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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Personal Thoughts

The Secret of a Dream

June 2021

After a busy few years, or more honestly, a busy 18 years. I see an end in sight. Running out of fuel, I see the lights of a gas station ahead in the night’s darkness. It is the secret of a dream I had.

Two weeks ago, I dreamed I was driving my pickup on a long country road in the middle of a dense forest. I live in a dense forest so this was no surprise, except that the road was a bit broader and a lot longer. I think I was on a backwoods road in Maine, perhaps the road to Millinocket with an image of Mt. Katahdin ahead if it were daytime. Low on fuel, I knew I would not make it to the next station. I didn’t remember the name of the next town, its distance, or an image of it to know where I was headed. I just knew I didn’t have enough fuel to make it.

As I drove along alone with my anxiety, suddenly a man sat next to me, perhaps over six feet tall, dark hair almost to his shoulders, a well-trimmed beard, about my age, and a bit broad in the shoulders but not a pound overweight. I thought he looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him or remember his name. Obviously though, we knew one another.

“Oh, you have enough fuel to make it to the next station. It’s only about 20 miles and you definitely have a gallon.” Comforted by a reassuring companion and someone to chat with, I continued along the dark road. I relaxed and soon enough saw the dim lights of the station flickering between the fir and pine trees. The image seemed like a familiar Edward Hopper painting.

Again, as dreams often go, it shifted. It didn’t shift in a usual, irrational manner. No, I realized its meaning during the dream. Still dreaming and driving the pickup, I knew I had almost reached the end of my endurance. My tank was about empty but not quite. In the past eighteen years, I’ve had three books published, chapters in six other books, had 14 articles and 35 poems published in journals, and given 90 presentations in various countries and at least 50 readings in different states and venues. I also consulted for 13 of those 18 years, sometimes involving travels to other countries.

I suppose that’s a bit like working full-time, but it never felt like it. For one, I love to travel. I got to go to Canada a lot, Norway, Russia, France, and Northern Ireland. I always try to add on a day or two of pleasure, for one to adjust to time zone changes and for another, to wait for the weather to clear or warm to above +10F when in the Far North. The add-on trip to a conference in France took a friend and me to Normandy. That journey produced much thinking, writing and a published poem.

The other main element to writing and consulting on my own timetable was the feeling of freedom I had. If I wanted to go kayaking, cross-country skiing, or work all day in the garden, I could drop everything and go. When I worked for a university or school district, I couldn’t call the office to say I was taking the day off to go skiing or kayaking with a friend or boating with my husband.

Where am I now in the nighttime, dense forest? For a couple of weeks, my right rhomboid muscle, the one under my shoulder blade, had ached. The ache stopped during the dream. I had arrived at the gas station and refueled knowing that I had only two weeks left in this unwritten list of 18 years of tasks.

This means I now plan to have time to write a lot without interruptions for travel or Zoom presentations and meetings. I counted the books I’m working on—ten, and the articles—two. The poems appear willy-nilly depending on a thought or image that flits by or stays to ruminate in me. Then everything stops for at least the first draft of that poem. I try to do the literary writing on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule and the behavioral analysis and data writing on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Sundays are for not writing, but that usually doesn’t work out. The other way that doesn’t work out is when I have a deadline or an obsession on one writing piece. Then I work on that nonstop.

Today, Tuesday, I took the day off. I can do whatever I want. Finish this blog to meet my own self-imposed deadline of the first of the month, go to the post office, make bread, plant part of the garden (June because this is chilly Alaska), walk on the beach or in the next-to-my-house national park. I think I’ll go to the beach as it’s not going to rain today. I can walk in the park tomorrow. I should fill the hummingbird feeders. I can also ditch all those ideas and just walk, then come home to read a book all afternoon. Or I can eat bonbons as I drink mint juleps. That will be difficult as I have no bonbons, my mint isn’t up yet, and I don’t know what else goes in a mint julep. However, that is my fantasy of a decadent day.

This is the day to do what Abigail wants. The last time I took a day off, a couple of months ago, my husband asked me what I was doing not in my studio building and wandering around the house and property. He looked surprised when I said, “Taking the day off.”

When I finish this mini-holiday, which may last today or for another day or two, I’ll head back to a summer of writing and gardening. However, today is a glorious summer holiday of taking care of myself. Writing fills my bucket any day of the year even though my writing data tell me I do more of it in the dark months of our Alaska winter.

I think I’ll go refill the hummingbird feeders, then post this. Then I’m off to the post office, a cup of tea, and a walk on the beach. It’s always good to have a glorious day while still in the midst of a pandemic.

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