You see, I had this dream last night. It’s been on my mind all day. Listen, here’s how it goes. This is a real dream.
I was in a place on the side of a mountain. The sun was out, there were some clouds, but the air was sharp and clear and there was this gusty warm wind that kept blowing, I was there with a couple of people, I think one may have been a preacher. They were talking and I was kind of off in my own world, the way I do, and there was a little church building behind me but it was locked. I was admiring the sunshine. The sunshine had a kind of cheerfulness, which was infectious and made me cheerful in spite of my self. There was a grassy hill that the wind blew against and the wind had made this hill by blowing dust over a long period of time. There were old bones in the hill. Skulls.
How long the wind here must have been blowing to build up a hill like that, I thought. I noticed then that the hill led to a long rocky ridge that reached to the top of a mountain I hadn’t realized was there. So I began to walk along this narrow rocky ridge that lead away from the hill and the little church. I looked over the side of the ridge and below me a vast range of young rocky mountains spread out before me in gorgeous color. The peaks far below were young and sharp and jagged. If I took a step out I could easily fall a thousand feet or more and still far to fall off this mountain. Below, there was a lush green valley, nourished by the rains that ran off the flanks of the mountains, and a bright silver river ran through the valley, probably filled with trout. What it would be to explore those mountains with the right companion.
I turned and realized I had come to a village. A primitive village, with houses of piled and cut stone. A narrow rocky path lead past the stone doorsills and further up the mountain. Old people sat in the doorways smoking pipes, chatting and looking out into the distance.
A group of children came running towards me, laughing and kicking up a fuss. I stood aside and let them pass. A young girl stumbled headlong into me and stopped, astonished, grabbing my shirt sleeve to keep from falling. Standing with one bare foot crossing the other, she looked up at me boldly, her blonde hair blowing cloud wisps across her strong black eyes as her elusive small lips tried and failed to smile and for a moment we recognised each other. Then, almost with a gasp, she turned away and ran to catch up with her friends. When she reached the little mob she hesitated and looked back at me over her thin shoulder, frowning.
I watched her go. I turned and looked at the people who talked and sat thoughtfully, undisturbed, many of them regarding me seriously.
And I thought, I know I thought this – that girl. I know that serious girl. We have always known each other. She is the other half of my soul and we have always belonged together at each others side. But something is wrong and she was born too late, her time isn’t right, but in a few years she’ll grow into a young woman and when she's ready, her not me, she'll seek me out and we’ll be together the way we’re meant to be.
And I woke up.
It was a kind of lucid dream, which I often have. A soul mate? The cynical side of me knows that’s a lot of shit, but it lead me to ask myself a simple question and the question made me feel haunted.
Here's the question. I have my job, and the small comforts of modern technology, such as anyone might have. I like technology. But this village, such as you might find in the Himalayas, there is no technology there, none. Only a simple hard boned life. But in that life, if I could be a part of that village life, if they took me in and made me a part of their family, loving, quarrelling, pulling me in, asking my opinion, the old grandmas scolding me and then cheerfully pinching my cheek, shoving food at me, and the men, laboring with them by day, smoking pipes in the evening as the sun goes down behind the mountains. And at the center of it, not God, not any god at all, but a woman. A great love. A woman full of heat and juice, hot of heart and thigh, and great of passion, who belonged to me completely and demanded all of me for her, a great love such as only a few are gifted with in this world – would I trade all my technology and modern life for that? For a great love, and a simple community to love along with her?
And I thought – I would. I absolutely would. I wouldn’t hesitate. And is that who I am inside? And is that what the afterlife will be like when I die?
This is the way I think. And in my oddly isolated life, though I move among people, I do these thought experiments all the time. I take a thing and turn it this way and that and let the light shine through it at different angles. It’s where ideas and characters come from. It’s what I love. You have a dream. What does it mean? Could it be the afterlife? And if it were what if . . . what if . . what if . . .
That’s candy to me. That’s my soul’s candy. Writing is where I go to explore myself, to stick my unwashed hand in the candy dish. It’s the unknown landscape, where I go to find out what happens next, to converse with the demons. That’s my craft and my curse. Its what make me love my craft, and its what makes me fail on a larger scale, because my stuff is too quirky. It doesn’t fit well. Its homeless.
I love words and sentences. A well crafted sentence from an author I love can stop me in my tracks. Reading it over and over, moving my lips. Writing the great writer’s sentences one at a time, copying out the words on a paper with a wooden pencil so I can just feel slowly in my head how it feels to craft a sentence such as you get from someone like Angela Carter or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, what it feels like to have those excellent words coming out of your head as though they might belong to you someday if you try hard enough, on a lucky day you might just get to touch that, a sentence where words are a thing of beauty and intelligence and to just ache to be able to do that myself someday.
I’ve been soul searching a lot these days, something that never leads to good. I’ve been reading romance novels and wondering if I could ever join those ranks, have readers, money and fans. What I realize, is that maybe this isn’t going to work. What is left?
There are stories I’ve written, that didn’t go very far when I let them toddle out in the world, but I love those stories. I love those words. They moved me when I wrote them. They move me still. I tried to write them truly, within my limitations. I want to be somehow like the authors I love. I think as a professional writer, I am so far a failure, though I'm not done yet. On the other hand, as an artist, for the thing that excited my passion, maybe I have possibilities still.
At some point you just have to decide what you want to be when you grow up. I think of Lisabet’s introduction to my brave little story anthology, she said:
“Garce writes from his heart and his soul. His stories are often difficult. They challenge both intellectually and emotionally. I don't want to scare readers away, but I also must warn you. You will not read this book and remain unchanged.”
I’m so proud of those words. I cherish those words, when I get down. They nourish me. I think I would rather have those words than money. They are a generous and precious gift, from a woman who has inspired and encouraged so many young writers. I'm so proud she's my friend. When I read those lines, it reminds me of what I really want. I want to be that guy. As much as possible I want to write truly, whether it goes anywhere or not. It’s an end in itself. That’s my soul candy.