Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Terra Incognita

I don't remember many of my dreams. I am sure that a large proportion of them are not worth remembering, being the bubble-and-squeak re-hash of the days' detritus.
Two nights ago, however, I had a corker:

I am a policewoman - an investigative officer. I have just finished a grueling case, the pursuit of which caused a fellow officer to be injured. I have decided I need a career change.
I arrive at the office of a career counsellor. The office looks like triage at a hospital. I tell the staff that I am here for career counseling. They tell me I am mistaken - I am really here for a 'healing'.
This dismays me. I don't like that voodoo hoodoo, chanting, hippy rubbish. I want some sensible advice.
Despite my protestations I am led to a white ward room, stripped of my clothes and laid out on what is unmistakably a dissecting table. Two men who look suspiciously disheveled and hairy for doctors enter the room. They lay wreaths and bouquets of flowers on all the parts of my body. They place my hands and my feet in water.
The healing begins and I am swept into a fog. Just before I wake from the dream I hurtle out of the fog into the stark ward where I am doubled over, vomiting uncontrollably and staring into the image of a giant and malevolent octopus.


Now, we could all get excited and run away with complex theories about my troubled psyche (which I've already done, believe me) but what really interests me about this dream is the artistry of it.

It's going to sound a little conceited but WOW!
What confidence! What symbolism! What deft economical brushstrokes that have realized a creation which leaves the audience with such rich material to work with and the space to be the artists of their own meaning and interpretation.
There's the police officer (power? control? Concerned only with evidence?)
The dissecting table and the flowers (cutting below the surface? death? a wake for dissociated limbs and skin?)
Then there's the octopus... (Do any of you happen to know Hokusai's 'Dream of the Fisherman's Wife' ?)

The most bizarre thing about this dream for me is that even though it emanated from my brain, I AM the audience.
I have no idea who made that dream, but I'd love to meet them.

For a while I was obsessed with Philosophy of Mind, which is about mental events and functions and how they relate to the body (as distinct from Theory of Mind which is about understanding that other people have different thoughts and experiences to yours). I read lots of different books about how the brain vector maps faces and where memory is stored in the body. It occurred to me that an interesting project would be to map my own mind as a web page using Versalius illustration of the nervous system as the navigation (please do not use this idea- I WILL get around to doing it)
For the most part, I think this project would be an exercise in narcissism- memories, thoughts, ideas - I mean its all about me. The genuinely investigative and interesting part of the project will be trying to map the part of my brain that dwells to a large extent beyond my waking ken. It's the artist in the dark I am interested in -the bell diver who can sink to the black recesses of my brain and drag barnacled objects to the surface, the investigative officer who can see patterns in the scattered evidence, the anatomist who slices into the skin to see what lies beneath.
Who that woman is and where her country lies I haven't the faintest clue.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seven Wonders

1. I adore and miss my beloved Nana. She married, had kids and welcomed grandchildren on the same farm where she was born. She knew what was important and which things just didn't matter. On meeting my friend Sam, who at the time had hot-pink hair, Nana said "Oh! - its just the colour of my bouganvillea" When I showed her photos from the wedding of two lesbian friends of mine she said " Aren't they beautiful girls. Did they make those dresses themselves?"

2. I met my husband, Tim, in my scientific curiosity shop. He was looking for Warburg vessels – obscure laboratory glassware – it just so happened I had some. We discovered over a couple of dates that we both had embroidered smoking hats, were vegetarian and that neither of us had ever owned a television. After our second date, Tim asked me what my favourite film was. I answered Dr. Strangelove. He then asked if I would marry him, which was a joke, but, having an under-developed sense of irony, really freaked me out at the time. We were married about a year later.

3. Using Drake’s equation of diminishing probabilities- which divides the number of stars in a portion of the universe by the number that are likely to have planetary systems; divided by the number of planetary systems that could theoretically support life; divided by the number in which life, having arisen, advances to a state of intelligence and so on- even using the most conservative figures the number of advanced civilisations just in our galaxy still works out to be in the millions.

4. The number of times I think something is probably a bad idea but then go ahead and do it anyway still never ceases to amaze me.

5. The best meal I ever cooked included a terrine of savoury baked cheesecake wrapped in grilled vegetables, followed by home-made pumpkin, roasted garlic and pistachio agnolotti in orange and parsley oil, with pressed chocolate soufflĂ© cake and honey marscapone for desert. Vegetarianism and ‘low-fat’ bear no relationship to one another – at least not in any of my cook-books.

6. The Venus Fly Trap can count. If one of its’ trigger spines were touched once it will not close. The spine must be touched two or three times in quick succession for the trap to wager its precious energy on the likelihood that it is an insect, not a leaf falling, and snap shut.

7. I sometimes think I may have hallucinated this: One beautiful summer evening I had plans for a date with a circus clown. He called and stood me up, so instead I caught a tram to South Bank. A trapeze duo happened to be performing for free in the atrium. While I was watching them a man approached me who looked like he had just stepped out of a canoe in the Amazon. He said he knew me. I said I thought he was mistaken. He suggested that if he could tell me exactly where we met, I let him buy me a beer. I agreed.
“Queensland.” He said.
“Yes, quite possibly” I said.
“West End” he said
“I used to live in West End” I replied.
“You served me coffee in the Sitting Duck CafĂ© on Boundary Street three years ago”.
I was too flabbergasted to reply. He suggested that instead of a beer I might like to have a cup of Russian Caravan tea on his boat. It turned out he had arrived at South Bank by canoe.
His boat was called the Red Bill. It was a river boat- a pearl lugger. His name was Simon. He said he had just returned from doing work in the Amazon planting fruit trees with tribes-people.
After tea, he offered to walk me home through the (then) derelict Docklands.
We passed the place where all the seagulls go to roost and caravans where people lived illegally on the fringe of the city. As we were walking up one of the dark and narrow laneways of town another couple walked towards us. As they came closer I could see it was the circus clown and his date. Simon, the jungle explorer and Derek the circus clown knew each other- although it was apparent there was no love lost between them.
If I ever found out what their grudge was I can’t remember. In fact I have no idea what else happened that evening. Perhaps the brain, when faced with too many miraculous events, ceases to function. I wouldn’t be surprised.