Sunday, December 29, 2013

Your Own, Internal Walton Family, Saying Goodnight

You live in the midst of a residential block, one next door neighbor a fire station and, off at a slight angle, a city animal shelter.  To your immediate north, a home large enough for two college instructors, in front of them a rooming house.

This sounds as though you'd need ear plugs, but even the occasional fire that brings forth the two engines housed at the station seem restrained even in their rush to be at the scene of disaster.

There are occasional parties, which from the hoots and laughter  of the participants, lead you to think are hosted by your teacher neighbors.  You are in the midst of a collegial group of neighbors, your cat, Goldfarb, more of a social instrument that you'd supposed.

You exchange cans of cat food with the teacher neighbors, who have two cats, thus twice the finicky attitude toward food as Goldfarb.  Your landlady, who lives directly above you and who professes a severe allergy to cats nevertheless invites Goldfarb in for the occasional snack, and you've discovered from some of the firemen that they, too, are hosts of an occasional afternoon equivalent of tea for Goldfarb.

This might suggest a tubby cat, but no; he remains constant at the eleven pounds he weighed when you brought him to stay with you.

From time to time, you'll awaken some mornings to sounds of conversation from the animal shelter.  Notice your use of awaken to rather than awakened by.  Sometimes you awaken to sounds from up above, your landlady, who is a ceramist, using some machine or other.  On rarer occasions yet, you'll hear a sentence or two from the teachers.  Some evenings, if your landlady is entertaining, you can hear muffled conversations from the balcony patio.

For living in the midst of a residential block, you are well insulated from sounds you'd ordinarily associate with apartment-type occupancy.  You are aware of this comfort bubble in which you live.  The thing you miss most from your last residence is the constant, bickering ambiance of squirrels and your own name for the collective noun describing the presence of crows, the anarchy of crows, along with the variety of smaller birds intrigued by your scattering of peanuts and seeds.  There were also frequent visits from owls and hawks.

Here, in mitigation, you have voices of another sort.

Some nights and mornings, you hear conversations.  They lure you from the edges of sleep the way a hand-tied fly might lure a trout in a mountain stream, sending waves of curiosity to ripple through you, itching to get to a pen and note pad to take down the exchanges.

They are, of course, the provocative conversations of dream or near dream, where you cannot see the speakers.  Your only clue to their identity is the manner and topic of the words, which in a great sense takes over the attention of the portions of you that sleep and dream, giving you yet another tug to cope with.

Pairs of opposites won't leave you alone.

Dialectic comes to you at all hours, your imagination filtering the sides and opinions to the point where you become a fan of both sides.

You did not have to be told not to describe dreams in your narratives.  Like Kafka, you could say of a character, She had a night of uneasy dreams.  You could up the ante on uneasy; She tossed and turned through a night of disquieting dreams.  You could get specific up to a point:  He dreamed of being chased by hungry wolves.  

These conversations you hear are in all probability your own internal equivalent of the Walton Family, saying good night after having lived through an adventure.  They are more apt to be using dreams as a way of discharging the tensions and arguments of your waking hours, both in your own life and in work you are undertaking at the moment.

One voice you heard has been saying "I want more proof."

You tried saying "Proof of what?"  But you got no response.

Once, some time ago, when you asked a similar kind of question, you heard what sounded like, "Shh.  He's listening."

Of course, you were listening; a conversation with enough weight for you to remember can be a useful moment in a story, a piece of a puzzle to record in one of your notebooks for times when you thumb through them, looking for possibilities.

Dreams.  Scraps of conversations.  Situations that come to you as you walk the tightrope between sleep and waking, some of these secret enough that the sleeping you does not yet trust you to remember them for fear of what you will do with them when awake.

A few days ago, you wrote in these essays of the consequences of a writer being obsessive, compulsive, and a control freak, all in all a dangerous combination.  You can add to that yet another drug-like aspect to the writer's medicine cabinet.  You hear voices.  Sometimes, you're not sure if you dreamed them or heard them from the animal shelter or the fire station or the lady across the street, asking you, "What was that piece you were listening to on the radio yesterday where you couldn't get out of the car until it was finished?"  As it is, she already has enough examples of such things to have been able to say of you, "Nobody can say you aren't eclectic."

No one has said you are not.

Back in your early twenties, Rachel, who probably accepted the fact that she was your mentor, asked you if you heard things or had visions.  The question scared the hell out of you because you already were aware of hearing things but had not made the connection with your process because you were not even thinking of process at the time.  You had all you could do to think of wanting to tell a story.

She asked you what you thought a story was and once again you were frightened to the point where you said you didn't know; you simply wrote down what came out.

And she said, Don't you think you ought to find out?

You still didn't know she was your mentor.  You only found that out after she and her husband moved to Tennessee to grow apples while she wrote a book that was made into a film about growing apples, in which Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn starred.

You found out after her husband died and she'd call you to see how you were doing and you could tell she'd been drinking a great deal, and that, too, frightened you because even then she was asking you questions that disturbed you.

Sometimes, the voices you hear could be Rachel, asking you questions, or someone wanting more proof, or someone not wanting you to hear. Sometimes you can get scraps of conversations down in your notebooks, knowing you may not be able to fit all the pieces together.

Sometimes, when you dwell on such things, you think you are screwed; your life is an attempt to piece answers together against serious odds.  Other times, most other times, after you have listened to enough conversations, you waken to the sunlight coming through the window above your bed, a north north east window.  You see the light and you realize where you are, in this particular bubble of the comfort of being the kind of writer you are.

Sometimes, you'll still look to see if Sally is awake yet and wants to go out, but her bed is no longer here, so you look instead to see if Goldfarb is up and he wants some breakfast.


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