Friday, February 21, 2014

What Do Your Dreams Say About You?

Yesterday I taught a story by Sherman Alexie called "This is What They Mean When They Say Phoenix, Arizona".  One phrase in the story particularly affected the class.  The protagonist, a Native American, states that most of the people on the reservation only have a bottle of alcohol and broken dreams.  We had a discussion in which we defined the term "broken dreams."  One of the students recalled Langston Hughes" poem "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?"  For those of you who may not be familiar with this which so tersely and eloquently depicts the frustrations of those who realize their dreams are two inches beyond their farthest grasp I quote it here:

                         What happens to a dream deferred?
                         Does it dry up
                         like a raisin in the sun?
                         Or fester like a sore-
                         And then run?
                          Does it stink like rotten meat?
                          Or crust and sugar over--
                          Like a syrupy sweet?
                          Maybe it just sags
                           Like a heavy load.

                           Or does it explode?

      So many of us hope our dreams will not be deferred.  My students are in college because they have dreams.  I teach them because I want them to accomplish their dreams.  I love to see them experience epiphanies.  It is marvelous to see the glow in their eyes when they achieve a great goal, grasp a new idea, or learn the difference between fact and opinion and begin to think critically.

What happens, however, when dreams of individuals, groups,  cultures, and nations go unrealized?   So many athletes at the Olympic Games have dreamed for years of winning a medal and only three will.  I have watched those who win silver cry in disappointment on the podium.  I see buildings go up in flames because citizens are disappointed with their governments, presidents kill their citizens because they must maintain their dream of power, and states endure endless wars over shattered dreams.

Can a person, a culture, a nation be defined by his or her or its dreams?  Or to rephrase the question, "What makes us happy?"  Dreams are perhaps the conscious or unconscious expression of our deepest desires.    If we stop dreaming, do we stop existing?  What is the difference between a dream and a nightmare?

I use this line from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream:
       Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream
       It shall be called Bottom's Dream because it has no bottom.

as the epigram for my novel The Conspiracies of Dreams since Bottom was  transformed into an ass from the waist up while the manly part of him was was on the lowest rung of the social ladder.  Yet  the part of him that was human dreamed of achieving the highest heights and for one wonderful night he did.  

Every character in my novel, even the donkey (seems nicer to call her a donkey instead of an ass) has a dream.  Each is a dream shared by all humans for eternity:  reciprocal love, respect, a safe homeland, and a search for that which gives spiritual meaning to one's life. 

And I have a dream that everyone will keep on dreaming dreams that will fulfill him or her.              

Saturday, February 1, 2014

                                                Macduff and I

Fourteen  years ago I fell in love with the saddest, most poignant eyes I had ever seen.  They belonged to a 2 pound ,4 ounce mournful puppy who was looking at me beseechingly from a wire cage which, as we all recognize, is a shelter's euphemism for a prison.  I asked an attendant if he would take the little dog out of the cage and let me hold him.  The puppy  sat in my hand and his eyes asked me as eloquently as any tongue can speak, "Please don't put me back in that cage again."

I looked at the mournful little mite; he gazed hopefully at me, and a spark that I have only felt when I met my husband and when I saw each of my three children for the first time ignited.  I knew that the dog and I had bonded in the same way:  total, reciprocal, unconditional love which would never be broken.
"As long as I live," I promised him solemnly, "you will never be placed in a cage ever again."

I took him home and my children who were still mourning the death of our 120 pound Samoyed who had died 8 years ago stared at the pygmy and pronounced, "That's not a dog; that's a rat."

Undeterred by my sons' negativity,  the tiny Yorkie wobbled over to my sneaker which was twice as big as he was, seized it ferociously in his teeth and shook it vigorously.  We all laughed at the sight of the chutzpah of the midget tilting against his giant windmill.  Since I had been teaching the Shakespearean play Macbeth that day I shouted, "Lay on Macduff, and damned by the sneaker who first cries, 'Hold, enough!'"

The name could not have been more appropriate.  Macuff truly believes it is his duty to protect me.  He has bitten or threatened the wallpaper hanger, the carpenter, the exterminator,  the painter, and the electrician.  .  On the other hand, my New York  next door neighbor whose house was burglarized every  winter when she went to to Florida was never robbed again after Macduff protected  her back yard.

When we moved to the Pocono mountains I would take him and his little friend Pippen, whom I acquired to keep Macduff company while I worked long hours both as a nurse and an adjunct instructor at a college,on 5 mile walks every day.   While  we walked they sniffed every three inches of the hike and sprinkled their pee mail on the next three inches.  It took hours to walk the miles and we often took a swim in a mountain lake half way through the hike.  Therefore, I kept a little notebook with me and began to write my novel while we hiked and lolled on the beach.  After 10 years the notes evolved into my novel The Conspiracies of Dreams.

Now Macduff is 14, suffering from arthritis, and Pippen has cataracts and hypothyroidism.  Thus, our daily walks are limited to the twice daily visits to Okeeheelee dog park.

Macduff still loves to listen to me play the piano, still gazes at me with all the love I have ever seen in another living creature, and still barks protectively whenever anyone comes to the door.

He is inspiring me to adapt my novel into a screen play and Louise Penny, the great Canadian mystery writer has given me permission to quote this line from her last book How the Light Get In which has been nominated for the Agatha Award.  In her novel she describes the  fictional detective Armand Gamache's dog , Henri, as a dog who is so dumb he will never get into Harvard but he knows two things;  he knows he is loved and he knows how to love."  What better compliment can be given to anyone? Lay on Macduff, and blessed be you who can never love enough!

My book The Conspiracies of Dreams which  is a story which is 90 per cent true about an Egyptian spy who falls in love with an Israeli and must decide if he will be true to the only woman he will every love or betray his religion, his country, and his religion.  It also reveals the political intrigue involved in the 1956 Suez War in which MI6 agents betrayed England and France bribed Israel to attack Egypt.  Above all, a donkey is the true victim.  Intrigued?  the novel is available as an ebook for $2.99 from, Barnes&Noble, com, and as a paperback for $12.99 from the same sources.