Dog Dreams In Clouds

I have an active imagination that translates to dreams. I can even control them. I’ll think about a story I want to have a part in, and dream it. If I have a nightmare, I’ll lay there and think, ‘but if this happened, and that happened…’, go back to sleep and have a great story.

But one night I had an extremely vivid dream, even for me. Just a scene, really. I sat on our couch, squished against one end because my Irish Wolfhound, Strider, was also there. Wolfhounds take up couches. And beds. And floor space. And block the television and steal food from counters.

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And look you right in the eye. After all, I’m short and they’re tall.

In the dream, Strider’s head was on my lap and I was running my hand over and over his rough-coated fur, crying. Hard. Because he’d been gone for a few years and I missed him, but also because I knew it was a dream. I wasn’t going to wake up with my dog soul-mate back in my life.

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The dream stayed with me, just as vivid. His fur under my hand had been so real. The weight of his head on my lap. Those copper penny eyes looking up at me. Even now I get teary remembering the dream.

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Then came the hot summer day when I’d been working outside. That evening I knew I’d be sore the next day so I went out to the hot tub. While soaking, clouds moved in over the mountains. And there he was. This huge cloud shaped like a wolfhound. Like he leaped from the top of the mountain into the sky where the stars were coming out, his tail streaming behind him.

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I’ve never been one to see shapes in clouds. Someone will say ‘oh look, it’s a dragon!’ and I’ll think ‘looks like a cumulus cloud to me’.

A friend pointed out later that I was probably dehydrated. Hot day, sweating, sitting in a hot tub. Seeing things. I suppose she was right. But it reminded me of that dream.

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So I mentioned the dream to another friend. She said it sounded like Strider was finally ready to transition and had come to tell me goodbye. Well, that made me cry. Still makes me teary.

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Anyway, I’m pragmatic. I don’t believe in life after death. If anything, I think we’re bags of energy that dissipate wherever energy goes. I don’t believe in religions. I think they were man’s first attempts at creating a moral code.

But here’s the thing.

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That dream was so vivid.

And since then, I always see faces and creatures in the clouds. Lots of them. Even when I’m not in the hot tub, dehydrated. I find myself looking for them, silently telling them hello.

I think Strider is out there with them, running free.


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Feminine Form

I wonder if innocence ends faster in this internet world. Every question a young person asks is at their fingertips.

Unlike years ago when you relied on family, friends, and your librarian.

Of course if you were like me, you didn’t know what you needed to ask. I’ve talked before about how my life was spent in the dream story world and how naive I used to be. But sometimes I don’t think people realize just how seriously out of touch with not only the world, but with myself, I actually was. That story world was more real to me than the life around me. I actually don’t know how I functioned, but I must have been one weird kid.

Lisa 5th birthday

I remember a friend telling me how clueless her little sister was about anatomy. She said ‘she didn’t even know women have three holes! I told her one for pee, one for poo, and one for the man and baby!’ I laughed right along with her, shaking my head at her sister’s cluelessness. But inside I remember thinking, a little shocked, three holes? Really?

I was around seventeen at the time.

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I remember during one menstrual cycle becoming so frustrated with feminine napkins. (Hope this doesn’t offend or embarrass anyone.) But my cycles were like a whitewater river in full flood. Hit all at once, storm through the channel taking trees and boulders, houses, and cars, and then just as fast, over. We’re talking overnight pads, doubled up. I used to be mortified buying those big boxes wondering what in the world people used those tiny little panty liners for. Were there women who just daintily dripped?

So that day of frustration I called my younger sister. How do you use tampons? Do they work? What happens if they get sucked inside? Do they float their way upward and come out your nose? I was embarrassed because mom raised us to know only certain types of girls used tampons and they were the kind found under football bleachers smoking cigarettes. My sister explained tampons, without laughing. I believe I was married at the time. In my mid-thirties.

Lisa Brazos River Texas

The younger sister and I used to get together and play cards. One time she went off to change diapers on her second, and tossed a new deck of cards in my lap. The backs of the cards were photos of naked men. Wow. So that’s what all the fuss is about. How do they run? Mid-twenties.

You never know how ignorant or oblivious you are until you gain knowledge. So I can’t be blamed for not knowing what to ask. But I can be blamed for not knowing my own body. For being ashamed of the feminine form.

Even back then I was envious of those I perceived as strong women. My sisters; all three of them. One in particular even had the courage to talk back to the parents and have a child without a husband in the 1970s. Where did she find that strength?

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When I moved up into the hills, I found four women in particular who have always epitomized courage to me. Sabrina, Kim, Nora, and Cate. No last names to protect their identity in a public forum, but some of you will know them.

These women take on whole mountains. They cuddle alligators (literally; one has a pet alligator, plus a boa). When they go camping it’s not with a truckload of gear and a campground with toilets. It’s backpacks and bushwhacking into high country where there are no trails. It’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with an injured knee. It’s rock climbing up a ravine to rescue my dog. One of these women, an avid jogger, hikes into  alpine wilderness alone. Think about that a minute. Alone.

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These women find their way into my stories. I admire and highly respect them and know I’ll never be them.

But how did they get that way? How did they grow up confident and secure in who they are as women? I imagine they knew about those three holes before they were in their twenties. I bet they didn’t entertain co-workers by showing up late one day around age twenty-three, and saying they were late because ‘all these construction workers were jacking off on the side of the highway with no signs or anything!’

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I wish I’d learned much younger what it means to be woman, not necessarily feminine, but female. And proud and strong with that knowledge, within my skin. Although at the same time I’m not sure I’d have traded my story world for knowledge. Writing is my core.

But hey, I’m learning.

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Shrinking Siblings

There were five of us. Six if you counted the one my brother brought home who never really left. For the most part we got along, and now as adults we’re all close.

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The brother with his nephew

Well, there was that Friday Night Gripe Group. Dad started it because we must have been not getting along. By the second meeting, the youngest sibling was bringing a long list. I think the group got cancelled after about a month. Dad said it had turned into a tattle-tale session. We know who was responsible for that, don’t we?


A villain even then. I used to pull her socks out the toes of those shoes so she couldn’t walk.

Then there was the time my brother and sister were fighting about something. He couldn’t reach her for revenge because he couldn’t see her. She’d smeared tunafish all over his glasses. But yeah, we got along.

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Look how sweet and innocent that youngest appears.

Oh, wait. That youngest sibling again. The time she threw a rock at me and broke my glasses. She told mom she was just throwing rocks and I accidentally got in the way. And mom believed her!

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The gullible mother

Okay, so there was also the time when the youngest sibling fell off her bike and knocked herself out. My brother and I dragged her to a ditch, laid her out with her hands crossed over her chest, and left her. Turned out she had a concussion, but poor mom thought she was dead.

Anyway, I don’t have a long list like some. I did used to wonder though why no one questioned how much time I spent in the bathroom.

I spent a lot of time in that bathroom.

Creating concoctions.

I had a plan. I’d sneak a bowl in there and mix whatever I could find in the medicine cabinet. Each mix was an experiment so I had to try different combinations and different amounts. Crushed baby aspirin, iodine, mercurochrome, calamine lotion, toothpaste. Hydrogen peroxide was very satisfying when everything foamed dramatically.

I almost got caught once. An older sister found the bowl on the back of the toilet. She said it smelled like chocolate and accused me of sneaking food. Ha! If she’d really known, she’d have been terrified. Actually, now that I think about it, she’s probably lucky she didn’t end up with brain damage from sniffing fumes.

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No brain damage and a great hiking partner

After mixing each concoction, I’d take the bowl outside and smear the foaming mess on rocks. And then wait.

The goal was to create something that would shrink rocks. Because I had a little cage.

You can guess my ultimate evil plan. I was going to shrink the siblings and put them all in the cage.

I’d have my own bedroom. I’d have the freedom of the whole house. I’d have mom and dad’s undivided attention. I wouldn’t have to sneak chocolate into the bathroom.

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Ha! Proof! It’s the youngest sibling again – with the chocolate face

If a concoction worked on rocks, it would work on them. I’d paint them at night while they slept. They’d never know what happened until they woke up in that cage.

Unfortunately I could never figure out the magic combination of materials. So instead, we all grew up. Which is a good thing after all because honestly, I love my siblings.

But for that youngest one, I’m compiling a list to send to Santa this year, you stinker.

Lisa Holly Christmas