Winter is a time for legends and stories in First Nations communities. Long ago, it was a time when people gathered together and storytellers educated and entertained. It was often a way to pass the time when cold weather kept people indoors.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a legend to share with you. But instead I can offer you a bizarre and interesting dream I recently had.
It was most unusual. I was in a city I wasn’t familiar with, in a strange hotel. There were public bathrooms with many stalls on the main floor. I was using the toilet and a girl I had just met was in the stall next to me. I couldn’t flush. I struggled with the handle but the toilet just made a weird gurgling noise. I told my friend and she came into my stall to try to help me. We both fiddled with the handle until I was ready to give up and get someone employed at the hotel to assist us. I went to pull open the stall door and as I did I heard loud screams from behind me.
I looked back and there was a giant dark grey fish in the toilet bowl. It was so humongous its head emerged out of the top. Despite its size and its gigantic, open mouth, it appeared harmless. My friend was losing it. I had to tell her to stop screaming because she was hurting my ears and it wasn’t solving anything. I knew she was panicked. She didn’t know what we should do.
Before I could think I pulled the fish out of the toilet. It was heavy; maybe thirty pounds and it took up both arms. I had no idea how it managed to fit into the toilet, but I didn’t stop to question it.
I recalled seeing a river nearby though it was several blocks away. I figured if I hurried I could take the fish to the river and set it free. I ran through the lobby and into the slushy streets carrying this heavy fish. Cars driving by slowed down to watch me. Passers-by watched as I struggled to keep this fish from wriggling free, but it grew weaker the longer I carried it. I knew people were wondering what I was doing, and probably thought I should just cook the fish for dinner, but that only made me feel worse for the fish. I stroked its scales and gently promised it that I wouldn’t eat it, I was taking it home.
Six or seven blocks later we arrived in front of what appeared to be a legislative building or city hall, and there was a long, beautiful tiered pond in front that poured into the river nearby. I figured if I released the fish there, it could find its way to the river.
I stepped into the water and bathed the fish, cupping water in my hand and pouring it over, allowing the fish to adjust to the moisture. I slowly introduced it to the water and it began swimming, but very slowly at first.
I stepped back out of the water and watched it swim away. My arms burned from running with the heavy fish and my back now indicated strain from the fish’s weight.
As I watched the fish, it transformed into a man, a First Nations man with long, black hair. I was stupefied. My jaw dropped. The man turned back to me and waved, but I don’t think I waved back because I was so stunned by his transformation. Then he disappeared into the water, leaving me standing there baffled by all that had just occurred.
Does this dream mean anything?
Your guess is as good as mine.
My husband, probably my biggest fan, had the most amazing interpretation of it. His angle was more symbolic than anything. He believed that because the fish first showed up in a toilet, it signified how we pollute the water with waste, and the effect this has on the animal kingdom. He also thought it was interesting that my friend screamed at the sight of it, but I did not, and suggested that most people would respond this way; but rather than reacting from fear, I showed compassion for the fish and worried more for its safety.
Then, by running in the street with it, he believes, it showed that I was unafraid of what people thought of me, and that is a trait of leaders.
Finally, when the fish was freed and suddenly transformed into a man, my husband thought that this indicated our human ties to nature and how we are just as dependent on water as all animals and life are.
Naturally, I realize he is incredibly biased and I am fortunate to have a husband who thinks so highly of me. However, the dream reminded me of many First Nations legends that I grew up hearing, in how certain things that seemed impossible suddenly became possible. There are definitely legends and stories that have the power to amaze, and the interpretation of them is different for each listener. There are often layers and layers to legends and stories and many times you learn something new with each retelling.
I’m in no way suggesting that my strange dream is remotely equal to any legends and stories that you may have the privilege of hearing, but I thought it entertaining enough to share.
I definitely awoke with the realization that we are capable of learning things in our sleep, even if it takes us days, weeks or years to decipher and apply these teachings to our life.
Maybe someday I’ll really understand what this dream means, or maybe I’ll just be known as “Runs With a Fish.”