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The Restless Filter

Dreamed 2011/2/4 by Wayan

I'm sitting in a ring of chairs in an inn, in a small town in the Great Basin, listening to travelers' tales. I'm a teen; it seems to be around 1950. As weatherbeaten Anglos around the circle tell of their journeys, I get a sense of the great rootlessness and restlessness of this highly selected population. Take Europeans with no stake in the system, filter for the few brave enough to ship across the Atlantic early, then filter again for the few driven to leave the cities and farms to settle these wild mountains and deserts... they're restless drifters more extreme than any nomadic native tribe. The local peoples, rooted all, called it the Curse of the Whites. But it wasn't race--it was this multiple filtering.

With their better guns the Anglos defeated the tribes and stole the best land, but they can't defeat themselves. They don't even know to fight their relentless restlessness. Just feel it and bolt. And are prisoners to their freedom-hunger.

This isn't theoretical for me. My parents are in the circle--young again--and clearly about to break up. My mom's restless and wants to move on. Driven to drift, see more, but never settle down. So lonely.

What'll happen to me? I'm tall as the grownups, but I have a kid's emotions and life-experience. Dependent! I start crying that I'll never see my mom again. And will my dad stick around, or will he leave too? Will I soon be effectively orphaned here? I don't even like this town.

All they'll leave me is a double dose of the restless gene. Can I change it, fight it? But I know I won't try--I can't. For I'll do what we do when we're conflicted: leave town, hoping that somewhere, beyond the endless horizon, I'll be happy.

As if.

Sketch of a dream by Chris Wayan: digital sketch of Great Basin sagebrush hills and flats. In foreground a child yells 'HELP!' Two adults walk separately away.

My dad wasn't like this--though he loved the wild West, he had a strong social side. But my mom? She was always most comfortable alone, painting, under a big sky. Her love for us was real, but I always sensed her tension. "Cling too hard and she'll bolt."

And I'm the same. I hunger for love and community, but rebel against all restraints. Like a feral cat loving your touch--but compelled to flee.


At the time, the dream's mood gripped me for days. I knew it was wrestling with my mom's death. But now, looking at it with the unsentimental side of my coyote mind, I see... an idea. The dream advances a theory: that Americans, and especially the lone wolves of the American West, really are different; that American exceptionalism is real. Not due to political innovation, race, physical isolation or natural resources, but multiple filtering creating a human extreme.

And if that premise is true, that sagebrush tribe of libertarian contrarians will skip out (or lash out) if you trouble their feral hearts--because all they really know is fight or flight (and notice they talk fight, but their history is flight). They can't easily look inward and change. That smacks of tame!

On the other hand, coyotes are what they are; why change them?

Although I've opposed their reactionary politics all my life, I guess this dream is pointing out I'm temperamentally like them--at least this restless subset! On the other hand, the cults eager to punish all us sinners... now they're just brainless sheep. By choice.

But this other group, deeply anarchic, needing elbow room and solitude...

LISTS AND LINKS: past and future - I'm Just Not Myself Today! - age-bent dreams - families, parenting, my mom and her art - lone wolves - orphans and throwaway kids - loneliness - politics - freedom and slavery - I'm a feral mare in heat but needing freedom in Cliffmare - deserts and oases - the Great Basin - digital dream art

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