Old Flames

What happens to dreams that die? Does it mean the imagination is no longer active, that age, care and worry, the slings and arrows of all have somehow overwhelmed?

I can’t remember my dreams anymore–not the nightly stuff of sleep and unconsciousness, but the dreams I once had for doing something new, finding something great, accomplishing some goal. They almost feel childish now. Every day is a slog through to accomplish what the day has put in my way and every night is a surrender to what the day brought and an acknowledgement that it didn’t go as planned.

Sunsets are harder to grasp just now. Literally. My house doesn’t look out at them any more and the magic painting and swirling clouds of a spring California sky are ethereal now, giving way to sunrise over the hills over my back fence to the east. There is promise there, but it’s a tired promise that gets up every morning with no real change, no real optimism that what is now will get better, though it wants me to fight for that.

I’ve been humiliated and humbled, pushed into corners I didn’t even know existed and I find myself on reconnaissance in strange new territories where all the rules have changed, all the familiar surroundings are gone.

It’s not lost on me that in a couple of months, I’ll turn 50 and so these incongruities feel more poignant, feel like they might be the result of me aging, me getting crankier, me losing hold of things I once held dear-or perhaps, choosing to let go.

Last night, I sat on my new patio and looked off into those hills while gentle cool breezes kicked around a lazy sunset behind me. The shadows began to darken and I went to light the fire pit, but it burned for perhaps 10 minutes and then it too lazily smoked itself into oblivion. I was content, though. I’d put thought to paper and was processing, arranging and rearranging these thoughts in my heart.

When I went to bed, I saw to it the flame and smoke were extinguished, but windows were open and while outside the smoke had dissipated, inside the smell hung in the air, seeming dusky and dank. I turned up the air purifiers and hoped they would do the trick before going to bed.

I was dreaming of broken and blocked paths. Impossible hills and jagged walls stood in the way first of me on a bicycle and then me on foot trying to get to the next thing. There was a sense of urgency in my steps and I knew a destination awaited, though I didn’t know what it was. One last dark hill, on a bicycle as fast as I could muster and the road merely ended; dropped off into black oblivion. To my left was a stone staircase that climbed up to another road and I had to portage with my bicycle to the top. I didn’t get there before I awoke.

Up immediately, shuffling loud enough to get the dog’s attention, I ran outside. The wind had increased in the opposite direction and Santa Ana east wind gusts had blown the fire back to life. At near full pitch it engulfed the rusted-out old fire pit and I grabbed the hose to douse it amid half-awake sharp and pointed fears of burning down the neighborhood. It was out in seconds.

The path to sleep blocked, I went back inside, hands both wet and sooty and as I cleaned them, I awoke fully into a day of fire.

Every road blocked, every fire started–I did. Every relationship harmed, every ignorant comment made, I did. It isn’t enough to wallow in the sadness of it…

The house still smells a bit of smoke and I fear its musty presence is here for a few days. Perhaps that is as it should be. One dines on one’s own ashes for a short time and for that short time, it’s good to do so and feel the sting of it. But sooner or later, one must allow the fire to be extinguished, the air to be renewed and the sunlight to come through again…