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LJI Week 10: Slipstream

This is my entry this week for LJ Idol Friends & Rivals (therealljidol). We got to choose from a variety of topics this week, and I chose "Streaming."

As I wait for the school bus, I pace. The movement adds to my daily step total, ticked away by my Fitbit pedometer. A block up, a block back, my long, dark wool coat blowing around my calves. Pause for a sip of water from the steel thermos I carry. Back again. Walking meditation.

Hard cement wears away my rubber soles; they have begun to click. I walk on the outside of my heels. Always taking ballet steps, feet turned out. Click, (step), click, (step). Opposite of a former fellow reporter. She tip-toes everywhere, her large frame bouncing lightly, like a cartoon bear. Her feet deserve Hanna Barbera sound effects: tinkle-tinkle-tinkle-peep.

Wednesday, I squished on marshy grass, climbing the small hill by the road to escape the cars, splashing through dense rain. Water hit us in waves, flipping umbrellas inside-out. The mother of my boy's best friend gave me a sturdy black umbrella, not to borrow, but to keep. The perfect solid weight for leaning upon, the sort of umbrella I once carried through London's streets. Rain soaked my coat so thoroughly I had to stick it in the dryer the next morning.

Wetter walks, stream hiking, in summer camp. We were told to bring old sneakers specifically for these hikes. Water squishing through canvas and leather. Rocks and silt underfoot, waves sloshing around ankles. A crawdad scuttling away, spooked clouds of minnows. Twigs bumping downstream, colliding with log, then a rock. Then spinning free.

Mottled light and shadow, flashes on the ripples. The ripples spill downstream, like thoughts. Nature's musings. Tree dreams.

In my memory, we always walk upstream, the way we started. Each time, pushing against the current, the exhilaration of this new way of being. Fording the opposite, the challenge bringing to life the act. Walking must feel like this for toddlers. To navigate uncertainty, to force the air from around you, make a space for your own will.

Most everything flows downstream -- time, the way we get carried. Yet, eddies swirl in front of deep-rooted trees. Circle above the cool, the stillness. Where a fish might live, a fish with silver fins, who can dart upstream, downstream, cross stream.

A silver-finned fish swam through my dream stream, bringing detritus. Again and again, the attic door of my childhood home opening on a nighttime bathroom trip. The attic door that did, in fact, open by itself, often. In my dreams, I am alone in the dark, sitting. The door creaks open. The door whose rack held my towel, making me afraid to hang it up. A towel, which according to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," comes in useful on countless occasions. A hat, a cape, a pillow, or to ward off nasty aliens. Not, however, to ward off dreams, partly based in reality. A door opening into the attic, inviting you to go up the stairs. The roof slanted the wrong way, so that you must crouch at the top to continue. A place where, awake, I once found a red liquid running down the central chimney, which my parents failed to investigate. I found a word chalked on an eave that no one in my family wrote, for which, without evidence, I suspected our neighbor. The exact word lost to memory, like so much jetsam.

In the dream attic, at the top of the stairs, stood a figure. Silent warrior, like a movie poster, his palm held out towards me, light shooting outwards. Surrounded in concentric halos. Bruce Lee, I called him. A private joke forever after. The ghost of Bruce Lee lives in my attic.

When my sister called me, I was naked. She wouldn't say what she wanted, at first, but her tone told me the news was bad. I grabbed the easiest clothes: a black peasant shirt, bought for a Renaissance Faire trip with my sister's family; my black cotton pants. In a voice rippling with grief, she related how our Mom had died. In the bathroom, at night, staring at that door.

The silver fish navigates forwards and backwards, nibbling on the future, darting into the past. Spawned by an important moment, a deep pool defying the rules of time. A door. The bathroom. Darkness. Light.



( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:09 am (UTC)
"Stream" of consciousness. You've done a superb job with this and I think it's worth continuing to polish. And perhaps, work with as a personal style for a bit. I would...take out the dream sequence and find another way to segue into some of those ideas. (Of course, the piece becomes more conscious than unconscious but that's the prerogative of the writer.) I think the first third is incredibly strong. You tap into that experience so many of us have had, of wading upstream with old sneakers on (or today's river shoes) and just completely explode that metaphor...it's very well done. (Once I had the great privilege of wading upstream during salmon season.) I was deeply moved by your abrupt change to the phone call...
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:26 am (UTC)
Great suggestions. Thank you! I had a poetry professor who said that, if you write about a dream, leave out the phrase, "I dreamed..." It makes the poem stronger. Perhaps next time.

I would like to write more prose poetry/lyrical nonfiction. My mind tends to work that way these days. It's as if my waking mind is functioning on a dream level to make sense of the weight and complexity of my feelings.

Oh, and I must add that I envy you the experience of stream hiking during salmon season. That must have been fantastic! My spirit animal, a brown bear, would be delighted.

Edited at 2016-02-20 12:28 am (UTC)
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:33 am (UTC)
It was one of the more spiritual experiences of my life. They were intent on their last journey and paid no mind to us at all. We stood still and they swam through our legs.

Utilizing dream imagery can be very tricky. Oftentimes, it simply falls flat unless it is absolutely intended to be metaphor. I went and saw The Revenant yesterday!!! Talk about your spirit animal!! The film uses a ton of dream imagery to project the meaning of the experience of both the hapless hero and the American Midwest, the American Indian, the cruelty of man on man, modern civilization and ancient practice. I thought it was really apt and beautifully presented. So....I would wager that most dream imagery that is successful is fictional.

I think that now that your mind/soul is over the initial shock of your mother's passing, the artist part of you is ready to step into creativity again. Using this style which definitely suits you would be a wonderful way to explore and share the universality of this terrible time. *hugs*
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:49 am (UTC)
I haven't seen "The Revenant," but it's on my "must" list. As rarely as we make it to movies these days, I will have to catch it on video. Dream imagery is most successful, I think, when it has that slight edge of being not just odd but almost disturbing. The best part about dreams, though, is that with the exception of nightmares, the oddness of it does not scare us the way it would while awake.

Yes, the artist side is coming out again. I am glad I have the weekly prompts that force me to put the words down. They are therapeutic.
Feb. 20th, 2016 03:58 am (UTC)
This is beautiful! I like this style very much, too. Tough subjects beautifully handled. A joy to read.
Mar. 15th, 2016 05:49 am (UTC)
Thank you! (Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 20th, 2016 08:44 am (UTC)
Beautiful imagery and style here, so peaceful in the first half:

The ripples spill downstream, like thoughts. Nature's musings. Tree dreams.

And then so mysterious and finally mournful at the end. Lovely piece.

Mar. 15th, 2016 06:04 am (UTC)
Thank you. I was trying to capture the feeling that stream hiking always gave me; sort of hiking through my thoughts, if you will.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 20th, 2016 03:44 pm (UTC)

Eerie and haunting when fears turn out to be true...well written!!

Mar. 15th, 2016 06:05 am (UTC)
Thank you. I only recently thought about the connection between my recurring dreams about that door and the place my Mom died.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 20th, 2016 04:26 pm (UTC)
This is such a wonderful combination of sadness preceded by those wonderful descriptions! There is something quite poetic about it which I enjoyed very much. It is very evocative.
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:06 am (UTC)
Thank you. I was striving for a sort of prose poetry, so I'm glad it came across that way.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 21st, 2016 03:38 am (UTC)
One feels the streaming nature, here, and follows the flow, like the twigs that are carried down the river. As a man of nature, I love your descriptions of your wilderness hiking memories. I'm sorry about the haunting of your dreams, and the loss of your mum. Though, I did find myself a touch amused that Bruce Lee lives in your attic. ;) This is everything a dream is, in many ways, evoking a myriad of genuine emotions in a short space. Powerful. Artful, and skilled.
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:34 am (UTC)
I, too, was amused by the Bruce Lee dream. It was as if my brain was trying to reassure me about my fears. I'm glad this piece reminded you of being a twig carried down river; that was the effect I was seeking.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 22nd, 2016 02:31 am (UTC)
Nicely done.
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:35 am (UTC)
Feb. 22nd, 2016 03:04 pm (UTC)
This feels like you are escaping the last tentacles of content-writing and rediscovering your authentic voice. I love the loops of the stream, and how you move from place to place in your head and in your life. Walking meditation, indeed!
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:38 am (UTC)
I've been meaning to ask you what you meant by "content-writing." Glad you picked up on the looping within this piece. I was playing around with the idea of different views of the timestream. In other words, was it possible to wade upstream to the "future" and therefore influence the past with that knowledge?

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 22nd, 2016 03:31 pm (UTC)
Very beautiful and haunting, lovely descriptions! I think the only bit that threw me was waiting for a school bus, as your protagonist seems much older than that!
Feb. 22nd, 2016 03:37 pm (UTC)
Actually, waiting for my son's school bus to arrive. I meant to make that clear but it was probably easy to overlook.
Feb. 22nd, 2016 03:32 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful and surreal. Writing as therapy is a good thing! Peace and hug~~~ D
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:57 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's been enormously helpful for me.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 23rd, 2016 01:05 am (UTC)
You took me somewhere I didn't expect to go. But that's what dreams do.

Very well done.
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:58 am (UTC)
That is, indeed, what dreams do; they're also a way of working out our daytime problems, which is why I find them so extraordinary to contemplate.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
Feb. 23rd, 2016 02:00 am (UTC)
Wow ... this is some piece ... engaging narrative.Quite different from what I normally read from you ... Loved it ..
Mar. 15th, 2016 06:59 am (UTC)
Thanks. I don't quite know yet, but I may take a similar approach this week.

(Just getting caught up a bit on the comments that have accumulated, many of which are so thoughtful.)
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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