Sunday, February 24, 2013

On work, life, poetry, and dreams

Right now, it feels as though the circle of my attention keeps getting drawn tighter and tighter. There's teaching, there's the usual academic stuff of departments and service, there's driving on sloppy roads, and then there's the all-consuming manuscript. I eat the same things, do the same things, and --well, you know the drill. It's February, after all, and we can't hibernate the way our forbears are supposed to have done.

I feel as though I'm treating the blog the same way--bouncing between posts about writing and about larger stuff (MOOCs) without acknowledging that there's lots of life that can't be encompassed between these two poles.

Probably in response to that, I've been having a series of dreams about hiking in the California mountains. I've never lived in California or hiked in its mountains, but in the dreams, it's sunny and I'm following a dirt trail, sometimes smelling eucalyptus or seeing wildflowers.

Sometimes I see tiny lizards scuttle across the trail. I can see other mountains a hundred miles away, and in this latest dream, there was a little town at the bottom of the mountain where artisan shops sold things like handcrafted jewelry, pens, journals, cheese, and so on. As I'm walking on the dusty boardwalk from one shop to another, a rainstorm comes, but it just makes the smell of the dust rise and combine with the smell of the rain, which is pleasant.

As a consequence of this dream vacation, fragments from two poems popped into my head this morning:

The first few lines from John Berryman's "Dream Song 14"

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.   
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,   
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy   
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored   
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no   
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,   
Henry bores me, with his plights, gripes   
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.   
And the tranquil hills, gin, look like a drag   
and somehow a dog
has taken itself, its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving            
behind: me, wag.

And the last four lines from Wallace Stevens's "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock":

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather.

A dream and poetry vacation in the mind is as good as a real rest, I think.


Anonymous said...

I have hiked in the CA mountains and you're making me want to do it again! (What am I saying, I always want to go hiking in Northern CA.) The tiny lizards scuttling is one of my favorite parts. Your description is apt, except I dunno about the boardwalk part... maybe in SoCal? But then the air would probably not smell damp... hm...

undine said...

The only times I've done any (very mild) hiking at all have been in Northern CA (hence the eucalyptus and lizards), but somehow this seemed to be SoCal--but since it was a dream, who knows? The town was like a Western town with boardwalks. None of it makes much sense, but it was really nice.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

It does sound both realistic and lovely.

I have been so bored lately, and I realized I get this way around this time of year. Last year I lopped off my hair and immediately hated it. I've just got it back to something I like, so I'm trying not to do anything drastic, but I keep feeling that I must do something or go somewhere, shake the routine up a bit. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

undine said...

Dame Eleanor--that's the feeling--wanting to do something that is less routine, but being constrained by, well, the Februariness of it all.

Anonymous said...

It is in SoCal, the dream.

My current dream is classist. I dream a hard-bitten preteen is climbing out from under my house and running away. If I lived a few blocks over this would probably be happening in real life.

I am never bored, I live in Louisiana.