I look up to the sky and notice the sun shines brighter than normal, but I can look at it without being blinded. I also see a flock of birds flying in a neat line from the sky. While focusing on the birds, they quickly swoop to a few centimetres above my head and form a halo. I try to reach out to the birds but notice that I cannot touch them because there is a great distance between myself and them. How do they look so close, yet so far? While pondering this, a water sculpture head streams from the sky and settles in the centre of the bird halo. It is a fearsome and awe-inspiring thing to witness. I try to get a closer look at the face of this sculpture and I conclude I am seeing Jesus. Surely, I have lost my mind? Is Jesus even a thing?!
The halo moves from above my head, to just ahead of me. I run and attempt to get underneath the bird-halo-with-Jesus’-face-in-the-centre, but it moves faster than my legs can move me. I will myself to stand underneath this picture, through intent. It happens instantly. I am now aware that what I am experiencing is a lucid dream that happened spontaneously. The bird halo and the water sculpture head disappear, and I see myself running in a meadow with golden, pink and purple hues. It is an unfamiliar place, but I feel energised.
I jerk awake from this dream in a mood like no other I had experienced. I still don’t know how to express this mood in words. It’s the feeling of finally getting that doughnut you’ve been craving all day. The relief of finally having tended to something your body has been wanting. That absolute satiating feeling that no one can take away from you. It also feels like the first time I discovered I could string written words together and it would be wonderful to read. That feeling of accomplishment. It also felt like the days my paternal grandmother, Nomvo, would surprise me with a sweet treat after finishing my supper. My relationship with food has been a very straightforward one from childhood. I eat to stay alive and nourished. Sometimes it feels like a chore, less so now that I’m an adult, but a chore still. Getting a sweet treat, which was never a chore to gobble up in seconds, was the best surprise every time it happened.
This dream is one of the many elaborate dreams I would have over the course of my life, alluding to the gift of healing. I never really understood what was happening, but my life was characterised by a deep, melancholic longing (usizi/ho hlora) for something unknown. I would say this hollow feeling followed me around from the moment I was aware of self. I always felt deeply lonely even when I was surrounded by friends and family. I would experience lucid dreams, astral projection, prophetic dreaming and visions that were not of this dimension we exist in. If I suddenly walked into a group of people, I would feel sick and overwhelmed. I would get a sense about someone’s life in said group, but I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint whom it was. If I was studying a chapter that would be irrelevant to a test/exam, I would dream of it or I would instantly lose interest in it. I quickly learnt to rely on dreams as a tool of guidance and support from my guides. They were spot on. Sometimes, they were an extended metaphor that I could not make sense of at the time, but when the events transpired in my waking life, I would immediately understand what was happening. At times, I would imagine something very vividly and I did not know that would be one of the methods badimo used to communicate with me.
There was never a morning I woke up and I did not dream. I quickly learnt with whom it was safe to share my dreams and with whom it was not. I was young, and dreaming of things to come, things that had happened or things that were happening in people’s lives. I remember a vision that left me shaken and hollow inside when I was in grade 9, 14 years old. I was in an all-girls school, in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. I will use pseudonyms for the people mentioned in this dream. There was a girl in my register class, who seemed very sad and withdrawn, but her friends never noticed. Or they noticed but felt ill-equipped to do anything about the sadness. Or I never noticed her friends taking stock of her pain. I do not know. I did not speak much, so I never spoke to anyone beyond “Morning” “Sorry” “Bye”. I had friends, do not get me wrong, I just didn’t know how to navigate spontaneous conversations with semi-strangers (I still don’t to be honest).
One night, while sleeping in my bedroom, facing up, I ‘saw’ this girl in my dream. I knew I was not seeing her with my physical eye, but I was definitely seeing her. She appeared frail and scared and then started saying no in a whimpering voice. I scrunched up my forehead in confusion and focused on the flimsy material of her old pyjamas. She was standing in opaque darkness and was the only visible thing. Think the footage of a CC TV camera. Then the landscape changed, all of a sudden, and she was standing on a brown wooden floor, facing away from me. From behind her appeared a man, who obviously unsettled her and had harmed her in multiple ways, over a period of time. Just as I was digesting this, the man instructed her to bend over, and she did so crying. I woke up with a jolt from that dream. I did not need more detail than I got because I knew what was happening to her. The sadness and the emptiness that bounced off her skin made a lot of sense.
I will never forget the look on her face the following morning at school. She kept staring into space and blinking back tears. I wanted to offer her a hug and tell her I knew what was happening to her, but how? How would I say, “I know what you’re going through and I’ll hold your hand until you get the courage to tell someone”? I swept this vision under the rug and I kept looking at her across the classroom, hoping that she could somehow ‘hear’ my thoughts and ‘feel’ my empathy. I do not know if she ever knew that I knew, or that I saw, but those thoughts have stayed with me a long time. I was 14 when this vision came to and every time I revisit it, it is as clear as it was all those years ago.
I left the all-girl’s school at the end of that year, for Bloemfontein. Oh, our sleepy city! I was 15 years old and in grade 10. I started at a technical high school and I had to get used to a new group of people. Woe is me! I made a few close friends, but I was still closed off for the most part. I focused on my studies and minding my own business as much as possible. I prayed a lot in those days. To the God of Christianity and my faith was unshakable. I had faith like potatoes. I believed anything was possible through prayer. The boarding school I lived in, had an extra payment for weekends, or you went home. The fee for people whose homes were outside of Bloemfontein, was R80 and for those whose homes were in Bloemfontein, it was R110. The money had to be paid before 12:00, on Thursday for your weekend accommodation to be confirmed. Or something to that effect. It was many moons ago, so the details evade me a little. On some weekends, one or both of my parents would ‘forget’ this pesky little detail and I would be fraught with anxiety thinking where I would go for the weekend. In hindsight, they were going through a lot themselves, juggling life, so the tiny detail of weekends at the boarding school evaded them.
There is a weekend vividly etched in my memory. My weekend boarding fee had not been paid and I had to find my way to Lesotho. Going to the Maseru border post from Bloemfontein cost R80 in a taxi and the distance was not that long, 2 hours max. I went home that weekend and I was happy to see my family. While sleeping that night, I had a visitation from Nkgono Moleboheng, who had passed on years earlier. I remembered she had the gift of prophecy and passed away from a battle with some illness. I was not sure of the details.
In the dream, she appeared wearing sepheka se sekgubedu le tuku ya teng (a red cape with a matching headscarf). She gave me an invisible thing that moved through me. It was warm and electric, but not violent like electric current that moves through you from an exposed wire. Do not ask how I know that. She asked that I take care of this ‘gift’ with which she presented me. In the dream, my father wailed and shouted, “Not my child too. No. No.No!” I woke up and told my paternal grandmother about it and her only response was “Mhmmm, mntaka M.” Her maiden surname was Mapipa and every time she was presented with a scenario she did not understand she would respond, “Mmhmm, mnataka M!”