There is a Ray Bradbury story in which a woman lies dying in an upstairs room of her family home, while around her her family life goes on.
In the story he describes dying as resuming a dream which — presumably — was there before the birth. The woman is trying to recall that dream and bring it to mind again.
I’m not dying — at least not that I know of — but this morning, while I did the absolutely essential stuff left undone because of painting and flooring this weekend, I found myself thinking of that story and of “resuming the dream.”
When I was first married, and lived with a book on my right hand while doing every day things, I tried to talk to my mother in law about books. She said “Just wait till you have children. I too used to read all the time, then I had children.” Years later, with toddlers around my ankles, she said “Wait till they go to school and you have all the stuff the school sends home to cope with. Then you’ll know you no longer have time to read.”
Needless to say this never happened. When I was profoundly concussed, I read very slowly, but still read. I also have been known to read either fanfic or comics through the times when I can’t cope with much mental strain. But I still read.
I claim no great virtue for this. It’s entirely possible — almost sure, in fact, that reading is an addiction, akin to taking drugs. I do it because I can’t help doing it, not because of intellectual curiosity. Perhaps it is how I cope with ADD. Because without something to anchor me, I get nothing done.
On the other hand something did slow down while I was raising the boys. No. Not writing. Since I was first published and put under contract when Robert had just turned 6, I actually did more writing in the last 21 years than before.
No, what I let go was “the dreaming time.”
I might have talked about before — I’m sure I have, but I’m not going to look for the posts now — about how I coped with a highly sickly childhood (mostly because I was born premature I think, but who knows? Like me, older son seems to have been born with Neanderthal ear canals, which means we catch ear infections at the drop of a hat. He was a sturdy, busy little boy, but got horribly sick with ear infections often and without warning (Yes, we might have/should have put tubes in, but the ear canals are so peculiar it took a recent visit of his to a specialist to show that WOULD have been beneficial. Probably would still be for me (I catch ear infections as a toddler does.) but each of the surgeries would run around 15k and both of us have more immediate priorities for our spending. Anyway, who knows how susceptible that rendered me to other stuff.)
Because, even though of course there were antibiotics when I was a kid, in the sixties, Portuguese society hadn’t adapted to them, I used to be isolated from every other kid (and adults not in the family) whenever I was ill. That was how societies, pre-antibiotics, avoided contagion.
Before I could read, I spent a lot of time in the only bedroom in the house (which was my parents’ but dad traveled during the week, so I slept with mom. I don’t remember — if I ever knew — what arrangements they made when he was home over the weekend, and I was ill.
Sometimes I wonder how different I would be if my parents weren’t the sort of people who pay cash upfront. I.e. I was born in their 10th year of marriage, but they still lived in the shotgun apartment made out of storage rooms on the bottom floor of grandma’s house to accommodate them on their hasty marriage. The reason was simple: they were saving to build a house without mortgage.
This meant a myriad of little savings and pinchings, like buying meat scraps normally sold for dogs, and then making it into “11 things stew” (Stew with whatever she could find on sale. Mom’s joke being that it always took eleven things. But you know, wilted veggies the grocer would just give away, or day old cornbread fried and added on top, or–) Weirdly none of this affected me, probably because mom really was adept at this sort of contriving. That she insisted on cutting down my brother’s clothing for me DID affect me, because in Portugal at that time it wasn’t normal for girls to dress like scruffy boys. But admittedly the scruffy was MY fault, and at any rare like the boy named Sue, I have a certain appreciation for what it did to my character.
But what affected my future self most was the fact that the bedroom in which I spent easily 8/10th of the year had no window.
I was — barring illness — a very active little girl. (Clumsy as heck, which means my activity mostly consisted of walking all over and finding things to make or do.) And have I mentioned ADHD? (Which at the time they had no name for.)
When well I would engage in RPGs of my own design (LARPing, really) which was difficult with only one person, but I played all the roles. And I rode my tricycle a LOT. (That tricycle was a tour bus to exotic — any place not the village — locations, or a shuttle among the stars or a time travel machine.) I also followed grandma around, because she did entertaining things. I was rarely still and at rest. In fact, when I calmed down, people worried I was getting sick.
Which brings us to….
When I was in bed, in a windowless room, with not much to do.
Sure, sometimes I had visitors, like my brother, who was very patient and read me stories. (Even now in English, I still hear Uncle Remo’s tales in his voice.)
And I had legos. I remember building fantastic constructions all over the bed, though mom hated it, because sometimes pieces were forgotten under the covers.
Because I had inherited a lot of pieces, in disjointed sets, from brother and cousins, I actually didn’t know what any of them were supposed to be, so I used pieces that were designed for cars to build houses. I built very odd looking cities, and trains, and then imagined the lives of the people who lived there.
Actually, imaginary people were most of my entertainment, without or without the help of legos.
On the bedside table of that long ago room, there was a little wooden mushroom house (I find it weird NO ONE in the family knows what happened to it, and I seem to be the only one who really remembers it. Mom seems to, but she says she has no idea where it went. And my brother doesn’t remember it at all. OTOH I don’t remember some things he’s been trying to trace from our childhood. Perhaps it’s a Mandela effect thing and we grew up in different parallel worlds?) with a black top, and a yellowish stem, on which someone had painted a little door and a window.
In fact, it was a box, of course, and I have no clue who thought to make it into a “house” or in fact, what crazy friend gave it to my parents. I know it was a weeding gift, because I asked them where it had come from. I also have no idea why mom kept it, except perhaps that because they were so poor they kept EVERYTHING. I know it was in the bedroom because that was where mom put things she had no clue what to do with.
I remember imagining at length the people who lived in that little house and what their family life was like. I imagined they only came out at night or when the room was empty.
In fact “tiny little people” who lived in various parts of my room became a constant thread in my imaginings until I realized you couldn’t have people that size and retain intelligence. I’m glad I didn’t realize it earlier. It would have defeated my imaginings of tribes of little humans in the garden, battling the lizards and the snails. (Is this a universal human dream? It appeared so often in early SF/F)
Then there was “other worlds”. These were both in space and “in other places.” I never really had a concept of fantasy till my teens, when I read the first fantasy stories, but I had a concept of different times and parallel worlds, though I didn’t call the later that, and had no immediate explanation for them, again, till I read science fiction.
Because I had no window, I imagined one, and looked through it at other worlds, the imaginings sometimes so vivid it was hard to tell from reality. And I imagined their ways of life, and their language.
Later, even though I had a window, I retained the dreaming habits. We moved to the new house when I was six, and I was only really sickly for another two years. Pre-puberty and puberty were good to me and I was fairly healthy (for me) until my mid- thirties. (I wonder if it means that the issues were always, at their root, auto-immune, as that seems to follow this pattern.)
And I started writing some of the worlds and the stories.
Yes, one of them — though a late one, in my late teens — was the DST world. An earlier one was the multitude of worlds and the peculiar form of transport in what will hopefully become (if I live that long) a vast interweaving universe called Schrodinger Worlds.
Anyway, all this is in the name of: Recently I became aware that some of my friends who are very successful in indie publishing despite doing “everything wrong” as it were, are in fact writing worlds they dreamed of when they were very young.
Perhaps there is some special force to those worlds, some feeling of universal “must exist.”
I have recently finished The Pursuit of the Pankera (thank you for recommends) which deals, to an extent, with that very idea, the idea of tapping or linking with some great universal dream/existence.
Also, recently, my friend John Ringo made a joke about “Was that guy who dictated a book to me exaggerating the truth to make a good tale?”
The book he was talking about was The Last Centurion and I had in fact that morning, at breakfast (the poor man endures a lot) made a not quite in jest comment to my husband about whether the overreaction to Winnie the Flu was driven by a feeling that in a world “next door to ours” the “plague” was far stronger and more horrible?
I know John is not the only one to have this sense that a book was dictated to him. (Ask me about A Few Good Men, where I was metaphorically socmob — standing on the corner minding own business — when suddenly two bad dudes were in my head and telling me their story (If you don’t know what I’m referencing, it’s the studentdoc side and it’s very funny, at least when you’re not crying.))
It’s all very confusing, in that way things are confusing before they’re explained or fully understood. But there seems to be some reality to these things “dreams are made on.”
And there seems to be a special force to much-dreamed (or occasionally dictated) fiction. Not just in terms of “it seems to sell” — though I’m not an idiot, and I value accolades in the only form that matters — but in terms of “it must come through.”
Then there is the concept that some stories/dreams can only be told/brought to life by the right person. I know, for instance, when I’m visited by someone else’s muse, but I’m often helpless to write it. (Though if 2020 hadn’t been so far a stone cold bitch, I’d already have started the book that John’s muse attacked me with, and sent it to him for his touch, so we can collaborate. Yes, I’ve talked to him about it.) Most of the time it’s a matter of “I’d love to read that story, and I wish I were the right person to write it.”
So…. All this to say, I find myself standing now on the edge of maybe, perhaps, having interior silence (and exterior. The house being quieter helps) enough to restart the dreaming.
And like Bradbury’s character I pause and thing “Now, where was I?”