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Dreamed 1995/3/25 by Chris Wayan

Girl jumps a chasm; I quiver at the edge, scared. Sketch of a dream by Wayan.

I'm trapped in a TV show--an ecological drama set deep in the north woods. Vivid kooky characters like "Northern Exposure", but no one is playing this ugly land-use struggle for laughs. Big money's at stake--and a huge stretch of fragile forest.

A girl I like leads me up into the wilderness. Craggy hills. A cave. In... light ahead. A narrow ravine intersects the tunnel! It goes on; the cavemouth faces us across the gap. But we must jump! Only five feet across, but infinity down. Makes me nervous.

She leaps first. I admire her bravery and force myself to follow her. Jump--and land shakily on the far brink.

The tunnel emerges in a secret valley where she introduces me to strange people--natives of the forest. Tall wiry graceful brown elusive--with pointed ears. Elves! I like them, but they're wary--furious at the human corporations from the south, coming in to loot the land. They're torn between sabotage and open resistance. They've mostly hidden from humans, even the locals, and though coming out may be good strategy, it's hard for them.

Meanwhile, down in the human village, they hold a meeting to organize a grassroots ranger program to counter the federal and state rangers, who ignore the locals and collude with the timber companies. I'm surprised and disturbed, though, that the elves, who have lived here the longest and know the woods best, aren't mentioned as obvious partners. Startled to see that the meeting's all-white, too--no natives, whether elf or human. Racism!

And then I recall that this is a TV show, and the script is subtle, like Northern Exposure. Each scene so far has been from the viewpoint of one character--highly subjective. So this all-white gathering may be some character's selective perceptions--someone who only takes whites seriously, doesn't NOTICE others!

And the elves may be, in the show's scheme, just evidence that the girl I like is insane. Or maybe not--their citadel isn't exactly a place tourists are going to stumble across. I want them to be real--I think the locals need their help, and I don't want the girl who found them to be just hallucinating. But I'm afraid, despite its generally progressive politics, that this show is still American--and American "realism" excludes nonwhites, elves, spooks, animals, trees... creatures like me.

The song of the left for the last decade! "Sorry. To get the middle to listen to us, we have to sacrifice you exceptions." Funny how well that harmonizes with the corporate chorus "well, that's progress" as they mine our land (and our people) for money.

I'm trapped in a sick show! How can I change channels from inside the set?

But then, that's a question a lot of us would like answered.


Today I read of the fragmenting koala habitats of Eastern Australia; one female activist grumbled "Our real problem isn't big money, but Aussie men's attitudes. Beery racist know-it-alls who impatiently dismiss everyone else."

The dream may also have been anticipating a more outrageous report I read a couple of weeks later: "In the Rainforest" by Catherine Caufield, on just how bad outsiders are at rainforest management. In Brazil, much of the destruction's not even profit-driven! Mostly pride (we're the experts, we're SCIENTIFIC), racism (natives aren't human, so the jungle is empty), militarist paranoia (occupy jungle to secure your borders--use it or lose it!), and simple, macho egotism (city paper-pushers burn a hundred acres and run four sick cattle on it so they can say they're cowboys, real men of the land).

So the deep forests are being killed by ATTITUDE problems? Sound crazy, but... my dream, anticipating how incredulous I'd be, seems to agree. Not profit--attitude.

Do I have my own attitude problem? Maybe there's a side I don't listen to--why should I be immune to the modern plague?

Still... I may have paused and sweated, but at least I made the leap.

Have you? Society as a whole sure hasn't. Yet.

Girl jumps a chasm; I quiver at the edge, scared. Thumbnail sketch of a dream by Wayan.

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