I had a massage appointment Tuesday afternoon, which followed about a week of having a tight, painful area on the right side of my back. The therapist worked on it for awhile, but it was still bothering me in the evening. I had not lifted anything heavy and did not seem to have any bruise or injury, so I thought it was probably caused by stress.

I woke up feeling thirsty around 3 AM and drank some orange juice. Then I got back in bed and was just about to fall asleep when I remembered that a sore back was among the tactics used by Dame Shadow, my self-appointed subconscious protector, when she felt I wasn’t doing enough to address a problem.

“Okay, Dame Shadow,” I said sleepily in my thoughts, while lying face down on my pillow, “I know you like to keep me guessing, but can you give me at least a small hint as to what’s going on here?”

After a moment, I felt a weight on the edge of the bed as Dame Shadow sat down next to me, dressed in a luminous velvet gown with long, rustling sleeves. She had brought with her an assortment of oil pastels, but no canvas or paper.

Photo of oil pastels in a stack.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

The reason for the absence of a canvas became clear when the Dame started pressing the pastels, one at a time, into my back and shoulders. Evidently she was placing dots of various colors on my skin, but I had no idea what the pattern might be. She didn’t seem inclined to explain what she was doing, either. I lay there for a few minutes without saying anything, but then she poked an especially tender spot.

“Ow! Isn’t that enough? Just what are you doing anyway?” I complained. “Whatever you’re drawing on my back, you know I can’t see it. Even if we had some daylight, I still would need a mirror.”

The Dame added a few more dots, leaned back as if to admire her handiwork, and chuckled.

“That’s often the way life is,” she told me. “We can’t see the picture in real time, but only the reflection later.”

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