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  • Writer Login


    dreams

    The Left Hand Of Darkness

    by | 3 | Oct 18, 2015

    nsettling Dream

    “Give yourself a round of applause.” My wife Jody and I laughed as we read this equivalent to a Chinese fortune cookie phrase printed on the inside of a small Dove chocolate wrapper. In this after-dinner treat, we both saw the pompous face of a local blowhard passing out verbal unsavories that he had convinced himself were bite-sized bon mots. Pity the poor dinner partner or driving companion strapped in beside him and unable to escape.

    Just a few hours after enjoying the chocolate treat and forgetting the bore, I lay entangled in worrisome images of a Cambodia bloodied to near death by its maniacal leaders. So disturbing were these dreams, I almost longed for the sleep-inducing self-congratulatory pablum of my neighbor. Before finally getting out of bed in the wee hours to escape the forensic work I was doing in the dream, I wondered what had leapfrogged me from a chocolate treat, over a one-dimensional narcissistic bore, and into the horrors of the Pol Pot “killing fields.” It was enough to keep a psychoanalyst working for months.

    Getting out of bed was a good reminder that our mountain is cold this morning, although it’s still a few degrees away from the predicted first frost of the fall. The chill doesn’t let you sweat the way you would in Southeast Asia and Cambodia when the evenings bring out winged malaria and the rain creates steam instead of cool. My dreams had taken me to piles of skulls and the stench of souls entombed in mud. Try as I can, I have no explanation as to why such demons entered the sanctity of my dream world.  As I sat over my keyboard getting my thoughts together, I read a story about Ursula K. Le Guin, a science fiction writer.  One of her books, The Left Hand Of Darkness, jumped out at me since the title seemed to capture so well what had frightened me in my dream.

    Disturbing dreams, of course, can pull any of us out of what should be restful slumber. Perhaps we are worrying about forgetting to check the door or why we didn’t pay enough attention to a change of expression or that word not spoken. A good dream can come to life by hearing a cough that conjures up the memory of a long-gone father. Something funny can bring into focus a grandmother who actually jiggled in her rocking chair as she laughed. I often continue my conversations at night with these people who played important parts in my life and come back from time to time for fleeting appearances during the dark hours. Like the old movie images of a switchboard operator who has pulled all the lines out of their sockets and rearranged them in random patterns, my day’s take on things is usually a pretty good jumble of good and bad as the events get thrown about.

    Before my mother left this world in a sudden rush and hopefully with no nightmares, she had a series of mini strokes that the elderly often suffer. As a grade-school teacher, she would run her own memory tests to check how bad the event had scrambled her sense of “being there,” as she would describe it. Her tricks were pretty clever and impressive as she would rattle off the state capitals alphabetically or presidents from start to finish to start again. I don’t recall if she ever included vice presidents, but she might have. I do recall that she would puzzle over her post-stroke dreams to no end, since so many people from over her lifetime would come to visit. She welcomed these apparitions but was frightened by bad dreams. As a precaution, she was always loath to watch any TV shows where animals might be endangered for fear some predatory poaching would come back to stalk her.

    My mother preferred a “good”story before she went to bed and I think she would have been pleased with something I recently read. In his short poem entitled Listening, William Stafford describes his father’s preternatural gift of hearing which was especially acute at night when “every far sound pulled the listening out into places the rest of us had never been.” So it is I think at times with dreams, places we have never really been or don’t know exactly how to cope with or fully understand.

    To me it’s akin to playing a game with your other hand, your non-dominant one, and feeling kind of silly swiping at a ball as though you had never mastered the simple swing that every school boy of my age was determined to do with ease and grace. Being right handed, I have tried to be ambidextrous when playing squash but always know when the fast moving ball renders my left hand helpless. So it is with many of my dreams that leave me floundering.

    So now, well after three in the morning, I should go back to bed and face down the night terrors that frequently pull the sheets off my feet, run gossamer dangles of spider webs over my face, leave spoiled milk for me to drink, tangle up my memories so people from various times all gather to celebrate ways to entertain and escort me through the night. Usually, they don’t take me to awful places but there’s always an imp or two in the crowd who likes to book us on cruises to Haiti or other such non-touristy ports of call. Fortunately, I have not been to Southeast Asia for nearly fifty years.

    Perhaps I just need more of the Dove chocolates before closing my eyes and fewer of any PBS specials on the odious who ply a living trading in ivory or entrapping children into warfare. The hundreds of other loathsome things that go bump in the night are never welcome at my motel door and I won’t ever leave the light on for them.

    In my sleep, I want to go back to Stafford’s poem, to some distant good memory when he says,

    My father brought in so much that we still stand
    inviting the quiet by turning the face,
    waiting for the time when the soft wild night
    will reach to us here, from that other place.
    Now back to sleep, perchance to dream.

    ###
    David Evans

    David Evans

    I’m retired from another life and live in the mountains of eastern West Virginia with my muse Jody along with one little and two big dogs and a diminishing pride of two cats and other critters who come along the path from time to time.

    I retired one morning years ago when I woke up and said, “This is the day.” It was simply time to do something new with my life. I had done whatever I did long enough, and now it was time to do something else. Being independent and no longer in the reins of someone else’s driver, I believe I have found something to cherish that I never had before. Retirement may be dull and boring, but that’s true only if you are dull and boring. But if you’re like I was, and am, I saw a lot of things as I went along the trail that I would have liked to linger over a lot longer if I had had the time to spare. Above all, I wanted to think about what they meant and have the chance to go back over them and figure them out. I’m not abashed to say that today I lead a life of real luxury. I also recognize that I’m a lucky boy.

    In the words of Katherine Anne Porter: “My life has been incredible, I don’t believe a word of it.”

    I am the author of the recently published collection of essays entitled Meeting Memory In The Dark. Earlier I self-published Words To Woo Her By And Other Distractions Along The Way; Tunes of Glory: The Slow Ticking of the Heart; Cradle My Soul: Glimpses Into Other Lives; and Unscheduled Stops: Essays on Love, Loss and Other Roadside Attractions. All are available on either Amazon or Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon. Proceeds go to the Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.

     

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    • Will Cantrell

      Dave: I think you’re the best ‘dreamer’ I know. Really good piece. Thank you for writing it. Will

    • David

      Thank you, sir. Some of them I can do without, though.

    • tom ferguson

      a dreamy thought: non-violent conflict resolution advocates often are accused of being dreamers but the real dreamers are those who think we can survive if we don’t end war.

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