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Four Who Could Only Get Half-way

Dreamed 1948 by Nancy Price

Source: Acquainted with the Night by Nancy Price (1949), selections from an experimental dream journal she kept for one year.

There were four of us, but of the three others in the dream, the personality of two has entirely eluded me. The third was a man named W. In my waking hours I remembered him well, he was walking on in the Benson Company when I joined the cast, and somehow he never got on. I am afraid for all his goodness and industry he succeeded in boring both his manager and the public and as far as I can remember him, an unimportant part was the summit to which he climbed.

It was strange that his name eluded me in the dream; the others I knew, yet immediately I woke I remembered his name but not the others.

Now the peculiarity of this dream and the intense irritation of it was that all four of us seemed to be balked whenever we attempted anything. In nothing did we succeed as far as accomplishment was concerned; all that we wished or attempted to do we came near to achieving, but that was all.

Certain incidents come back to me. I remember I wanted to take the three down a lane at home. One of my favourite walks led over grass fields which were dappled with the finest daisies and gilded with buttercups and I never have seen anywhere such a variety of grasses. Passing over these we should have come to the haunted inn and gone over the water meadows, then the river and the old bridge and from there to the woods and the rock caves, but over and over again we started and could not go further than a gate which led to the tennis court.

Then I thought we should enjoy our tennis. This court was in the middle of a field and steeply from it rose a bank and round the thick hedges elms were dotted. I heard the birds singing. We tried to lift the latch of the gate and it would not move, we tried to climb the gate but our legs refused the effort necessary. The court was marked out, the net was up yet we could not get there, again and again we passed the old barn and came to this gate but never could we succeed in entering. It was the same, whatever any of us attempted.

We were all fond of music; we wanted this in the evening. I was again in the old gold and white drawing room with beautiful bowls of spring flowers and the blue bowls full of Russian violets; I could smell them. I saw every little ornament and the pattern of the carpet. Mother was continually saying "Why don't you give us music?" We all tried. I wanted to play the fiddle which I used to consider my instrument; I attempted to get it out of the case, the case refused to open. One of the two unknowns tried to get to the piano, the other to sing; W. wished to recite, we all made superhuman efforts but nothing happened, and so it went on.

Then it was conveyed to me by the thought speech I was well accustomed to, as follows--

"You four will never quite get anywhere or do anything, you try but you just cannot succeed, you are the halfway people."

This seemed to me almost pitifully tragic, doomed never to accomplish, never to arrive, never to achieve. Then I saw my mother's face, it always had that cheer and comfort about it which the sun brings. And it seemed she talked to me at length. Certain actual words I remember; of others the thought was conveyed. I was not to get bitter or wretched, but try to enjoy the trying, to go on trying and that one day, one day perhaps...

Then in words, "I see a web round each of you in which you are caught and held; the web is difficult to get through, you may never be able to do this, but each time you try it gets worn a little; go on trying." Then again by conveyance of thought: she was among those outside the world of life, unable to pierce or cut the web in which we living were held, but if we despaired the web would grow thicker and tighter.

In my dream I thought we all continually struggled, and just as I seemed to be breaking through, I woke.

--Nancy Price

EDITOR'S NOTEI

I know the feeling. My dreams share this theme: hard lessons in persistence. Climb from the Pit, My Gate, The Who In Hell Am I, Radar Bear, Kick her to Death, Blind Ancestors, My Past Changes So, The Sell-Fish Witches, and perhaps most bluntly, Gurney to Wheelchair to Walker to Cane...

In her fascinating novel Shaman, Sandra Miesel subjects her heroine early on to a long series of nightmares of climbing out of Hell. She argues that this is realistic: all shamanic apprenticeships demand willpower, perseverance, pain-tolerance. The easily frustrated simply can't master the art.

Or, she implies, any art worth mastering.

--Chris Wayan



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