Shortly after writing about Vitamin B12, I woke up one morning and the sky was still gray, the trees shrouded in fog. I started to feel a little down about that, but then I remembered how the words we use can change our perceptions. I looked up at Carey sitting beside me and told him that the sky was silver and the trees were wearing shimmering gowns of mist. Actually, I said something much less poetic, but one of the beauties of being a writer is that I can edit myself in retrospect. Carey, on the other hand, really did say something poetic in that moment: It looks like the Earth is waking from a pleasant dream, he said.
Together, we wondered what she would dream of.
Does she have a memory, and do her dreams, like ours, transform them into something else, something mystical and strange? Do her dreams sometimes fulfill her wishes, sometimes her fears? If she could take them to a therapist, would they give her important insights into her soul?
Perhaps she dreams of fantastic creatures, enormous reptilian beings stalking prey across her broad back. Or tiny demons with sharp claws scratching tunnels in her skin, eating worms nurtured in her rich outer layers. Perhaps she remembers naiads and dryads, elfs and fauns, and dwarves dwelling deep inside her mountains. Or dragons and chimaeras, the stuff of human dreams too.
Or perhaps, like us, she is mostly oblivious to the miniscule creatures living on and under her skin, creating their own ecosystems, their own habitats and their own dramas, but largely below her notice. Living on the crust, the way a billion bacteria and even more yeasts live on my skin, a thousand species eating and being eaten, giving birth and dying, every day, while I go about my life, only dimly aware of their presence when one strain or another gets out of balance. Is that how Earth feels about us, about all the creatures who inhabit her skin? Hardly noticeable, unless one or another of us grows out of control, sets off the balance?
And when we do, does it make her itch? Break out in a rash? Feel a little off-color? And does it enter her unconscious and come out in her dreams?
Or does she confine her dreams to topics of greater interest and appropriateness to her size and significance? Perhaps she dreams of spinning through space, of sunlight and orbits and conversations with her admirer the moon. Does she ever have abandonment dreams, in which Luna escapes her orbit and runs off with another planet? Or simply strikes out on her own?
The morning of the shimmering trees and silver sky, however, we’re sure she had been dreaming something pleasant. She awoke so gradually, like a maiden rubbing her eyes softly, a faint smile upon her lips, and then arose full of sunshine and warm breezes.
Perhaps she imagined that she could kiss the sun and not get burned. Perhaps they flew together to another galaxy and talked of love and time and mathematics. What to do about Pluto, and how to negotiate with a black hole. Whether the universe began as a big bang or a quiet whisper.
And perhaps when she awoke, she lay in a half-dream, pleasantly imagining that soon Helios would bend and kiss her again, leave her lips burning.
I wonder, though, if what she would dream would be as far beyond our comprehension as a ballad is beyond the comprehension of a bacterium. All shimmering gowns and sunny smiles aside, perhaps Earth cares little for the types of stories and drama that compel our human lives, the way that we care little what motivates a single bacterium on the surface of our skin.
And I wonder whether my skin ever wakes as if from a dream, appearing to shimmer and shine, whether a bacterium wonders whether I dream the way a bacterium does. What would a bacterium dream of?