Some nights I dream of birds. Not birds I have seen -- even in birding books -- but species that don't exist. They crowd into my sleep, these fantasy birds, hopping on the ground, perching on leafy branches, feasting on blossoms.
Last night, my bird had a lustrous, impossibly purple head, the black beak of a crow, and a shiny emerald green body the shape and size of an American robin's.
Perhaps these fantasy birds are my brain's way of entertaining itself. Or the product of a deep urge to be free like a bird. Then again, how do I really know these creatures are not out there somewhere? If I traveled the world, searching, might I eventually find the secret colony of all the fantasy birds I have dreamed of for years? A friend once told me about a recurring dream in which she opens a drawer to find that it contains every umbrella she has ever lost in her life, each one vividly recognizable to her. Just like that, I imagine myself stepping off a pathway into a clearing in a forest and finding my dream birds quietly going about their lives, each one of them intimately familiar to me.