AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

My Life As A Ceremonial Garbage Fire

Ceremonial Garbage Fire

Ceremonial Garbage Fire.

Two nights ago, after I met with my neighbour up north and agreed to buy his small lot next to mine to have a place to grow apple trees, Marc and I made a huge fire and drank a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

We had spent the day pulling up floorboards and pulling down ceiling insulation to find rot, seal up holes, and evict generations of big-eared, big-eyed country mice. Shit rained down on us as we faced some of my worst home-owner fears, and we laughed and it was ok. In the end we were filthy and triumphant, and we had a lot of rotten wood to burn.

Turns out owning a house, especially in the woods, is a constant conversation with the elements – with the wildlife that want in, or that want your heat and food stores, or that want some of the space you take up.

We are in their world out there, so we try to be polite about it.

I had a garbage bag of dried herbs to burn, and Marc had a huge, ugly coffee table he wanted gone from the earth and so we made a kind of funeral pyre, melting the early snow.

Marc In The Snow.

Marc In The Snow.

The herbs were from my city garden where the thyme and lemon balm are always trying to take over.

An ex-boyfriend and I had twisted them into bundles which had filled my kitchen ceiling and given my satisfying witch feelings, until they hung up there for too long; long after it all went boom and bust and devolved into nightmares. They felt thick with bad dreams and spider webs. They burned quick and smelled like better summers to come.

Marc and I burned them in fistfuls, and made up prayers to the house-and-mouse-gods, and we cheers’ed to the fire in gratitude for finally finding each other.

And Jupiter and Venus hung out in the sky together.

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

At night, I dreamed a violent dream of moving that same ex-boyfriend and all his rotten bullshit out of my house and life. I wish I wasn’t still dealing with the bad vibes he left  now that I am free and happy, but I am and so it goes.

In the dream I ripped his record player from the wall while it was playing and it howled white noise that matched my fury. I yelled the truth and other women heard me and helped me. They nodded while I broke his face.

Punching and yelling is out of character for me, but I have to say, dream-me quite enjoyed it.

My dreams on this theme have definitely been getting better. I used to dream that he was in the house and I’d wake up screaming. Then I had dreams that I was face to face with him and I couldn’t say anything.

But last night’s dream ended with me spinning in the air like a circus artist while I told the true story. Almost like I was lifted up on smoke.

If you are haunted by the ghosts of abusive or otherwise bad men – or the many kinds of psychological violence wrought by patriarchy – I highly recommend a made up ritual, and a cleansing garbage fire.

Me.

Me.

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Freaky Friday

Someone Is Trying To Get In

I am a nightmare person, always have been. Big horror show epics. These days the theme has generally been boiled down to various versions of: Someone Is Trying To Get In.

Last night it went like this:

It’s night and I am cleaning up around the kitchen. There is a big pile of dirty dishes and above them a huge white wall. On one side of the wall there are kitchen shelves totally stuffed with what seems at first to be more dirty dishes. But when I look closer they are cake decorating things: icings and sprinkles in bright neon colours. Messy but delightful.

The other side of the wall is bare, dirty white and spotted with mold. It’s creepy in the cold fluorescent light of the empty night kitchen.

I turn to look out the window and there – right outside the window looking in – is a woman. She is young, Asian with long black hair. Lovely in the moonlight. She waves and walks away casual, and I wave back with the distinct impression that she was too close to the house – all the way up on my lawn – to be just casually walking by waving at night.

So I rush to lock the door. But I find it partially open and it won’t close, something is in the way. I pull it open, there is a woman right there, inches from my face, already across the threshold. She is a middle-aged white woman with short mom-ish bottle blond hair and a fake smile stretched painfully, threateningly wide across her face. I scream and wake myself up yelling.

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Marc is used to the yelling. The first time he slept over at my place I woke him up with the same urgent, muffled dream screams. When I told him about that dream he changed all the locks.

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Advice I’ve been given for interpreting dreams is to consider that since these are images and symbols from your subconscious mind, you can imagine that each image is you:

I am a kitchen burdened by dirty dishes. I am messy but delightful.

I am half full of delicious and decorative delights.

I am half empty and growing dark moldy life.

I am a beautiful young woman perhaps coming in, perhaps just passing by.

I am a middle aged mom-type already here.

Terrifying.

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To Live as Francis Lived: A Guide For Secular Franciscans

Doctors In Drag And Weeding In The Basement

 

I remember this dream from last night: one of my favourite professors from my MA, Dr Kim Sawchuk, is walking past me on a sidewalk, somewhere. I am surprised by her haircut as she’s shaved it all close to her head, except for a band around just the bottom which is left long like a hippie monk. Or like a Franciscan, now that I think about it. Always, for me, the most endearing saints.

I say hello and she doesn’t recognize me. I introduce myself and she sort of remembers, and than says, out of the blue: “I Am Not Your Negro.”  When I wake up I’m not sure how to interpret this, but now I think I just need to go see the movie.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin – I Am Not Your Negro

In the next dream I see one of my favourite professors from my undergrad this time, Dr Allan Hepburn, who taught American Literature. As far as I know these two teachers have never met, but they were the ones I to loved to write for. Dr Hepburn was always impeccably turned out in suits, perfect haircuts and a clean shave. In the dream though his hair is a long messy bob and he’s wearing a wide headband, and I feel like he’s allowing himself all kinds of unbridled femininity in his gestures. I tell him I love him, that I always loved him, but in a gay way. He gets what I mean and laughs. We have a loving hug and I feel how thin and vulnerable he is. Tiny and shaking.

I look over his shoulder and I see we are inside now. We are in a loft apartment high above the street with a wall of windows looking out on a grey sky. As I hold Professor Hepburn I see that there are birds inside the apartment. Small swallows flicker behind the plants. They are hunting bugs that hover in the air, and suddenly I know: the birds are here because there is no food left for them outside.

Another post-apocalyptic dream.

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Dr. Sawchuck I associate with a paper I saw her deliver at a conference one time where she made the beautiful but heartbreaking suggestion that some relationships can’t hold together because people actually, literally, hum and exist on different frequencies.

Dr. Hepburn I associate with Joan Didion. And now that I think about it, in the dream he did look a bit like her in The Centre Will Not Hold – so frail and fragile. Same bob.

Maybe the centre can’t hold, but at least there still is one…

And there are birds there.

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The other memory I have from last night is just an image:

My mom has built a garden in the basement and I am down there, weeding.

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Oubliettes du château de Loches.

On Dreams And Remembering – An Oubliette And An Army Of Spies

I am sitting in a café called Les Oubliettes thinking about remembering. I can’t remember my dream from last night until I read my notes. Before I read them I have a single image: I am standing at the top of a high, long, dark wooden staircase. That’s it, just a place.

When I read my notes the whole word comes back. The moment on the staircase is the moment of finding out that there is a tuberculosis outbreak, the feeling of the city and maybe the whole world slipping into darkness. (In the real world at the café I just sneezed, and the gent I’m sharing a table with is on the phone with an airline agent who hears me and tells him to tell me ‘Bless you’… driving home the dream warning that a virus in this connected world will travel quick.)

I head outside in my dream, where somehow the epidemic and the dark are related, and I go into an old man bar for something I need. The men are sitting around big round tables (a lot like this one at Café Oubliettes actually, where I’ve never been before today.) There is a giant stone bowl on the table like one for French Onion soup (which Marc is making for dinner) but 100 people could eat from this one. It’s enormous and communal, but it’s empty tonight in the twilight of plague. The old men sit around it drinking small glasses of beer.

The man next to me at the bar is talking. He says he is getting all new parts. He turns to show me that his face has been replaced.

An image of safety pins and skin.

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Do I use dream logic, and try to extend the narrative inside the dream to understand this plot twist? Or do I use the narrative and symbolism of my daily life? Is the Man getting new parts to fight or fend off the tuberculosis that is shutting down the world?

Or is he a symbol of how I feel about Men and Masculinity these days, despite the many kindly men I feel love and sympathy for – the men sadly waiting for communal logic to return?

The air these days does often feel virus dark, heavy with #MeToo stories, and the disease of power summarized by Harvey Weinstein and his spies.

Yet last night I went to bed on a wave of optimism as Americans elected openly trans leaders, new immigrants and Black Lives Matter advocates.

Maybe the Man is slowly getting all new parts, not just a new face?

 

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Sante Fe Ghost Tour Trolley

This Dream I Had About Casual Lunges

In this dream I had last night I was at a house party. I was carrying around a large green suitcase with a change of clothes. The party involved taking buses, like old trolleys, to other parts of the house, and I sat next to a guy and we got along. It was a bit flirty but mostly friendly. I thought we might hang out at the party, but as we got off the bus he started singing a love song to “sweet, sweet cigarettes” so I lunged away from him. Like several long, low stretchy lunges. Because lunges are very casual/sneaky.

I found my friend Emilie. She really enjoys a good lunge. She asked if I had a good book recommendation. We got back on the bus and I could see the whole bus route in my mind, and suddenly I knew we’d have to go past places where they were triaging the wounded…

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This is real life. No matter what I am doing – partying or lunging – somewhere they are triaging the wounded. I work quietly on my laptop while there are waking realities infinitely stranger and more nightmarish than my dreams happening  just down the street. It feels like I can’t quite take in enough life to do justice to it all. Maybe that’s why I’m interested in all the life I’m living while I’m asleep.

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