I Dreamt of Flax

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

—-William Wordsworth, The Red Wheelbarrow

Near the blacksmith’s shop -a woman running a spinning wheel.

I dreamt of flax. I looked up “dreamed” vs. “dreamt.”

Dreamt and dreamed are both past tense forms of dream. Dreamt is more common in Britain, while dreamed is more common in other English-speaking countries, including the U.S. Dreamed seems to be more popular than dreamt when talking about sleeping, but when dream has a hopeful, literary sense, dreamt might be used.

“Dreamed” would be more appropriate in this case, but there is a choice and I feel like a rebel. So, I dreamt of flax.

I dreamt I was raising flax for fiber, and harvested it too early. It looked more like onions than flax, but I had hopes it would make a passable linen anyway. I woke up before the cloth was woven so I don’t know if it really would have worked.

Why did I dream of flax? No mystery, I was exhausted late and, in a form of obscene meditation, sat there randomly watching obscure, useless Youtube videos – each one ten minutes long. One was on the growth of flax for fiber and how linen cloth is made from it. The raw flax fibers after they are extracted from the stems are soft, lustrous, and flexible – they look like skeins of long, blonde hair. Thus “flaxen” locks.

Another was on the different types of flush rivets used in aircraft. I did not dream of rivets.

I had never thought about flax before so I looked it up online. I had forgotten that linseed oil was pressed from flax seeds. I’m a chemist and worked for decades for a paint company so I know all about linseed oil and what triply unsaturated α-linolenic acid is capable of in the presence of oxygen. I did not know that you can eat linseed oil and that is it considered healthy.

I know the smell of linseed oil.

When I was a young boy I was given my first rifle. Along with the gun came a metal container of raw linseed oil. Every evening I would use a rag and apply a very thin coat of oil to the wooden stock. Over a couple of years it turned into a glossy, deep, clear finish and made the wood look great. I was careful to store and dispose of the rags properly (they can burst into flame).

The days are long and I’m tired. Maybe I’ll dream of rivets.

Tokyo Nightmare

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

The Wave that Washes us all
The Wave that Washes us all

The last few days I have been haunted by the same nightmare. It’s the same because when I go to sleep my dream starts up right where the last one ended, when I woke up. This has been happening not only at night, but if I try and sneak in a nap.

I’m in the dream, of course, but the person in the dream isn’t exactly me. I’m someone else, though I don’t know who.

The dream is set in Tokyo, sort of. It’s Tokyo but not the real one. It’s a dream nightmare Tokyo (and no, I’ve never been to Japan). The city itself isn’t as big or crowded as the real Tokyo is – it feels sort of like an American mid-sized city… maybe Lubbock. It’s definitely Dream Tokyo, though, I know that, I remember taking a long dream flight to get there.

I don’t know why I’m in Dream Tokyo. There is some sort of work that I am supposed to do. I have a vague feeling that my job is very important, but don’t remember what it is that I am doing.

Dream Tokyo is a coastal city with a very complex harbor, with several peninsulas and inlets. The border between land and water is very important to me.

The most obvious feature of Dream Tokyo is a highway bridge that links two parts of the city across a wide bay. This bridge is what gives the dream its nightmare edge. It’s not a regular bridge, of course. It’s very, very wide and extremely high. A huge arch reaching up into the sky. It is visible from everywhere in the city and dominates the horizon. Not only is it wide, but the edges simply end. There are no guardrails or other barriers along the side.

It should still be safe, though. It is so wide, almost like a field in the sky (it is green in color and covered with a very short grass, like a golf green) and not heavily used, so you could drive right down the middle with no risk of going over the edge.

That’s not how it works for me, though. I go off driving through Dream Tokyo (I know I wouldn’t ever actually drive in Real Tokyo, but here, there isn’t any mass transit) and I get confused on the poorly-labeled complex highway interchanges. All of a sudden, here I am, driving up the ramp to the vast grassy sky bridge even though it’s the last place I want to go. There is no turning back, I have to cross.

It is horrifying. I can see the sea off to each side and the blue water with the green bridge surface fills me with absolute terror – something about the open spaces sends me into panic (and no, in real life I do not suffer from agoraphobia in any way). I clutch the steering wheel with white, sweaty knuckles and drive quickly, almost with my eyes closed.

I do make it across. That was very odd – the road, despite being amazingly wide and crossing what must be a multi-billion dollar bridge, simply ends. The road narrows and ends in a short stretch of old, cracked tarmac that peters out at the water’s edge. Here the shoreline is paved and the water is dark and full of trash.

There was no clear path forward. I had to drive my car (a rental, I seemed to know that) over a curb and down onto a narrow paved alley that ran along the water and curved off into a neighborhood of run-down warehouses.

That’s the point where I woke up this morning. When I go to bed tonight will I be back in the car, entering the warehouse district? I doubt it. Writing the dream down will certainly kill it.

I’ll be somewhere else, somewhere completely different. A different city, a different seaside, a different bridge.

Amazon Dreams of Time and Happiness

“We live as we dream–alone….”

― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Sculptures, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

I had a terrible time sleeping – finally at the early hours of the morning I was able to fall into a deep slumber.

The dreams I had were vivid. I was receiving a constant supply of Amazon boxes at my front door. They were of wildly varying sizes and shapes – some were long and thin, almost sticklike – others vast and bulky. They were all light in weight – as if they held nothing, or air, or ghosts.

As a matter of fact, every one contained on of two items. Half contained time and the other half contained happiness.

I guess these are the two things we really wish we could order online, but can’t.

Short Story Of the Day, the descent by Bill Chance

“ As he collapsed into deep slumber he felt himself still plummeting through the earth.”

—-Bill Chance, the descent

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, Texas

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#13). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

the descent

Lucien stood in front of the refrigerator and scooped a large spoonfull of chicken salad into a small white bowl. He added a handful of curved shaved shards of Parmesan cheese and ate it standing there.

He was struck by such exhaustion he barely made it to his bedroom before tumbling over into the tangle of sheets, pillows, and quilts in a sudden torpidity. As he collapsed into deep slumber he felt himself still plummeting through the earth, falling into a jagged opening dream-chasm,  falling faster and faster into the darkness of sleep. Eventually, at the bottom of the opaque void he found himself wandering blindly, stumbling into and between the jagged remains of his lost hopes and broken dreams.

 

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, 1,000 Feet by Andrew Older

I knew I couldn’t keep it a secret forever. But that was part of the pleasure, I suppose: the perversity of the event was what made it almost delectable. To be forbidden is to be desired.

—–Andrew Older, 1,000 Feet

Falling Water Fountain, Dallas Arboretum

Read it here:

1,000 Feet by Andrew Older

from Flash Fiction Magazine

The Dream (Le Reve) by Zola

Le Reve, by Emile Zola

“The vision that had emerged from the invisible was returning to the invisible. It was no more an appearance that was fading away, having created an illusion. All is but a dream. And, at the peak of happiness, Angélique had vanished, in the faint breath of a kiss.”
― Émile Zola, The Dream

Ok, for awhile now I’ve been working my way through Zola’s Rougon-Marquat 20 novel series of French life in the Second Empire – Reading them not in the order that they were written, but in the recommended reading order.

Next is Le Rêve (The Dream). It is a complete departure from the other books in the Rougon-Marquat series. Instead of complex, realistic stories – it is the simple, yet fantastic, romantic tale of an orphan girl Angélique, that falls in love with a wealthy nobleman. She is a descendant of the Rougon family – providing the tenuous connection with the rest of the books. Angélique does suffer from the mental instability of her kin, which provides a window into her obsession with the saints and the idea of a perfect romance.

I have to admit, though, I didn’t like the book very much. It starts out with a lot of promise, the young girl abandoned in the snow near a great cathedral in rural France – it’s a powerful image. But the story spends too many words in cataloging a parade of saints and the stories of The Golden Legend. It become tedious and not very interesting to a modern reader.

In doing research about the book, I did find something I really liked. There are a series of amazing illustrations for the novel by Carlos Schwabe. I was not familiar with the artist and looking around the web there are some really interesting stuff he’s done. I especially like the drawings he did for Baudelaire’s book of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal. Have to look into these some more.

Illustration for Zola’s Le Reve, by Carlos Schwabe

 

 

Carlos Schwabe, Spleen et Idéal (1896)
from Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal

Carlos Schwabe, from Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal

 

Can Never Be Undreamed

“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake

Buddhist Center of Dallas

Today, after a lot of hard work doing nothing at all useful, I felt the need for a nap.

I dreamed of a house, one that is very familiar to me. It is a classic old wooden Victorian – getting long in the tooth. Like thousands and thousands throughout the center of the continent, the place I am so familiar.

It is larger than most, four stories including a dormered top floor with ceiling slanted to match the steep snow-shedding roof. There is an apartment addition over the double garage, reachable from the second floor. The main floor is completely encircled by a porch, with an old metal glider facing the road. There is an old-fashioned sleeping porch extending off the back portion of the second floor – a refuge from the hot summers, a peaceful relic from before air conditioning.

Walking the halls, I realized that I knew every square inch of this large-rambling house and remember all the repairs and improvements done over the decades. I even remembered how it used to be – I remember standing over an opening that led down to the floor furnace, the crisp white winter smell, the warm air convectioning up, the blue gas flame hissing away far below, how my feet felt on the hot metal grating.

Of course, once I ended my nap, stood up and entered the wasted day fully I realized that the house that I knew in such detail and remembered for so long does not exist. Has never existed. Could not even possibly exist.

Yet it feels more real than my actual home – or any dwelling I have lived in before.

The Only Right Thing to Do

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Oblique Strategy: A line has two sides

I rarely remember my dreams. When I am able to grasp the wispy end of something as I’m waking up it is always some form of daily frustration, like my car won’t start or my key won’t fit. I guess that’s why I can’t remember my dreams – they are simply more boring versions of my daily life.

This morning, though, as I crawled out of bed, I remembered. I was hitchhiking through Japan with two other people, a young couple. Why we were three was hazy, though there seemed an adequate explanation somewhere. At the time of the dream we were wading through a rice paddy, each clutching a train ticket. The tickets were paper and plastic, white and bright yellow, and valuable.

Ahead, rising out of the rice, was a track on a levee and a simple station. The biggest passenger train in the world was stopped there, vibrating and smoking. As we approached, it blew its whistle and slowly pulled off, just as we arrived. I was frustrated at the fact we had missed the train, and clutched at my ticket in frustration.

A minute later, we realized that this massive transportation system was too large for one single train, and a second, identical one came huffing into the station. Suddenly elated, I had my ticket stamped and boarded the nearest car. My two companions followed close behind me.

The rest of the dream consisted of me exploring the various cars up and down the line. They were laid out in a linear cornucopia of delights, each car more opulent and fascinating than the one before.

My alarm went off – time to get up and go to work. I hit snooze to see if I could drop off again and visit a car or two more, but the train had sped off to somewhere unknown.

The Opium Den of Remembrance

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.”
― Anaïs Nin

H&K Pump Air Compressors, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

I had a dream last night – I rarely remember my dreams but this one I did, I still do.

There is nothing more boring than reading about someone else’s dreams. Sorry.

This was a nightmare, after all. Not a monster, murderer, or painful death kind of nightmare – I don’t have those. It was a nightmare of fighting the bureaucracy – which is what really scares me.

I graduated from college… next year it will have been forty years.

Just reading that sentence gives me the willies.

But I still have nightmares about final exams, or ones like last night’s where I go back to take some more classes. I was old, my present age – everyone else was young… well, college student age. I had a room in the dorm, and somehow, I still had a key from the old days and it worked. I had to park my car (the car I presently have) in some sort of inconvenient, dangerous, and illegal spot – half in and out of the common room at the dorm. I hauled my stuff up to my room (which was very nice, by the way) and stashed it.

Somehow, this was my old school, my old dorm, my key fit – but everything was completely different. It was better – the dorm was a tower, computers and screens were everywhere, it was glassed-in, full of light, the people were all happy and attractive. I didn’t fit in – makes no real sense – but perfect dream sense.

But then was the nightmare – I never received my schedule, official key, or, most importantly, my ID Badge. I waited in line at the front desk. In my dream I listened to the problems of everyone in front of me – mostly trivial or easily solved. When I finally arrived and told my story I was then asked an endless series of questions:

“If you don’t have your key or your badge, how did you get into your room?”
“Are you sure you belong here?”
“Did you register properly online?”
“Everything is done on the internet now, don’t you understand that?”
“Is that your car over there?”
“What made you think you could park there?”

…..

On and on… then I woke up.

Gears

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”
—-Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Detail of Barbecue Trailer, Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Tx
(click to enlarge)

I was having a nightmare. It wasn’t a horrible nightmare – it wasn’t like I was battling with a giant Adenoid that was devouring London or anything like that – it was a simple nightmare of hopeless frustration, defeat and failure. To my horror, I sudden realized that it wasn’t a nightmare after all – that I had woken up hours before and was simply out and going through my normal day.