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Girders and Dust

Dreamed 1983/10/23 by Chris Wayan

Griffin statue, profile, on iron pedestal, rusting girder and desert winds behind. Words: Just girders and dust where childhood was.

I'm in San Francisco, at the entrance to a park called Stern Grove. I walk through eucalyptus woods to the green lip of the steep vale, and lift off, skimming birdly down the near-cliffs to the winding meadow along the bottom--the fairground where we picnicked when I was small.

Here I touch ground. Touch dust! It's all crumbled to dusty ruin, except a pedestal, fore, with a wrought-iron Gryphon, couchant, and a half-built steel structure rusting red, behind. And beyond lies not the City, not the sea, but desert.

The wind rises round me, and on the pedestal these words appear:

Just girders and dust
Where childhood was.
Only... it's not quite true. More nuanced than that. The girders aren't a ruin but a construction site. A half-built art museum? A line of people already anticipate the opening. Colorful murals hide in corners. A couple kisses in the shadows.

And as I hike on, into the desert dunes, I see a well. Oh, a burly man hiking out of the dunes tells me it's a failure: "You only get two gallons an hour from it. Not enough to supply a single house." But he's a wasteful American and he's wrong, that's plenty for me. Plenty to live a good life in this vast, beautiful solitude. Near the new art museum too!

And the griffin was real. I doubted it, they told me I imagined it... but the griffin's real.


Iron gryphon in the desert = I grew up in suburbia. They claimed shamanic gifts and vulnerabilities like mine aren't real. They were as wrong about people like me as they were about women, nonwhites, gays. Rather than grow up and out of my difference, it endures like iron, amid the ruin of all else from my childhood... and the mess of building a new me in the desert.

There are obvious echoes of Shelley's famous poem Ozymandias here. But he wrote of a proud king's statue that deep time brought down. My dreamself never fell. Mute, lonely, rusted... but it endured.

One more difference: my soul's a gryphon. Not human! Not even half, like the Sphinx who inspired Shelley.

Get used to it, Wayan, get used to it.

LISTS AND LINKS: griffins, gryphons, however you like to spell it - flying dreams - sphinxes - dream sculptures - solitude and hermits - deserts and oases - recovering memories - being gifted and different - a later, still stranger dream of Stern Grove: Meltdown Valley

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