In November, it seems to me that the skin of the world begins to stretch and thin. Is it the cold, flat sky, or the muted landscape, or the fallow earth waiting for snow that makes the membrane between the waking world and the dreaming world lighten, and transparify? November is a dreaming month. And holy heck have I been dreaming
But, before I talk about dreaming, I realize that I have been horrifyingly delinquent in the blog department lately. I blame my kids. And their schools. And my own insufferable laziness. Because good god. Have I been lazy. There are some bits to report, though.
Firstly, I managed, through my constant candle lighting and pleading to the universe, to get invited to speak at a library in Iowa. IOWA! Land of adorable towns and bucolic landscapes and wellsprings of magic bubbling underground! Land of my own dear Jack in my very first novel, and I was terribly pleased to make the visit. Here is the librarian’s take on it, and despite the low attendance, the conversation was wonderful and the audience asked fantastic questions, and that library! So very pretty.
Second of all, I have a new short story! In print and in the world! It’s called “The Insect and the Astronomer: a Love Story” and it’s available for free from Lightspeed, one of my favorite SFF magazines on these here internets. I hope you enjoy it.
Third of all, I have become a curriculum crusader, trying to change the lousy reading curriculum at my son’s school. Maybe I’m not a crusader. Maybe I’m a de-louser. Delousyer? Delousifier? Something like that. And it’s been eating up a good deal of my brain space.
Speaking of brains, I have been having CRAZY DREAMS lately, though that’s not all that unusual, given the month. I know a lot of you are writing your novels in thirty days, or are berating yourselves for not trying hard enough to write your novel in thirty days or whatever, but for me, November is a time of pinning down the zany details from my dream life. Because boy oh boy, do I dream in November. Perhaps it’s the slice of wind. Perhaps it’s the dull sky. Perhaps it’s the sleeping ground. Or perhaps it’s none of these. But in November, my dreams start speaking in tongues. They are all blazey eyes and fervent souls and minds on fire. Their voices are multitudinous, cacophonous, a festering ooze. They cover the earth in web and moss and mold. They are everywhere.
Last night I tossed and turned. I woke and woke and woke again. And when I slept, I dreamed lividly. This is what I dreamed.
1. I dreamed that I stood on the deck of a pirate ship, at night. The scent of salt in my nose, and the stench of whatever happened below decks. I could hear the sound of men – drunk, loud, arguing. We moved at a fair clip, and the pulse of the the waves underneath – thwump, thwump, thwump – was a soft, damp, soothing sound. I stood at the stern, looking at the white and yellow churn of the wake, the tangle of fish and sharks waiting to snatch whatever fell overboard – the waste, the wasted, the sick, the dead, and the unfortunate souls still trying to kick their way back to the living. I sat on the rail. I had a lead box on my lap – acid etched with the image of a spiral covering the lid. I sighed, pressed my fingers into my sternum, and opened up my ribcage with a rusty creak. I reached in, and removed my heart. It was made of sticks and grass and dried petals. There were feathers at its center. It was a good heart, in theory, but it had become unmanageable. I sealed it inside the box, and let it fall with a plop into the waves. I tipped back my head and regarded the stars. How long, I wondered, before my heart made it back to me? How long indeed?
2. I am in third grade. I have finished my math worksheet. The teacher’s desk is so far away. I am in the back row and I see row after row of perfectly combed heads, and from this side they are benign, but on the other side they have eyes. And so I do not turn in my worksheet. The room smells of wood shavings and moon boots. The paper is crisp in my hand. The smell of graphite. The smell of erasers. The touch of paper crumpling under my sweaty fingers. When it is mashed into a tiny ball, I shove it into the tight space at the back of the desk, with everything else I’ve done all year. I haven’t turned a single thing in. I can’t explain why. I stare at the brown ponytail in front of me and think of nothing.
3. I am in my grandparents’ back yard. It was big in real life, but now it is enormous. It is a nation of grass. There is a velociraptor about thirty feet away from me, trying to catch squirrels in the large apple tree. And I think, maybe there has always been a velociraptor in my grandparents’ back yard. Maybe my grandfather raised him from a chick and named him Arnold. Maybe I used to ride on its back when I was a little child, and it would tickle my belly with its enormous jaws. Maybe I was wrong to think of a life that didn’t have a velociraptor in it, and maybe memory is a tricky thing, liable to blur the things that are important and hide us from ourselves so we remain forever lost. And while I am thinking this, the velociraptor, tiring of squirrels, bounds to my side, all muscle and joy and movement, and throws me in the air, and rips out my throat and I am gone.
4. There are spiders everywhere. They line the walls, the crunch under my feet. They are in my bed, in my clothes, in my drawers, in my shoes. They are in the food. They are on the windows and the sidewalk. They fill the car. They hang from the trees. There are spiders, spiders, spiders and they are everywhere. They have wings. They burrow. They crowd out the light. They infect the eye, the ear, the nose, the mouth. I have this dream a lot. It is always horrifying.
5. I had no idea I was pregnant. A baby pops out, after a sneeze. A boy. He has a mustache and bifocals and insists on being named Wally, and he clicks his tongue when a pretty girl walks by. He is eight pounds and will only drink bourbon and complains about the no smoking policy in my house. I burp him but his breath stinks and he asks if he can watch the booby shows on the television and why are there so many kids on his lawn. He shaves. His diapers reek. I never asked for this child. I feel incredibly guilty for thinking such a thing.
6. I am driving a race car. I have never driven a race car. There are cars in front of me and cars behind me and I cannot stop and I cannot turn around because everyone is going like nine million miles an hour and it is loud and I am sweating in this jumpsuit and I smell bad and I have no idea what I am doing, but all I can do is floor it and hope for the best.
7. I am standing at the edge of the sea. My daughters are in a row boat, and they are rowing away. They are so very far away now. The water is cold, but I stand in it up to my knees. I strain my eyes to see them. I shade my brow. Their hair glints in the sun. Their muscles strain. They reach and pull across the fulcrum of their hips. They are so strong. They are so small. The sea goes and goes – a universe of water. It swells and dips and pays them no mind. It guards its own secrets. It does not bend to those who bent my life into a new shape. The sky goes dark. The sea goes quiet. And they are gone.
So. Thank you, November. I’m exhausted, of course. But thank you.
What have you been dreaming lately?