Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Angry owls

During construction work at the Camberwell market someone had dug a hole and left the dirt piled high in one corner.  I noticed it as I bought my fruit and vegetables; in between the grit and grains of dirt there were tiny pieces of porcelain, buried for years that people could now reclaim. 

I found a small cat, blue and white, a girl, like the pudding dolls from Christmas time, and a cracked donkey in grey china, each miniature a treasure.

 I dug them out and put them aside on a shelf, beside the florist. 

My husband distracted me.  He was on his own adventure nearby.  An archaeologist had planted a sword, not unlike my father’s army dress sword, in the bottom of another deep hole next to the market.  

The archeologist planned to cover the sword in soil to establish the rate of metal degradation over time.  My husband was fascinated.  I was not. 

When I returned to my treasure pile I found it had gone.  Someone must have moved it.   

I searched all over the market until out on the street I came upon a truck, whose driver had lifted the last shovel from my beautiful pile of dirt, poured it into the back of his truck and then drove off. 

I was furious.  Filled with a childish rage of helplessness.  How could they do this and not only to me?  There were others who had started their own collections of porcelain bits.  Others left disappointed.

I woke from this dream still angry and my mind travelled back to my grandson the day before when he and I had explored the Melbourne museum.

They keep a few Australian native birds and fish in a mock forested environment in an outer enclosure there.   A ramp enables visitors to walk to eye height with the top of the trees.

There on a lone gum tree we saw a young tawny frogmouth.  He was asleep at first but then looked up and around in our direction.   

‘Why is he angry?’ my grandson asked.
‘He’s not angry.  He’s just curious,’ a nearby museum assistant said.  

Owls have a way of looking angry all the time, those deep set eyes, that high brow.  

This owl was not angry but after my dream I was as angry as any three-year old tricked into thinking her pile of treasure is safe only to discover someone has taken it away, without even asking. 


Jim Murdoch said...

My father said he never dreamt. As a child I rarely remembered my dreams but at least I did dream sometimes. Dad, typically, was adamant. He did, finally, admit that, like everyone else on the planet, he did, indeed, dream but simply couldn’t remember those dreams; that was quite the achievement. It was on Bank Street. That’s how rare this kind of admission was in that I can actually remember where we were when the conversation took place. I remember exactly where I was the first time he ever apologised to me for something too.

Of course as I started reading your piece I thought it was real. Discovering it was a dream I felt cheated, conned even. I’m not a huge fan of the dream sequence. I’ve only ever written one, in Left. TV writers use them all the time and when Carrie and I are watching something I’m quite likely to blurt out, “Dream sequence!” when we see something out of the ordinary. I’m not sure why they annoy me but they do seem to. Here’s what I wrote in Left as it currently stands (the narrator is a woman):

It was dark when I woke. I’d been dreaming but it all started to be pulled away from me when I became conscious. I was in a schoolyard, not any schoolyard I can remember ever being in, and I'm wearing a leotard, an item of clothing I have never worn not even for yoga. It was black which is not nearly as slimming as you might imagine. In the dream I'm surrounded by children, Village-of-the-Dammed-type kids, not all blonde but all with a deadpan expression on their faces. Anyway one comes up to me and peels part of my leotard off. It's a letter, the letter A, capital A. I recognise him. He was called Francis. He returns to his place and another, a girl this time (Denise, I think), appears at my shoulder and peels off another letter. No sooner has she done this than others start milling around me. My leotard is completely comprised of black letters and as they peel them off gradually—actually not that gradually—my nakedness becomes apparent until finally I'm standing there completely nude surrounded by all these children each holding a letter in their hands and starting at me. And then I woke up with a start.

Nowadays I constantly wake up in the final throes of a dream. Mostly I dream about work. I seem to miss the camaraderie that went with it which I find strange because I’m perfectly happy working on my own and it’s not as if I have no one to talk to about what I’m doing. But my dreams are invariably set in an idealised office populated by people from all the places I’ve ever worked. Family and friends aren’t outlawed but if they do appear they’re usually just more office staff.

Carrie and I had to go down the town last week and as we were walking out of the mall there were some owls on display, four or five owls, and a hawk that did seem annoyed. The owls looked more bored than anything or drugged; Carrie thought they might’ve been drugged. You could pay to have a photo taken with one but we didn’t. It was all a bit tacky and sad. Carrie looked the place up online when we got home and seemingly they don’t have the greatest of reputations. My last wife had a soft spot for owls—she collected all things strigine—and even though that was all a long time ago I still have a special fondness for owls. Cockatiels I have mixed feelings for, at least this minute; we’ve been listening to some flute and recorder music and Birdie thinks it’s a competition.

PhilipH said...

Initially, I too, (like Jim M), thought this was going to be a true tale of woe! But a dream? Curious, as most of MY dreams are.

I am seldom dreamless. Each time I wake I struggle to remember what the dream of just seconds ago was about, but rarely can I bring it back. Frustrating, as it seems I want to continue whatever the dream was about.

Used to have a recurrent dream, bordering on a nightmare. This dream was much the same each time and it involved a huge office block in Southend on Sea, where I was once based.

I dreamt that I was still working there, but I'd already retired and was working as a 'part time' officer. I knew I should NOT be working now that I had a pension and I was trying to get out of this situation, avoiding the usual 'retirement party' stuff again.

This dream was so REAL and I could remember each detail on awakening, even though the detail varied each night.

I have not had that dream for yonks, but not sorry about that!