Pay Attention to This Dream You Are Having

[Video: TED Talk by the puppeteers behind the War Horse stage production. The play was originally based on a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo, and was itself adapted into a very successful film by Steven Spielberg. Having seen this talk, but neither the play nor the film, I can’t imagine the imagery was much improved by using real horses. See the additional note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (italicized passage):

…my definition of magic in the human personality, in fiction and in poetry, is the ultimate level of attentiveness. Nearly everyone goes through life with the same potential perceptions and baggage, whether it’s marriage, children, education, or unhappy childhoods, whatever; and when I say attentiveness I don’t mean just to reality, but to what’s exponentially possible in reality. I don’t think, for instance, that Marquez is pushing it in One Hundred Years of Solitude—that was simply his sense of reality. The critics call this “magic realism,” but they don’t understand the Latin world at all. Just take a trip to Brazil. Go into the jungle and take a look around. This old Chippewa I know—he’s about seventy-five years old—said to me, “Did you know that there are people who don’t know that every tree is different from every other tree?” This amazed him. Or don’t know that a nation has a soul as well as a history, or that the ground has ghosts that stay in one area. All this is true, but why are people incapable of ascribing to the natural world the kind of mystery that they think they are somehow deserving of but have never reached?

(Jim Harrison [source])


Being a Person

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.

A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.

Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.

(William Stafford [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Long Distance

Sometimes when you watch the fire
ashes glow and gray
the way the sun turned cold on spires
in winter in the town back home
so far away.

Sometimes on the telephone
the one you hear goes far
and ghostly voices whisper in.
You think they are from other wires.
You think they are.

(William Stafford [source])


It was when I was five years old that my Grandfather made me a bow and some arrows. The grass was young and I was horseback. A thunder storm was coming from where the sun goes down, and just as I was riding into the woods along a creek, there was a kingbird sitting on a limb. This was not a dream, it happened. And I was going to shoot at the kingbird with the bow my Grandfather made, when the bird spoke and said: “The clouds all over are one-sided.” Perhaps it meant that all the clouds were looking at me. And then it said: “Listen! A voice is calling you!” Then I looked up at the clouds, and two men were coming there, headfirst like arrows slanting down; and as they came, they sang a sacred song and the thunder was like drumming. I will sing it for you. The song and the drumming were like this:

“Behold, a sacred voice is calling you;
All over the sky a sacred voice is calling.”

I sat there gazing at them, and they were coming from the place where the giant lives (north). But when they were very close to me, they wheeled about toward where the sun goes down, and suddenly they were geese.

Then they were gone, and the rain came with a big wind and a roaring.

I did not tell this vision to any one. I liked to think about it, but I was afraid to tell it.

(Black Elk [source])


Mercury Rising (A Visualization)


you take the trail into the forest,
look up at the trees,
the streams of light coming down through the branches.

you walk on a bed of pine needles.

on your left,
a little ways off the path,
you see a clearing where there’s a small animal.

you ask the animal a question and it gives you an answer.
you thank it for that and return to the path.

as you walk along
you see something shiny
and when you get closer
you see it’s a key.

you pick it up and put it in your pocket.

further along off to the right,
you see another clearing,
and another small animal awaits you.

you ask it a question.

it gives you an answer, but it’s hard to make out.
you can sense a word forming with an ‘r’:
and you thank it for that.

you return to the trail.

(Jena Osman [source])


Addendum: I didn’t have — didn’t even know of — the TED Talk used here; I meant to use an old short film (“experimental,” I suppose) called A Dream of Wild Horses. (Original title in French: Le Songe des Chevaux Sauvages, 1960.) That film — surreal, soft-focus, all but silent — has haunted me from the moment I first saw it in a film-production class in college; multiple versions of it can be found on YouTube and elsewhere, but the lengths seem to vary quite a bit; the original was about 10-11 minutes long, so that’s the one to seek out yourself. Looking for it, in any event, led me to the War Horse talk I’ve used here.

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