Image from What Dreams May Come* (Robin Williams, 1998)
“I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” ~ William Butler Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”
I dreamt of a golden lion and a giant camel. The lion was not attacking the camel, but it was facing the camel. The lion’s fur was not tan; it was golden and shimmering in the light. The camel was twice the size of a normal camel, and I believe that it had one hump (dromedary camel). It was not carrying anything on its back, and it was dark brown, the color of weak coffee.
The lion and the camel were on the side of a four-lane highway in Virginia Beach. No one else seemed to notice them. I was in a car looking out when I saw them. The car slowed because it had reached a major intersection, so I had more than a second to take in this sight. In the dream, I wondered what the two were doing there, and I remember thinking that they could get hit by a car.
Later in the dream, I was still in the car, and I was telling Corey to veer right as the road forked. He almost missed the right side of the fork, and I was very upset with him for not listening to me. It was important that we take the right side of the fork, but I have no idea as to why.
“Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind.” ~ William G. Golding
This is the third time that I have dreamt of this lion. Once, it jumped out of a wall of foliage and came at me. I cannot remember the details of the second time that the lion appeared, and now the lion and the camel.
The setting for the lion and the camel are completely incongruous: the side of a highway instead of a desert or a jungle. The pairing of these two animals seems just as incongruous. Not that a lion wouldn’t hunt a camel, but it’s doubtful that the two would be in the vicinity of each other.
The camel is known for bearing burdens great distances. The fact that this camel was twice the size of a normal camel could indicate the weight of my burdens. But this camel was carrying nothing on its back. Interesting.
The lion, in dream mythology, is a noble beast, known for strength, the ability to conquer, and the ability to create fear. One dream interpretation says that lions represent inner rage and intimidating situations; while another says that to see a lion in a dream means that you have influence over others, and that you will overcome difficulties.
Am I angry, or am I influential? Am I an influential but angry person? Or perhaps, I am a strong person people fear, but I’m having difficulties? It’s all so confusing.
What is also odd to me is that in one situation I was afraid of the lion, but in the other situation, I was not at all afraid. In the first situation, the lion pounced but did not actually land on me; in the other situation, I saw the lion as being incredibly beautiful, which just goes to show how abstract dream interpretation really is.
This is the first time that I have dreamt of a camel, at least the first time in a number of years. The fact that the camel was so large could symbolize the overwhelming weight I feel because of my burdens.
However, one interpretation is that dreaming of a camel symbolizes an inability to express emotions and to hold onto them. A paradox for me. I have no problems in expressing my emotions. In fact, one person who knew me well said that I was a drama queen. However, I do hold onto things. I have a hard time forgetting a wrong that was done to me or anyone close to me. I take on the problems of those around me whether or not they have asked for my assistance.
Often, I feel that it is my job to protect my family, my children, and my friends. Wouldn’t that be the lion? At the same time, I assume their burdens, which makes me a camel, doesn’t it?
“Dreams are illustrations . . . from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman
The thing that I find oddest is that on the night that I had this dream (two nights ago), I was not particularly upset about anything. Eldest son had not taxed my patience. I had nothing on my mind except for my headache. I was not angry. I was not upset. I felt no overwhelming need to be there for someone. In fact, everyone had been pretty considerate in light of my five-day migraine. Yet the lion and the camel appeared, out of context, so to speak.
I combed my thoughts to see if anything struck me as being somehow related: I have had the situation in Iran on my mind for a while. Corey smokes Camel cigarettes. I have been worried about making my health insurance payment, but that is nothing new. I have been anxious over Corey getting a job soon, but again, that is not a new problem. In other words, nothing new stands out starkly as something that would cause these two animals to appear by the side of the road.
So why a giant camel and a golden-haired lion? And why did I feel no fear?
“Sleep hath its own world, And a wide realm of wild reality, And dreams in their development have breath, And tears and tortures, and the touch of joy.” ~ Lord Byron
When I worked at the zoo for a short while, they were working on building Africa, a new extension to the zoo. I was very interested in the construction, and I found the habitat that they were creating for the lions to be beautiful. However, I should pause here and say that deep down in my heart, I don’t really like zoos. I admire the thought process behind them: to make animals available to the general population so as to increase knowledge and appreciation. But at the same time, I have a very hard time with the premise: putting these animals in habitats that simulate their natural habitats.
What’s wrong with the natural habitats? National Geographic does a wonderful job, both in its magazine and in its television shows of bringing animals into the living rooms of everyday people. So why move the animals in the first place? There used to be a show on television called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I used to love to watch reruns of that show on Saturday afternoon.
The host, Marlin Perkins, would wrestle with gators, hold large snakes, and various other stunts. I remember my high school biology teacher, Mr. Leigh, making fun of Perkins for pretending to wrestle gators, while wranglers were out of the camera shot. I loved Mr. Leigh. I also learned so much from him. Anyway, Wild Kingdom actually wasn’t my first introduction to exotic animals.
I had already seen camels up close in Morocco. And the rain forest that we visited had all kinds of flora and fauna—all without created habitats or cages. I suppose that’s why I have such a hard time seeing animals in zoos, even though the zoos of the 21st century are so far removed from the zoos that had all animals behind bars with cement floors.
Of course, I must point out the if not for zoos, some of the animals there would be dead. For example, several eagles that were injured by some barbarians were put in an eagle habitat so that they could continue their lives even though they could not fly.
Anheuser Busch does the same thing at Busch Gardens. The one in Williamsburg has a wonderful eagle habitat that is open with trees, logs, a stream. None of the eagles placed there can fly any longer, but they are with other eagles, and they have a habitat that roughly approximates their natural homes.
“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” ~ Walt Whitman
Of course, the scientific part of my brain wonders about the logic behind keeping eagles that are injured. Nature will have its way, no matter how much humans intervene. Although people tend to misinterpret Darwin’s hypothesis about natural selection: It is not about the strongest surviving, but rather about those most able to adapt being ble to survive.
However, in the case of eagles, the converse must be considered: humans are directly to blame for the depletion of the eagle population; not nature. DDT, a chemical no longer used, polluted ground water, streams and lakes, thereby causing many species to suffer, in particular, the eagle.
And then there are the people with guns who think that an eagle would make a good trophy. These people have no soul. How could they? How could they shoot down one of the most majestic birds on the face of the earth for what they call sport? Don’t even try to make the argument that the eagle population needed to be reined in. That has never been the case.
But of course, that was the argument used with the American Buffalo: They were too plenty. So logically, humans shot them almost to extinction.
So yes, zoos are good for maintaining populations of animals that are dwindling, sort of. Although, some of the statistics that I read state that zoos only account for about 2 percent of successful conservation of species. Of course, animals that are bred for zoos no nothing of living in the wild as they have never had that experience. Another paradox.
“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul . . .” ~ Carl Jung
So what to make of my recurring lion and the very large camel? Is my inner lion trying to tell me that I need to fight harder for something? Someone? Is the camel present to make me take a slow and steady path? Yet another paradox.
Fight but be steady? Fear but sure-footed? Shimmering gold set against muddy brown?
If I were a Freudian, the lion would probably mean that I am seeking out my inner male or some form of my father . . . but I am not a Freudian. I don’t need my inner male to make me strong, even though it was a male lion. One site that I happened upon by accident claimed that the Templars had a mythology in which each individual was born like a camel, with a load upon its back, but once the individual had passed many travails, he became a lion. I was unable to find anything to back up this particular story, but if it were true, wouldn’t that be interesting?
I only know that the burdens that I am bearing are weighty, but not enough to put me down. I have my weaknesses, but have never thought of myself as weak. I am protective of my pride, so to speak, and take on their burdens as my own, but I am not smelly, nor do I spit.
“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.” ~ Gail Godwin
Am I making too much of the recurring lion and now its companion, the very large camel? Perhaps. But it made for an interesting contrast, and quite a departure in the substance of in my dreams.
And after all, how many people do you know who can open a conversation with the following statement: I dreamt of a golden lion and a camel?
By the way, did I mention that they’ve found a new kind of giant elephant shrew, one that is related to a group of animals that lived in Africa more than a100 million years ago. I’ll let you know if I dream of shrews. No jokes about shrews, please.
More later. Peace.
*All pictures except lion and camel are taken from the motion picture What Dreams May Come (1988), directed by Vincent Ward and starring Robin Williams.