Dream Jar

I tiptoed out of bed this morning, beneath a haze of violet light. You were asleep, of course. Nestled in our bed, slowly feeding the trees outside. I tend to them during these hours, our dream trees, when the sky is not quite day and yet grows lighter from the receding night. The grass is slick and wet with dew, emerald green shimmering between my toes. Jewels for me to tread upon, this ever glimmering path to the orchard. The fruits of night hang heavy from the branches. The boughs gently bend towards the earth, offering me their swollen treasures. I walk upon my sacred ground, ready for the harvest. Between the graceful, bowing limbs and round the aging trunks I wander and I search. I am looking for the proper tree. That one leafy maiden in full bloom, her arms achingly full with her ripened progeny. She is in the back of the orchard, by the garden, near the fields. My feet are cool in the wet grass, my arms cradling the white basket. It is piled high with linens to cushion the bulbous, fragile fruit. I approach her with a smile; reach high into her shivering branches. My fingers wrap round one of the large, smooth bulbs. I twist, breaking the ties from the mother tree, and carefully place it in my white basket.

Each fruit is the size of, or several times larger than, my curled fist. All have a sheer, rubbery skin. Beneath this skin is a glittery liquid of violet, crimson, or blue, and within this float hundreds of tiny seeds. The seeds themselves are toned according to the nourishing liquid they are soaked in, or remain as sheer as the elastic skin.

When I am sure I have plucked every ripe fruit from the tree, I begin the slow journey to the shed. I am careful not to move too fast, not to jar the precious pods in their cushioned basket lest they break and spoil.

You should be waking now, just rolling out from the warmth of our bed. Throwing back the quilt and slipping on your slippers, then shuffling out to the kitchen to set the water to boil. When I finally come back inside, there will be a cup of tea waiting for me at the table. As will you with a quiet smile and welcoming nod. After a small breakfast (toast and jam usually, with sausages on Saturdays), we will venture back into the orchards. We will tend to the dream trees, but not touch their slowly swelling fruits. You rarely participate in the harvest itself.

Then we will go to the garden, pruning and plucking, weeding and watering. I will have a basket of herbs Thursday, and you will pick a variety of veggies Friday. The pumpkins are growing plumper on their vines. Soon the kitchen will be filled with the smells of cookies, pies, cakes and the like. You will most likely remind me, as you did yesterday, that soon the apples must be harvested.

We will have a picnic in the fields. I will pick flowers and make daisy chains. You will bask in the sun like a content cat. We will continue our happy life, all the while feeding the dream trees.

I finally reach the shed, open wide the creaking door. Inside are ancient, dusty jam jars. There are shelves upon shelves of them lining the walls.

My mother made jam when I was a child. Each year we would pluck great, round grapes and make the most delicious jam. Some of these jars are from those times. I set down my basket on the worktable, ever careful, and select an empty jar from the shelf. I blow out the dust and select a massive, almost orange fruit. It jiggles in my hand, as if the whole thing were made of Jell-O.

I take the tools out from the drawer. You cannot peel a dream. Cannot boil it either. Both methods will cause the fruit to simply pop, and you lose all the precious liquid. I cannot touch what goes into the jars. That would ruin it entirely. It sours the dream, makes it something of a poison. So instead I pop tiny holes in the thick skin with my special tools, then squeeze the shimmering liquid into the jar.

The process usually takes a while. There is a lot of liquid to drain. And I must be very careful not to let any seeds slip into the jar. Those must be separated, washed, and then scattered through the orchard to grow more dream trees. If they come into contact with the open air and then mingle with the juice again, they become spoiled. Spoiled seeds do peculiar things, and they cannot grow new trees.

I continue to squeeze the massive fruit. I almost feel as though I'm milking a cow. Only, dreams do not moo and milk is not nearly as important.

When the draining is finally done, I set the sagging skin to the side. I find a lid for the jar and write the proper name on top. I place it in one of the many crates you will drive to the shipping facility in the evening. I cannot remember when we discovered the importance of the dream trees. Sometime when I was very young, I believe.

We still didn't truly understand them. In fact, you and I are old enough to remember death. To remember what it is like to lose someone forever. That number becomes smaller and smaller, as people keep drinking dreams and never dying. We've become something of a rarity, you and I. I don't wonder about the ill effects of it any longer. As long as I can hide away and tend to the trees, I am happy.

I return to the worktable, drag the deflated skin across the surface. With great effort, I slice through the skin. I reach my hand within and carefully scrap out the tiny seeds and place them in a special cloth strainer. I recheck the now empty skin, to be sure I've gotten every single seed, and then I throw it away. I reach into the basket again.

As my fingers close around the fruit, I realize it's mine. Slowly I draw it from the basket. It is a good-sized fruit, slightly larger than my closed fist and a shocking shade of blue. I rummage around one of the bottom shelves, looking for one of my mothers old jam jars. Upon finding it, I set it on the table, blow out the dust. I make a small hole and drain the fruit. I slice open the skin, and rather than save the seeds, dump them into the jar with their liquid. I place a cap on the jar, and shake it.

I'm always surprised by the smell. I'd assumed it would be sweet, but it reminds me of clay instead. The liquid itself is slightly viscous, traveling slowly down the sides of the jar. I can see the flashing in the seeds already. The little glimmers of my thoughts, slight shades of my dreams. I decide to leave the rest of my labors for later, perhaps I'll be able to enlist your assistance.

I leave the shed, shutting the door behind me, and make my way to the house. In my hands is my dream jar. The seeds make quick plinks against the glass as I gently swirl the liquid. The sky is bright with the first true light of morning. When I open the door, there is a cup of tea waiting. You welcome me with a quiet smile and a nod. I come around the table, kiss your cheek and set the jar down before us.

We will spend the rest of the day staring into my dream jar.