I woke up a couple of days ago dreaming of a burning house. I was inside the house, but I wasn’t trying to get out. I wasn’t even particularly disturbed. I had closed the door to my room, trying to ignore the growing conflagration in the rest of the structure, apparently worried only about the collection of books on my shelves.
My first waking thought was: “My house is burning down with me in it.”
And I knew the dream wasn’t really about a house. It was about me, my aging body, and the fact that there truly is no way to escape. It’s burning down with me in it, and I just ignore it. I close the door and try not to think about it.
The dream may also be about the state of our world. Now that there’s no Donald Trump shenanigans to fixate on and now that COVID-19 is becoming something that is no longer an immediate threat to my life (Yay, vaccine!), I’m seeing more clearly the generally disastrous state of things—the racism and the misogyny and the poverty and the precarious climate and the probability of further pandemics and the belligerent ignorance and all the myriad manifestations of inequality and injustice that cluster on our borders and fester in our cities and towns. Our house is burning down with us in it. And we close the doors and try to pretend it isn’t happening. When some of us shout “fire,” others just look around inside their own rooms and shrug, ignoring the rising heat and all the closed doors.
What to do?
As for my aging body, I intend to pay more attention to exercise and other forms of self-care.
As for the world, I intend to emerge from my COVID isolation and keep saying what I see and what I know and writing stories about it. I may even occasionally shout, “Fire!”
I woke up way too early this morning—like 4 a.m.—and although I finally managed to get back to sleep for a while, I dreamed. Here is what I dreamed, along with my expert analysis of what it meant.
- I dreamed that my bird somehow managed to dismantle her cage from the inside. Well, that’s obvious! Aren’t we all sick of being caged up and ready to bust out?
- I dreamed that there was a big hole in the floorboards of my house. Representing the opening up of society? Let’s go with that.
- My cat Mr. Bean was here! But given that he died nearly five years ago, this was obviously a zombie cat and so I’m letting him represent the coronavirus. (Sorry, Mr. Bean.)
- The bird went through the hole in the floor, where she was caught by the cat. Oh, no! The virus is still out there!
- I managed to drag cat and bird out of the hole. (Another lockdown??) The bird was okay, though looking sad, bedraggled, and frightened.
And the moral of this story is: Stay in your cage! There are zombies on the loose!
If you have a better explanation of this dream, let me know. Otherwise, I’m sticking with this one!
I arrived home after three wonderful weeks in Bali to find this pre-publication review of my upcoming novel! Thank you, Claire Villarreal!
Not Knowing weaves past and present, dream and waking life together for a ride you won’t want to end–and once you finish it, you might still be finding yourself absorbed in the characters and their growth. Meg Fitzellen, anthropologist and rationalist, confronts a recent trauma during an archeological dig in Belize only to uncover deeper and darker secrets from her more distant past. Uncanny dreams, occasional flashbacks, and some old-fashioned fortune telling compel her at last to face the emotional fallout of events she’s long buried in a hidden drawer of her mind. Once all the secrets are out, Meg finds liberation not just from emotional baggage but also from an overly materialistic worldview that kept her from living in the magic of reality.
Donna Birdwell has a talent for evocative prose, lush settings, and dark secrets her characters must face as they grow into themselves, as well as moments of soaring ecstasy. Grab some coffee, put aside a weekend, and treat yourself to this expedition into a magical vision of reality.
Pre-order the Kindle version of Not Knowing now, or get the paperback at my official launch event at Malvern Books on July 20!
A writer I follow on Twitter made the point that Memorial Day is not a day for calling up your military vet friends to thank them for their service, but rather a day for remembering those who died in service to our country.
Technically, she’s right, of course. But I think maybe it’s both.
I think it’s also a day for remembering all of our returned vets who have committed suicide and those who continue to do so with alarming regularity.
I think it’s a day for remembering homeless vets.
I think it’s a day for remembering the dreams that died on the battlefield with lost limbs and lost sanity.
I’m especially vulnerable to such sentiments this year because my next novel delves into these issues and especially into the legacy of family hardship that follows along with them.
I honor those who have given of themselves in honorable service. But I also hope for a day when we no longer sacrifice our young men and women’s lives and limbs and dreams in the service of ill-advised wars and interminable conflicts.