21. I had the queerest dream—Caterina
26, September 1286
I had the queerest dream in the repose between Matin and Lauds. I am writing it down because I oft forget my dreams and this feels an augury of some import that deserves reflection rather than be allowed to dissipate in the light of day like dawn’s mist. I would share it with Maria Grazia, my confessor in all things, but alas she is in the Apothecary brewing tinctures all this evening. I am often visited by strange dreams when her side of our cot is vacant! As if Mab the gypsy queen herself, is drawn to fill the void in our chamber and with Mab come her retinue of dreams.
Thus compelled I put this dream to paper. I have from time to time thought to formalize my reflections in the manner of a daily digest but have lacked the resolution. Mayhap this will be my inaugural effort? I have cares that I shan’t share with my dearest Maria Grazia for fear of offending her. I worry that she has lost confidence in me since my return from Lucca. Perhaps she sees my tainted body as an insult to the sacred sphere we inhabit. Would that I could speak to her of my discordant heart! How, though my body is healed — my heart remains cracked and raw. I may not speak these thoughts to myself, the memories of Bartolomeo. . . I shall not waste the parchment.
Back to my dream, before it leaves me, I fear it has some dark portent, but know not what?
I dreamt of two trees growing side by side on a hill along a stone wall. The knoll rises from a lovely green pasture that spreads out unobstructed as far as the eye can see. As the trees grow, straining toward the sun, they share its light. Their roots dig deep into the rich soil, sharing the treasures of the earth. They take of the same water from the spring beneath the surface. In fact, they have so enjoined that their roots knit together below ground, which makes them stronger and better able to defend against the strong wind that drives across the valley. On this hill, these trees have grown together since saplings. In time, as they mature, they each bring forth one perfect fruit. One tree bearing a pear, the other a pomegranate. The fruits are advantaged by a well-guarded position — the wall to their back and strong branches at their fronts. And thusly the fruits grow ripe and large throughout the summer.
One morning, a man approaches from the valley below. He wears a red cloak with its hood drawn. His face is not visible.
The man spies the trees and is desirous of their fruit and their wood. He carries with him an ax, recently sharpened with a stone and polished with a strop — the blade catches the sunlight and twinkles like a star as he advances towards the trees.
The trees have borne the blistering heat of the sun, the bitter whip of winter wind, together they have grown parched and limp in the driest days, and have rejoiced when the rains came and bathed their dusty leaves. These two trees, each carrying the tender charge of ripe fruit, have no understanding of the man approaching with an ax. They continue to hold their arms up high reaching for the sun as they always have, even as the man brings the ax to the base of the pear tree and in a few strokes fells it. The fig tree feels the tug at its roots as its companion falls, then feels the bite of metal against its base once, twice, and thrice until it too falls. As the pomegranate tree crashes to the ground, its fruit rolls down the hill, coming to rest in a stream. The man finds the pear nestled in the roots where once the tree stood. He eats the pear, throwing its core to the ground. He splits the wood for firewood. Piling the logs neatly against the wall. Carrying what he can, planning to return the next day for more. The trees are finished. Cut at their root, no scion to continue their line.
What does it mean?0