birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Tale of the Builder Bee

I am the queen of the anxiety dream. If you're like me you've experienced anxiety dreams when you've been fully awake--those paralyzing pesadillas, those moments when your brain arrests all movement to tell you all of the things that are going to go wrong if you step foot out of your car and walk into the grocery store. You'd better just sit in the car awhile, berate yourself for not being able to move, and then drive back home and get under the covers. Once there, you might urge on a calm sleep by some serious inhalations and exhalations.

I know there are some people who have the same recurring worrisome dream that assaults them when they're feeling tired or worn out or worried about something else. I've got one dream like that--always familiar when I'm in it, so much so that I can predict what happens next--the one in which I die a hundred deaths and wake up clammy with sweat. But I also frequently have anxiety dreams about subjects far less serious, less permanent than death. Things that many rational people, including my husband sometimes, see as trivial, nonsensical. When I'm awake I can usually see them for what they are, too, silly dreams that reveal some concern that I have or even just exist to surround me with an aura of gloom.

The other night, for example, I awoke in a cold sweat when I dreamt that a carpenter bee had eaten so far into our front door that it fell apart when we closed it. In my dream I felt stupid, guilty, and irresponsible. How could I let this happen? I should have done something about the problem when I first noticed it! After everything else going on in the house, why didn't I prevent yet another disaster? Why didn't I blare loud music to make her go away? Why didn't I wait for her to leave and then plug the hole? Why hadn't we painted the door to prevent her from getting in in the first place? And oh no, the bee had lain eggs now, and there were larvae inside. Carpenter bees are native bees and I'd be evil to pour pesticides down the hole. If I put orange or tea tree essential oil I might trap them in or force them to make another hole! I needed to find some contraption to suck them out or just wait for them to mature and fly away so I could finally seal the hole, but by then so much damage would be done and the door would be more susceptible to termites! And oh my god I forgot about the termites! They're all over the house now. The house is going to fall on us while we're asleep. I have to save the door before it's too late.

You might be wondering, "Wait. Didn't the door already fall apart? Isn't it to late for these options?" The answer is, of course. But this is a dream, so of course it will continue to reset the timeline for maximum torture. Ultimately you will fail again and again.

In my waking life that week I had spent a lot of time been worried that I had found signs of drywood termites. Our washing machine broke. Our roof is leaking. Our gutters are falling off. There are particles in the air that need checking. In other word, everything expensive that can cause problems in a house had decided to cause problems. To get out of the house and get some Vitamin D, I had begun waging war on my yard. The previous owner had planted nothing but exotic invasives, so I was busy hacking and pulling and digging and being attacked by red wasps and yellow jackets. I went to Home Depot to find some kind of non-toxic wasp repellent. I saw some contraption to catch carpenter bees.

I had smiled at the contraption, because earlier that day I had noted a small nickle-sized hole under one of the windows beside my front door, along with shavings of wood down below. I tapped on the wood and heard the bee working away, sounding like the teeniest chainsaw that ever existed. It was kind of adorable. But I figured that it wasn't good to let her stay in there making her mansion. I kept tapping. She didn't come out, and something else got my attention. But later, as I inspected the package of the bee catcher I was terrified by a picture showing a small hole ("what you see") as well as an x-ray image of all the tunneling the hole leads to ("what you don't see"). Oh my goodness! But it was $20 so I didn't buy it. "I'll look something up later."

Thus, my terrifying night of the living bees dream. And this reminds me--I still haven't done anything about it yet. I suppose I know what tonight's REM entertainment holds for me.


In Your Dreams