Now begin with “I remember” for ten minutes and see where it takes you.
I remember the dream that awakened me this morning. One of those cold dreams that are anchored to the night with icy chains and images that mourn my losses in life, unwilling to let go of me so I can get on with the day. It was a fantasy in which I was running around the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, a SOMA that had changed from the resilient and credible opening titles of The Streets of San Francisco to the gleaming outlandishness of a Philip K. Dick novel.
I remember all the other times I have had that dream of places that I used to haunt in my real life, places that were taken from me, where I was left dangling like a spider that could not find an anchor for the next corner of the web it was weaving. These are dreams of a past that is mingled with fantasia that has no real significance except to remind me that the past is past. It is good to be reminded of that fact. It keeps me from holding onto something I can no longer have, whether it be labor, or love.
I remember being a small boy sitting in the alcove before the front door of the church a few doors down from my parents’ house in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania. It’s a Catholic Church now. I can see it on Google Street view. I remember when my brother, Paul, was born in 1957, just ten days before my fourth birthday, July 26. I remember the gas station next door. Today it’s a pizza place. That town is probably all Trump country now, a land of hopes and dreams that have miscarried.
I remember a night when my father carried me out to the back yard behind the gas station to observe the Northern Lights, the only time I have ever seen that emerald radiance. It was unusual for the glow to appear that far south. It seems symbolic of something, an event like the dreams that are filled with meaning that I cannot understand. Yet in retrospect it seems a sacred moment. I wrote a poem about it many years ago. I would quote from it, but my copy of it is packed away someplace, just like everything else in my past.
I remember the sunrise I saw this morning from the back porch of my home in Oregon. Stunning rose-tinted eastern light. Unlike my dream it seemed filled with consequences that I could understand, even though I cannot explain what they may mean, just as I cannot explain the dream.
I remember that yesterday Paul handed me two boxes of archival material: black and white negatives, 8mm and 16mm movie film, all captured by our father. There are recorded events on that film, halted in silver chemistry, that I do not remember now. But the memories are there, and the pregnant objectivity of the captive past comforts me. Unlike my dreams I know there is meaning in those images as well as remembrance. Despite my knowledge and experience of impermanence I still want to excavate significance from my own past, and from the madness that currently engages the world.
I remember previous folly: assassinations, war, and riots. 1968. Sleeping in a bed in a new home in California, amid farmer’s fields that are now full of crackerjack houses. The world is always insane. I have just grown used to that reality.
Yet I will never dodge the discomfort of those cold dreams. At least not until I have my morning coffee, the elixir that softens reminiscence and transports me to the world with my eyes open, clear, and overflowing with the color of the sunrise in each present moment.