Growing up on the farm, I was visited by a recurring dream each summer. It was spawned when, sometime in my early primary school years (6–8yo), my mother almost stood on a Copperhead when putting the rubbish out one balmy night. In the gloom of dusk, she’d thought it was a large slug until it hissed at her. The following summer, that event—combined with numerous warning from my parents about not going near the wood heap in summer as it was a possible habitat for snakes—had reorganised itself in my subconscious, and the arrival of the December heat stirred the dream into waking.
I would find myself walking across the ground between the wood heap and the house, and I’d look down to see the entire ground covered with snakes. I’m talking Raiders of the Lost Ark quantities here—and just as deadly. Tigers, King Browns, Copperheads, Death Adders, Blacks and Taipans. The whole family of lethal Australian serpents were laid out before me. I never stayed asleep long enough to know where that dream led, but it returned with unsettling regularity and frequency each summer almost until I left home.
Last night, I woke from a dream that I suspect is a metamorphosis of the original, just like a snake shedding its skin, there were elements of the original, with an entirely new outer shell. This time I found myself back in the few weeks before we left the farm forever. The property was sold and we were just going through the motions of winding down the farming life to stash on a shelf for…not later; forever.
I was standing near the machinery shed, one side of which, nestled against a large plantation of cypress trees, had become a bit of junk pile for bits of iron and other farm debris that due to poor accessibility for predatory birds, low light, and the relatively undisturbed nature of the refuse, was a haven for spiders and snakes. My father walked along the fence line of the plantation (but on the other side of the trees), and began pointing frantically at my feet. I looked down, and at my feet were a number of different snakes (not in the numbers of the previous dreams, but still more than nature would bring to any one place). A large black slug was transforming into a Yellow Bellied Black Snake and back again—the snake version persistently trying to climb up my leg.
From there the dream changed, and I found myself standing at the old timber gate that led from the small utility paddocks surrounding the sheds, to the much larger pasture paddock that contained the dam, which we often used for irrigating the garden. The water level was low, and the slight hill that dropped away to the dam was much steeper, and both my parents were visible at the perimeter. I couldn’t tell just by looking that it was them, but I knew it nonetheless. The snakes were still moving about my feet and I could feel their bodies pressing against my ankles and shins, and I was frozen to the ground.
When I woke up, I felt an incredible tightness in my back, shoulders and chest. I’d thought dreams about the farm were behind me—the last I had was late in 2002—but evidently not. There is still something there in the background that has not fully flushed itself out as yet, and I’m not especially sure what the trigger was.