Rattler by the Controls
Dreamed 1978/10/19 by Chris Wayan
A tall-grass prairie to the horizon. No, lusher and greener--maybe a freshwater marsh or delta. A narrow-gauge train track winds through it. The rails generate antigravity. If you dive into the air above them, they not only lift you but pull you along, as if you're riding an invisible train.
A woman and I and others ride the winding track, swooping over the tall grass like swallows--but swallows who stop and hover at every station, like good trains should!
At the track's end, we back up and turn, an intricate ballet to turn the virtual cars around. Return to the final "station"--just a platform and roof. On the far side, tall wet grass almost hides a green-painted metal control box. Is this a gigantic toy train? It even says LIONEL TOY CO. We cross the track and inspect it. One of my friends pulls a lever I understand: it reverses the engine, so the train we got off will soon return, backwards. But other levers I'm not so sure of, and I worry about experimenting blind. Seems risky.
But the others are bolder, and pull the biggest lever. As they look down the track to see what'll happen, a huge, catlike, narrow-eyed rattlesnake's head rises from the tall grass, a foot from us. Slowly I reach toward its neck, hold it gently, then tight. It may be able to bite me, I don't know--but at least I can protect the others. But it doesn't try--just watches us, waiting. As the train floats back around the curve, a foot above the rails, I realize the floating virtual train is a huge rattlesnake too.
Strangely, while I'm wary, I'm not terrified; it's no nightmare. Like the snake, I'm waiting warily...
This dream's a fine example of Freud's limitations. Given their long Christian history, it's understandable that Europeans might see dream-snakes as either phallic or Biblical symbols. But to a Californian raised in a Native tradition, snakes have other symbolic meanings, like rain, heat, and/or regeneration--shedding the old skin! And rattlers, unknown in Europe, suggest honorable, honest self-defense--they politely warn you off! Like that Revolutionary War banner of a rattler saying "Don't Tread On Me."
The dream was obvious--the moment I stopped trying to fit that snake into a Freudian/Biblical box.
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