I am walking through a moonlit garden, holding hands with my grandmother. She warns me to stay on the path; a thin winding path, stretching ahead of us, bright in the moonlight, keeping out of the shadows thrown by the bushes and trees. I am little, barely old enough to know better, so after we walk for a while I let go of her hand and run across the grass to sit on a little white, child-sized chair, just made for me. My grandmother is upset and shouts for me to come back. I realise something is very wrong and turn around in my seat to look at the back of the chair. I see that the chair is actually a skeleton and I’m sitting on its lap, twisting round to stare into its face. My grandmother is screaming but she cannot leave the path. I am paralyzed by the chilling bright blue eyes staring back at me from the skull, inches from my own, glowing in the dark shadows of the garden. I can’t look away, I can’t move, I can only scream. And wake up.
I dreamt this dream regularly for most of my childhood, probably into my teens. Each time, even before I left the safety of the path I knew how it was going to end but I couldn’t change the course of the dream; couldn’t stop myself sitting on that tempting bone chair, just the right size for me, forever.
I don’t know when the dream left me, it’s not something you notice at the time. It must have got less frequent before it went, but it never got less terrifying. I’ve had other recurring dreams, but never any others as vivid and unchanging as that one.
I started to think of it today after reading something mentioning recurring dreams, and I realised that a dark garden is now a place that I think of as relaxing and calming and safe. I might imagine a very similar garden if I were doing a meditation exercise. Now I love the thought of the dark magic of a garden at night – the plants relaxing as they wait for the sun to return. I can remember how I feared that garden only because I’ve just described the dream. How startling it is to realise how much my feelings about night-time gardens have changed.
The dream can be easily analysed, I’m sure, as being a expression of the child’s desire to disobey and fear of the consequences and of course that’s the sort of thing that one grows out of as one becomes older and more independent, but that’s not what interests me here – I’m interested that this fear of the dark garden was one I’d completely forgotten to the extent that I now view a dark garden as an ideal mental refuge. Not only have I forgotten the conscious fear but my subconscious doesn’t care either. While I don’t actually spend much time in dark gardens, I can’t resist the magic of trees in the dark, rustling in the wind, or dark dewy grass with daisies tight closed, locked down for the privacy of night-time.
P.S. Just to clarify: I was not afraid of the dark, I was afraid of blue-eyed skeletons posing as chairs!