Friday, April 24, 2009

Another Day, Another Dream

Every once in a while, I have one of those strange dreams that seems to really outdo all strange dreams that came before it. This dream, which I had just before I woke up this morning, definitely falls into that category.

I find myself in a hotel room, reminiscent of a dingy south Florida motel. Pink walls, exterior hallways, sliding patio doors--the whole bit. It's afternoon, and I'm getting ready for something.

My room, even with the lights off, is stuffy, so I decide to slide open the patio door and get some fresh air flowing inside the musty motel. As I step out onto my patio (I'm on the ground floor, facing the parking lot), I see a large group of nuns boarding shuttle buses.

I remember suddenly (or realize, or however it works in dreams) that I'm staying in a convent. A convent that happens to look a lot like a south Florida motel. I'm not a nun, but this sisterhood has taken me in for a short time while I work something out. They're loading the buses on a Friday afternoon to take some trip somewhere. I watch them board as the sun lowers behind the shuttles.

Just beyond my patio, a large cat sits with its back to me. As I watch its matted fur bristle in the breeze, it stretches and turns to face me.

"Mind if I come in?" the Cat asks.

Cat's voice is neither surprising to me nor gender-specific. Not really male, not really female. Just talking Cat.

"Sure," I answer, stepping backward into the room, making space for Cat to enter.

Cat saunters by, haunches swishing as it grazes past me to sit on the floor near the bed. For a few moments, Cat is quiet and the room fills with an uncomfortable silence. I turn back to the mirror where I had been before, brushing my hair and layering on mascara. Then Cat breaks the silence.

"You know they gave you the bad room, right?" Cat says, its eyes sweeping the room observingly.

"Oh, no," I respond quietly. "I didn't know that."

I blush, simultaneously embarrassed to impose upon the nuns and pissed that they gave me the Bad Room. It seems Cat knows its way around here, so if Cat says this is the Bad Room, then it's definitely the Bad Room. I wonder why I got stuck with these quarters. Maybe it was all that was left.

I look back over at Cat, who had turned to face the parking lot, watching the last of the sisters board the shuttle.

"Aren't you going with them?" Cat asks.

"Oh, no," I say, feeling guilty. I feel as if I should honor the sisters' charity by boarding the shuttles with them and attending their event as a sign of my respect and solidarity. "I have to go to my friend's show tonight."

"Oh," says Cat nonchalantly, neither approving nor disapproving of my decision. "That should be fun for you."

"Yes," I answer. "Yes, it should be."

Photo by serhenity


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Recapturing his story

I've been obsessively reading Errol Morris' 5-part piece in the New York Times investigating the life of Amos Humiston, a soldier who fell at Gettysburg. Humiston's story is well-known for Civil War and Gettysburg buffs. His body was found in Gettysburg, unidentifiable, clutching the ambrotype of three children. Through a twisted story, those children were identified by this ambrotype, giving a name to this soldier, their father, as well.

What Morris has done is attempt to untangle the story of Humiston's life, the life of his descendants and the tricky business of claiming the stories of lives through family, genealogy and media. The stories of this family have been exploited, revered and even ignored as some family members let letters and other documents disappear.

The five-part series is in Morris' blog, and it's pretty lengthy but an amazing story. Among the things highlighted is Amos Humiston's letters to his wife during the war. This passage in particular is touching, beautifully written and haunting since we know that Amos will never see his wife again.

"January 2, 1863: “If I ever live to get home you will not complain of being lonesome again or of sleeping cold for I will lay as close to you as the bark to a tree.”