Three Wishes

(Awesome robot army from image from http://gralinnaea.com/?p=1051)

When I was in grade school, we played the game: “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” Must’ve been in about third or fourth grade. All the boys wanted x-ray vision, heh heh heh (without really even understanding why seeing underneath girls’ clothes was so great), the nerds wanted to command armies of robots, and someone wanted to be able to teleport from place to place. I, fresh from having read Lois Lowry’s A Gift of Magic, was pretty sure I wanted ESP. I wanted to be able to read people’s minds.

“What??” declared the disbelieving teacher. “None of you want to be able to fly?” Oh yeah, oh yeah, we chorused in remembrance. We want that too.

I’ve since realized that the kid who wanted to teleport was the only one of us who was thinking practically. I mean geeze. Reading minds would turn into a huge burden, armies of robots always backfire, and flying is great but the troposphere is seriously cold. But teleportation? Do you have any idea how much of our lives we spend in cars? On planes? Trains and subways and the rest of it?

Skip to seventh grade, when I attended a superhero party. You were supposed to go dressed as a superhero, one you’d invented yourself. There were prizes for best costume, best superpower, best secret identity, and most useless superpower. My best friend won the prize for the last one. She showed up as Corn Lady, whose only superpower was the amazing ability to communicate with corn. With that stunning victory beside me, I can’t even tell you what I went dressed as on the occasion. I’m sure I had a cape.

Then one day last May I was in France, wallowing in disgust that I just ordered a carafe of “white water” instead of a carafe of white wine, and I’ve finally got it. I know what superpower I want. I want to be able to speak easily in any language. As we bumped along on the Metro that night, I honed down my wish, carefully considering how I would phrase it so that the granting genie could not possibly misconstrue my meaning. Here’s what I came up with:

“I wish I could communicate fluently in the language of the person I’m talking to at any given moment. ”

What do you think? Is there still room for misunderstanding? I’m sure. I suspect all genies of granting wishes only grudgingly. I’d probably still only be able to speak to corn.

I puzzled over this for a good ten minutes, at the end of which I had truly convinced myself that someone was going to come up to me one day and actually grant this wish. I was making contingencies for different ways the wish could be offered – in case there was a price demanded or limits imposed…

When I remembered this was only a fantasy, that I did not have a scheduled appointment with said genie, and that the only way to pick up languages is to sit down and actually learn them, I was heartbroken. I felt like someone had just stolen my lollipop, but there was no mother to whom I could appeal to get it back. There just aren’t any genies – wanting to grant my wishes or otherwise.

Yet, I’ve started fantasizing again lately. I’ve come up with two other wishes which I’ve carefully crafted into phraseology that will certainly get me exactly what I want, when that genie asks. I’ve decided not to share the exact nature of these other two wishes. They deal with a personal fear and lack of enthusiasm that I think I do a pretty decent job hiding from the world at large, and I’d prefer to keep it that way for now.

When I thought of my second wish, I realized that I was onto something really good. It took me months and months to come up with this pair of perfect wishes. Imagine how I might have blown it if I’d tried to make three wishes on the spot, right after the genie popped out of his bottle. I might have wished for one of the foolish things that people think they want, but don’t really need. Money? It can always be earned, and it’s possible to be happy with what you’ve got. (Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t turn away a million dollars if someone handed it to me.) Health is great, but something else is always gonna get you in the future. Power? Who wants that anyway? Fame? Same icky deal as power.

No, I found that both my wishes were designed to balance out personal flaws. The not-being-able-to-speak-French-so-well thing may not actually be a flaw, but I see it as a shortcoming, and when you’re in the wishing business, why not overcompensate? So I began to wonder what other shortcomings I would choose to overcome with wishes, and very quickly my third wish came to me.

Three personal shortcomings that I could wish away, rather than devoting the years of hard work and dedication it would take to overcome them on my own. My tangled tongue would straighten out, my fear and unethusiasm would disappear in a poof of effortless purple smoke. I’d be a step closer to perfect through no actual effort of my own. Is that a worldly spirit, or what?

Since I’m quite sure (in my moments of lucidity anyway) that no genies will be popping up to grant these wishes, I suppose the thing to do is actually make a concrete plan to tackle my shortcomings and make some progress on my own. As soon as the purple smoke filling my brain clears, I’ll let you know how that’s going.

So what would your three wishes be? (No fair wishing for world peace. Go on… be selfish!)

Roadkill Cafe

Things we have almost killed on our roadtrip thus far (* indicates which have been successfully smucked – the rest were just close calls):

  • Generic birds eating grasshoppers who are sunning on the road*
  • Grasshoppers – any many grasshoppers*
  • Butterflies*
  • Mosquitoes (extra icky)*
  • Turkeys
  • Pheasants
  • Prairie Chickens
  • Peacock
  • Bunnies
  • Possums*
  • Raccoons aplenty
  • Cat
  • Traffic cones
  • Hitchhiker

Happily, most of the wildlife escaped our careening vehicle. I feel bad about the ‘possum (though it was his fault) but not about the bugs or the bird (way too dumb for their own good). And they won’t have to make I Know What You Did Last Summer 7 because of us. Whew.

Brilliant road trip update, isn’t this? I’ll do better once we’ve finally arrived in DC and I have a little more time and comfort to sit down and type. Not to mention pictures. I’ve gotten some good ones.

And no, “peacock” is not a typo.

Nightmare

I had a nightmare last night. I haven’t had a nightmare since I was four. My dreams are frequented by horrible images – violence, death, bad guys chasing me through the streets – but these are not nightmares. They are my R-rated subconscious firing off obnoxious synapses. I wake up and think to myself, “Huh. That was disturbing.”

The dream I had last night was nothing especially awful, nothing violent or shocking, but it was somehow terrifying.

My cat had stayed outside too late, and I got out of bed around 3:00am to let her in. I was so tired that once she was in, I fell asleep standing at the door with one shoulder propped against the wall, one against the door, and my head hanging outside.

I woke up again and realized there was a man standing on my back deck, just inches away from me. It was still night and he was barefooted and pale. I tried to get a good look at him, but something was wrong with my eyes and they wouldn’t focus properly. I was afraid the cat would get back out, so I was trying to scoot the door closed (even with my head still sticking out) and this upset the man.

The combination of his protests and my not-working eyes began to alarm me, so I shut the back door and locked it. The man outside began shouting and waving his arms around and I knew something was very wrong. I tried to call to Dustin for help but my voice wouldn’t work properly. I knew that if I left the man alone at the back door, whatever I was afraid of was going to happen. I tried to bang on the door then, hoping the noise would wake Dustin, knowing he could sleep through just about anything.

I woke myself at this point, heart pounding, sweating, the whole works. The cat was inside (I really had let her in at 3:00… only, then I’d gone back to bed instead of standing around waiting to be accosted), I was in bed, no one was at the back door (not that I checked).

So why nightmares? Why now? I have driven myself off cliffs and died in fiery explosions in dreams before. I have, by my own hand, caused the horrible deaths of people I love. These things are awful but they are not nightmares. A man standing on my back deck is a nightmare? If there are any bored psychologists out there with suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Dreams of Theater Doom

Boom.

The play is fast approaching. At this point, most sane people would be having dreams of walking out on stage naked, forgetting their lines, or forgetting which play they’re in. I got those dreams over with a month ago. (After we first choreographed the Matchmaker song, I had a dream that we decided to go ahead and perform the show the next day, and I was nervous that we’d only rehearsed it once. I thought I would be okay, until I realized that I was wearing a costume from the wrong show and I didn’t even know when to enter for the scene.)

Instead of dreaming normal dreams of theater doom, I’m dreaming of total doom. Here’s how it goes:

Some coworkers and I went shopping at Pier 39 in San Fransisco. We were in a giant Ikea which was selling pets and boots and things that I thought I already owned. I decided to buy a pair of boots because I realized the ones I was wearing in the play had zippers on them, and that was not very appropriate to the period. (Of course, the boots I bought were purple, but this didn’t trouble me very much.)

We came out of the store and went back to the car, which was being chauffeured by my coworker’s husband. She had to go back into the store to find her daughter, who had been practicing her lines with one of the cashiers (who also happened to be my brother). I stared out the car window as I waited for them to come back, and realized there was something horribly wrong with the sky. It was a bit foggy, so I couldn’t tell immediately what it was, but soon I managed to figure out that what I was seeing was two jet-trails that were perfectly perpendicular against the horizon and went up so far I couldn’t tell where they ended.

I was just starting to think it was strange that they weren’t fading away when three new jets burst out from behind the horizon. I realized Ellsworth Air Force Base must be back there, because the jet in the center – a very oddly-shaped blue affair covered with decals and bumper stickers like a race car might be – was actually a B-1 Bomber. As I watched, all three planes did a loop which carried them far too close to the Pier. I knew they were going to crash.

The B-1 slammed upside-down into one of the buildings several blocks down from where we were. The other two planes just barely missed and flew off. Debris from the crash pelted the car, but we were too far away to suffer any serious damage from the initial explosion.

But I knew that wasn’t the worst of it. “Get down!” I shouted to everyone in the car. I knew there were nuclear bombs on the B-1, and I knew they were going to explode. Duck and cover, that’s what you were supposed to do, right? The mushroom cloud was just starting to bloom. I grabbed a knitted shawl and pulled it over my head, trying to hunker down in the footwell. I was sad because I knew we were all probably going to die. The car was shaking and rocking and continued to be pelted with debris. I wondered if we should get up and try to make a run for it, or if the car would protect us.

I peeked my head up and realized that we were speeding down a crowded interstate at near-death speeds, and I couldn’t help wonder if that was any safer than just staying where we were. I was sad because my coworker, her daughter, and my brother had not made it back to the car.

The end. I woke up. Believe it or not, this dream was totally about the play. My poor subconscious is so pessimistic. I’m not nearly that pessimistic while I’m awake! At this point, I think the very worst that could happen is we could run really overtime (Fiddler on the Roof in a special three-hour presentation!) but other than that, we all know our parts, we all have our costumes, we’re all doing a great job.

So… the summary of this post is, come see my play! 😀

Euology for a Spider

My Pet Spider

I like spiders. I find them elegant and just a little bit frightening, which is a fascinating combination for me. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not afraid of spiders. As long as they are not on my body, I don’t mind spotting them outside or in my house , though if I find them in my house, they are quickly escorted out of the house. I have a cup specifically designated as the Spider Catching Cup.

Spiders haunt my dreams. Big spiders, little spiders, hairy spiders, flying spiders. They usually aren’t doing anything in my dreams, much as a spider on the wall in my house isn’t doing anything. These aren’t nightmares, but they are usually pretty creepy. Pun intended. The most recent dream I remember involved black widow spiders living in my grass. I was trying to get across the yard barefoot, but didn’t realize how dangerous that was until I was already out in the middle and had to either keep going or go back.

Since moving into this house, I have discovered that quite a vast array of spiders live in my yard. The back deck is home to a lot of itty bitty jumping spiders that like to sneak in through the screen door. The lawn is full of skinny spiders that stalk the little grass moths. The rock gardens are full of tunnel-weaving spiders who lurk just out of view. The vegetable garden is full of fast spiders with giant eyes who make the most amazing flying leaps to catch flies or even other spiders. One of these found a really good hunting spot on the tallest stalk of corn in the garden. I used to say hi to him when I went out to pick peas.

Rock Garden Spider (Grass Spider)Jumping Spider

But my favorite spider – the one I started calling my pet spider – was an orb-weaver who set up shop between the rails of my deck and one of the trees nearby. I’d never seen a spider like her before. Tan with darker patches, she was rather hairy and had two points sticking up on her back. After a little searching, I discovered that she is an orb-weaving barn spider, araneus cavaticus, the same as Charlotte.

And like Charlotte, my spider has moved on. After holding court on my back deck for four months, she has disappeared. Like Charlotte, she also left behind several dozen babies (though earlier in the spring). I suppose that means I may have a new pet spider next year. I hope so.

To sleep, perchance to dream (dah dah)

Dreamscape Fractal, by M. Fraser

I am a dreamer. Not in the Martin Luther King Jr. sense, but in the Alice in Wonderland sense. I dream every night, always remembering at least bits immediately after I wake.

I learned to interpret my dreams in college, after one particular dream disturbed me so much I couldn’t stop talking about it until someone was able to tell me the obvious. Nothing prophetic, just common psychology. And I must say, my subconscious is an interesting place to be. Downright frightening sometimes.

I don’t have nightmares. Not in the conventional sense, anyway. I haven’t woken frightened since I was very young. On the other hand, scary things are constantly happening while my synapses do their random firing at night. If you had to rate my dreams like movies, they would come in at an easy R, which is very strange because I live a very PG life. Not even PG-13, just plain ol’ PG.

When I was very little, I had a dream that scared me for years. It even had a title: “Laura and the Wolf.” I can remember it to this day, though I suspect I’ve fabricated transitions to bridge the gaps, and my invented parts have become every bit as real as memory. This is the dream that used to cause me to run and jump into bed after the lights were out, because even though there were no monsters-under-the-bed in this dream, I knew that was where all monsters lived.

I was either three or four years old when I had this dream, and I still remember. It went like this:

It was bedtime and my mother asked if I wanted to hear a bedtime story. Of course I did! It was called “Laura and the Wolf.”  And so she began telling me the story, and as she did, it was no longer a bedtime story, but a story I was part of.

Once upon a time, there was a Wolf, and he wanted to eat something for dinner. A sheep, maybe. There was a tall, grass-covered hill, and he began to walk down the hill, looking for something to eat. He walked on his two hind legs, and he was wearing pants. I knew he would eat me if he couldn’t find a sheep, so I ran away from the swing set in my back yard, where I had been playing.

I ran to the neighbors’ yard, where they were having dinner outside. Their whole dining room was outside, complete with a big, heavy wooden table. I hid under the table and peeked out from behind one of the carved legs. I could see the Wolf  by the swingset. He began to come my direction.

I ran away again, down into the next neighbor’s yard. They knew the Wolf was coming so everyone went into the house and ran upstairs, into a room that was all white, and locked the door. There were a lot of people there, and none of them seemed very worried, even when the Wolf began banging on the door. They decided to escape through the window, but they forgot me, and I couldn’t get out.

The door banged open and there was the Wolf. He was no long actually an animal, but a young boy who was probably 7 or 8 years old. He was a mean, evil boy, dressed in a black shirt and brown shorts. He had a friend with him. The friend held onto me, and the Wolf pulled a syringe out of his pocket and gave me a shot. Then he made me put on his ugly clothes and he ran away.

I went home.  My father met me at the front door of our house. He told me I never had to wear the ugly clothes again.

This dream started in Yellowstone, where I lived for the first three years of my life, and wound up in Virginia, where we lived for half a year when I was four. That’s how I know how old I was when I had this dream. I’m sure I was still living in Virginia at the time. It’s hard to see what is scary about it, but I assure you, at the time it was terrifying.

The wolf started out as the wolf from Disney’s Peter & the Wolf, who I thought was the most terrifying thing ever. I used to have to hide my eyes when he jumped out.

The Wolf

I also see a pattern of other things. I found the idea of wolves, shots, being left alone, and boys in ugly clothing to be frightening. Tables, on the other hand, were my safe place. I used to hide under our dining room table all the time. And my daddy could make everything right.

Life, and my dreams along with it, has become more complicated the older I get. I’ll share some of the other really good ones another time.