This morning – somewhere between the moment when my son scrambled into my bed and sandwiched himself between Ted and I and the moment when I stumbled out, slid into shorts and shoes and went for a run – I had a dream that I hiked to Antarctica. It didn’t take long – the hiking, I mean, not the dream. It was a well-marked trail that cut across the backside of a farm, wound through a river valley and a forest, skirted a mountain and hooked over a ridge.
The ice was bright, the water blue, and someone had set up a line of chaise lounges so that people could watch the penguins splash in the surf.
I walked over, sat down and pulled off my shoes, laying my bare feet on the ice and spreading my toes wide, the ice softening to water, then steam. The penguins cackled, then screamed, then sighed.
Morgan Freeman sat in the lounge next to mine and smiled at me as he handed me a Virgin Mary with a radish rose bobbing prettily in its center. “I never much cared for penguins,” he said as he leaned into his lounge chair and closed his eyes against the glare of the setting sun. “Nasty animals. You know they eat their own vomit?”
“Isn’t that a bird thing?” I asked.
“Never much cared for birds either, now that you mention it,” he said.
The sun sank under the water and the penguins waddled out of the surf and disappeared over the ridge. I sipped at my Virgin Mary, trying, then failing to catch the radish rose on my tongue. Instead, I tilted my face towards the sky and listened as Morgan Freeman named the stars.
“Look,” he said, “there’s Sirius, Antares and Rigel. There’s the Southern Cross. Eridanus. Phoenix.” The sky darkened, glittered, glowed, and if I had stayed asleep, I have no doubt that every star would have been hailed, categorized and identified, but instead I found myself lifting from my lounger and hurdling skyward, the voice of Morgan Freeman fading behind me, as I landed in a heap of blankets smelling sweetly of sleep, a boy and his dad in a tangle of limbs, their mouths open to dreaming.