...I could hear the distant thunder. I sensed a presence behind me, and then running alongside of me, a reddish-brown fox, sleek and sinewy. As he ran ahead, the fox’s eyes were fixed on the path....
These three dreams came from three experiences I actually had on different occasions in California, France, and New Mexico.
The Fox…This dream came from my encounter with a fox on a trail leading away from St. Mary’s College of California where I was taking a graduate course in organizational development. It was a hot summer afternoon in the East Bay. After lunch, others and I took some time off to leave campus by car or take walks on nearby trails. I was walking alone toward the hills behind the campus, probably thinking about how the course I was taking could help our team in Atlanta and me develop our plan to open a school that would serve refugee and other disadvantaged families in the metro area. I remember hearing some movement behind me, and I simply turned to my left, and there I saw a fox running alongside me. I stopped and I shuddered as I watched the fox run ahead, paying no attention to me or the young woman who had been running behind me. “Did you see the fox?” I asked her. She had stopped running, and responded, “Never seen one on this trail before…odd that he paid no attention to us.” A mystical experience. We are one: humans, foxes and trails leading all of us on.
The Butterflies…My family and I had lived for 16 years in Europe, and we were on a return visit to France where three of our children had been born, staying with very close friends who lived in the south, near the Mediterranean. Behind their house in the village of Valbonne ran the River Brague that wound from Valbonne to the village of Biot. One afternoon it was decided that I should take a day to walk in the shade along the river to the village of Biot, about six miles away. I would be able to visit the Fernand Leger Museum and the Medieval Chateau de Biot. I was alone on the trail, and I listened to water dropping over rocks, and as the sun pierced through the overhead greenery, the river sparkled and seemed to sing. When I heard the song, I stopped to listen more carefully and suddenly from the ground and from the trees above flew what seemed to be thousands of butterflies, the variegated colors of their wings also sparkling in the sunlight. Another mystical moment of union with the dropping water and the colors of the wings.
The Two Men and a Woman…We were living in Houston, Texas, and I was driving to the mountains of New Mexico where I would take a three-day course in storytelling from a master storyteller who had created the organization the Guild of Sacred Storytellers. In the workshop each of us would create and tell stories from the great religious traditions. The drive from Houston to the area near Santa Fe is long, so on the first night I stayed at a hotel in a small town near El Paso, and in the morning, I went to a local restaurant for breakfast. I sat comfortably at a table and nearby I saw two men and a woman talking very quietly to each other. I didn’t hear their words; I saw only their gestures and the expressions on their faces. All three were smiling, and as each one finished speaking s/he would gesture to another who would then respond with very quiet words and gestures of arms and hands as if s/he were taking the words of the previous one and passing them on to the third person. The arms and hands and faces of all three moved to and from the faces of the others. There was a rhythm and beauty of love in their mystical exchange. I saw and felt the presence of a blessed trinity.
Now you will see how these dream-like experiences are connected to my story.
By Bill Moon
Based on I Samuel: 1-3, 12, 15-16
Yes, I am Samuel. You call me prophet. And yes, I look back on my youth with some nostalgia. I was naïve, but hopeful, full of energy and ready to serve if I could only see the way.
My mother Hannah had told me the story of how she had been shamed by not bearing children for my father Elkanah. He had had several children with his first wife Penninah, but Hannah knew that he loved her because she received a double portion from his hands.
Years later she told me how in shame and despair she had gone to the temple and wept outside the gates, not seeing that the priest Eli was seated on the steps before her. She was almost delirious with doubt and disappointment, but in her tears she whispered that if she could bear a male child, she would dedicate him to the service of the Lord. Eli could not hear what she was saying and thought that she was drunk. He sternly told her to leave.
Perhaps it was Eli’s voice that shocked her into revealing her anguish to him. And afterwards, Eli blessed her desire with soothing words. She told me how, a few months later, she had discovered that she was pregnant with me. She told me how, after my birth, when I was no longer at her breast, she had kept her promise by taking me to the temple and leaving me there with the priest Eli. So I had grown up under the supervision of Eli, and I knew all about his family, how his sons cheated and exploited the poor coming to the temple, and how Eli was anguished and uncertain about what to do. As I grew, he began to lose his eyesight and seemed to grow older and older before my young eyes.
And then came the night that changed my life and Eli’s life forever. As usual I was sleeping on my mat in the Holy of Holies, and Eli in an outside room. The lamp was gradually going out. My eyes were closed and I eased into a troubled sleep where I saw myself running along a path in the mountains. The sky was full of clouds and I could hear the distant thunder. I sensed a presence behind me, and then running alongside of me, a reddish-brown fox, sleek and sinewy. As he ran ahead, the fox’s eyes were fixed on the path. He seemed not to see me, and soon he had disappeared behind the boulders ahead of me. It was then that a whiff of dust rose up into my face whispering: Samuel…Samuel. I was awake. The lamp was still lit, but I thought that Eli had called me. So I softly walked into his room and asked him what he wanted. I had to ask twice because Eli was in a deep sleep. He remained on his mat and stared at me. He said “But I did not call you, my son. Go back and lie down again.”
I remember thinking to myself how the mind plays tricks on all of us. So I went back to my mat and soon I was asleep again. In this dream, I was walking on a pebbled path along a small stream in a lush forest. The sunlight sparkled through the trees, and there in front of me, leading me onward under the sunlit openings in the canopy of trees, were hundreds and hundreds of butterflies. I could see the varieties of colors: red, spotted yellow, green, blue, brown. The butterflies moved as if dancing in formations, swirling upward and then down toward the damp pebbles below. I was following them, but where were they going? The whispering of the leaves overhead distracted me. I heard “Samuel,” then again “Samuel.” I woke disappointed to have lost the vision of color in the butterflies and the sound of the little stream. But again I went to Eli, thinking that this time he must have called me. But Eli seemed aggravated, and his voice quavered slightly as he told me to go back to my mat again.
I obeyed. What else was I to do? But now my sleep was deeper and my dream more comforting than before. I was standing alone at the seashore. I could hear the waves beating the rocks in a cove before me, and there in the cove, on a large rock slab, I saw two men and a woman together. They were moving slowly and patiently toward each other and then away from each other as if they were dancing, first two of them toward one and then back, and then that one with one of the other two toward the third and so on, over and over again. The dance was confident, slow and joyous and the three of them were delighted and delighting me. I saw each one as caring for the other two, and as they moved back and forth, I heard gentle waves beating against the rocks, and I felt a whisper of spray on my face. “Samuel,” I heard. And again, “Samuel.” I was awake, but this time I felt the comfort of the vision I had seen, and I went to Eli a third time. But now Eli was sitting up on his mat, and paused before speaking. He told me that I was to go back into the Holy of Holies, but this time when I heard the voice I was to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
On my mat, with my eyes wide open, I now felt a deep gratitude for what I was experiencing, and I waited patiently to hear my name spoken again. And it was, in a low and comforting whisper: Samuel…Samuel. Without moving my body at all, I whispered, Hear I am, Lord. Your servant is listening.
That is how it happened to me, and that is what has brought me to where I am today.
Perhaps on another occasion, I can tell you more. (There is always so much more to tell, isn’t there?) But for now, I prefer to leave you with this part of the story to think about. As Eli was then, so am I now - an old man, so I think about him, the deep wrinkles in his neck and forehead, the rutted lines in his cheeks. All these signs revealed his weariness. They exposed his disappointments and his despair at what he knew would happen to him and to his family.
But what I know now is that Eli and I were, and we still are…in the Lord. A God of great mercy and compassion, our All in All…