My unconscious, in the dreams it chooses to deliver to me, seems to view my conscious mind as a kindergartner. When it gives me the information that it's decided I need, it does so in very simple terms.
Simple, but strange. Like the dream I had two nights ago, just before one decade ended and another began.
And, though simple to me, because spoken fluently in my own private symbolic language, not quickly told to others, who have their own private languages. Just so you know, I won't complete the telling in this post.
But hang in there with me, please.
The seeming centerpiece of the dream was Boundin' , a short animated film for children which I'd recently seen twice.
Understand this: I didn't even like the film much the first time I saw it. I don't as a rule like cartoons or animated films, so it had that to get over.
And though I agreed with the movie's values, liked its rhymes and engaged with the story it told — featuring a lamb and jackalope, a mythical animal that's half-jackrabbit-half antelope — if you'd asked me did I like it, I'd have said at best that it was "cute", just barely a compliment.
The problem was, besides my prejudice against animation, I found the film too "message-y."
See, I tend to view anything like a visible "and the moral is" in a film or work of fiction as… well, call it vulgar, or obvious (feel free to call me a snob, too, while you're at it).
Of course most works of art do have a message, or in some way reflect the underlying values of their creator: how could it be otherwise? It's just that by my lights, the message or moral should be invisible as such. When you see a message, it's like the artist's slip is showing. And isn't the idea of a slip that it makes everything fit smoothly, effortlessly, in no way calling attention to itself? If a slip's hanging down below the hemline, not only is not serving its purpose, it makes both the outfit and the person wearing it look bad.
So, I discounted the film. Or at least I thought I did.
My unconscious had other ideas.
a short film, in a small place
Now, I wouldn't have seen this particular film at all, let alone twice, had David, my partner, not decided to become the impresario of West-West Family Flicks, which takes place monthly at the tiny Westminster West (Vermont) Library. Boundin' was one of the shorts he'd selected to show before the December feature (some of the attentive audience, below).
Where, exactly, is the West-West library located,
relative to where you are? Look closely at the signpost (in the picture, by David, at the top of this post), which is thoughtfully placed a few feet south
of the library, and you'll get a pretty good idea.
You can also infer, from that signpost, that to those of us who live here, Westminster West is the center of the universe.
And maybe anybody, who lives anywhere, should feel that way about where they live.
welcome to Vermont: a matter of scale
The library is tiny because West-West is tiny: too tiny to even be listed on City-Data.com's "Very Small Towns and Villages" page, which includes only those municipalities with populations under a thousand.
But to give you some idea, Westminster proper has a whopping 275 people, while North Westminster boasts 271. West-West does not even a post office (our mailing address is in Putney) or a phone exchange (ours is Saxtons River).
Living here is not that big a change for me; I lived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, population 1900, before moving to West-West in 2002-2003. But for David, who followed a year or two later, it was a larger change. He'd lived previously in Los Angeles, which has a population of 3,833,995 people.
Heck, a good-sized demonstration in Los Angeles, like the immigration rights rally in 2006 (pictured left), can draw almost as many people as the whole population (623,908) of the state of Vermont, which, as Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy remarked at the time, in exactly this context (scale), "makes you think."
But Westminster West, though post officeless, has a church (above right) which also serves as a community center. It has a graveyard.
And, it has a library.
Libraries are esteemed in Vermont.
And now, thanks to David, librarian Bev Major (left, with some young library patrons), the Board of the Library, and the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Westminster West also has a monthly family movie night.
what dreaming brings
And yes, we are coming to that dream of mine. The one which included Boundin'.
And also, strangely, the Holocaust.
And David Letterman.
And then, later, as I thought about this dream and the coming decade, a few other things: a New Yorker article about China, the U.S., and where they stand in relation to each other on the development of green energy technologies.
And a beautiful night-time walk under the almost-full moon on a snowy Vermont night at the very end of a decade.(The picture below, NO KIDDING, was taken by DK at 11:30PM on December 30, 2009, without a flash…
under the full moon… it's lit by ambient moonlight only!)
Now you see why it might take a bit of time to tell you about both this dream and its aftermath. Decoding is involved, and translation.
Yet dreams, like lives, are an unending series of unlikely juxtapositions. Which may or may not make sense.
When they do seem to make sense, is it because they actually have it, a sense which we only saw because, finally, we looked?
Or is it because we choose, by an act of willful creation, to give them that sense?
Perhaps in that case what such unlikely juxtapositions (whether in dreams or our waking lives), yield to us isn't sense so much as meaning.
All the things I mentioned above? The Holocaust, Letterman, the film? They were connected, by my unconscious, to do that: to give meaning and help, reassurance.
And that's what I, at least, needed at this moment of endings and beginnings.
It was the end of a decade that had begun (personally) with Ned's death on November 30, 2000 (a picture taken of us at a Valentine's Day benefit a few years before that, left), a loss that would knock over most of my life's other dominoes, ultimately leading to my leaving the community in which I'd spent 33 years of my life, and in which, I had been certain, I would remain for the duration.
At the very moment of Ned's death, on a larger stage an election was being stolen. (He died without knowing George Bush would be president. A small mercy, I think.)
And the following year, the worst attack on American soil in history, 9-11, would take place.
And the end of that same decade, which concluded with the election of Barack Obama, a narrowly-missed world-wide financial meltdown, and the most horrific, ugliest, frightening, dysfunctional partisanship I've witnessed in my lifetime… who wouldn't want reassuring?
And, but, yet, somehow — personally — loving, again, my life, in another home, another community. And sharing that life with another, a second, dear partner and beloved companion. (Above: Janus,
the two-faced Roman god, god of doorways, gates, beginnings, endings,
looking forward and backward. January is named after him. Grief/joy,
old/new. Like a clay pot shattering because the plant it holds has grown too
large & vigorous to be contained, I sometimes think our hearts must break to contain so
many opposites, gifts & subtractions...)
Maybe you, too, when you hear this dream, or even this bit of it, can find another bit of what Boundin' calls "the rare hare of hope."
Rare, not only meaning "precious", but because while there are always reasons to hope, it often seems as if there are many more reasons to despair.
I hope you too go into this new phase with hope. Hope even as we "bound and rebound", as we spin this shiny new decade, and watch it whirl, and wait to see how it lands. Up or down? Heads or tails?
When we move from 2019 to 2020, how will we be characterizing this time we don't yet, can't yet, know? What will the best and worst lists, the compendiums of significant advance, have to say about what we went through?
Who, on a personal level, will we have lost? And who will have entered our lives?
With decades as with days, it's like genius Shakespeare, in the character of Brutus, said the eve before battle:
that a man might know
The end of this day’s business ere it come!
sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.
But amidst all the unknowns, there is one end of which I am certain.
I know it partly because of the deep reassurance that dream (which I'll you about next time) brought to consciousness. And I know it because I know that nothing is wasted on the writer.
I know that however this new decade lands, at the very least, for sure … it's tales. And, whether we are readers or writers, tellers or listeners of these tales — with them, we all win.