I finished my thesis mid-April. It was 91 pages. I’m feeling pretty damn accomplished but like, I also don’t want to talk about it anymore.
So what happens after each semester (and this one is no different) is that I have a creativity explosion. All of the academic writing leads me to a place where my creative self is piiiiissed and breaking down the door. This time, after writing the 91 page thesis-that-I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-for-awhile-please, it manifested in a bunch of charcoal drawings, the usual loud music and dancing, some really good meals I cooked while drinking a fair amount of Riesling, buying some books I’ve wanted to buy for a long time that I’ll eventually read, a pile o’ poems, and some short stories, which was cool because I haven’t written a short story in probably fifteen years because I thought that it was difficult and because I thought that the ones I wrote were kinda sorta sucky. It’s funny how such creativity explosions eradicate those fears and allow you to just not give a damn. My muses are back and I’m all like, haaaayyyy.
The topic for March (I know, I’m so behind, I know, but I was thesising, mkay?), was information in the digital age, and I might have something to say about that later, but for now, here is a short story, courtesy of my (until recently) latent creative self. This is based on a dream I had. I have weird but awesome dreams. Bear with creative Meg, she’s a weirdo, but I love her, and I’m glad she’s back.
“Are you bringing the ocean?” she asked, “can I borrow it?”
“I can’t lend it simply because you love it so; I won’t bring it because it pleases you to swim.”
She built a boat of balsa wood, held together with the spittle of Blue Herons and the wax of white prayer candles. She built another made of pieces of discarded plastic bottles and useless devices, held together with old typed pages, obsidian ink and fiber, proof of wisdom. The last was made of flesh, held together with bone and muscle and sewn with the thread of an overactive imagination. It was anyone’s guess which would be rejected by the sea. Perhaps all of them.
After many months of toil, the boats rested on the sand, tilted to the left right and left, unbalanced and unsure. In the rain, she covered them with a large piece of washed up canvas, large enough to drape each vessel completely. A solitary gift from the sea.
She built a fire every night and looked over the ocean. She watched the precious moon go from new to full and back again. She heeded its call when she felt its pull, but her boats never left shore.
Her skin turned a deep golden color. Her hair and eyes lightened. The soles of her feet were burned and calloused from walking the beach in search of hermit crabs and sea glass, things living and dead and transformed by years of brutal punishment into something lovely but opaque. It should be said that during this time, he, the sea, alternated between quiet and fierce, dangerous and placid. She could not predict it, only fear it in some instinctual way, like the dark, fierce animals whose eyes she thought she spied in the night. She knew she was stronger, and probably had nothing to be afraid of, but…still. She could not be still.
One such night, she dreamt of three objects, given to her in the dream as a test of her wisdom. If she could determine the true value of each object, she could possess them. There was one object meant to accompany each boat she had built: a key of sorts to each boat’s journey and purpose.
The dream was long and lucid. It was arduous but also effortless. The first object was really three… Three tarot cards: the Empress, the Lovers, and the Four of Staves. The cards were small and worn, and fit in the palm of her hand. There was a small yellowed instruction card explaining their meanings that she crumpled and threw away. She did not need it, for she already knew the meanings. Could it be this easy? She thought, but looked at the cards once again and felt a deeper recollection–more than superficial–as she remembered their full meaning. Three choices and more confusion. It always comes in threes. Her knees weakened and shook, but she passed the first test. It was all that mattered for now.
A deep breath, a real pause in a deep, distant dream.
The next object materialized on her path. It was sitting among the kind of junk you might find in a shoddy thrift shop, but she knew better than to view it that way. She picked it up. It was lighter than she expected. It looked like a large, child’s toy top. It was made of various kinds of wood from oak to mahogany inlaid in tiny geometric shapes. The top half slid open sideways with a gentle pull and revealed intricate machinery that unfolded like a pop-up book, but working and moving: wooden gears the size of a ladybug to the size of her palm turned and ticked in chaotic order. The entire device looked like one of DaVinci’s drawings come to life. It was a time-keeping device. Before she picked it up, many had grabbed it and put it down, thinking it a worthless object. But it was ancient and powerful, and despite its lightness it held the heaviness of ages and mistakes. She intuited this, the combined fragility and strength, but not its purpose. But again, the simple knowledge she possessed helped her pass this test, and in some way, she felt, also helped to save her.
The final object was the most perplexing. She was drawn to a foot high, hand carved, brightly painted figure of a giraffe. She turned it round and round in her hands seeking some sort of hidden message she could not immediately infer. But she found nothing. She only felt: earth, rain, scorched clay, the beginning of man and creature and an evolution rooted in rock and riverbeds. She took comfort in the fact that she had determined the true value, if not the purpose, of the final object. She had passed each trial and would possess each item. But is possession the same as power?
She woke up from the dream slowly, shortly after dawn, feeling a force both terrible and magnificent, but she wiped the sleep and salt from her eyes and stretched wide, her hips and wrists cracking loudly.
It was high tide and the sea was kissing her toes. It had extinguished her fire and was threatening to steal the boats she had crafted, behaving more greedily and urgently now, with the threat of being caught.
How, she wondered, could something so majestic and soothing also be so callous, only concerned with its own intentions and able to so easily destroy what was so carefully built?
Nature behaves that way if not nurtured, she decided, then laughed to herself –
As if nature gave a shit about her nurturing, and as if her nurturing could ever hope to do a damn thing to tame it. The audacity. The naiveté.
She pulled her knees to her chest, cool in the morning air. But she had to move quickly if she didn’t want her boats to float away. She stood up slowly, her legs aching from the cold, and walked to the nearest tree, where her frayed sweater was hanging and waving like a surrender flag. She put it over her head, put her arms through the sleeves, and loosely tied her damp, tangled hair at the nape of her neck.
She ran toward the boats, each tied to a tree trunk nearby with a thick piece of rope. She tested the knot in each rope first, then took a closer look at each vessel, the water lapping at her goosebumped calves. The balsa, plastic, and flesh were floating gently, not matching the expression on her troubled, anxious face. The flesh boat was waterlogged and was beginning to wrinkle and quiver and slump.
She saw something poking up from inside the piecemeal plastic ship. She jumped, startled in her still sleepy state by what she found. The carved, painted giraffe faced her, its painted eyes staring beyond her shoulder. Breathing heavier, she moved to the balsa boat. Tucked in the back corner, she saw the timekeeping top. She found three small cards, damp and curling, scratching the flesh. She walked behind the boats and watched them sway. She got a chill and, after a time, realized her face was wet from tears, though the ocean air made it difficult to distinguish, hiding this display of emotion with its own brackish display, as if it were comforting, or perhaps competing, or preparing to strike. She could not tell which.
She still did not know if it was time. She continued to contemplate as she walked over to the three trees where the ropes were tied. Three choices within three choices. The cards, the objects, the boats, herself: she looked at all four–she miscounted, once again forgot to count herself, damn it–and felt the wet sand sinking beneath her as the sun rose in the sky, oblivious and beautiful.