whole study only lasted 3 weeks so it should be doable. Someone else in the group mentioned a scary gnome, and Pauline’s ears perked up. Could it be the same gnome? She mentioned her dream, and the two women moved to sit next to each other, so they could compare notes, once the group portion was over. The other woman’s name was Rebecca. Her gnome had appeared in her dreams before, she said. She thought she dreamt about it because her mother was fond of garden gnomes. Its purpose seemed to be to distract her from real life. “That wasn’t all bad”, said Pauline. “No, it’s not”, said Rebecca. “My real dream has an English accent, and his name is Paul”, she said. “He is very distracting!” She said, winking. “I think he may be my SOULMATE”, she said importantly. “He turns me Up Side Down”, she sang, in the words of a popular song. “Well”, Pauline answered, “my gnome and I appeared in an episode of Lost in Space. He was the ubiquitous alien monster, and he carried off Judy. I don’t know what his name was.” “Well,” said Rebecca, “I’m sure we’ll talk more later. Let me know if he comes back.”

Others in the group were interested in the gnome idea, but most could not remember their dreams, or else they were vague memories. Something about clouds, or something about their childhood, they said. The directors of the study stated that the dreams would likely become more intense as the study went on, because of the focus on dreaming. “What is it you’re trying to study”, someone asked. “Well-have you ever seen the movie “Dreamscape”? Where the child was having nightmares and the dream researcher-Dennis Quaid-had the power to enter his dreams and help him change them? Or the more recent film “Inception”? We would like to identify whether any of you have the ability to enter one another’s dreams and become lucid. The two gnome dreamers may be on their way to that. Anyone else dream about gnomes?” One other woman raised her hand. Pauline and Rebecca went to talk to her after the group was over. The three of them discussed other aspects of dreaming and experimentation they had each done on their own related to dreaming.

When she got home, of course Tyler wanted a full report. Yes, everyone had their own room. Yes, the doors could be locked from the inside and in fact they were all instructed to lock their doors. Participants were not to interact during the night in any way. Yes, she would be able to sleep at home every Saturday and Sunday night. He was interested in the dream gnome story.

Pauline could hardly wait to dream again. She was not to take naps during the study, as that would affect the quality of sleep during the night. If she inadvertently fell asleep, she was not to return to napping once she woke up. The rule was to only sleep in the lab and only during the hours prescribed. She went outside to do a little yard cleanup. It had been so windy that the leaves that had fallen off the trees were blowing all over, and even trash that had been outside in the barrels had gotten out somehow, escaped as it were, and packaging plastic was blowing down the street. Trash cans blew over and if they were round they rolled away. Several of the neighbors were outside, cleaning up. She had one more wheelbarrow load of compost to spread over the perennial bed, now that she had found and planted some daffodil bulbs, and then it would be time to rest somewhat for the winter. She said somewhat, because while there was a lot of work to do outdoors in nice weather in the summer months, she did not have to do that in winter. However winter was the time to paint interior walls, and do other indoor remodeling that might be needed or even merely desired. This year they needed to replace a newel post and balusters at the top of the stair. She also needed to have Tyler cut and replace the closet rods and she really wanted to take all the wallpaper off the walls. She really, really, hated wallpaper. Except the kitchen. That wallpaper had drawings of herbs on it and since she was an herbalist, she really enjoyed looking at it. Of course Christmas came into that time period, and there was concierge business with that, shopping and wrapping, and gifts to make. Maybe she would buy all her gifts this year, maybe at craft shows and then someone would have made them, but without taking her time. Writing was her new passion. She had always enjoyed writing short stories when she was in college, the first time, and she would write about people she met on the bus. She would take the bus everywhere then since she didn’t have a car. Her dream was to build a greenhouse and grow her own herbs and vegetables, and maybe have enough plants to sell to others. She could at least sell the extra tomatoes, fresh or dried, maybe in gourmet shops, like Sofias, that shop her brother had told her about in Hamilton. She had to remember to get him a gift card from there for Christmas. She liked doing that, to remember things people had said and get the special gifts or gift cards they had mentioned. They always loved that and she did too when people did that for her.

When evening approached again, she made her way back to the sleep lab. So many thoughts were turning the wheels of the windmills of her mind. What about the gnomes? What about getting into other peoples’s dreams, or becoming lucid in dreams? She had tried various methods for doing that in the past but it was very sporadic. She remembered one dream where she was able to create a dress to wear to a wedding just by thinking about it. Not very exciting. If she could become lucid at will, that might be fun, and she could try things like creating good food to eat or meeting famous people or decorating her house. However, to make money to support her creative side, she needed to do things like this dream study.

She also would look into doing specific diets for money again, once the dream study was over. She didn’t want fad diets to alter the results of the dreaming. She liked jobs like that that would allow her time to sit and think, or read, or write. She remembered reading a book about an Indian yogi while in her 20s and it was fascinating. She was drawn to the yoga lifestyle through this book but had many questions about how some of the things described could be possible. For instance, the author claimed to have seen bilocation, astral projection, and a supposedly deathless guru who had been seen many times over a period of several centuries!

Maybe there were other temporary jobs she could pick up to help pay the bills. Her husband had their health insurance covered through his job, so she could have a little more flexibility with what she actually had to do for a living. She knew a sign maker, maybe she could apprentice with him, or there were other friends who were business owners. Maybe if she hung out at the neighborhood coffee shop she could fill in there once in a while. What other interesting jobs could there be? The local newspaper might need a photographer or writer. Why hadn’t she thought of that before?

She was particularly interested in the workings of her brain. What if she searched online for other types of studies she could participate in? It would be so much more fun and interesting than getting a business degree at a college. What are some other ways she could explore the world around her?

She continued to meditate every day, but only on the Word of Scripture, just to make sure she didn’t fall into New Age meditation and fringe practices. She started looking for and researching some of the big positive thinking preachers on TV. She felt that her self esteem was low and that she did not know God’s purpose for her. What would it take to learn that? She’d heard once that to find out your college major or your best life’s work, you needed to try several things until something really fit.

She had wanted to be a writer but was not taking time to write. She had written a children’s novel 40 years ago and tried to get it published, finally e-publishing it and selling a few copies, but there was so much more she could write about. She had made mistakes in her life, but had learned a lot through those times and could help others by writing about her experiences and God’s ever present help through them. She could also market the publications she’d already written, better.

She always had too much going on, too many hobbies and interests, until she didn’t do anything very well. Finishing some of these projects might just improve her self esteem. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and give it up. Why did she always second guess herself? The indecision caused a lot of anxiety for her. How did other people decide what to do in their lives, she wondered. Well, for now she just needed to get through the sleep study and then she could move on to other experiences.

By the third night in the sleep lab, the dream gnome was appearing more frequently. He seemed to be in every dream, and she thought about him in waking hours too. He distracted her from waking tasks, and yet he didn’t speak directly to her. He was always on the fringes. She would sometimes even see him during her waking hours, but she would then turn to look and he would be gone. It was two days after Thanksgiving, and people were driving around with Christmas trees on top of their cars. All of a sudden there was the gnome, riding with the tree, holding onto it. He turned and waved at her. This was weird! Maybe the Prozac was making her hallucinate. She hoped she wasn’t crazy. She wondered how strong the dose was they were taking, since she didn’t really know much about it. She wondered if they would tell her, and what other side effects it could have. Maybe some of the subjects were even taking placebos.

On the morning after the third night, there was a new person in the sleep study. Harry! “Why didn’t I see you before,” she asked him. “This has been going for three nights already.” “Different people start at different times,” the director hastily interjected. “Harry’s first night was last night.” Pauline wasn’t sure she liked this. Harry seemed to know too much about her life as it was. “Yes,” he said, “I saw the advertisement when I was in the bookshop putting up notices about the book exchange.” “Book exchange?” Asked 2 of the women simultaneously. Everyone laughed. Apparently they were all interested in free stuff, including free money for doing a weird job. “What did you dream about, Harry?” She asked him. He said that he had a dream where there were thousands of books in a room. In fact it was a very big room and may have been a whole library. Every book was meant for only one person, and every person needed to read one specific book. So theoretically it could work as a large lending library. If no one person ever needed the same book at the same time, it could work. “That’s interesting,” Pauline said. “But Harry-don’t you think that’s just a dream about your real life?” The director hastily interjected once again. “We don’t make judgments in this group. None of us can really know the meaning of what the other dreamed.”

It was night four and Pauline went to sleep more easily this time. She was getting used to sleeping alone and the absolute silence of the lab. The worn cotton blankets were a bit scratchy but comforting, and no static electricity. With a glass of water next to the bed, and her book to read, she really had everything she needed. She did miss her husband and the cats. Then, just as she’d feared-Harry was there in her dream. She was afraid he was in a cult and so she wasn’t comfortable with him around, but, she thought maybe the dream gnome would protect her. She had set that intention before going to sleep. And sure enough, the dream gnome was waiting for her when she arrived in dreamland. Somehow he looked much less ominous than he had when he had kidnapped Judy Robinson. But he scared Harry, who ran away! Pauline chased him to see where he was going.

For some reason Pauline suddenly thought of the signs she had seen in California, in cougar country. Be Large! was the first tip. Apparently if you look larger than the cougar, by raising your hands over your head, they are less likely to attack. But rather than simply looking larger, she became larger. She grew as large as the gnome, a good ten feet tall. She walked over to Harry. “What are you doing,” he asked. “I want you to stop spying on me,” she answered. “OK, but I’m not really spying,” he said. “I just thought maybe we had something in common, that we could be friends. But you and that gnome are too scary!” He went away, in fact, he ran off and disappeared in the trees, the gnome chasing him. Wow, Pauline thought. This works pretty well. Maybe he’ll leave me alone now.

In the morning, Harry did not show up for the group. No one seemed to know where he had gone. Pauline said nothing. The directors were quite disturbed. Pauline talked to Rebecca. I saw him in my dream, said Rebecca. He was running away. Said someone had frightened him. All I could get out of him was that he had seen a giant gnome and then a giant person! Well that’s interesting, thought Pauline. Where did he go? Somehow, she had the feeling that he hadn’t simply gone home.

At the coffee shop the next day, she saw Victoria. She was visibly upset. “Harry’s gone missing!” she said.

“Oh I think he’s just been busy. He has been coming to this sleep study I’ve been getting involved in.”

The sleep study came to an end and she was paid the $200 promised. She was selected for further study, but was starting to feel a little crowded, so she declined. Also, she was beginning to have trouble distinguishing dreams from waking hours. She didn’t want to continue the Prozac either. Sometimes things happened in dreams and she was convinced they were real, but they were so strange. For instance once she dreamed she was walking under water and could breathe there. It felt so real, and only after waking up did she realize that it was impossible. And then, she awakened to the sound of someone ringing the doorbell of their house. She went to the door, and Harry was standing there. He had a book in his hand, and wanted to talk to her about the Bible and his book. She went to get her Bible, and suddenly woke up again, meaning the part with Harry was a dream too. Was she in a dream, within a dream? Dreaming she was dreaming? She told Tyler and he did not know what she was talking about. Do you think you should get off that Prozac, he asked? It was probably causing the weird dreams.

All that common time with the sleep group, the book exchange and Harry, and going to coffee were really wearing on her. And for some reason she found it difficult to be herself when with other people. After a great deal of reflection she thought it might be due to trying to please all the people she encountered, which would be very draining for anyone, and so she resolved to spend even more time alone. She continued working on the yard, making it a wonderful sanctuary for her to rest. When did it start, this not liking to be around other people? How could anyone function that way, or hold a job, or keep a relationship?

Thinking back over her life, and some recent movies she had watched, she wondered what was the purpose of it all. Once she had reached her 50s and people began dying around her, she really had to wonder. Some people went quickly and others suffered for years, and for what? If you were a believer in Christ, and she was, you knew you would be in heaven with him at the moment of your death. So her father raised his children, kept a nice home, supported his family, and then got sick and suffered for several years before he “suddenly” passed away in his sleep. At least it had seemed sudden to her. What was the purpose of the suffering? She wasn’t bitter, but it was very hard on the family too. His suffering could give them a charitable purpose in caring for him, but was it necessary for him to suffer that way? Maybe people should take a lesson and learn to be charitable before it becomes necessary. Could that cause their loved ones not to have to suffer? Could he have suffered less by submitting to death more easily? He was so angry, but at the end he began telling us he was going to die and that he wanted to die. Could I have eased his passage by giving myself less to atone for at the end? This is madness, she thought. It doesn’t work that way. Is there a method to ensure no suffering? She wasn’t talking about suicide. That still causes extreme suffering for those left behind. Could the purpose really be just to enjoy life? We as Christians were, of course, to also bring others to a knowledge of Christ so they would have a chance to be saved through their belief in Christ. Other than that, do we really have no agenda except the one we create? She had never been told to her satisfaction how to create such an agenda for herself.

Maybe this how the reinvention of life came about. She’d been skirting around it since she first thought of it, but there was so much darkness in the world. There were so many dystopian movies based on the emptiness of life. The trouble was, they made her wonder. Talking about circular reasoning. You exist to continue your own existence. What’s the point? Another movie talks about hopeless emptiness. How could she continue her coffee dates, running errands for others, and Superbowl parties? She was dying of sheer boredom.

Living in Michigan required strength to get past the months of grey skies in winter. She had lots of indoor time, and she liked solitude. But again & again she’d filled her life with meaningless trivialities. Hobbies, social events, what good did they do. Presumably helped her enjoy life-but she didn’t. Was she falling into the maelstrom of depression again? There had been a time in college when for some reason she felt an awful despair. It could have been that she didn’t want to be there, or that her diet was lacking in nutrients, or some of the extracurricular medicinals, but whatever the reason she had fallen into deep, deep, despair and thought often about dying. Looking back, what had she had to be depressed about? But she had been. And it was happening again. She was on anti-anxiety medicines at one point, but they made her dehydrated and tired. It made her even more depressed to be so tired. So she had stopped, but the sadness was coming back. The things she was trying simply weren’t working. She’d tried exercise, rest, sleeping more, vacations, looking for a different kind of job, but her moods were so cyclical. She was even realizing that she sometimes felt extra tired when the moon was new. Felt empty, even.

She knew she was struggling with finding her special purpose. She had things she wanted to accomplish, but there were family obligations to fulfill, a house to take care of, bills to pay, and money to earn. She was beginning to get some recognition as a freelance writer, but it required spending a lot of her “spare” time working on that. What did she gravitate to when she was home, sick? It was the unfinished housework, cooking for her family, and doing errands. Maybe those were her true heart’s desire. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to knit, write, and read right now. Maybe after retirement she would actually have time to do those things. Maybe if she didn’t do all those things now she might actually have time to take care of herself, and to get some exercise.

However, for now, she decided to take a nap. She had not slept in her own bed in a few days and it would be nice to have a quiet, uninterrupted nap by herself. She put on Pauline radio on the Calm Meditation station, which always helped her relax to meditate, sprayed some lavender oil on her pillow, and lay down on it. She began slow, deep abdominal breathing and put a little eye pillow over her eyes. Lying in her own bed felt comforting. The down featherbed always felt like sleeping on a cloud. What could she do to fix her life today? She would get up and make a green smoothie. Then exercise. Then meditate. After that-she could start writing again. She wanted to write about this dream gnome. But as she thought about her day, she drifted off. The next thing she knew she was walking in the garden and the sun was shining on her. More sunshine, that’s what I need, she thought. Maybe I am sunlight deficient, she giggled. The koi in the pond wriggled up to meet her and she opened the can of fish food she had been carrying. She loved to see them swarm to the top to devour the food. Did they live through the winter? Once she had released a goldfish she was tired of taking care of into a pond near her old apartment and thought he would be fine. After all, where do any other fish go when it got cold? Her friends had thought she was cruel. Then she heard somewhere that they go dormant and are fine in the spring.

Wait a minute-there was something else in the pond. From its depths she could see a red hat. The dream gnome!! Was she dreaming? The last thing she remembered she was going to make a smoothie. Now she was feeding the fish. Was she dreaming?? Do you ever have a dream that seems so real that you wonder if that is your reality? And when you think you’re awake, you’re actually dreaming? She said the answer out loud . . . which was yes. She sat on a stone bench next to the koi pond. She loved the way moss was beginning to grow up its legs. The arbor at the top of the stairs was another nice touch her husband had added. What could she get to climb up it, with such a shady yard?

She wanted to change her life. She felt like she was doing all these meaningless things-(there was that word again)-but didn’t feel like she had time to do what she really wanted, if she could even figure out what that was.

How could she be happy? She wondered. She thought she saw something in the distance, in the big willow tree. A large bird had just landed there. Had to be a dream, she thought. Red and blue long streaming tail and huge wings. Nothing like that around here!

She thought again about her spiritual life. She believed in God and all that, but what could be wrong with yoga if she only did the exercises? Some people didn’t think energy medicine was safe either. How could she ever know what she was supposed to do and not do?

With a jerk she awoke and she was in her bed. She shook her head to get the cobwebs out and sat up. Wow, that was weird, she thought. And now I really have to get something done today.

Spending the day alone, she caught up on laundry, dishes, and cleaning. She was alone, so she was able to just think. She always felt better when things were in order. Maybe she could work on the office today and make it more inviting to work. She so needed to get some productive work done or she would never feel secure. Straightening up, she found some meditation CDS and decided to put one in while she worked. She wondered what other spiritual practices could she look into? She would never stop being a Christian. She was committed to Christ. But there were a myriad of different faiths within Christianity. Different types of nuns, monks, abstinence from this or that, meditations on mandalas, and then there were “add-ons” like the Rosicrucians, Eckankar, different types of mind control or mind training, ascetism, yoga, they all professed not to interfere with your religion, and how did you ever find what would be most fulfilling for you? Did any of that really matter, when what one really needs is the truth? She thought of the dream she’d had. But it had seemed so real. It seemed any spiritual practice would need to include body, mind, soul, and spirit. Were soul and spirit the same? And what was the mind exactly? If you died, where did it go-did it go with the part of you that lived on in eternity? So many mysteries. How much were we supposed to know? She had read once that when Adam & Eve sinned, God hid certain knowledge from them (and us). It couldn’t be wise to go in search of that hidden knowledge-could it? Yet that is just what the ancient wisdom groups or cults did. They even charged money to teach it to others. Christian churches didn’t charge fees, other than the freewill offerings. She didn’t get why people were so hostile against Christian churches either. They don’t force anyone to believe. They are just very very sure what they believe. Everyone can make their own choice. People don’t like being told there is only one right way. The other thing she didn’t really get, was karma and Hinduism. It was so hard to be perfect and do everything right, in fact, it was impossible. But karma taught that if you weren’t perfect you’d have to come back and try again. With Christianity, Jesus paid our price and after our 70 or 80 years here, more or less, we get to go to heaven and be with Him. Simple decision, right? But people wanted to have control over their own lives, she guessed that was the issue. She thought about the dream she’d had when Harry came to the door to talk about spiritual matters. Maybe he was ready for Christianity after all. She made up her mind to look for an opportunity to have that discussion with him.

She decided to wash the jeans she had had on the day before. Checking the pockets, she felt some small lumps there. She froze. Small, crystal pebbles; the ones she had picked up IN HER DREAM. How could this be? She stared at them for a moment. Was she going mad?? She shrugged and put them on top of the dryer.

The next day she felt restless. After her morning coffee she went to the garage, chose a shovel, and walked back to the spot that seemed to be indicated on the map she had found. It was hard to tell from the map where to dig, but her best guess proved to be right. Taking a deep breath, not knowing what she may find, she dug for about 15 minutes. It was slow going since the ground was hard and tree roots seemed to be everywhere. Finally, she hit something. She knelt down and dug more carefully with her hands. She was horrified to turn up a skull and what looked like a whole skeleton. The person was apparently killed by the arrows that went through its rib cage! Who shoots with arrows? Possibly, it was a very old body. She poked around a little more and found a leather pouch. She took it and then called the police on her cell phone. She told them her address and walked back to the house to wait for them. They were there in 15 minutes and while waiting she opened the pouch. There were a few buttons, a few old coins, and more beads. Also, an Indian arrowhead. Nothing too exciting, but she supposed they could be evidence.

She showed them the pouch, and she got a scolding that she’d half expected for taking something from a “crime scene”. She explained to them how she’d found the map in a little cave, and showed them that too. When she had more time, she’d dug up the spot shown on the map, and there found the skeleton.

They actually took her fingerprints! And told her to be available in case they had further questions!

They walked back to the spot in the woods where Pauline had found the body. They carefully unearthed everything in the vicinity, finding the whole skeleton and some scraps of clothing. There was also another arrow, lodged in the rib cage. The police thanked her and said they would be in touch once they’d identified the body or at least attempted to. It looked very old, but they needed to examine whether it was an unsolved murder victim (the arrow through the chest was an important clue verifying that!) or something from long ago. She could possibly have the items returned to her if they were not needed for evidence. The police packed up everything and took it away.

A human skeleton. How strange was that? She sighed.

Thinking about the skeleton in the woods made her feel creepy. It had probably been there awhile, to completely decompose to just bones. She should try to find out who it was. Were there any unsolved murders in her area?

When she got up the next day, she knew she had seen the dream gnome again. She wished she could remember what he’d done. But all there was was a vague memory of seeing him. Maybe she needed to talk to her pastor. She felt she was losing her grip (give examples). For instance, she couldn’t remember sometimes whether something was real or dreamed. She also was just overcome by depression, fatigue, or stress at different times. It’s not like her life was hard or anything. She often thought about how spoiled we Americans are. Some people get stressed out because they have too many choices.

While cleaning the upstairs bedroom, the vacuum pulled the old carpet loose from the wood floor. Darn it, one more thing to fix, she thought. Looking under the carpet, she suddenly remembered the loose floor board near the window. They used to hide things under there. Wonder if anything got left when the carpet was put in? She pulled it up. Lying on the floor, she reached way in and was almost not surprised when she felt a book. Pulling it out, she was alarmed to see it was an old witchcraft book she’d had as a teenager. She thought her parents had destroyed all that stuff. She shivered a little and put it back, then thought better of it. She picked it up again, and tried to flip through its pages, but it flew out of her hand and across the room. It reminded her suddenly of a night long ago when she and her friend had been experimenting with a Ouija board in this very room.

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