I Fight for Beauty
Dreamed January 1, 1990 by Chris Wayan
Last night I dreamed I saw a panel of idiots interviewing the Goddess of Dreams. Guess what kinds of questions they asked?
So tonight, I tell the Queen of Dreams "Set your own agenda--define the issues my idiotic conscious is missing." And she answers.
I'm in pre-glasnost Russia, one of a group of citizens on a train rushing through the forest in muddy summer. On a train going the wrong way. And that is...
We realize we're going the wrong way, and disconnect our car--which is made of linked auto bodies. We tear it apart and drive back, individuals in separate cars, on a muddy hilly path parallel to the tracks. Slow and frustrating. Dare not drive on tracks--not because we fear a collision (few trains still run at all!) but because we need to be able to turn off into a ditch and hide, if the authorities come. If they see us they'll arrest us for going the wrong way. WHICH IS REALLY THE RIGHT WAY!
We notice campsites by the tracks. Empty camps. Infuriating! We were told "No, you can't camp in the state park! No room at all!" Now we suspect the Party elite always reports this park is full, so they can enjoy it without crowds. And this is...
(Oh, by the way, this dreamlet was precognitive. Next day at work a friend told me she wanted to go see the elephant seals at a nearby state park. They told her "you need a reservation; you MUST pay with a credit card." I don't own a credit card. So now the poor can't use a public park? Maybe she misunderstood, I don't know. But her story struck me instantly as being the source of the dream camp reserved for the elite. A cause after its effect!)
Anyway, we go on, past the empty, insulting campsites. The Party really burns me sometimes.
On a knoll, a burning cabin. We watch, puzzled. It doesn't seem to be burning down, just burning--on and on. Finally we figure it out. Someone, some agency is wasting natural gas by venting it. The cabin is a fake; it just covers the vent. Explore it with a man carrying a small dog--"to insure my wife's not trapped in here." To be absolutely sure, he calls her into the cabin and tells her to wait in one room while we look for her in the others! This doesn't seem like the smartest fire policy to me.
Well, no matter. This is...
But these four parables about the shape of my idiocy weren't my main dreams that night.
I'm in my late teens. My family's vacationing on Maui. I'm reading a travel brochure as my dad drives us around. Fun fact! Did you know the ancient Hawaiians cured pork with the smoke of fragrant bark? But they ate this ham only at special luaus welcoming minstrels, who delivered news from other islands in a wildly emotional dance-drama. Sort of a danced-out tabloid news!
And this is the sacred origin of the dramatic tradition we call "ham acting."
Sorry, I just dream 'em.
My father is driving us around Maui. Driving but not thinking. He drove off and lost my youngest sister Miriel and my mom. I say "I think I see them!" but he won't turn, won't slow down and listen. He mutters and fumes... and backs us into a blind alley. A car appears there, coming out at us!
And he backs right through it! Not into it--we slide through like water.
Still, I'm afraid we'll be arrested. Traffic laws are one thing, but that broke natural law!
Two native Hawaiians appear at the mouth of the alley as he drives back out. Not cops, just witnesses. They just watch. I see myself as they see me, for a moment, as we pass. To my surprise, I look OK, not the sick ugly creature I always expect. I really have changed a lot! If only I could feel the truth they see--that there's nothing wrong with me. Well, this is a step. For one second, I did. I saw myself whole.
But my father's still in the driver's seat.
I tell him "I'll apologize, if I turn out to be wrong about seeing Mom and Miriel, but please at least stop and check."
Dad just drives on out of town.
Mutual sullen silence. Around us, jungly hills rise. Now my mom and my sister Althea are in the back seat. No one seems to care that Miriel's still missing.
On a wild hill above us, we see a dog. My father stops the car. "Prove you're as good as you say!" he says to my mother. She calls to the dog, and it instantly bounds down the steep slope to the car, and in. For a moment Miriel is here too, petting the dog; then she flickers and snuffs out like a candle again. Damn. Almost had her back! She likes petting...
Up the other slope I can see a burnt-out Volkswagen van. My old hippie bus! Any other state but Hawaii would have removed that charred hulk from a tourist area!
(That hippie bus appears in my dreams a lot. Means pacifism at all costs. A burned-out value, but still lying around! The dog is probably my body--when my body "joins the family", Miriel (beauty, creativity, healing, and love/sex) is there momentarily. I'm impressed that my mom, who once was quite anti-body, welcomes the dog now.)
Motel. Miriel still isn't here. A letter arrives for her, though. It's from a rival who stole Miriel's boyfriend--or Miriel took hers. The tone is so poisonous I'm not sure quite WHAT happened! Blames Miriel, that's clear. It becomes a GENERIC hate letter to ALL the followers, not just Miriel, of a famous actress, heiress, and owner of a line of beauty products, who married a guy just to get her inheritance! I vaguely recall knowing her back then and liking her (in the dream I don't recall I WAS her just days ago in another dream). The letter calls her "a Barbie doll". She's femme, yes, but I think that's way off! Butch bias.
My father, though, reads the letter and takes it as gospel, without even considering the source. He announces with angry satisfaction, "Miriel's fucked up again!"
I'm stunned. My father believes it! I knew my mom gets a bit catty toward beautiful girls, but I didn't realize my dad thinks Miriel is vain or shallow or stupid. But as he rants on, it's clear he's ageist too: young equals stupid! Miriel's the youngest, so of course she's at fault!
Well... it's time for me to choose which side I'm on. And his isn't mine.
So I change sex again. I'm a teenage girl now with black straight hair, almond eyes, a too-delicate chin and nose that my father will assume means stupidity and shallowness. But I know that's his bias. Despite him, there's nothing wrong with me. A little insecure about having small breasts, but overall, I feel really good in my body--athletic, in fact! Long growth-spurt legs, and I know how to use them, tirelessly loping up the dense mountain trails. Up into the jungle hills. Up to sign on as a guard, in Beauty's secret army!
There's a whole civil war going on under the tropical cover, between us girls who follow the Beauty Goddess and want beauty for all, versus the Elite Rangers who try to reserve all this scenic beauty for the rich.
My first battle is a guerilla attack on the rangers' perimeter. To my own surprise I find I can shapeshift when the rangers fight me. They find it unnerving to be facing a skinny girl one second and a tree-climbing leopard the next. And I'm not the only one. Wolves, tigers... they won't underestimate us again.
We drive them from the state park they've hogged for so long! How delicious.
I won't let anyone put me down again for being young or little or female or pretty. Ever.
I wake to find I'm lying in bed--and male now. I write notes to the above dreams then recall one more confusing fragment:
"I dreamed of mixing two raw eggs and lemon juice and drinking it."
Was that literal advice? Should I do that now?
I crack two eggs in a big beaker and just stare down queasily into the slippery mess... I don't even have lemon juice. But with or without, I can't drink this!
Perhaps the dream wasn't literal? What then could it mean?
I wake again, for real this time. Breathe in relief as I realize I don't have to drink raw eggs. Though I do have to write all the dreams AGAIN. It's getting tedious by now... what was that, six in one night?
I'm in my house on the San Mateo Peninsula, south of San Francisco. In the lower corner of the window I can just see a steeple. A church next door? I don't recall a church... Or is that a much bigger tower, much further off? My internal compass says it's south, yet the window faces north... Then, just as I'm completely disoriented...
I look more closely. This isn't my original, but a cunning, unauthorized copy... done in neon! It's a marquee for a strip joint next door, not a church! That's why it's rising and falling.
My dream's been turned to a stripshow ad!
Then I wake. For real, this time. I'm in a big tipi in Wyoming, on the reservation. The picture IS outside--a banner, painted on hide. I can see it through an open flap. See two other banners, one related to another painting of mine, one utterly new to me. They fascinate me and I get up, go out and ask people about them.
Folks here answer me in an antique English, much after the fashion of 19th Century sailors and soldiers. Among themselves, they speak a tongue full of "ts" and "tl" and glottal stops. Shoshone? A branch of Ute? I wish I'd studied it before I came! Rude not to speak the local tongue.
I'm told their best local shaman painted these banners from his dreams. Folks are a bit wary about saying more to some white guy claiming a mystical connection with their visionary prophets. Now that they've stolen all the good land here, whites are trying to invade the other world too... here I am, claiming to have dreamed them before I saw them in waking life! What's more, I'm very firm that I painted the top one.
But the very insanity of this last claim convinces some that I'm not some New Age groupie, but really troubled by psychic visions.
And then I see a guy into body-building, having his breakfast: two raw eggs and lemon juice! I yell "AHA! So THAT'S what the dream was! It was just the future!" I sigh in relief. I don't have to drink that mess myself!
Now they believe me. That "aha" was so obviously real relief. I'm haunted by true clairvoyance. I have to be trained.
So I live here on the rez, study with more experienced shamans, and learn to work with my gift.
Finally, a crisis. A solitary man lives in the woods, in the earth, down between the roots, with three animal servants. He's not a gun-nut survivalist, he doesn't threaten anyone, so we let him be.
But in the last few years he's started talking about Evil, and turned to theft. Small things at first, but at last he steals a book of shamanic lore about a huge cup or chalice, filled with a powerful medicine. Definitely not raw eggs and lemonjuice.
I bet that guy was forced to go to missionary school as a kid. There are such Christian overtones to this theft--the Holy Grail? And a guy living underground who says he's evil...
Well, whatever its roots, we need the book back.
Underground Man studies the book, trying to figure it out. The elixir can manifest in several forms, each with a different use...
Then a giant frog knocks on his tree-root door! His own animal servants bring the frog's message: "I represent the aboveground people. They want to confer. Come to a tribal council."
But Underground Shaman says "On NO account let that frog in!" He's preoccupied by the book. A bad decision: we could have helped him. Alone, he studies and studies, trying to figure out this very confusing manual.
At last he concludes, regretfully, "I must give up my beloved evil and become a Saint." Otherwise if he messes with this medicine, he'll just end down in Christian hell. Ugh.
Now you and I know, as the Frog knows, this is pointless: you can't be saintly against your own heart. You can't even become a saint if you DO want to. If you are one, you JUST ARE one.
Making yourself be good for sneaky motives is about as useful as pulling on corn seedlings to make them grow taller. This shaman hiding in the roots must be what he truly is, suspiciousness and all--and that's just what he won't do. It's like he's trying to steal goodness and drink it, find the magic medicine to give him moral muscles! Drinking raw eggs...
And then I wake--for real, this time--
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