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The Ship of Jade,
or,
Out of the Hands of Experts

dreamed 2009/11/7 by Wayan.

THAT DAY

I'm reading Robert Moss's The Secret History of Dreaming. He makes me face that I've betrayed my dreams' demands in two key areas: they've said clearly that they want me to date again and apply to grad school. I've made only token attempts to comply. Tribal shamans would have no trouble explaining my current illness: soul loss! Not theft; I threw my dreams away. To heal, I have to act on them. Thumbnail sketch of a dream: I'm the first woman commissioner of baseball; I lose my temper and flash a mutant ballplayer. Sketch of a dream by Wayan: two swimmers grapple and tear off their buoyant clothes underwater, trying to dive to the bottom of a pool.

And I don't know how. I just can't seem to. The illness meant to spur me has drained me so much I can't face the challenges... barely get through the day's demands. Feel deadlocked.

So I do what I always do when trapped: retreat into art.

First I finish illustrating the dream-poem Oh, Wait (left). Thumbnail orbital photo of Thuvia Upland on Tharn, a model biosphere resembling a warmer Mars.

Then I design a web-comix version of Franchise (upper right)

Then I expand the tour of Thuvia Upland on my imaginary planet Tharn (right)

Then I add some watercolor landscape-sketches to Pegasia (lower right). Thumbnail orbital photo of Pegasia, a model biosphere that's a rather Earthlike moon of a warm super-Jupiter.

Back up all this new work and start to index it. Oh, I'm sick all right. No energy at all. Yeah.

THAT EVENING

I read the saga Sigurd and Gudrun, in Tolkien's translation. Rhythms and alliterations in Nordic poetry are unlike Latin ideas of regular meter. It's not just chance flashes of barbaric splendor, or poetry whose natural rhythm gets lost in translation; it's an irregular but strict polished form consciously aiming (through compression and outrageousness) for those flashes of splendor.

Tolkien's interpretation of Odin is startling. He's treacherous as Loki toward the heroes he helps, because his long-range purpose is to harvest these heroes; it's prophesied only a mortal dragonslayer who's gone through death can defeat the Midgard Worm at Ragnarok. Valhalla's no mere brawler's heaven but a training camp--a variant of Arthur's sleeping knights who'll save Albion. So Tolkien doesn't find the Norse tragedies tragic, exactly; they're sacrificial and preparatory. Or is he imposing a Christian myth on the Norse? Yet the evidence is there. The father-god sacrifices his own son so that Sigurd resurrected can save us all. Tolkien's just noticed the implications--why the Norse version of the All-Father's even crueler than Jehovah, sacrificing all his children. He's not a jealous God; nor a loving one. He's recruiting.

This does fit my impression of the Icelandic sagas: the Norse worldview's not tragic or fatalistic, just harshly pragmatic, admiring those who can make hard decisions. And in mythic terms, empowering: for only humans, not the gods, can save the world from darkness.

THAT NIGHT

Puffing freighter, green-inlaid
with a trove of Chinese jade
struck a greedy long-jawed
West Saharan reef. A horde
swarms from their clay-oven slum
to help pale shivering crew ashore
through vicious surf. But helps
the cargo, as well! Their gem-haul
percolates pirate-swift through all
Africa: green bruise of luxury.

And spreading still! Walk a fair with me--
velvet veins amid tawdry jewelry.
Small-time booths. We amateurs now
carve and sell this top-rate stone:
the waxgoldgreen, the marbletawn.

And what do we carve? Well, that one
the tourist rings she'd always done
in plastic soft and cheap. And he
fakes antiques: achieves ancestral sleek,
though all is borrowed fire. And yet...
she carves, in her hill-hut, intimate
scrimshaw dreams she never could
scroll in the local coarse-grained wood.

Salvaging jetsam ain't a crime. No, this
is simply how our webworld is.
Out of the hands of experts! All
cranks with loot. Deep roots, farewell!

In fairness, we self-taught can be
original, and backed by Wikipe-
dia, pirate sages flower, unique.
Problem is: foundation's weak.

Cracks yawn shoddy. Miscarpentry
mars our Rodia Towers of cool debris.

Traditionlost, we cannot tell
what's chaff, what's vital. Ah, will
we amateurs ever evolve the skill
to carve our soul's sweet shape?

Not me so far! Heft dreams all made
of lovely long-to-be-filigree jade,
and here I squat, slum bungler! I
pick up my drill, but know I'll betray
the depth of my dream. The prime stone
so velvet gleams! Small-time gone wrong.
Forgive me, all; forgive my bunglesong.


Sketch based on a dream by Wayan: one-eyed Odin, in battered hat, with one of his ravens, contemplates a lump of jade.

NOTES AND GUESSES



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