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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

the bridge

I'm back. Today is dark and rainy, but Summerland was mainly sunny, with yellow leaves blowing along roads and through the clear sky.

Kimmie is on vacation for four weeks, so my routine is also on vacation. I don't want to stop writing, so I'll have to find a way to accommodate that objective with the more relaxed nonschedule of the coming days.

Today I thought I'd reproduce a journal entry I made on 21 September 2004:

7:21 a.m. I lay awake last night, from about 2:15 till maybe 4:40. I had a glass of whisky in the dark. Kimmie had got up earlier to have a glass of milk for her hurting esophagus.

Just before I woke I had this dream: I'm driving (with Kimmie?) toward what seems like the Grantham Bridge. There is construction here, roadwork with heavy machines that block the way, so traffic is backed up and being directed around it. Impatient drivers want to butt in and get around the woman directing the traffic. I feel good about the fact that I stay in line and make it onto the bridge.

I realize I'm all alone on the bridge, which has hardly any deck, just a couple of beams with cross-beams, like a railway bridge. Other traffic apparently has gone around, on separate improvised trails leading down under the bridge. It seems I misunderstood the directions being given. Now I come to the end of the bridge: it just stops, pointing into space, a huge, deep valley. There is no possible way we can get off the end of this bridge; we can only go back.

When I woke I didn't feel good about this dream. It seemed to echo my worries in the night that my project, The Mission and The Age of Pisces, is a hopeless one. A bridge is something positive, it takes you across the uncrossable. But this one is out; it's just being built, or rebuilt. Is it the novel?

The Grantham Bridge was notable because it was a one-way bridge: traffic could go only one way at a time: like life. The arrow of time. Others are trying to butt in: I perceive others as getting unfairly ahead of me, or trying to. But it turns out not to be an issue: they're not actually going the same way I am at all; there is no actual competition. They're taking an easier, marked (and possible!) way, the collective path. I'm on this big project, but it's not finished, in fact it's scarcely begun. And I feel disheartened that I've come the wrong way. Those butter-inners are ahead of me, if I want to go the marked way.

Since I made this entry I have come to see this dream as positive. The bridge is under construction, and I'm the one building it. My work, the bridge, is still unfinished. And, like a bridge, it is no use until it is finished. That cannot put off the builders of bridges. They--we--must be sustained by a vision. Once the bridge is built, the traffic rolls across, now oblivious of the rugged, impassable terrain that existed there before. Someone had to have the vision and patience to make it possible for everyone to cross to the yonder shore.


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