One night in early 1999 I had an incredibly vivid and powerful dream. It happened with such profound clarity that I could have sworn it was real.
In the dream I was standing on an open plain that was completely barren for as far as the eye could see. Far off in the distance was a range of mountains with low, flat peaks. I had the sense that I was standing somewhere in the desert of the American Southwest.
The ground beneath my feet was absolutely arid and dry, and I could see deep cracks and fissures running in all directions. The earth was brittle and hard, and it audibly crumbled into tiny fragments with every step I took. I could smell the dryness of the dust as it slowly wafted upwards in the stillness of the desert air.
Standing to my right was an old Native American who seemed to be an elder of some kind. His face was weathered and deeply wrinkled, and his eyes had an expression of incredible sadness. There was a sense that he was tired and about to depart on a long journey. I had the impression that he had recently passed away.
Before leaving there was something important he had to tell me. He spoke softly and slowly in a low, deep voice with words I could not understand. The language was not English. Nor did it resemble any other European language I am familiar with.
Raising his arm he gestured for me to look to the horizon. I could see silhouettes of animals in the distance, walking slowly in single file from left to right. There was a panther and a buffalo and many other species I cannot remember now. In some cases a predator walked behind prey, but all were walking calmly and deliberately in an orderly procession. There was a sense of balance to what I was being shown.
The silhouettes were all solid black, and within the heart area of each was a small ball of light. It seemed that this light within each represented their energy, or life force.
It was at this point I became aware that the animals were walking up to a great, old tree that stood alone on a very slight rise of land. Within this tree was a similar ball of light to that which was held in the animals, only this ball was much larger and much brighter. It was as if the Sun was positioned behind or inside this tree, and in some way maybe it was. (Oddly enough, as bright as this large Sun was I could easily look into it without squinting).
Looking back to the old man I noticed he was now smiling. He seemed pleased to have been able to share something before going on his way. Before I could say a word, he turned and departed.
At this point the dream ended and I woke up.
Although it was the middle of the night the intensity of this experience jolted me fully awake. I immediately ran downstairs to turn on my computer. Surfing the Internet I looked up familiar names such as Black Elk, Geronimo and Sitting Bull. I was convinced that if I could find a photo I would recognise the man from my dream. But the effort was to no avail, because I never did find an image of anyone who resembled the man who spoke to me.
Nevertheless the experience stuck with me, and three years later I commissioned wildlife artist Donna Bisschop to capture my memory of it on canvas as a reminder.
This painting has hung on my office wall ever since, and I look at it every day.
What does any of this have to do with furniture making? Absolutely nothing.
However, a couple years after the painting was made I was commissioned to make a custom dining table for a client in Arizona. That commission, plus a chain of other events, ultimately resulted in my going to the Hopi reservation in northern Arizona.
It's here that the story gets interesting.