This is What Happens When I am Inspired

Artist and glassblower Chihuly, as shown at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Artist and glassblower Chihuly, as shown at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

I try to surround myself with inspiring things, people, conversation. I try to also surround myself with moments of conflict and moments of peace. When it’s in balance, I find an overwhelming love of existing, of simply walking through this world in balance. I find few things more rewarding. I have a need to live a fulfilling life (as we all do).

If not for my dreaming, I’d be a completely different person. My imagination isn’t so great, while waking. It’s corny, cheesy, lame. I must work really, really hard to create. It has a penchant for the ridiculous. But while sleeping? It’s as if I developed a whole other person that sometimes orchestrates whole novels in a single night.

I dreamed last night. Like I used to, so long ago, I dreamed a great big vast dream that laid out several passive questions I’ve been asking myself, and answered them. But before I talk about the dream, I must talk about what inspired it.

First, I’ve written about most of the influences for this dream: passively thinking about writing a book about heaven, being inspired by my current relationship, and being inspired by Hannibal’s artistic work. The part I haven’t written about was Rothfuss’ Slow Regard of Silent Things, which I recently read halfway, where a little girl exists in the undercity of a great magic-practicing city, complete with pipes, rivers, grates, and perfectly preserved rooms where people once lived. The thought, and possibility, of me taking care of a young one also fits into this dream.

This hinges hugely on my passive thinking of heaven as a place.

So I woke up this morning and wrote it all down, as fast as I could. Even so, I’ve lost about 4/5ths of the dream to consciousness, and if this is actually something worth writing as a story, I’ll have to reconnect the pieces. I’m very good at reconnecting. Recreating. Filling in the gaps. But the initial point of creation? I lean on my subconscious to do that.

It’s kinda like inward singing. Most people only sing half the time! The rest they’re breathing! In! (To quote Tenacious D) So I sing during my in-breath.

I’ve had this dream before.

Exiled for a belief that contradicted the elders, I walked a long, lonely journey. I followed my dream-directions, as the map has been laid out long before.

I climbed the mountain, where crumbling rocks and sheer drops kept me moving. At the top, after several days of starvation, thirst, and exhaustion, I came to a ledge containing a bulge of glass. It shimmered with all the colors of an advanced civilization. Yet I could not see in, and on the far end of the ledge, hidden and obscured by rock and turns in the rock face, was a dark corridor leading into the mountain. I entered.

The darkness quickly grew as I descended worn stairs. Stairs turned into steps, turned into a wood-covered footpath, then turned into hallways. Stone disappeared at an entrance to a great open space, filled with glass of the lightest greens and blues. Yet it was dark. Only the light of my headlamp candle lit the way.

Rooms upon rooms were revealed to me, filled with the most delicate of things. Bed-frames contained swirled river-stone patterns and kitchens were adorned with spice racks built into the walls. Whole wood trees cut length wise and petrified into stone. And the crystal. Crystal everywhere. Crystal walls. Crystal ceilings opening up to more crystal high above. All in a myriad of the lightest greens, blues, and pinks. Quill pens encased in crystal. Spitoons of crystal. The lightest wood framed in the lightest polish and laquer, as if crystallized. And golden objects. And platinum. And jewels and gems and even more crystal.

Paintings lined some walls, faded and ancient. They told stories of things I knew nothing of. Silken cloth hung in the open-air closets. Every square inch of the place had the most intricate detail of swirling spirals, as if the crystal were etched out of ocean waves.

Yet farther down, as I continued to descend through this abandoned place, I heard a roar. It vibrated up from the pits, from the depths, and I knew why it was abandoned. I found no food; even the bones had rotted out long ago. I found plates and planters for plants and all the things one expected out of luxury. I found so many things I had no idea how they worked, or what they did. Small things. Handheld things. Things to improve on life, perhaps.

And then the roar again. I saw a painting of a great horned beast, black as obsidian, eyes undefined on a face masked. Teeth were the barest lighter shade than the rest, its tongue a lighter shade still. It haunts me even now. I ascended but could not find my way out.

I woke. And I woke thinking of another dream I had. Another dream of caves. Unadorned caves. Caves filled with rickety, hastily-installed steps and rooms barely excavated. Caves where bones lined the walls and ancient ships came out of the stone and grave-sites were almost as numerous as the rooms.

I returned to sleep, and returned to the mountain. This time I trekked with my four year old little girl, a golden-haired girl who loved adventure, like her father. I ascended the rock face, once more. She had no issue climbing beside me. I got to the cliff edge, remembering the dark pit beyond, and the crystal bulge before me.

Looking hard, I saw inside the room. It was well lit but ambient: no obvious light source seen. Within, row and rows of chairs lined facing out. A girl with hair white as imaginable stood in front of the chairs and watched me from the inside. I got the impression the room was kind-of a church, where people gathered to worship while viewing the great expanse of mountains before them. And sky.

Yet this time the crystal parted. It separated open to form a door, and my daughter and I walked through, into the church. Where the abandoned rooms had the greens, the whites, the pinks, the blues in the lightest shades, here there were smoldering yellows, oranges, as if the sun burned down for long enough some of the wood shone back. The only word I can think of is radiant.

More people sat in the room, adorned in clothing so separate from my coarse browns that I felt strange standing there, with my daughter. The girl’s hair spiraled like the crystal I saw everywhere—even here—and she wore bleached leather shoulder-stitching over a loose silk cloth draped about her, cinched at the waist, with varying weighted strings hanging. She wore no shoes. She wore jewelry on her wrists, up her arms, in her hair, across her neck.

Others wore similar, though varying, clothes, as if each color meant a different family line. Nobody wore dark. I sat in a chair beside a woman with large breasts, face made up like a queen, and she welcomed me with large eyes and a large mouth lit in umber. Her hands on her legs had long fingers, also adorned in small jewels and rings, and her fingers were nearly without crease or age.

As more people showed up, someone led me out of the room, for their services were about to begin. I was heralded as a guest traveler, and walked with my daughter down a long staircase and into a great open space. Far above I saw the crystal dome covering the space from the rest of the world. Flowering, fruiting trees grew in abundance, planted alongside walkways, planted on green lawns and boulevards. The mountain still grew higher to the right of me, and along its face grew similar bulges of crystal and stone, less adorned than the church, but still quite present. Gilded stone pillars rose to support patios and balconies with washes of silver, of gold, with the slightest earth-tones in between. Stairs wove up, into these crystal mansions, and although I was a guest, I was given free reign of everywhere. Nothing off-limits. Nothing denied.

So I explored. Where the abandoned cave of riches was filled with old things, here all the empty spots were filled in: plants everywhere, food hanging in baskets beside dining room doors for dinner, corridors lined in flowing, pure cloth. Dust did not seem to exist.

And every room, every space simply filled with taste. When certain tastes didn’t account for trinkets and other objects, the room was sparse but colorful, with tables housing but a single crystal fruit or a whole nightstand dedicated to a glass of water. Long corridors contained a single recessed space, with a single gold statue, or a single beautiful painting. A room sat dedicated to the sky, with nothing but two wooden lounge chairs facing up, toward a uniformity of clearness in the glass, where clouds would blow during the day.

And still everywhere illuminated ambiently. I saw no candle, saw no pipe or wiring. Light emanated from corners, from edges, from crannies above the sightline.

The people were elfin, I realized, though not elves. They had the softest demeanor when talking, invited everyone and listened fully when I spoke. They were precise in their artistry, though creative and flowing. I saw no weapons, anywhere, ever. Not even old, remembered wars. Only chopsticks and spoons sat in the kitchens. It seemed they did not eat meat, but mushrooms and fruit and greens.

I lived there a long time, with my four year old daughter. She never aged, which eventually gave me the impression she was dead before we came, and followed me there.

No one ever talked about the violence of the creature in the discarded wing of civilization. No one mentioned him, or decried his terrifying existence. They existed, and the discarded wing existed separate. As if perhaps it never happened.

But then, something happened, and when the daylight broke one morning, the city went under siege. Wild, short, hairless creatures poured through the deepest part of the city. They brought spears, arrows, and knives. When they attacked, the people of the city simply retired to their rooms, retired to their beds, and went to sleep.

I grabbed a large bag, and with my daughter, went from room to room stealing as much as I could fit in the bag. I didn’t care if the crystal broke. I didn’t care if the metal bent. I piled it up high and, beside sleeping occupants, stole as much of the city as I could. I planned to leave, descend the mountain, and show the elders my proof. My daughter followed behind.

The last thing I remember was someone saying, in another room as I passed, “Those who are awake, they die. Those who sleep survive. And when all the waking are dead, those sleeping will return to life.”

So there it is. While I have a whole slew of intricate, intimate detail, I also lose a bunch of stuff in the middle. Living in a place like this for several years can create a powerful collection of stuff.

It’s clearly about heaven and hell, in some capacity. It’s clearly about high art, high cheekbones, large eyes, and great wonderment. It’s about being a father. It’s about Auri, from Rothfuss’s book, and my leading that part of me that resonates with her through this dream, separate from me.

It sounds complicated because it is.

Most people train themselves, learn and grow, by doing all this creation consciously. It’s a gift I find almost breathtaking. They find influences, inspirations, and boxed-off insights, and collect them together to write a book, paint a picture, sculpt a statue. I still firmly believe I’m stealing my own work from myself, but it’s such a brilliant thing to encounter I can’t help but exult.

On top of the obvious inspirations, I also have the older ones all locked away. The Dinotopia, the Project One, all the dreams that came before this that it’s built upon. Real life inspirations, visions, art, tastes.

I find it strange that most of my dreams have a fantasy slant. I mean, stick on pointy ears and shove this people in a forest, and you have Tolkien’s elves. The hairless little guys are possibly goblins. The great beast, in the right light, could be a Balrog. It wasn’t. But it fulfilled a similar capacity.

Anyway. Hope you liked it.

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2 thoughts on “This is What Happens When I am Inspired

  1. My dreams tend to fantasy too. When they’re not about paying a bill, or going to work.

    I envy you your baroque subconscious, my friend. That was beautiful, so much lush detail. I don’t know if I got heaven and hell from it–then again, my heaven and hell would be very different from yours. But congratulations. I’m one of those conscious creators–am , actually, pretty left-brained as a person–and I wonder sometimes if it hurts me not to have a little dreaming in my writing, a little bit of the surreal.

    • It isn’t directly heaven and hell, but it is the whole outline for a book with a similar setting.

      When I write something like this, I feel really full of myself. Like, I’m patting myself on the back for doing something great. I don’t want to overshare or whatnot, but sometimes I surprise myself. Glad you liked it.

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