strange dream for strange times

I approached the airline ticket counter at least three times, holding aloft an object that looked like my cell phone only larger and encased in a heavy black canvas fabric.

The ticket agent was dressed in an ill-fitting uniform of sorts that looked like it was made from the same black canvas as my cell phone cover. She came out from behind the counter. “I wish to hell you would go ahead and buy your ticket.” She seemed exasperated, but there was an undertone of pleading.

“I have bought it. It’s on my phone . . . somewhere. I don’t know how to find it.” We stared at one another, then another passenger, a young man, walked up. “Take care of him,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”

I heard her say, “No. . .” — but I was gone.

~

I wasn’t driving the car nor was I a passenger. But I could see and experience everything. Maybe I was the car. There’s a weird thought.

The driver was a woman of an indeterminate age, maybe 45, plump, and somehow she seemed like an English woman from a different century. Ah, I know who she was. She was the head cook in Downton Abbey. You know, the one losing her sight.

She was driving quite fast in an ordinary sedan, and turned from the typical, simple streets of Pensacola into a different world. The street was more of a wide concrete boulevard. Her foot was heavy on the accelerator. Several large, three-story homes appeared on both sides of the road, capped by what could only be called a mansion at the end. It had a circular drive. Beyond it and on either side was water. The bay, I thought. All the buildings were made from the same dusty rose-gold brick. To one side, under a bright blue awning, a table was set for eight guests, one corner of the dazzling white tablecloth flapping in the wind. No people.

“Brakes!” I thought. “Brakes!”

She continued to bear down on the great house, but at the last moment executed a turn around the circle worthy of a Formula One racer and accelerated like a bat fleeing hell in the opposite direction. It was then I noticed several cars full of grim-looking men passing us, headed toward the jumping off place.

“Faster,” I wanted to urge her. “Faster.” I felt the danger; felt her impending death.

~

Back at the ticket counter, the same drab woman. “You again! Why haven’t you bought your ticket yet?”

doc

I think the thing he was most fascinated by was the bright blue, glowing geo-locator button on my jogging shoes. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? Nice to know that even if I didn’t know where I was, theoretically somebody, somewhere did.

I had been pedaling across the curve of the earth in the middle of the night in a four-wheel type of cycle, going home to Mother. How in the world would I find her in the dark? And, oh by the way, she died in 1990 and I had never been able to find the real “her” in life and even less so in death — she was gone years before her heart stopped.

How did I get hurt and why was I at this bright outpost of an urgent care clinic? A little girl with dark hair and big glasses and bright black patent leather shoes shamelessly eavesdropped on my conversation with the young doc.

I kept asking him: who were the people who came to my house?

Dreams. Nonlinear. Nonsensical. I love them.

sandy

I waited too long to write last week’s dream. So many of the evanescent parts of it have floated away. But I am still left to wonder: why did my subconscious bring my old friend Patsy into my dreamscape?

Images from the dream are more like scenes from her real life, experiences I either saw or knew about as they were happening. So was it a dream or a series of memories?

We are sitting together on my piano bench at home, Buck and other guests milling about, visiting. Sandy is belting out an old Carol King line — pretty sure it was I feel the earth move under my feet while I accompanied her. She held a glass of wine in one hand and swore like a sailor in-between verses. Okay, so this was definitely a dream. I’ve played piano while she sang before, but it was a supper club of sweet Episcopalians and the songs were usually old Broadway or snippets from The Messiah. Sandy has a glorious contralto, the kind of singing voice I would like to have. I have near perfect pitch, but only thin squeaks come through my pipes.

I dreamed of Sandy sailing the Grand Loop with her ill husband and later hugging the shorelines and rivers of Florida when he was dying and they had to dock so he could rent a car and drive to one of several hospitals for another useless round of chemo. Maybe it wasn’t entirely useless. Maybe it bought him time. But my dream is of Sandy, nurse Sandy, giving him injections; Sandy, the game companion, her brittle bones fracturing time and time again when jarred by the sharp, hard wake of a rude boater and knocked into unforgiving surfaces. Betrayed Sandy.

Sandy’s blank look of shock when she first read her husband’s will and trust, then tears of heartbreak and later anger, as it sunk in that he put her financial well-being into a trust managed by a long-grown stepdaughter who behaved as though she had waited a long time to become Sandy’s overlord and was going to extract every ounce of suffering and pain left in this dear woman, not to mention impoverishing her in the process.

Sandy, kneeling for communion, praying at the rail, hands raised like a charismatic.

It’s been close to five years since Sandy’s husband died and her second time in hell began. But now, the lawyering is done, whatever could be salvaged has been, she lives in a sweet little house in a dear little town far from here, and has found a good life with friends and a gentle, funny man who truly adores her. I know this mingles dream and fact. But that fact is no dream, and I am grateful that the haunted look is gone from my friend’s beautiful gray-blue eyes.

dreams deferred

“Patsy” and “Doc” will have to wait. Luckily, I wrote down enough of the dreams when I first staggered out of bed yesterday morning to fix the memory in place. Buck and I spent most of yesterday preparing for and briefing some of our local officials on our property rights issue coming before the planning board February 4th. Today is for reading the fine print on some ancient scrolls (old meeting transcripts) and a luncheon of the Pensacola High School class of 1955, Buck’s graduating class and a group of folks I have come to love. I’m always the “babe” in the room because of my relative youth (only 68), but they seem to like me okay anyway. We meet at a little local Italian restaurant called Franco’s. They make a mean minestrone soup. Hang in there, Patsy and Doc. I’ll tell your story soon.

dream journal

At last. It happened last night the way it used to, way back when I was writing every day. I dreamed words, sentences, amazing images — a world. I’ve been sleeping too shallowly recently to dream at all. I’m still reeling. Still in the dream. Dreams, really. There were three, but I was only able to stagger out of bed and write and notes for two. The other, the first, is dim, fading. I doubt I can recover it. Of the two I remember, the first is “Patsy;” the second is “Doc.” I’ll post them later.

By the way, I attribute the restarting of dreams with the restarting of a daily writing practice. The words were so dry at first, like unused paint in a long-neglected tube. But they are beginning to feel a little more fluid, beginning to come from a deeper place. And now, dreams. A good and encouraging sign.

crack the dark world open

I dreamed last night of my long-dead father. One of those rare dreams I’ve learned to call a major gift.

Standing on a sidewalk at a busy intersection, I was waiting for a car or a bus or a taxi or something to take me somewhere. It was crowded. Lots of people. Many of them seemed to know me. They waved and shouted friendly greetings.

I remember adjusting the shoulder strap of my heavy bag that was filled with notebooks and sketch pads, craning my neck to look for my ride, when someone called out: “Wait! Don’t go yet. Your Daddy is coming to see you!”

My head snapped up and sure enough, a man who could not be anyone but W. T. Jones was striding through the crowded sidewalk, pulling off leather work gloves as he walked. His crack-the-dark-world-open brilliant smile went all the way to those flashing bright eyes that never left my face.

Before there was time to think or react or, thank God, wake up, I was wrapped up in those dear arms. “Baby girl!” he crooned, nearly waltzing me around, his joy my sunbeam path.

I awoke then and nearly sprang out of bed with energy and a smile, still feeling that loving affirmation from my sweet, long-missed Daddy.

In the dream, Daddy was slightly heavier than I remembered, still sun-browned with crinkles around his eyes and a light sheen of sweat as though he had just come off the construction site of one of his subdivisions in central Florida, circa 1964, the year his heart suddenly stopped.

Tough blow for a thirteen-year-old to lose her dad. My older brother was sixteen; our younger brother only nine. Mother was fragile and unbalanced. Tough all the way around. The lodge pole of our family structure was jerked away and the roof quickly fell in.

For weeks, now, I haven’t been sleeping well enough to dream, much less to remember a dream. Several hours have elapsed since the dream. I’ve walked to the gate with Lou, fed her breakfast, and brewed coffee.

Cutting strawberries and oranges for Sunday breakfast a few minutes ago, I laughed to realize I was whistling Daddy’s favorite song.

The Paisleys

“There’s a way to recognize these people,” he leaned his head forward and spoke quietly. “On the fifth day of the month, wear a  gray glove with no fingertips on your left hand and a squashed top hat all day. Be seen in public places, like a mall. Someone will approach you.”

“Maybe I’ll try that,” I said.

He leaned forward, his voice nearly a hoarse whisper. “They have a target. A couple. They call them The Paisleys.”

Solo, Solo

“Solo. Solo,” the women called in subdued, but urgent tones.

“Well, okay,” the old man said, rounding a time-softened gray fedora in his thin, elegant fingers. “I don’t know how it got to be five years from now.”  He sat on a low ottoman in the parlor room of the small community library, surrounded by four calm-faced women of indeterminate ages. A single ray of sunlight cut through the morning shadows and fell onto his scarred arm.

It was a dream. I stumbled out of bed shortly after six to my study, found a mechanical pencil stuck in an antique heavy glass “flower frog” and began to scrawl on a legal pad. Didn’t even turn on a lamp. You know how it is with dreams. Even the most vivid ones. If you can write down a scrap of it, or in a pinch say it out loud, you stand a chance of capturing an exotic bug in a bottle.

Buck came in, found me in the darkened study, standing up, scribbling furiously.  I wondered what he was doing there. This is not a man who has ever voluntarily gotten out of bed before the chickens. He moved on toward the kitchen and returned balancing half a slice of bread on a short glass of skim milk. He eyed me curiously. I mumbled something, held up my left hand in an inarticulate “wait” signal, but continued to write.

“I’m going back to bed,” he said, and was gone. Nausea, I thought. It’s still hanging on from last week’s chemo, and he’s trying to smooth it down with milk and bread and put together enough sleep from the fragmented night. Between my restless dreams and his discomfort, a solid six or seven hours of sleep is rare as precious myrrh.

Conga Drum, Octopus Hunting and a Walk to the Gate

One dream was of a large oak Brazilian timba conga drum. Two almond-shaped eyes were painted on it. It spoke to me in soulful bass tones. “Por favor traga-me uma xícara de café quente.”  I swear, the beautiful eyes did a slow blink.

In another dream, three pick-up trucks drove very fast into the clearing outside my study window. Rough men in camouflage spilled out, popped the tailgate and tugged on something large, a gray-lavender huge squirmy octopus. It had cartoon-round eyes and went galumphing off into the woods. I was on my feet in a flash, ran out the door. “Hey! What the hell is going on here?”  I got right up in their porcine faces.

They looked at me as though I was the strange duck. “Huntin’ ma’am. Don’t you know it’s octopus season?”

What do you think? Am I drinking too much coffee or not enough? Reading too much? Writing when I should be sleeping and sleeping when I should be talking to the Dragon or packing for Maine? Listening to weird music, like “Big in Japan” by Tom Waits? Turn that one up real loud when you’re into the head of a depressive with an attitude in his manic phase. (Hey, I’m talking about my bad guy character I love to hate, Rory Mathis. He must be a Scorpio.)

But in the midst of it all, there are still the sane-making woods walks. We changed weather channels a few days ago, and went from this:

to cooler, much dryer air and clear skies. Our monsoon season has ended. Three nights ago if we had tried to eat supper outside on the patio, we would have been ingesting disgusting black “love bugs” along with the meal. Tonight? Different story. Luscious cool breeze, slow melt sunset in peach sherbet colors, and love bugs gone, baby gone.

Here, then, a few photos from summer’s end at Longleaf.

Surely these wildflowers, so common in the woods, have a name. The naming of things is important. I’ve searched Walter Kingsley Taylor’s book, Florida Wildflowers, from Pine Flatwoods to Ruderal Sites, and cannot find its name.

The shocking purple American Beautyberry (also known as French Mulberry) is a sure harbinger of Fall. This bush is probably spindly because it’s standing in wet ground near the spring.

With abundant acorns, berries, a natural spring, and few people crashing about, the wildlife population thrives. Thousands of green acorns were blown down by Tropical Storm Isaac’s gusts. They make crackle crunchy sounds underfoot.

We’ve had so much rain this summer, I grew afraid of standing still for fear something would begin growing on me.

Looks like this fellow has his morning’s work all planned out.

Some mushrooms are pretty, in a homely sort of way.

And the underside of some are so strange I begin to hum “Also Sprach Zarathustra” while kneeling on the damp ground to get an up-close look. It looks ancient. Petrified.

Lay me down forever in a bed of ferns, my love.

I just remembered I got married once on a September 10 long ago in a land far, far away to a person like “The Stranger” in that Billy Joel song, who became a person “that I did not recognize.” The year I divorced him,  I sang Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” for months before I finally  filed the motion for dissolution.

The Way Life Unfolds

“It’s so different when we are children; when we can’t imagine any of this will happen, the way life will unfold.”

A thin young woman slumps in a wooden porch swing in the darkness of very early morning. She wears a long, midnight navy sheath dress. Two not-young, not-old men sit nearby in chairs pulled close to the swing.  They look up at the sound of my voice. I carry a full-to-the-brim martini. Two giant stuffed olives in it roll around, props on the wrong set. I put it down and move toward the young woman. A headlight strobes the porch. She lifts her head. The glitter of tears stops me.

Later, a van delivers an ornate crystal basket full of impossibly fresh yellow daisies.

Some dreams stay with you long past sunrise.