The American in the stream

When I’m tired, I hallucinate. As a consequence, I am wary of my own visual perceptions sometimes. So, there I was, shattered and not of good head, standing where a stream comes down to meet a path. I could see movement in the stream, and as I watched it looked increasingly like a little bundle of leaves was making a conscious descent down the tiny waterfalls. “Ah,” says I to myself. “Hallucinating, then.”

As it was weird and wonderful, I kept watching, as the leaves worked their way down. When they landed in the lowest pool, they stayed together, and I could see them that bit better. Not leaves, but legs, pincers… something weirdly like a lobster. A small light came on inside my head and I realised I was looking at an American crayfish. I’d never seen one before, but know they are around as an invasive species.

It’s very hard to make sense of things we don’t know about. We tie our observations to the familiar. My son, aged about three, finding a lizard in the garden and knowing nothing about lizards, was convinced he’d found a dragon. I recall a tale of confused people finding a monkey and thinking it was a Frenchman. We aren’t good at processing what’s alien to us. We are predisposed to thinking we’ve seen something familiar. The implications of not seeing what we don’t know about are vast. I saw leaves. It took a real effort to realise I wasn’t seeing leaves.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “The American in the stream

  • Robin

    this makes me think of mortal humans being visited by gods and giving them the familiar human-shaped guise afterwards to explain the vastly unfamiliar otherness of meeting a being composed of spirit, the other extreme of seeing what we are not seeing because it is outside our perceptions

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I rarely visually hallucinate, then because of drugs or illness. Only twice had I done so during meditation. Now between Liminal place sleep and being fully awake I have had audio hallucinations on quite few occasions but limited in time to a couple of seconds.

    So I sort of envy your ability for visual hallucination.This in spite of the fact that it may be a bit disconcerting until you are sure just what is going on.

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