The first things I notice are the dogs. They’re Cairn terriers, like Toto in The Wizard of Oz, like the terriers that Mom and Dad keep as pets, the warm and fuzzy pups that are part of my clown act. I’m a kid in this dream, a little boy on a journey whose destination is unknown. I walk through the woods. The sky is clear, the sun bright, the air clean. The dogs run ahead of me, leading the way. The woods morph into a jungle. There are chimpanzees and exotic birds perched in the trees. Wildflowers are everywhere. In the distance, I make out the trumpet cry of an elephant. I hear the growl of lions and tigers. I’m not afraid because I’ve been around all sorts of animals. I’m a circus kid with circus parents from whom I’ve inherited a circus life. Are the dogs directing me to a circus where I’ll put on my clown’s outfi t and perform? As the dogs charge ahead, I sprint to keep up. The jungle turns into a green meadow and the meadow leads to a mountain covered with blue and yellow wildflowers. The sounds change. The cry of the beasts transforms into the roar of raging water. What is the source? Where is the water? Chasing after the pups, I run up the mountainside. The faster I run, the taller the mountain seems to grow, the louder the roar. I keep running and running, wondering if this is a trick. Is this real? Will I ever reach the top?
But Niagara is something else altogether. I’m not only stunned by its tremendous size, but thrilled to be facing an awesome sight that seems to have emerged from my dream. “I’ve been here before,” I tell my dad. “You must have seen pictures, son,” he says. “We’ve never been here before.” “I have.” Dad laughs off my remarks, but I cling to the memory. As we drive from the American side to Canada for a closer look at the rushing waters cascading some twenty stories down into the Niagara River, I relive my dream. My heart beats like crazy. I don’t feel at all crazy. I feel connected. I feel centered. I don’t know what to call these feelings. I don’t know how to describe the excitement coursing through me. I don’t know words like “destiny” and “purpose.” My parents have taught us that all good things come from God, so I do know that this sensation of being connected to my dreams has to be good. I know that God has to be at the center of my imagination that is constructing a wire across the Falls. In my mind, I see myself walking from one country to another. Even as a child, I realize that the vision isn’t mine. It has come to me in a dream. It has come to me from a relative I have never known. But now I am standing before it, my face wet from the spray of water. My eyes are wet with tears of joy. I know what I have to do. I know I will do it. But in doing it— not in a dream, not in the imagination of a child, but in real time before millions of television viewers the world over— I will require two and a half decades of learning. Those lessons engage the mind but mostly they engage the spirit. The lessons involve steely determination. Yet the source of that determination is God. Without Him, there is no journey, no lesson, no dream.