Last night was an awfully big adventure. Sometimes nights are like that. Short on sleep and long on dreams; dreams that skitter away in the process of waking, so quick as to leave me with the odd snapshot, and a depth of emotion I can’t necessarily fix into a shape.
Whenever I dream there are a couple of venues that consistently provide the backdrop for the drama. One, oddly, is a little corner flat in Glasgow, where I only lived for a short while after Tapselteerie and before moving back to the island. Those dreams are often good ones and I walk through the park or sip coffee in a busy café and there are no obvious lurkings of menace in any shadows.
The other and main venue is Tapselteerie, I know it is, although the stones and layout of it are often wildly wrong. For example, we had a roof over our heads there and walls and floors, the usual household structure, but in dreams, they are often shaky if not completely absent. When I am inside one of these dreams I am always looking for my children, which, for those of you who have read Island Wife, will not be a surprise at all. The stones are grey and cold, the plaster walls missing, and there is often sky overhead instead of a white ceiling.
In these dreams I always have to fly to save them, my children. I always know that I can fly, but each time I must find the courage to do it again. I have sat myself down to think deeper on that search for courage, once the morning comes and strong black coffee brings me in to land. Is it courage to take on the ‘saving’, I ask myself, or is the courage to fly again? And, if I know, as I do, that I can fly, why would I need courage? After all, I don’t need to think twice about walking, running, skipping, now do I?
And I find no answer to that.
One dream took me into the empty ruins of the place, cold it was and abandoned, the grey stone bared, the layout changed beyond my recognition, and yet I knew where I was. I was alone. The crunch of fallen debris under my bare feet echoed around me and I could feel my heart beating fast, hear my quick breathing. Looking up, I could see my children way up high, higher than Tapselteerie high, flattened against the walls, no ground for their feet. Each one was hooked to the wall by their clothing, and they just hung there, making no sound. Much younger and smaller than they are now, they looked like friends of the Artful Dodger, all raggedy and torn and grubby. There were no stairs, no structure, however skeletal, there to allow me to climb. There was only one way up.
I had to fly.
The resistance to just taking off, knowing I could, surprises me every time. It seems, in my remembering, to take a lot of wasted time, dithering about in the ruins of a broken house, when I could be up there gathering children off hooks. But I always do it.
Then, suddenly, I take a deep breath and lift and the feeling it wonderful, the process effortless.
Once, I met Shrattle (Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake), or his lookalike half way up, but he was balanced on a spindly ledge and quite without wings, so no threat to any of us. I lifted each child, light as a feather, off their pegs and into the sky, waking with that glorious light-hearted feeling that always follows flight.
Last night is already leaving me, the memories of the dream, but I do remember one thing. This time it was in colour. Never before has Tapselteerie shown herself in colour, and yet she had bucket loads of it. She gave me walls and ceilings and laughter and spiders and bats in the cellar. If I came down all those stairs, during a sleepless night to make tea, I had to remember to make light, because in the dark I would have ploughed into the huge migration of slugs from somewhere (I never knew where) to the wine cellar. Sometimes a dozen deep and many feet long, the army flowed in silence to wherever they were going. It was a marvel to behold and much less of one to land in the middle of it in bare feet. People said salt will kill them. We said, why would we kill them? We lived with a good number of wild creatures and managed to do so, in the main, without disasters, although the floor in the back hall always needed a wash of a morning.
Dreams I know have symbolism. Mine are often a chorus of many influences. My past, my fears, the book I’m reading, the present circumstances, the last thing I watched on television. Add to that something on my mind, a new truth learned and understood, a forthcoming event and so on. But whatever the graphics, however bizarre and unbelievable the storyline, the emotions of it linger longest, so, to a small degree I can understand what my imagination played out for me and why.
Tapselteerie looked just fine in colour. It may be 20 plus years since I moved inside her walls, heard her song and moved to her rhythm, but she is alive and well and with her own place in my heart.