Peter changed his route home so he could pass by the park and the tree. He started leaving work early so he could spend a bit of time with the tree and still get home in time for dinner. It appeared that people took it for granted that the park had always been there. He overheard someone talking about the flower planting that had been made in the park last year. And when he looked up information on the bank, it apparently never had existed.
The next weekend, Peter took his kids to the park. They played while he communed. He saw a woman look at him quizzically. He felt a bit embarrassed, but nodded his head at her. She came closer. "Have you been coming to this park a long time?" she asked.
"Uh, no, not really. But I really like this tree," he replied.
She looked at him with an awkward expression. "I used to work at a bank here, but obviously, this tree has been here a long time. I just can't figure out what's going on. I'm starting to feel ... kind of crazy. I haven't been back here in a long time, but for some reason, I came by here on the bus the other day, and I saw this tree. I saw this tree..." she said as she trailed off. She looked as though she were going to cry.
"I remember the bank too," Peter said, tentatively. He did not like going up the path of crazy talk, but felt for this woman, who was obviously having a rough time of it.
"But this tree," she said.
"Sometimes, I think, there can be more than one reality that exists at a time." When Peter offered that up, the woman's head snapped from looking at the canopy of the tree to stare fiercely into his eyes. "What did you say?" she demanded.
Peter took a breath. "I think there can be more than one reality that exists at a time. I don't know if you've read any books by science fiction author Philip K. Dick, but he wrote that he saw the landscape of Rome and the landscape of Southern California overlapping. I don't know how it works, but it seems like it can be possible, especially when you are experiencing it yourself."
The woman shook her head. "I'm not the only one, then," she muttered to herself. "Are you a dreamer?" she asked Peter.
Pete inhaled sharply. He had no idea how to answer that question. He looked over at his kids, talking with a man and petting his two hyperactive dogs on leashes. They were having a good time, and he was glad he had brought them here, instead of their mom taking them shopping at the mall. He was totally not expecting this conversation, though.
"I...I." He sighed. "I don't know how to answer that. I dream or I don't dream, I'm not sure."
"Did you dream the tree here?" Her voice was insistent. He was not going to be let off with easy vague answers, nor did he care to be. He had never before met anyone with whom he could possibly have this conversation.
"I did," he answered. "I remembered it from another time. I found it here, I knew it was here, but there was this bank too. Somehow, I--I can't explain it. I just thought about the tree, I felt it embracing me and I embracing it, and when I opened my eyes, the bank was gone, and the tree was here."
"Have you done this before?" Her voice was just as insistent, urgent.
"No, at least not that I have realized," he answered.
"How did you remember it? What do you mean you remembered it from another time?"
This was it, the moment he anticipated and dreaded, since Jimmy Malloy in 4th grade. He had sworn never to tell anyone about his dual life, and yet, this was the time to tell it. It seemed like his whole life had been leading up to this moment.
"This is going to sound crazy," he prefaced. He turned his head away from her piercing eyes. "I am an analyst. I have a nice office with a window. I have a big nicely decorated house in the burbs that I share with my wife and those two wonderful kids," he gestured to his kids, now playing ball with the hyperactive beagles. "And when I go to sleep at night, I wake up in a different time. It's 1877, and I am a hand on a cattle ranch. I live out my day there, and when I go to sleep at night, I wake up here."
He looked up at her, and was surprised to see that her expression had not changed. She wasn't laughing at him or looking at him like he was crazy. She didn't appear about to beat him up either. "It seems to be the same physical place, but obviously, things are a lot different. The trees have been my way of connecting the two places. I found a familiar tree in a park downtown a few weeks ago, a tree I knew from my other life. And for some reason, I was compelled to find this one. When I couldn't find it, I imagined finding it, and then this park appeared. I can't make any sense of it, but I can't deny what happened."
There was an awkward silence as her rapid fire questioning ceased. He took a chance, "Do you know what's happening or why?"
She looked at him thoughtfully. "I can't say I know any more than you do. But I am paying enough attention that I know when a bank disappears."
"Do you dream?" he asked.
She also sighed. "I...don't know how to answer that either." She searched his face, and felt herself take a leap of faith. "I think I dream, but not of the past. I dream of the future. It doesn't feel as real and certain as you seem to be of your dreaming. It's more like I get glimpses and feelings that are quite real, but I don't think I'm solidly there yet. I mean, I think it's the future. It seems kind of like the past, but they talk of this time as the past."
"What's the future like?"
She blinked her eyes and shook her head. "Well, it's a future. Who knows if it's the future?" He nodded. "Life is different, for sure," she continued. "Capitalism collapsed, but surely that is no surprise. Governments collapsed soon after, and people dealt with it in varying ways. There's not a lot of communication, so you mainly just hear rumors of what's happening outside the bioregion. Some places are still run with force, but.... People--I don't know how to describe it exactly--People regained their personal power, and now there's not power enough for governments to hold and rule them. They simply cannot muster the force necessary to coerce everyone. People mostly organized themselves into communities and are doing the best they can. It can be hard, but at the same time, it's a lot of fun. People seem less entranced than they do now. Does that make any sense?"
Peter nodded his head, "It makes a lot of sense. I have always thought that if people knew what they were giving up to be American and middle-class, they might think twice about it. But it seems like they give up, as you said, their personal power, without thinking twice about it. And when they give up their personal power, all hell breaks loose." He nodded his head toward the street traffic, ever massive on a Saturday afternoon.
The woman nodded in agreement. "I will say that when 7 billion people put their minds toward living in the community of life, and put their hands and energy into remaking the biological landscape, it seems as though miracles occur."
He looked up at her as he sat on the bench under the cottonwood of his dreams. "There's hope then?"
She smiled. "I presume so, though people tell me I'm crazy to be optimistic about the future. It seems we humans have always had very powerful imaginations, and we seem to have forgotten that. We have trapped ourselves with our cleverness and cunning, and even forgotten that we used to be free, not having to toil for corporations, for a culture of death, in exchange for access to our basic needs like food and shelter. Humanity has become entranced to the point that we forget we're living in a prison of our own making. I like to think more people are waking up and making choices." She laughed, "More people are waking up and dreaming!"
"I like to think that things can be different," Peter said.
"Things are always different. We live in this moment of now, an ever changing now. You changed a bank into a park. If you do that every week, what is this city going to look like in a year? What if a dozen people or a hundred people are doing this without our realizing it? As capitalism fails more of the populace and the Empire has to forcibly exert more control over holding it together, it just falls apart faster. People are forced to meet their needs in ways that capitalism no longer can. Capitalism isn't keeping its promises anymore. As people meet their needs in new ingenious ways, there is less reliance on capitalism to do so. Really, there is nothing capitalism can do anymore to prop itself up forever. It's decaying before our eyes. It's a story whose ending has come. Thankfully, there are more stories, 7 billion stories plus, to enact. We create what comes next simply by meeting our needs in our daily lives as capitalism disappears."
"It's 2012," said Peter. "That's supposed to be the end of the world, right? Is that what happened?"
The woman smiled again. "It's just the moment. 2012 is just a good a time as any, don't you think?"
Peter smiled. "My name is Peter, and I am glad to have met you today." He held out his hand to shake.
"Peter--that means rock, the foundation. I'm glad to have met you as well, Peter. I'm Myra."
They shook hands under the tree imagined into existence, remembered into existence. The beauty that life can be remains imprinted in our biological make up. We are the biological landscape, as much as any mountain, river, wind, or tree. We can remember.