Johanna's Garden-The Dream
One night I dreamed that I had been sleeping on the ground in a forest, and I woke up with this feeling that it was important for me to get somewhere, but I didn't know where or which way it was. So I stood up and looked around, and there were paths going off in three different directions. I thought for a bit, and the more I thought about which path I wanted to take, the more uncertain I got.
Then I heard this voice inside my head that said, "Any path will get you somewhere, the important thing is to step onto it." It was something like that, but the message I got was that I needed to go by instinct and not overthink things and above all, I needed to GO somewhere. So I looked and one path drew me for a split second and I followed my intuition and stepped forward. I was always coming to forks in the road, and it would be really hard not to think and evaluate as I saw it coming up, and this led to me slowing down or even stopping whenever I had a choice to make.
After awhile I figured out that the faster I walked, the less I tripped myself up by thinking. Pretty soon I was running and not really thinking at all but just following my feet wherever they seemed to leave me. At some points I laughed, at others I may have cried, but I always moved. The faster I went, the more certain I was that I was going the right way, or perhaps that there was not one "right" way, only perhaps the wrong way of never going anywhere because I was too busy trying to figure out what was the best place to go.
But at one point, my feet stopped. The path came to a Y-intersection, and right at the center of the Y was a flower stand. Sitting in front of the stand was a smiling woman who seemed like the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. She had long, wavy auburn hair tied back with a silk scarf. Her smile was warm and broad and when she looked at me with her light-filled green eyes, her gaze was so direct and knowing that I wanted to look away and hide yet I also wanted to surrender myself to her confidence and certainty. I wanted to be her lover, to see and touch her skin beneath her warm soft clothes and to feel her skin against mine, the weight of her body upon me. I wanted to be embraced by her while I wept out all the sadness and disappointment that tainted everything beautiful I try to create, to be mentored by her, to walk with her and see the world as she saw it. I wanted to be what she was-strong, beautiful, intense, knowing.
Finally she spoke, "Hello, I'm Johanna. Please, look at my flowers." It was then that I looked. The wooden benches behind her supported ceramic urns in which the most marvelous flowers imaginable were held. Each flower was similar to, but more wonderful than, any flower I'd seen before. There were sheaves of pampas grass that shimmered with every color of the rainbow. There were roses that glittered, and, when the sun hit one of the dewdrops upon them just right, it was as if a glowing ball of light expanded from it to suffuse the soul of anyone looking on. I can't remember all the marvelous flowers I saw there, but the impression I had was that they had the power to bless the person who beheld them deeply with something they needed to live more freely and joyfully.
The best way I can describe the power of the flowers is to tell a story from my waking past. I was about eighteen years old, and I was studying piano performance in college and working on a set of three intermezzi by Brahms. There was a particular one I was working on that would fill me such intense longing whenever I played or heard it. It was as if the music held the secret to what I most needed in my life, and in a way it was true. Like me, it was passionate and romantic and at times allowed a sort of wild freedom to break forth. But unlike me, it was ordered and controlled much of the time, and the moments of freedom and romance were all the more powerful for it. I'd be playing a lovely melody in the right hand, largely forgetting the left, and then a melody so powerful and gorgeous would begin to sing out of the bass line, and the moment could be so beautiful that it seemed impossible for my body to contain all that I was feeling.
I was never one to practice until I perfected a piece. I felt that I'd learned what I wanted to learn from it and became bored and anxious to pick up something else long before the first piece was polished. This piece, though, I longed to play perfectly. I listened to recordings of different pianists playing. I wanted to play it exactly as each of them did and then play the piece in the unique way that only my fingers, supported by my life and my entire being, could play it. I thought that if I could do that, if I could play it that perfectly and that fully, that it would transform me, that it's beauty would become a part of me.
The flowers from Johanna's garden are like music of this kind of beauty and promise. They are wonders that hold the key to making one wondrous. At the time of this dream, and perhaps it's still the same for me today, decades later, I wanted more than anything to be filled with that sort of beauty and passionate intensity, to be like a magical being suffused with light and fire, with the illumination of all the caverns of longing. I wanted my presence in the world to be something all could be glad of, just as we are glad that Brahms learned to play the piano and write music for it.
I was drawn to all the flowers, and found it difficult to choose. If only I could have simply reached out to the one I was most drawn to! But instead I couldn't stop thinking-about what each choice might say about me and whether that were what what I wanted others, like Johanna, to think of me. As long as I was trying to make an impression or thinking endlessly about what was "the best thing to do" instead of just reaching towards what called to me, I couldn't make a decision.
Johanna smiled at me then and said, "You should come to my garden sometime. You'll know how to find it as long as you set out and you'll know when you've arrive as long as your eyes are open."
The path from Johanna's flower stall continued on towards a more organized market in which the stalls were closer together and aligned in orderly rows. I may have bought something to eat there, but nothing from the main market was memorable in comparison to the flowers that Johanna grew. From the market I wandered through other wooded paths until I came to a wide open are where many kinds of flowers grew. I knew the moment I arrived that this was Johanna's Garden. I walked towards the small creek that ran along the Western border of her fields.
At first I just enjoyed walking through her land. I was surrounded by beauty and brightness there. Her garden was filled with more wonderful things than one could fully enjoy and appreciate within one lifetime, and being there reminded me that life is full of wondrous possibilities. I came to a large field of pampas grass that swayed slowly in the wind. The stalks an ??'s were a silvery white, but in the sunlight the grasses shimmered with every color of the rainbow as well as some coppery metallic tones. I knew this was what I wanted. When I looked, I found a small sickle nearby to begin harvesting with, and I cut the stems close to the ground. I had the sense that I had made a good choice, and that I would look back someday and identify this as the moment I embraced the truth and was opened to a new experience of beauty.
I was gathering sheaves of the pampas stems. They would not be just my gift but also a gift I would pass on to others. As I was gathering along a row, I looked over the land where it sloped gently away from the pampas grass field I was standing upon. Down below me, I saw a man bent low, digging with his hands to burrow into the bare soil. What he was digging for I didn't know, as it was clearly one of the few areas in Johanna's garden where there was nothing growing.
I wondered what he was doing, planting seeds perhaps? So I approached him slowly. Soon I realized that the man was my father. Soon I knew, the way in dreams you sometimes just know things that he wasn't planting, but digging. When Johanna walks through her garden, she sometimes cries, and each tear that hits the ground becomes a rough diamond in the soil beneath her. And so, here was my father, digging for diamonds in Johanna's wondrous garden. I had an urge to tell him how wrong he was to search for money in this place where flowers of wonder and enlightenment grew. There were more important things to be found than diamonds.
I looked over the fields again and saw Johanna in the distance, watching my father with sad eyes. A tear fell and and a sparkling diamond lay by her feet, and as I watched I knew that I was wrong to judge his choice, and I walked over to him, stood by his side and dug in the ground too, helping him to find his diamonds.