The dreams of feeling and being left out are coming back.
And there were a few times throughout the night where I woke up to pee and thought to myself that I’m excited to die. But then I was reminded that I have to clear and cleanse myself after going to certain spaces and I remembered that I am excited to live.
— – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – —
– – – – – – – – – – – —
– – – – – – – – – – –
It was my idea to go the bridge and see the gorge because I hadn’t seen something so beautifully and immediately close in such a long time. We parked our cars and walked towards the bridge, both noting to one another the beauty of the silence and the landscape and the massive expanse of the canyon. The sun shone brightly at the very top of the canyon onto its flat like plateau surface and as it dropped deep, over 600 feet to the rushing river, its jagged rocks looked cool and lush under all of the shadow and shrubbery.
We stepped onto the bridge and after a few steps I noticed the trembling of the structure and was reminded of an old fear I had of bridges. When I was little there was this bridge in town that was very old and built at a time when large barges didn’t pass through the Beaufort river. The bridge had an opening and there was a light for cars to stop so that the bridge could open and a barge could pass through. I was always terrified that I’d be in a car going too fast and that we’d miss the light and get stuck on the moving bridge opening- and that terror turned into years of nightmares of accidentally driving off of bridges.
The night before Luna and I stepped onto the bridge I had a dream, where some friends and I were hanging out on a bridge and looking out over a city waiting for an event that we wanted to attend to start. When it was time to climb down off of the bridge, I noticed it was higher than I thought it was and I became stuck still with fear, a friend saw this and outstretched their hand, helping me to step down the bridge and showing me a route to get down that I hadn’t noticed previously. We got down and I hugged them afterward. We walked to the event.
– – – _______________________________
So I don’t exactly have a fear of bridges, I actually have a fascination with them, but when I felt the tremble caused by the combination of trucks speeding by and the wind I was reminded of the dream and previous bridge dreams and I said to my friend “ hey I never asked this before but how do you feel about bridges? Do they scare you? I used to have nightmares about driving off of them.” She said “ I wouldn’t say that I am afraid, perhaps i’m neutral about bridges, but I do get a bit of vertigo, but I feel fine with the high railing.”
We kept walking and approached the first look out point and I immediately noticed a crisis hotline call station. Noticing this station made me feel even higher off of the ground than I had before and I looked down to the river looking for any sort of clue to discern shallow and rocky from deeper parts of the river. I felt a complex sadness and also wondered, while knowing how rocky and not deep rivers can be, if there was a place of depth to dive into. A family approached us, two adult white men and their three children ( sibling and cousins maybe? Or just friends maybe?) and they made a suicide joke, urging me not to jump.
All I could do was look directly at them with no smile and then back down at the river, a lump of anger formed in my throat and I fought the tears with silence.
While looking down at the river, the person who made the joke pointed out a family of long horn sheep walking and called the children over to see and pointed the sheep out to my friend and I and went on to talk about them with glee. And my anger subsided into curiosity about his relation to the joke and the complexity of human people standing on this high bridge together.
I took pictures. I tried to take pictures of the tiny moving spots that were the long horned sheep, I listened to the sound of the river, I tried to take pictures of the water rushing around the rocks and creating white foamy ripples, I took pictures of the sun at the horizon of the plateau and I wondered if I leapt what the air would feel like on my skin going down. I thought that maybe it would feel good and if I ever chose to come to a place to die that maybe this would be the place. And I felt guilty and wrong for having that thought because I enjoy being alive, but I also thought that that thought gets to exist.
And the fantasy began?
It started with me thinking about how this place was so beautiful and how it would be nice to be one with the river and how I would possibly get over my fear of water if I died in that way and wondered why despite my deep love for water and how liberated it makes me feel why I am so afraid that I will die in water. But the previous fear of dying in water didn’t line up with what I was feeling in that moment – a desire to be one with the river. And I began to wonder which voices were mine and which ones I was sensing, but these questions mostly felt like mine. And I’m not sure if I was heavily sighing while having all of these thoughts but my friend asked me in that moment if I wanted to cross the street and look over the other side of the bridge and I said “yessss,i would love to!”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – 0 0 0 0 0 _ – – – -_________
For the first time in a long while I talked about being a death doula and that thought always comes up on this land. I was talking with my coworkers several days before the bridge dream and before this current bridge visit and the topic of death came up. One person shared that they are fine with dying and have made peace with it and that they have done a lot of work over the years to get to that place; that they had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31 and that that sort of thing impacts your relationship to death and life. Another coworker mentioned that they don’t share that sort of enthusiasm with their relationship to death and mostly feel fear surrounding dying.
And for the first time in years I said “lospelllife.” A term I grew up saying after everything.
“I’m going to the store tomorrow lospellife,” “I’m going to college lospelllife,” “I’m leaving and getting out of this house lospelllife” – my friends would make fun of me and tell me that I sounded like those old people. The old people were always saying “lospelllife” and it was a long time before I learned that it meant “ if the lord spares my life.”
I told my coworkers that I grew up with this term and that at one point I wanted to be a death doula and help people as they were dealing with death transition but once I researched a bit more I got the feeling that maybe the work wasn’t for me. But whenever I am here on this land this comes to me. In fact in 2012 or was it 2009 when I came here I think it was 2012 I decided that part of what I want to do is support people in their transitions into living and out of living and that i would do that with herbs, tea and presence.
– – – – –
We crossed the street and the river was wider and felt deeper – I looked towards my right side to the sun and rocks and saw light reflecting off of a piece of metal that looked so tiny but that was probably the size of a truck. It was smashed and Luna and I wondered aloud what it was and how it got there and how it got smashed. The children crossed the street behind us. They got to the guard railing and saw the smashed metal and they were in awe of its size and they wondered aloud what it was : “ what is that, it looks so tiny but it can’t be, is it a car? How did it get there?”
Luna and I saw more long horned sheep and talked about how distorted distance seemed on the bridge, we questioned, how far up are we, why do our cars look so far away, how many sheep are down there? How close are we to being right over the river?
She asked me if I wanted to walk to the look out point that was right over the river and I said “ yes, are you good at physics, how does all of this work”
We’d look back and what felt like a few steps of walking seemed to be a hundred feet or a mile, we looked down and the sheep looked like small rocks moving. We walked for what felt like many minutes and still weren’t over the river. “Just how big is this gorge and is there a trail to enter?” we both asked one another.
We finally got to the point of the bridge where we were just over the river and we stared in silence for about ten minutes. We looked at one another deciding with our facial expressions to cross the street again to look at the next view point. We looked in both directions before crossing, the sun was glaring in my eyes and my eyes squinted as I watched big vans and trucks speed by and as I felt the tremble from the wind and nausea. When the road was clear we crossed.
As soon as we got to the other side we both noted how much more stable it felt. And wondered if it was the wind or the trucks that created the feeling of the bridge moving and shaking.
The sun was starting to move into its position to set and Luna looked at her phone, I had mentioned to her a bit earlier that I needed to get on the road by six pm because I wanted to get home before dark because the roads into where I live are rocky and scary and windy at night and I’m not so familiar with them just yet.
She looked down at her phone and let me know it was almost six. I looked down at the river again and along the bridge at all of the other people looking down , taking photos. I looked over at the plateau and noticed tiny specks of people walking along the top of the gorge and said aloud “ there must be a trail, look at those people, we have to do that next time.” Luna said “ I can’t believe how small those people are, its unbelievable how far away they are, yea we should definitely do that next time.”
It was time to go.
We walked back toward our cars, once we got off of the bridge there was a small path lined with sunflowers, I asked Luna if we could walk along that path instead of on the side of the road and she said yes.
We began to talk about the moon – or rather the lunar like landscape of some parts of the southwest.
The purples, the smooth rock, the petrified wood, the red rock and all of the beings who live here.
We reached our cars, hugged said goodbye.
I started the car, then got out to get my bag with my phones out of the trunk. I got back in the car and took my shoes off because I love to drive barefoot. I reached into the compartment between the driver seat and the passenger seat took out a cigarette, lit it, back out and drove off. Across the bridge.
Charmaine Bee’s visual and writing practices and research investigates how the physiological health and sleeping dream worlds of Black women are impacted by navigating institutional spaces and systems of exclusion, hyper visibility and racism related stress. Charmaine’s practice delves into the experience of growing up of Gullah descent in Beaufort, South Carolina and how important dream interpretation was for Charmaine and Charmaine’s family each morning upon waking. While looking to the history of dream interpretation of the Southern United States, Charmaine explores how waking violences ( micro-aggressions, physical and psychological violence) against black femmes affect what are dream worlds look like and what we do in them.
Charmaine received an MFA from The California Institute of the Arts and has been in residence at ACRE residency in Steuben, WI, Landing 3.0 at the Gibney Dance Center in New York, NY, 18th Street Art Center in Santa Monica, CA and The Fountainhead Residency in Miami, FL. Charmaine has been nominated for the Rema Hort Mann LA emerging artist grant and has been a recipient of the Felix Gonzales- Torres travel foundation fellowship, the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Puffin Foundation artist grant.