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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

getting a kick

Early this morning I dreamed that I had managed to get my family aboard a special ferry (my family here consisting of Kimmie plus my mother and aunt, and possibly also my sister Mara). In a queue leading up one side of the ship, we can look out the windows on a commanding view of what I take to be the pulp-producing town of Powell River (implying that we're really on a train instead). I point that out, then try to rush ahead so that we can see other views out other windows at the bow of the ferry.

In the forward lounge I try to secure us a table, which is cluttered with other people's dishes and wrappers. An imperious and nasty woman is trying to get the same table for her party, but won't sit there until it's cleared. While she stridently and rudely orders a steward to clear it for her, I simply take the table as is, wondering whether I'll be getting into a fight with this termagant.

My women start to take places here, while I point out the other views available: the Gulf Islands as though from on high. I'm proud because I've done this trip before, while it is new to them. I want to go to the far side to check out the windows there, for I know other great views will be visible if we get to them soon enough--maybe of Salt Spring Island or Saanich on Vancouver Island.

I hurry over, and find I have to squeeze through a small gap between a bar-counter and a wall. On the other side of the gap, by the windows, are a few people and several horses, which I suppose they're transporting. But out the windows here there is indeed another new and wonderful view. I feel a bit intimidated, but think that the horses must be tame and safe to be on board. Having to squeeze through the gap means I must move close to them, there's no help for it. So I quickly squeeze through.

As I do, I see that there is a foal here, and I become alarmed, because the foal's mother will no doubt be protective. The foal scampers near me, curious and affectionate. I try to dodge away, but before I know it I feel a terrific wallop on my thigh--I've been kicked by the mare! It happened so fast. I hurry around another counter, wondering whether my leg has been broken. No, it seems OK. I feel annoyed, but also embarrassed that this has happened to me. I must seem like an inexperienced sucker--the only one here who's managed to be kicked by one of these horses. But maybe I'll be impressive too when I tell my family about it.

This dream is one of a string of strange new dreams I've had in the past few days. As far as I can recall, I've never dreamed about horses before, and certainly never about being kicked by one. A common theme of my dreams since about 2002 has been of trying to catch ferries, buses, trains, and airplanes, sometimes getting them and sometimes not.

I recognize some of the dream's ingredients: my father stopped by to visit a week ago, and he had ridden the ferry over from Vancouver Island where he lives. Recently too Kimmie and I talked about a little vacation trip we took with Robin to the Gulf Islands in 1990, when I had recently been to Salt Spring Island on a solitary meditation retreat and so knew the ropes of that particular route. On that trip we had visited a park on Salt Spring where a cliff-edge lookout overhangs the sea hundreds of feet below, and Kimmie had been too terrified to go near the railing, instead repeatedly ordering us to come away from it.

There was a reference to horses in The History of Technology yesterday. Evidently in medieval times the horse began to replace the ox as the preferred draft-animal for plowing and threshing, its lower strength and higher cost being offset by its greater speed. The changeable weather in Europe made speed increasingly important as more land was cultivated, and people at harvest-time needed to get crops in as quickly as possible. Before that time there had not been any harness that allowed horses to pull heavy weights without choking themselves. Horses lack the powerful shoulders of the ox.

What does it all mean? The horses were pintos.

I've been fascinated by dreams ever since I was a child. They are the primal storytelling medium. And they remain a deep mystery.


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