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Dream Sequence #2 | Excerpt from my book (a work in progress), Soldier of Love
image credit: Demonizing Pac-Man by Jim Davies, Acrylic on Canvas, 2001

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A ferocious storm is wreaking havoc on a beautiful gem of an island in the glistening Caribbean Sea, at the rich golden light of a late tropical afternoon. What had been forecast to be a routinely warm and pleasant day, across the island, has been precisely that. There’s been no earsplitting thunderbolts nor hurricane force winds, no electrifying strikes of lightning or torrential down pour, no cyclone, earthquake, volcano nor tempestuous tsunami. Yet an eerie threat of death and destruction has gripped this ordinarily idyllic and tranquil place. Everyone, everywhere, is concerned. Not a single soul has ever been exposed to this nature of disaster before. Dread hangs heavy over the island’s warm air as the tempestuous rampage torments our sunny, little town.

I’m not old enough to have witnessed any of the storms and hurricanes reminisced on by my parent’s and their friends, nor any of the other disasters, which have occurred elsewhere and repeatedly replayed on TV. For all of my eight years, I have lived quite a happy, carefree life here on our blissful, sun-soaked island. I’ve been lucky to live here with my baby sister and our parents in our family’s fresh, white cotton and lace on polished mahogany, old-English style, Caribbean B&B. Not many kids can boast that their home is always teeming with intriguing out of town visitors, who continuously regale us with amazing stories of their travels to far way places and their extraordinary encounters with foreigners and their unusual friends. Our home is also a popular and much-loved meeting place for the untraveled locals who live close by. People are always dropping in for tea, drinks, to play cards or dominoes, or to catch up on and debate the latest international and local news.

We live in a very large, old-fashioned, mansion dating back to colonial times, long before I was born. We occupy a private section at the right rear of the building and our Bread & Breakfast occupies the rest. My mother is meticulous in caring for our home. She beams with bright eyes and a wide, warm smile, when others call it her pride and joy. She works hard with the helpers, to ensure the many rooms and sitting areas are spotless, neat, tidy, and comfortable for everyone who visits us here.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness!” She consistently advises everyone. “You never know who is going to drop by. So we must always be prepared.”

A long, continuous, covered veranda, paved in smooth flat grey stones encircles the entire first floor of our house. Wide pathways of the identical stone emanate like sunrays out from each side, to meander through lush, green gardens, dense with fragrant flowers, unusual plants and shrubbery. Coconut, ackee, mango, orange, pear, apple and other trees, abundant with delicious fruit, are sprinkled everywhere, providing much needed shade over patches of our yard, front and back, as well as the special area where all my friends, children of visitors as well as locals, come to play. Our yard is the perfect oasis, kept private and safe, within tall walls of orange-blossom, hibiscus hedges and sturdy wrought iron gates.

Our home sits right in the middle of a swirling sea of pastel-colored houses; varied, vibrant and never-ending like the people who come to visit or a rainbow after it rains. The surrounding houses are mostly similar in style to each other, almost reminiscent of dollhouses, more modern than ours and slightly smaller in scale. Each is stuccoed in its own fantastical hue and playfully accented with brightly lacquered, shiny wooden shutters, doors and trim. Some flaunt authentic Spanish-style terracotta tile roofs, as well as complementing, freshly polished, deep-red colored concrete driveways, verandas and patios, while others are more staid. And like ours, all of their lawns, gardens, fruit trees and hedges are verdant, lush, fertile and very well maintained. Our community, save for its spirited circus of Caribbean colour, is typically quiet, safe and serene. There’s never, ever, much need for alarm. But today, chaos threatens to devour us and, to the thinly guised displeasure of my mother, our B&B has been rendered “irreparably” upside down.

“God only knows why one of those smaller houses, only a short distance away, as if possessed by Satan, has uprooted itself from its foundation and set out on some sort of bizarre cannibalistic storm!?“ She is most unnerved.

Comically red-capped, shaded with emerald green shutters and decked out in coat of brilliant yellow, this maniacal house began its reign of terror, with the flurry and fervor of Pac-Man. This gnashing, gnarling little monster, frantically and indiscriminately, is gobbling up house after defenseless house, everything in its path, wood, concrete, steel and stone.  It’s already eaten so many of the others it’s swollen to almost quadruple its original size. Presently, it dwarfs even the largest of the other houses close by. The earth quakes as its ballooning presence chomps its way through the neighborhood, looming ever closer toward our home. Terracotta roofs crumble around us, windows shatter and shutters splinter with every chaotic crunch. Panicked people flood into the streets, narrowly escaping, desperate to salvage all they can and save their imperiled lives. For once this little demon arrives nothing and no one will be safe or left behind.

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We are transfixed in my big bedroom widow on the third floor of our house as the relentless monster inches closer from the distance. There’s a curious bemused, smug smirk on its face? Along the path where it’s been, flattened piles of colorful debris lie lifeless, where sunshiny, happy island homes once stood. I’m amazed.

“Come on, we have to hurry.” She snaps me into now.

I am a small boy, anxiously gripping the right hand of my mother’s perfectly manicured hand. She is crisply dressed in a colorful cotton dress; fifties floral print with a fitted bodice, full circle skirt and loads of fresh white crinoline underneath, a stylish hat the color of the sky, gloves and stockings to match. She is angelic, tall, slender and stately with pretty pink lips and salon perfect hair. Despite the frenetic frenzy that rages outside, she’s calm and composed with me, within. She is, as always, watchful, steps ahead, consistently exercising caution, careful to never rattle my trust. I am confident she’ll keep me safe from the monster house. And would do so at the risk of her life.

She urgently hustles me from the safety of my room into the chaos of the B&B. She’s vigilant to check every guestroom, rapping briskly on each door then entering to ensure no one is left lagging behind. There are voices behind us, we double back along the corridor to see if they’re OK.

“We must leave the at once.”

She’s brisk, though caring, in charge but always kind.

She pauses us for a moment to check on the monster’s advance from a second floor window at the back of our house. It’s closer. Its red rooftop towers taller, now just grazing the bright blue Caribbean sky.

“There’s no time left. We cannot wait.”

Her voice speaks utters an urgency that for one fleeting moment dares threaten to expose her fear.

“Some of my toys are missing.” I blurt in my confusion.

“Why didn’t you take them with you when I first told you to?”

She appears panicked in her retort at the first instance, but catches and corrects herself the next. Lovingly, though justifiably shaken, she allows me one final sweep. I dash back; she follows, into the B&B’s elegant red-walled second floor private lounge.  It’s ominously quiet in here where only moments ago the room was electric with the animated chatter of an electrified crowd? Now suddenly, eerily, no other sound can be heard, save for the hollow disquieting hum of the monster house’s advance. My toys are on the table where I’d left them when we first bolted from the room. There are suitcases on the floor up ahead. I scurry over to spring them open for anything else I might find.

“They’re empty!” She scolds.

I realize immediately that I too already knew.

“Come on! Leave the suitcases! It’s time for us to go.”

Instantly, the Pac-Man house’s is upon us. I grab my toys. Thud! Chomp! We bolt out the door. Crash! We narrowly escape the collapse of room’s outer blood-red wall. Boom, behind us as we turn the corner out into the upper balconied hall. Creak, a section of roof is ripped from above us. Brightness floods in, brilliant sunshine, we dare not delay.

Swoosh, swoosh, click, click! I’m rushed alongside the hi-hat of heels and brush of crinoline, down the B&B’s waxed-shiny wooden stairs. Smash! Her delicate left hand aggressively flings open our home’s heavy front doors, while the right continues to firmly grip mine. Slam shut, the door behind us! She steers me, single-armed aloft, down the veranda’s stone stairs, my feet dangling, cycling the air. Along the main gardened walkway, past blurring orange-peppered hedges, clang, out the gates and we are almost there.

Swoosh, swoosh, click, click, click, we catch up with others. Once far enough away, I dare fear to peek back only to see the red-capped, sun-streaked, Pac-Man demon devouring the last of our big, seemingly delicious B&B. Funny, it still has that mischievous smug smirk on its face? We are safe. She’s sparkling, fresh, crisp and clean. Unscathed. And soon enough, I realize, as am I.

I awake, safe, from my Pac-Man nightmare dream.

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~ Len D. Henry

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Night Visions

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Excerpt from my book (a work in progress), Soldier of Love
image credit: Unknown

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Dreams are messages from our souls, clues from our subconscious, in reality our conscious, grappling with whatever is stirring deep in us at the time. Freud and Jung explored dreams as manifestations of our deepest desires and anxieties, often relating to repressed childhood memories or obsessions. Many ancient cultures viewed dreams as expressions of inner our desires, in one way or another, deeply anchored in the journey of our souls. There is always real rationale when and why we experience dreams, finite correlations with choices or instances that are to happen. For me, this has been proved numerous times, whether providing me with clarity on creativity or soul deep insights on how to decide. The connectivity, at this purest level, the inextricable relationship between my dreams and what I continue to learn are my truths, is profound.

Dreams often come to us during REM (rapid eye movement), periods of sleep that are shorter at the beginning of the night and longer toward the end. During REM sleep, the activity of the brain’s neurons is similar to that during waking hours, excitedly busy transmitting information through electrical and chemical signals. But when we wake up after a bout of REM, the reality we come into is different than our dream state. It typically takes us a few moments to recognize where we really are. Our dreams are usually fluid and free, rife with unthinkable triumphs over the impossible, overtly more fantastical than our daily lives. When we are unguarded, plugged in to our consciousness, without ego and circumstance, as we are during sleep, we are herculean. Anything can happen. We are often amazed at what we experience in our dreams. But in contrast, in our everyday, we switch off our power. We fearfully double think every move we make.

So what if we were to live our waking lives consciously? What if we did approach our whole existence with the same freedom from restraint, same degree of dare, we do in REM? What if we did not hold ourselves back? We would be unstoppable wouldn’t we, able to deftly navigate challenges previously deemed improbable. How many times have we heard of great successes that have occurred because of a ‘hunch’, an instinct, a dream? Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” came to him in a dream, as did Madame C.J. Walker’s millions, Elias Howe’s sewing machine and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Our dreams are anchored in pure raw instinct. When we look at the experiences and metaphors in our dreams, it becomes so clear how our genius and choices align with our soul’s needs. When there is no ego to confuse us, to block us, we are unafraid of the unknown.

It is fear then that inhibits us from doing what we really should be doing, growing, expanding, and moving closer toward the becoming our best. When we’re challenged, afraid, we tell ourselves “In your dreams buddy.” We cower, cripple our ambition and stunt our own growth. But what if we really did look to our dreams for growth, the hints and allegories,the truths and dare, they consistently propose? What if we were to throw caution to the proverbial wind and dive right in when faced with a choice that flies in the face of what we already ‘know’? When the choices are wrong and misguided, we sink into gloom. But when they are right and connected, light.

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I’ve set out in this book to reflect on my own life, to look at my mission, purpose, and achievements; survey the why and when things happen – Season, Reason and Lifetime. While, I’m still a work in progress, this seems a fitting juncture to examine my adventure thus far, how far I’ve come and where I’m headed, to take stock if you will. It’s amazing how once you commit to the exercise, how the obvious, comes gushing up like rich, raw crude. I’ve also chosen to juxtapose my many night visions up against the fortuitous milestones of my days, to truly hone in on when and how well I’ve been listening; how authentic I’ve been.

My creativity is steeped, and has spanned numerous shifts, in popular culture: media, arts, music, theatre and fashion; similarly and more importantly, my consciousness has been shaped by social revolutions in our race as humans, at times misguided in our quest for truth: racism, sexism, family, religion and culture schisms. When I look the chapters of how I played my hand, I see the full breadth of the plan. I see where the clues had boldly presented themselves. In context of purpose, I see when I might have lived more instinctually, made different choices or found the courage to act sooner on the ones I ultimately did make – lived more truthfully, authentically, fearlessly. I see how I might have averted pain but applaud when I found ways to apply it in my growth. Hindsight, it is said, is 20/20. The upside, ironically, is that I’ve come to where I should have anyway. We all will. This, in my opinion, is our irrefutable fate. I’m now empowered to share my adventure so others, armed with the wisdom of my experience, can choose more effectively for themselves.

So what was this Frozen Beach — this quest for this wildly surreal concoction of snow and sand? What was I seeking? “Frozen in time.” What was this “new tropical rhythm” from yet another “distant beach beyond?” This dream came to me a very long time ago, a period in my life when, like many, not knowing who I was, I was trying desperately to fit in to the ‘norm’. I was born in sunny Jamaica but spent the greater portion of my years growing up in Canada. My life has indeed been a juxtapose of hot and cold – craving the warmth of family, birthright and heritage, but holding myself hostage, in a ‘first world’ box, frozen on ice. Fear crippled me, causing me to stall. My soul stayed undernourished for the longest while, warm inside but ferociously protected on the outside, cold and controlled. Real life reality: challenges, milestones, mentorship, aspirations, awakenings, and in sum total, love, continue help me build toward who I am undoubtedly to become…A Soldier of Love.

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Frozen Beach

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Excerpt from my book, Soldier of Love | Dream sequence #1
painting credit: David Robertson “Nature creates amazing sculptures, that are impressive in real time and beautiful frozen.”

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I am vacationing with a close friend and others, female and male, in a warm, glistening tropical place, all at once a sweet tropical fusion of Central and South America, Africa and the Caribbean. This city we visit is persistently sun splashed with warm, golden light, bustling with busy island people, tiny cars, intimate winding roadways and above all, awash with a fresh salty perfume from the cool refreshing sea.

We decide one day to find the beach as we are certain there has to be one close by. Before this time we’ve been lullabied by sweet sounds of splashing waves, and in our imaginings, gifting miles of soft, sparkling crystals of white sand on to land. This relentless symphony has us assured that our beach is either obscured and near or, at the very least, no greater distance than a stone’s throw away. So on this day, focused and determined, we stuff ourselves into a minicab, circle white-striped, British-style roundabouts teeming with the town’s people’s ebb and flow, on a mission to find our beach. We blur past pith-helmeted policemen and women, white-gloved hands lyrically lock dancing around their shoulders, swimming in the swirling traffic they deftly guide. We speed faster and faster, farther and farther, away from the town’s central square. Over green mini-hills, past dusty rural farms and country folk hellos, to where choruses of gull songs give rise, earlier hints of waves grow deafening, threatening to engulf us, and finally we’re certain, we are near.

On arrival, we’re dismayed, for at this place where we’ve come, where land meets sea, there exists only ominous, uninviting shards of coral rock wrapped in slimy strands of slippery weed – an unending bumpy bed of dirty white and stagnant green. ‘Where’s the beach?’ we anxiously enquire of a local passerby and are elegantly pointed a little farther to his distant right. Sounds of refreshing waters instantly rush our senses again. We thank him and eagerly forge on, navigating rocky coral coast, past children playing, laughing, building dunes of seashell and sand. And like them, we too play, laugh and run. We marvel at random, perfectly pearlized oyster shells, dodging beneath our feet, from the sun. We sail over a simple, man-made, shell-encrusted bridge, and again we arrive.

But another hurdle greets us. Here, we must lineup and pay to enter a beachfront traffic jam. We school in with others and anxiously wait to deposit our token of 50 pence. Click, click, clang, clang, we’re singled and spun through cold steely turnstiles and spat out onto yet another nonexistent beach. Curiosity causes me to glance off to my right where people rush to change into skimpy bathing suits and stuff their sweaty street things, making them disappear, into a huge wall of compartmented steel. “Should we be doing the same?” I think to my friends. I shift back my gaze for their familiar faces, only to find, in that split second, they too are no longer there?

Trumpets and Latin salsa flare up, instantly, to diffuse my confusion. My ears, unable to resist the call, champion me on. I’m snapped onto a surreal, crisp, icy white runway, shooting straight out to catapult me into the fiery rhythms emanating from its end. I glide along, glancing to my left and to my right. Giant lakes of still, deep, cobalt waters frame and further outline the icy path and compelled to take. Soon enough, I realize, the lakes are frozen too. Their glassy reflections highlight mountainous shores veiled in icicled, miniature Niagaras, unreachable, way out beyond. “What an odd beach?” So blue, so surreal. Wasn’t it daytime? Is it night? So cold. So desolate. In the far distance, a lone white mountaineer navigates snowdrift cliffs. And like tongue on frosty steel, he too is flash frozen, with rigid indifference to gravity and slipping in.

Again I’m snapped, this time trapped at the slippery runway’s edge. Icy blue teases at my feet. I teeter comically, doing all I can, not to tumble in. The saucy salsa rears up again, its reprise more urgent, higher like fire. I chuckle at this cheeky challenge to spur me on. “But how will I get there?” I am Jamaican born on an oasis surrounded by the warm inviting Caribbean Sea, yet oddly, like many of that island, I’ve never learnt to swim. I love the ocean, but fear envelops me every time its salty warmth caresses my chest. This dilemma I now face is as bottomless

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as without heart, cold, blue and deep. I’d never ever survive if I were to dive in. I quiet my fears; choose to pause from panic, to draw on reason and rationale. And at that very instant, up floats, from beneath the cold cobalt below my feet, a sparkling, blue-grey, gem-encrusted sheath, fitting itself precisely against the precipice, to steer my way. I’m off again as if “to see the wizard” and ultimately my friends.

My frozen solitude melts immediately upon arrival into a bright and bustling, sun-streaked, terracotta-pink, stuccoed hall. Fragrant, island flavors tantalize my taste buds. My palette overflows. I lavish in this hot and sunny, fervent tropical warmth. Such lightness and brightness, it’s electric in here! Women at stalls, with broad, sensuous smiles and raucous, uproarious laughter, stir me to my depths with their offerings of delicious fancy fare. Names and faces of great Latin stars I love, splashed on the hall’s textured walls, randomly rush my eyes – Eva Ayllon, Cesaria Evora, João Gilberto, Valeria Munarriz and Omara Portuondo. And from a band shell in the distant corner, an all-star orchestra‘s percussive rhythm peppers the excitement, gradually swelling higher, to crisply punctuate the song’s end in perfect pitch. It’s magic. Ecstatic. The crowd erupts in orgasmic applause, dancing, jumping, cheering and shouting with deafening screams. “Thank God I’ve finally arrived.” Buoyed and overjoyed, I float through the infectious din to the beach on the other side to reunite with my friends.

I emerge from the spiced-up interior into fresh sunbathed outdoors. The fiery reverie wails on in afterglow, but manages to gradually fade in my mind. I’m awed by the beach’s immense expanse. Tick. Tock. Like a metronome, my excited eyes dart left and right. Giant ocean waves, saluting like soldiers, stand frozen, splashed up like cliffs. They dwarf me from high up above. Each poses rigid, yet fluid, threatening tenuously to come crashing in. Still-life sea foam floats up against them, motionless like frothy, frozen figurines, flirting, dancing; partnering with the waves in their elegant stance. And ever so gently, a still fresh, warm breeze, teases gently to tickle life back into this curious tropical scene. At the center of it all, a massive crystal-clear, Caribbean-sea-colored, inlet, beneath its surface at an unfathomable depth reflects the sun, sky and stratosphere. More than the other in cobalt blue, these waters, I am certain, are too deep and vast for me to dive in. But they’re warm, temperate and inviting, so I dare myself to splash about on the sculpted, refreshing shores.

I raise my left foot to tip my toes in. Instantly, marionetted, I am yanked up, draped up, dragged up from above, suspended in time; floating, just grazing, never breaking, the aquamarine still. The uproarious laughter of an old Latin man surges up around me. I can’t see him but sense deeply, his knowing, the taunting in his sound. I’m horrified of being dunked into the gaping depths beneath my dangling feet. Oh horror, I’m faced again with the dilemma of sink or swim. But as instantly, as jarringly, I am slingshot back onto shore and plopped into a heap with others, propped up against the hall’s exterior tropical pink. They rest peacefully in the hot sun, dozing lazily on a hazy tropical afternoon as though shaded under a tree. This sun-drenched, sunbaked, still life beach, grips me frozen in time.

The orchestra of salsa, foods, cheers and smiles comes flooding back into my mind again. My heart stomps out a percussive rhythm, tick, tick, tick, tock, tick, tick, tock. At the corner of my eye, colorful people collect at a coral pink beach bar to enliven the scene. My friends are among them. But none can be seen? The crowd’s carved gyrations undulate motionless, reaching up to the pristine tropical sky – intoxicatingly frozen in time.

The vast aquamarine mirror echoes fresh promise as a new tropical rhythm fades in from yet another distant beach beyond…frozen in time.

I awake.

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~ Len D. Henry

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