Monday, February 15, 2010


Today I put the CDs aside to tackle Colby’s backpacks. He had eleven of them and after he became homeless he hid them in handy spots all around town. Some were at the homes of friends, others were tucked under bushes or hung in trees. Depending on where he was, he could find any one of them and have provisions. He stocked each of the backpacks with a variety of food, plastic, can openers, reading material, hygiene and first aid items . . . and a dreamcatcher.

Dreamcatchers originated in the Ojibwa (Chippewa) Nation, but during the 1960s and 1970s they were adopted by many other Nations. A typical dreamcatcher is made by tying strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame. The resulting “dreamcatcher" is hung above the bed in hopes that it will protect those sleeping beneath it  from nightmares. Many also believe that a dreamcatcher can change a person's dreams and that only good dreams are allowed to filter through. Bad dreams are caught in the net, where they perish in the light of dawn.

Colby loved history and studied the cultures of many people, including Native peoples across the world. He got his first dreamcatcher when he was eleven, when he came along on the Trail of Hope. This was where one of my clients arranged for five semi truckloads of books, personal care items, computers, blankets, etc. to be given to ten Native American communities. A number of us came along to help unload the trucks. Colby was one of them. It was a life-changing experience for him and I believe he got his empathy for those less fortunate from that trip.

Today, as I unpack each of the backpacks, it isn’t long before I realize every pack has a dreamcatcher. I find that incredibly uplifting, sad, and profound all at the same time. My emotions get the better of me and I sit on the floor of his room, surrounded by backpacks, and I cry. I hope so very much that the dreamcatchers did keep bad dreams away from Colby. I also hope they brought him good memories, fond memories, and I hope that in some way they brought him a little bit of piece. And, I am so very glad that Colby is now in a place where he will never need a dreamcatcher again. All of these feelings and emotion and anxiety leave me exhausted. Drained. I pick up the dreamcatchers and place them around the house. Now, whenever I see them I will think good thoughts of Colby. I even put one by my bed. I typically do not have nightmares, but . . . just in case.

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