My Dreams Have Birds' Wings

(September 5, 2009)

I was there with him and her; she used to be his and then she wasn't, but they were still comfortable with each other and with me. We were outside a small restaurant; it had a porch in the front and a lake in the back, and lush grass spread untamed in all directions. The three of us were lying under the sun, tying our ourselves into the rhythmic breath of the universe with the happy ease of unfettered souls doing what they were made to do.

Without fanfare, I grasped a dangling thread of my self and pulled; moments later, I was a cat, lithe and energetic. My two companions followed my lead, and we ran, wrestled, and purred our laughter toward the sky. There was a feeling of weightlessness and of rightness, and I was so full of love for them both that my feline heart ached.

Then we were human again, and my body felt clunky. I suddenly realized that I'd been human all along, scampering awkwardly across the grass on hands and knees, and embarrassment flooded my cheeks. She denied this when I mentioned it, saying that she could see me as I actually was; I thought myself into the shape of a gargoyle, and she clapped at the spread of my batlike wings.

"You just have to concentrate. It's as real as you make it. Here's some encouragement."

She flew several hundred feet above me, then dropped my camera toward the lake. Buoyed by the width of her smile and the depth of her belief, I rose to match her height, then dove. My flesh rippled into feathers and I became a peregrine falcon, rushing toward the water with incredible speed. Eagles and other birds flew around below me – he was one of these, watching with warm interest – and I reveled in my drop. I wrapped my wings more tightly around myself and adjusted the angle of my tailfeathers, and my speed continued to increase; she winked up at me, the expression clear even from a distance with the help of my avian eyes.

The moment I hit the water, my feathers melted into scales; in one smooth undulation, I was a fish. I swam downward as my blood filled with oxygen from my gills, then shifted into a dolphin, the better to find my camera. A series of clicks allowed me to echolocate the device; the sound traced its edges in the darkness. With a flick of my tail, I surged forward, then grasped it in my jaws.

They were both clapping as I leaped from the water, dropping the camera and returning to my cat shape before my feet touched the sand. But as I approached them, ready for more closeness and glee, I noticed that my shadow was still thoroughly, resolutely, human. I could see my arms and my forelegs simultaneously, my fur coexisting with my skin without blending with it at all.

How much of the magic was real? Whose perceptions were correct?