By Dolores J. Nurss

Volume V: Sharing Insanity

Chapter 31




Yet another dream of nestling in the bole of a tree, armed and wary.  But this one felt a little more peaceful than most, the wariness more of a routine than anything.

As a little girl, so small that I had to reach up for doorknobs, I used to go with my family sometimes to Palomar Mountain.  A motherly oak tree near the observatory had its bole so close to its roots that even I could climb into it.  And there I would sit for hours at a time, tuning in to the tree, listening in ways that don't need ears, while my family marveled that anything could keep me so still.  She taught me much, that tree, that I can never put into words, no matter how I hone the craft of language.

Why armed?  Why do my dreams of nestling in trees so often show me armed?  Perhaps because everything in this society menaces the ability to tune in to trees and all the natural order, that I need these reminders to protect that part of me, that it's worth risking everything to keep.

I wrote the scene braided from Kiril's, Reno's, and Lufti's thoughts.  And scenes in Toulin, too, as well as the dying rebel's scenes, although I tapped into a dream of a much more serene journey into evening woods.

I dreamed of the bitter woman's mostly-empty hospitality bureau, down to the old, expired stamp, and of contemptuously leaving a pocket-knife in it–and then spiraling down into woozy, edgy sickness that led to waking up.  On waking it seemed to obviously fit with some telepathic overlay of Lufti's ride, so I had no problem figuring out where to put it in the story.

I seem to recall having seen that empty drawer with the old stamp in waking life, too, I think in Grandma's house, but it's hard to imagine any drawer in her home or mine not stuffed with things.  Having barely survived the Great Depression, Grandma was something of a hoarder, and taught me similar habits that I'm struggling to break.  I think the drawer had just been cleaned out.

Yet the waking and the dreaming memories don't match in emotion.  Grandma was as generous as the Bitter Woman was stingy—having nearly starved to death, herself, she could not bear the thought of anyone doing without (unlike a friend's father, who responded to the same trauma by having his own separate refrigerator from the rest of the family's and once savagely beat his son for "stealing" a banana from his personal cache.)  The waking-life drawer felt like a fresh start, but the one in the dream, in a furnishing clearly intended for hospitality, felt mean.

Grandma's hoarding was never mean.  She never threw anything away, but she gave away much.  She kept it all just in case anybody might need it.  You had to be careful what you said about anything in her house, or she'd give it to you.

Could the lack of generosity be mine?  Am I sometimes empty of all but feelings stamped out of date?  Whatever my anger over the past, I must never forget the generosity that accompanied everything, that it was never all bad, that Grandma and my family tried their best to be good people, and truly did love.  Their hospitality was never empty!

The main thing I remember about the dream of Kiril and Luft's reunion is threatening to smother him if he talked, my heart pounding in fear to hear myself say it, hoping to never have to follow through.  I had to, in those, days, silence that which in me could be madness or vision, tell it to only speak with permission, at the right time and place, lest I smother it altogether—and at the same time feeling the desperate hope that I might never have to actually do that.  And in fact I never did.  Really, that differentiates madness from vision: conscious guidance.

Again, the main thing I dreamed of Zofia's scene, at the end, was the hospitality-bureau with the homemade handkerchiefs in it.  This showed the right way to deal with the past: worn out for its original intent, I should repurpose it, artfully and patiently, so that it might become a comfort for others, to wipe away tears or sweat.  And what does this mean?  That I can draw comfort from the things that I have survived because I learned, in the process, skills that can help others get through.

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