Monday, April 9, 2012

Dream Time

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen.  Having disciplined (?) myself to make un coup de blogue every day, for the duration of Lent, I now find myself feeling obligated to... write something today.  I guess it's the equivalent of getting up at 5 am for fifty years, and then having a week off.  Guess when we'll automatically wake up...

I have persistent sadness, in spite of the gorgeous weather.  Even though I managed to drag myself outside, and half-heartedly savored the fresh wind while I was dumping jugs of water onto the volunteer butterfly bush I transplanted a couple of weeks ago -- for a plant that's essentially a weed, it's been looking distinctly forlorn, what with our recent dry weather.  Then I decided to use my new little shears to dead-head the hydrangeas.  And then, since I was already carrying water about, I gave my new little birch tree a drink as well.  The oregano I planted last year -- a gift from Camille, across the street -- is flourishing at the foot of the little birch.  The lupine I put there too shows no sign of reappearing.  So much for perennials.

Most of the day, though, I've been here in the kitchen, metaphorically trawling the internet for something of substance.  From Facebook, to email, to breaking news, to Facebook.  Dragging my net, my starving brain growling for sustenance.  Maybe I should try to fool myself into believing that sitting here, hour after hour, in front of the computer, is an actual job, so I will instantly begin to slack off, and find other things to do instead...

I continue to mull over the upcoming art exhibit to which I've committed to contribute three separate works.  (What a dolt I can be sometimes)  I've been trying out my plexiglass box, by laying it across the utility sink in the basement, and filling it with water, to see if it leaks.  Which it seems not to do.  I also sank a couple of pieces of my weird blown glass into the water, to see what they might look like, and whether or not I could make something meaningful.  I've decided (I think) to be very aesthetically disciplined, and to avoid any color at all in this 'work' -- using just clear glass, black 'things', in clear water, in the clear plexi box, supported on a black-pipe stand (which I'm convinced will tip over as soon as I leave the room...).  Not that these preliminary choices guarantee that what I concoct will be 'art', but...

I'm also avoiding preparation for my upcoming visit to Philadelphia -- I'm to drive down on Wednesday morning, give a talk for which I have done exactly zero preparation (haven't I said all this already?  I hate repeating myself, even to myself), do something weird in the hot glass studio, stay overnight in some disreputable mid-town motel, and then go back to Tyler to do studio visits for most of the day.  The parking alone will cost me nearly $40.  I hate being in Philadelphia. 

Here's what it is.  Something is missing from my life, is what it is.  I'm missing a dream.  I'm missing a sense of futurity, except when futurity entails obligations and duty. 

Dreaming didn't used to be a problem.  My inner life was lousy with dreams and dreaming.  I was yelled at, on a daily basis, when I was still living in my father's house -- 'You live in a dream world!'  I think they took it in turns, to accuse me of this.  And, actually, I knew that in this case, they were perfectly correct.  But the real problem was the fact that my parents and my horrid grandmother were living in a dream world too -- and our dream worlds didn't coincide at all.

My dreams involved... beauty, mostly.  Me, creating beautiful things.  Me, becoming... whatever it is that becoming an artist means.  Me, surrounding myself with the kinds of things that... well, that I could only dream about, living as we did, on government assistance and unemployment checks.  I dreamed that, instead of having to wear the cheapest possible shoes, purchased from the cheapest possible shoe store -- rubber objects that had strange linear treads on the soles, which left odd footprints in the snow, which of course all the other kids noticed, and mocked -- or hand-me-down shoes, which I had to wear in the orphanage --  instead of these, I dreamed of fine footwear, discrete and impeccable.

I dreamed of becoming a find physical specimen of a man, a far cry from the beanpole who, at 17, was over 6' tall and weighed 150 lb.  I dreamed of becoming a successful actor.  I dreamed of making a workable career as a recording artist, reading books aloud.  I dreamed, while I was in college, of becoming a professional musician -- a singer on the order of Joan Baez, but with different plumbing.  Or John Jacob Niles, without the falsetto.  (That particular dream, however, I filed under 'unfulfillable' relatively early, just after The Doors' Jim Morrison died.  I was in my bedroom, in the country house for which my roommates and I paid $43 in rent per month, and I was reading an overview of Morrison's life in Rolling Stone, and I almost choked and fell off the bed, when I read that Morrison had had a taste for the intimate company of young men.  How on earth, I thought, back in the antedeluvian age that was my world some 40 years ago, could I hope to be successful at singing mournful, arcane songs about people dying of disappointment, if... I'm gay?  I decided that I couldn't)

Not that there was much likelihood of this musical fantasy, or any of my other dreams, coming true.  But still...

I dreamed of waking up one morning with fluent French at my command.  I dreamed of having a retrospective of my artwork at the Louvre.  (Dream big.  It costs the same) I dreamed of becoming a published professional writer.  I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed, for decades.  I'm not sure that I realized, as those decades elapsed, that there wasn't even the remotest possibility that any of these dreams would go through the osmotic process, crossing the membrane barrier from ether to matter.  But I'm not sure, either, that realizing this impossibility would have mattered.  I was a fertile progenitor of dreams.  Newer dreams always cropped up, without any effort on my part.

Until now.  Now, for reasons that evade me, I seem to have become dream-free.  Could this dearth of dreams have been caused by the installation of my little pace-maker?  Were they finally blotted out by the cruel depression through which I slogged for most of the past year?  (Not the most pleasant way to drop 20 lb.)  Was it my turning 65 years of age, just one year younger than my father was, when he died on a rented hospital bed in his house in McKeesport?  How does one autopsy a raft of dead illusions?  Is there a forensic science for determining cause of demise?  And is such investigation worth the effort?

I'm tempted to say that yes, it is worth the effort, because as I review this parade of fantasies, I realize that even though they had a stunningly small chance of coming true, they were nonetheless a source of energy.  I couldn't stop drawing, and I actually had exhibitions.  I took myself to auditions, and actually performed.  (I was even a dancing Tyrannosaurus Rex, on the stage at BAM, years ago)  I sought other venues for the use of my book recording achievements (which efforts, however, fell flat...).  I sought out situations in which I felt obliged to create art work, and did so.  And saw my work featured in an article in Sculpture magazine?  Not too shabby at all, really.  All of this propelled, I think, at least in part by those dreams that were supposed to be so bad for me.

Today, I looked at what I know full well to be the wonder of spring -- the hostas pushing their way up through what just last week looked like hopelessly inert soil.  The tender bright leaves on the newly-watered birch tree, where small birds feel comfortable perching.  The ring of volunteer daffodils (squirrels must have planted them, because I didn't -- finally a benefit from all those rats with good hair) that has erupted at the base of the flowering cherry tree, in the front yard of the most beautiful house I've ever lived in. 

But for me, now, it all seems flat.  In some odd way, I suspect that I'm actually dead already, but my stupid body just hasn't caught on.  I feel as though, this year, none of this burgeoning of new and returning life has anything at all to do with me.  I notice that, in place of those once-rampant dreams, I now have a lush, poisonous crop of things to dread.  More than ever now, I see myself alone in a little bark canoe, drifting past a place that looks lovely enough, but I'm unable to stop and enjoy any of it.  Instead, I must coast on, toward the terrible things that lie ahead.

©    2012       Walter Zimmerman         


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