The Years We Argued With Robots



We didn’t know but the moral codes were long since bought and sold

Cored and clanking tin, spinning wheels in the wind,

Blue veins of fear and greed.

In the aftermath of blood and smoke some children woke and joined their kin,

other kids in the streets who’d vowed to never sleep again

until the water ran clean.

They walked to a high hill and lit their eyes on fire.

We came to them tired and nearly broken.

We watched the dawn come.

The tin soldiers shrieked in the hot wind,

beneath the televised currents of sneer and lie, control delete,

some truth got in.

And the time of weapons into ploughshares was the dog star,

low on the horizon red with smoke.

And the fire grew.

By Risa Dickens.


Make For The Unknown Middle

I took a couple vacation days from my job, and headed to Toronto last week with Marc in a big truck to help set up his booth alongside all the other artisans at the massive One Of A Kind Sale.

I had a lot of dreams over the last few days on the road.

These ones fit together in my mind.

I had a dream that I was walking with my parents along a long, high wall of window glass which curved gently; we were walking inside a large glassed-in circle. There was dense jungle on the outside of the circle and on the inside. Our path was narrow and we looked through the glass like looking at animals in a zoo.

Outside the glass, dense and lovely, stitched between the leaves and vines and trees, were thick spider webs. High and white with intricate, elaborate layers. We admired them as we walked along the path, but we also chatted companionably.

I told them about van life: people were buying big old vans like Marc’s and converting them into mini, mobile living spaces, leaving conventional city life behind. My parents were astounded.

As I spoke I could see a vision in the middle of the circle of glass and jungle. It appeared as though at a great distance.

An artisan I know in waking life – who uses fire to shape glass, and runs a shared studio space here in Montreal – was standing looking wise and wild, wearing a tall, blue, leather crown that also wrapped below her chin and covered her neck and chest. Very regal and medieval. She was looking out at a fleet of vans roaring across a desert, she was directing their departure and she was staring right through me.

I looked away from her.

Suddenly, in front of me on the trail was a thicket of spider webs. No longer on the other side of the glass, white, puffy spiders moved slowly through the web close enough to touch.

We turned to rush away, but I realized we were only going to go around the circle and end up back where we were.

Unless, I guess, we headed toward the unknown in the middle.

In another dream, I am moving with ease and speed up alongside a tumbling river waterfall in another forest.

I notice that it doesn’t feel quite like I am walking, or flying.

The movement is more swift and strong and swinging. I am ahead of my friends, I see a cave and duck inside. Inside the cave a young man and woman are setting up a kind of office, there are laptops and tables and they are talking about getting a shower installed. They don’t notice me.

In the next scene I am heading into the same cave sometime later. It is full of people and huge screens mounted on the wall and buzzing with equipment, and again no one notices or minds me. I’m insignificant somehow. As they are talking I see logos flashing by on a screen for thousands of different websites and apps, and I see one I know, and I ask if they are working on that one. They answer as though someone else in the room has asked: yes, they run that one and all the others, processing billions of requests per second. The air is thick with violence and secrecy. I exit and know I have to warn my friends.

I fly through the branches along the river again and as I do I realize: I’m not human.


Last one.

I am an orphan. I am staying with a wealthy family, beautiful mother, distant father, and their hard-eyed teenage children. It is very dark outside and we are standing around a kitchen island in their cottage in the woods. I look in the fridge and it’s empty. I look on the shelves and they are full of white cookies covered in thick pink icing, looking dry and bad for you, and wrapped in tons of plastic. I say we will need more food for the winter, but a hard-eyed teenager laughs and says they will be spending the winter in Parma, in Italy. I am suddenly furious at how spoiled they are, and jealous that I’ll be alone when I should be in Parma. The mother tells me she is glad to see I have feelings. I wake up shaking with tears in my eyes, confused about why a childish dream like this would get to me.


Later I look up Parma. This stuff jumps out:

An almost independent commune was created around 1140; a treaty between Parma and Piacenza of 1149 is the earliest document of a comune headed by consuls.


At their heart, communes were sworn allegiances of mutual defense. When a commune was formed, all participating members gathered and swore an oath in a public ceremony, promising to defend each other in times of trouble, and to maintain the peace within the city proper.

I want to gather in the town square, but this time with animals and spiders, and artists and trees, to swear an allegiance of mutual defence.

I want to leave the circular path trapped in glass, leave the plastic-wrapped sweets, leave the bunker, in order to follow the river.

I want to gather my people, and make for the unknown middle.


Holidays And Losing The Sheets

Dream Machine

Dream Machine

In my dream last night I remember being given a beautiful old mechanical box.

I was told it was a recording box, and that I was being invited, or requested, to document a religious holiday. The festivities were going to be elaborate and complex and beautiful. But I knew by looking at the box that in essence these holidays were the same as the holidays I improvised for myself. When I realized this I was relieved.

Apparently talking in my sleep last night I said: “Oh good, leg room!”

And then something about sheets.

It makes sense that legroom and sheets would come up in dreams, of course.

The age-old battle for the covers continues every night, in every shared bed, everywhere.

But I feel like my brain has been giving the tangle of sheets more than the usual significance lately.

Photo by Robin Vet

Dream Machine Deux.

A couple weeks ago I dreamt I was driving a beautiful black convertible car.

I don’t care about cars in real life but in my dream I knew this baby was gorgeous. And I was driving it pretty well, which is nice because I don’t have a license, and my dreams don’t all go this way.

I was doing good, but I couldn’t get it to go very fast, and this became a real problem on a steep hill. So I pulled over to where the owner was standing by the side of the road. She was beautiful in a way that matched the car, and she slid into the passenger seat, and I felt inadequate and told her I was struggling. She said it happened to her too, all the time, and it was just because of the sheets wrapped around my feet.

I looked down and saw the sheets all wrapped around my feet between me and the gas pedal.

I was profoundly reassured.


Putting the two dreams together, I wonder if the comforting things that I have chosen to wrap around me – but which slow me down – are other people’s beliefs.

I certainly do take increasing delight in improvising my own traditions and holidays. And I think doing so gives us power in a culture that has been choked and sold by capitalist patriarchy. You cannot drown me in the debt or environmental disasters of mass consumerism if I don’t believe in you and, as best I can each day, do not participate.


Christmas and Solstice are coming, so my wish for all of us is to find our own ways to be joyfully sustaining to each other.

And to promise each other the return of the light.

A Dream of Christmas

A Dream of Patriarchy

Maybe also though, it’s my own beliefs that are tangled around my feet.

Beliefs about my own inadequacy to face a fast and dangerous world. Or to claim and use consumption’s power tools like cars and recording boxes in ways that are meaningful to me.


Either way, I’m glad to hear that my sleeping-self has good things to say these days about the leg room.

Let’s kick the sheets off.


Dreams of Matching Sweetness

The secret is doughnuts.

The secret is doughnuts.

This morning before opening his eyes Marc said “the secret to couscous is doughnuts.” I guess he’s started remembering his dreams. He told me that in the dream a friend was cooking dinner “on a frying pan you could walk out on.” There was a fire in the middle of the huge pan and they stood near it surrounded by food cooking in waist-high piles, like laundry piles. And the chef explained that the secret to getting the couscous soft and fluffy was to use doughnuts.


In my dream a crone stood in the dark holding a glass, the contents of which was separated into the dark on top and the light on the bottom. And she said the secret was to use jam to keep them apart. Then I looked down at her feet and there were large metal buckets there, and as I looked at them the containers grew bigger.


My last post made Marc sad. I didn’t mean too, I didn’t really think about how it feels to read that your love is lonely. I didn’t even really think of the loneliness in that way. Because I am in love with this life. Especially these days which are filled with new love and so much bounty and friendship and music; fuel for an epic burning up of old rotten stuff from the past and for a bright new future. Far from sad, recently I feel able to say truer things, and I feel fat with words, and with daily pleasures like making egg-in-a-hole for breakfast while listening to records.

Men and women who have always known they are the parenting kind will know this other kind of feeling that exists quietly below though. A feeling inside that is a bit like having an alien in you, something that rolls around with the moon each month and feels things of it’s own volition, and knows that the possibility of a certain kind of creation is counting down.

Making an altar to that feeling as I thought about in that last post meant for me witnessing and releasing my attachment to what will happen. Celebrating and honouring the alien, as well as the possibility of becoming the crone.

In fact, making an altar to yourself and to your loneliness is honouring all the types of woman that are laughing and haunting in the shadows beyond the old Virgin, Mother, Crone crew.

Maybe we will hatch a little life of our own, maybe we won’t.

But we will definitely keep hatching astonishing new moments.

The containers we fill with delight and kindness and sorrow and life can, and will, keep getting bigger.

And I think the Crone and the Chef are right: the secret to being sustained, and to seeing the light and dark clearly, is all in the doughnuts and jam.

The secret is all in the sweetness.

The secret is jam.

The secret is jam.


An Altar To Loneliness

Nuestra Señora de Soledad The statue of Our Lady of Solitude, Patroness of Oaxaca

I am sitting in Vices & Versa, the best noisy beer bar in Little Italy, or in Montreal if you ask me. It’s me and several middle-aged men lined up alone at the bar, while all the tables behind us sound like celebrating. My friend just left – all giddy and red faced – his girlfriend’s due date was Saturday. They might have a baby tonight.

The note from my dreams last night reads: “an altar to loneliness” and I don’t remember this dream but I can relate to this feeling. If I’m being honest, I am jealous and angry and totally enamoured with every pregnant person and every expectant partner. I am 37 and not there yet, so maybe it’s too late. If I’m being dramatic then My Womb Is An Altar To Loneliness.

My therapist once asked me if I had an altar. I was startled and delighted, like No! But Yes! Perfect idea. Great work, therapy. She suggested making an area in my home clean and beautiful and full of personal symbols of my own health and Self and triumphs.

I was great at altars when I was a teenager. I had a table covered in candles dripping dramatically in my Mom’s basement, images in heavy metal frames, icons, incense, selected rocks, and an important sculpture of a frog. I liked to lie on the floor near it with the lights turned out listening to Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin. Because Billie knew everything.

“If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” – Billie Holiday

“If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” – Billie Holiday

I have gotten good at altars again, following the advice of a thoroughly respectable therapist. There is something to the idea of making spaces in my house that look like the inside of my heart or my unconscious or my hopes. There is something empowering in making up my own symbols: pine trees, rose petals, selected rocks,  a sculpture of an ear, a small wooden doll.

And admittedly, there is something to the idea of an Altar to Loneliness.

An altar puts the loneliness on the outside where I can sit with it, companionably.

I look at it and it looks back into me. Together we make something that wasn’t there before.

I try to write about my dreams every day. It’s a different kind of fertility, and for now it’s enough.

Or at least, it’s what I’m doing.


PS – I didn’t know until now, searching for images that look like my dreams, that this dream echoed a line from a poem I had never read, Sherman Alexie’s The Facebook Sonnet.

Sounds about right though.