In praise of my bed


Our bed 2

No other lover has been so faithful as you, who wait for me at day’s end, unmoved by my failures and lack of grace, ready to bear me up without complaint and hold me in your embrace through every dark hour.

Magician of the night, I give you weariness and you transform it into rest. I drink the great elixir you prepare for me and awake refreshed in body and soul.

You are the skiff I row to carry me from past to future across the Sea of Dreams, where I have drowned a thousand times.


Atop your still rink, I glide and spin through the dark hours. When the ice melts, I fall beneath the depths, swim the length of night, and crawl to shore.


You are the dance floor of my memories.

Each night I meet monsters, lovers, and my other selves, reincarnated from remembrances past. We play upon your darkened stage – dramas, comedies, and mysteries – to our forgetful audience.

You are the envelope I fold myself in to mail myself to tomorrow.

I plant the seed of me in your rich soil, grow new again, reborn each day older than the day before.

You are the cocoon I wrap myself in to shed my younger selves, all the people I used to be.


I am sovereign of your continent, where I rule over a legion of dreams.

You are the sheet of paper on which I write stories of love and loss, tales too sad to tell or remember.

Unafraid I climb onto the ledge of night and jump. Then I wind myself in the shroud of yesterday’s me and die once more, until I can die no more.

Photos: skiff by phil smith    skater   cocoon

The calling


Dream world



Do you hear it

in the dark


before you slip

beneath the cover

of sleep?


Does it murmur

you awake

call you back to




between the worlds

do you hear

your heart whisper

what you must do?


You begin to see

there is an end

to the long tunnel

of time,

and your heart says,


before it is too late

let’s look

just one more time

for those dreams

we’ve heard so much about.


Just 97 miles away




The magnetic pole drew Shackleton, called Ernest by friends and family. He had a vision of standing in the frozen south, looking north toward England. He faced the cold and vowed that he would reach “the end of the axis upon which this great round ball turns.”





On the first day of the year 1908, mid-summer in his upside world, Shackleton and the crew of the Nimrod sailed toward the bottom of the world. After 29 days, they could sail no more. The ice embraced the ship, and the cold plotted through the fall and winter to kill them, but they survived, waiting in the long darkness for the sun to rise again. When October turned spring, Shackleton and three others set out for zero longitude.





Like most of us, he almost reached his dream, just 97 miles short. That’s 156 kilometers for those who dream in other places.




Our dreams draw us, and in spite of hunger, frost-bitten feet, and the blinding white of despair, we slog on, so often turned back just miles from the place where we had hoped to plant our flags.




Remembering dreams


My dreams are back, those stories I tell myself at night. I don’t believe the stories ever left, but for most of the last four or five years, I have woken up with no remembrance of my dreams.


For years I wrote down my dreams in the back of my journals. My day-time thoughts began on the first page, my night-time thoughts began on the last page, and each moved toward the other, claiming pages until the book was full.  It seemed fitting that my dreams were hidden in the back, behind my more lucid thoughts.


On Tuesday night I dreamt about a good friend in Japan. I still carry some of the joy of seeing her again, if only in my brief dream. My emotions don’t seem too concerned with the fact that I didn’t actually meet her face to face. It must be like this when a mind is in decline. People are forgotten, the world grows strange, but the emotions are remembered, as familiar in this singular reality as they were in the shared reality of the former life.


Before the world spun me old, I lived as a young woman. That was decades ago. I remember dreaming that I was old and was riding a bus through an unfamiliar city. I sat next to a window and watched the world go by. When the bus stopped at a light, I saw a good friend standing on the street, still her young self. When our eyes met, we both smiled and, for a long moment, I couldn’t tell who I was or whose dream it was. Was I an old woman dreaming about her as a young woman, or was she a young woman dreaming about me as an old woman? When the bus stopped, the doors opened and I got off in the room of morning light where I lived life.


For the last three nights, I have remembered the stories I told myself in dreams. I stopped journaling three years ago when I lost my words. Writing this blog has helped me find them again. Maybe that’s why my dreams came back.

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Photo courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice and Linda Adair Miller <;

I dream of flying


For as long as I have remembered, I have dreamt of flying. I stand under a blue sky with my arms lifted and then gently push off from the earth and fly, almost float, above my world.  Hope follows me out of these dreams, and I feel as if I share a secret with the sky.


When I was five or six, my father went on a trip and came home with a bracelet and necklace for me. I still have the set. Patterned after the silver and turquoise jewelry common among Native American tribes of the West, it is imitation jewelry, made for children. The necklace holds a rounded horseshoe-shaped piece in the middle, and my father told me that if I held that piece and made a wish, any wish, it would come true.


When you are a child, your nighttime dreams seem as real as your daytime life. I never thought that I was just dreaming about flying; I believed I was flying at night. In the morning, I landed back in this other world, held firmly in the arms of the jealous earth.

The day after I received the jewelry set from my father, I stood on the red brick planter in front of our porch, wearing the bracelet and necklace. One hand grasped the turquoise piece in the middle of the necklace, and the other held my nighttime dream, wrapped up in a daytime wish. I named my wish and saw myself soaring near the elm trees in the yard. Then I jumped.


The earth would not let go of me, and I landed on my feet, one hand still grasping the necklace, the other one empty. I watched my hope take wing and leave me, the sky indifferent to my longing. Children have their own sorrows and know the loss of dreams, sometimes before they have the words to tell you.


For many years, I kept a journal of my nighttime dreams, but for the last five years, my mind has chosen to forget. The other night I stood in a field and the sky called for me, like an old friend inviting me back. Featherless, I flew into that place of my childhood joy, the place of belonging. When I awoke, I could almost hear birds singing in the empty winter trees, a song familiar and forgotten, with a melody of hope.

The memory collector


My small self

When I was small, I collected things I found: shiny objects, buttons, leaves, and feathers, especially feathers. I often dreamt I could fly and feathers seemed like a promise of that dream. Finding something of beauty felt like an accomplishment. My reward for paying attention. Somewhere on the road to adolescence, I lost every one of those treasures.


In my teens, I kept a drawer filled with notes, jewelry, stray buttons, foreign coins passed on from relatives, ticket stubs, a lock with a forgotten combination, and pictures of my friends and the boy I loved my freshman and sophomore year. One scrap of paper I saved until I was in my mid-twenties. The library in my high school sent out notes to students who had delinquent books. The notes were short and to the point; they had the student’s name on one line and the name of the book on another line, nothing else. I don’t remember if I was assigned to read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment or if I chose it on my own, but I loved it and wanted to read more of his work. I kept that second book too long because one day in class the teacher handed me a note from the library. All that was written on it was my name and below that, The Idiot. I kept the note for years, my private joke with the universe.



I think objects might want to be found. Maybe a button works for months to untie the strings that bind it to a shirt, and when it leaps out into the unknown, it is looking for adventure. I want to see more of the world, it says; I’ve been manhandled enough, put in my place for too long. Imagine the pleasure it feels when a child or an adult picks it up, admires it, and carries it home as a treasure. At least, that’s how I would feel if I were a button.


My crown

I still have a box of small findings and remembrances, including a gold crown that was fitted for one of my molars but never put on. I could tell a great story about that, but unfortunately, I don’t remember much about it. My mother wore it on her charm bracelet for years and it has come back to me. Last summer I bought a wooden art box for my grandchild and filled it with some of the things I cannot throw away.


Over the years I have tried collecting things of value, but I can’t sustain my interest. In Japan, I started a collection of the holders used to rest chopsticks on, called “hashioki,” but I grew tired trying to find a place to display them and gave most of them away. I use two of them for brush rests when I do Japanese calligraphy.


For a long time, I collected dreams, and for safekeeping, I put them in my heart. When I was alone, I would take them out, whisper promises I thought I could keep, believing that some day every one of them would grow wings and fly. I never thought I could lose them, but I did. And now I know why: my heart is a pocket full of holes.


When mother knew love



Memories are the only thing I am interested in collecting now. These stories, like the flightless feathers I loved as child, or like the fallen petals that when crushed still give off the faint aroma of the rose, or like the empty shell left by a cicada who grew away from her old self but left a part behind for me to hold and remember, these stories are the only treasures I have.