Thursday, June 11, 2015
Love beyond death on another plane
I have been away from this blog for three weeks, engaged in teaching and travel in three European countries: the Czech Republic, France and Spain. I carried a travel journal, as always, and let it fill with things glimpsed along the road and with the adventures shared in the workshops and trainings. But I needed a break from writing for publication, even in the evanescent form of a blog. I had finished proofing the pages of my new book, Sidewalk Oracles, just before getting on my first flight to Europe in May, and had been pumping out all kinds of new texts in connection with the launch of my new course for The Shift Network, "Dreaming Wide Awake."
Yesterday, on my last morning in Prague, I took a stroll along the Vltava river and saw the following slogan: Nejlepší program když nemás program. It can be translated as "The best program is to have no program" or perhaps, "The best schedule is to have no schedule." This seemed like a little nudge of confirmation from the world about taking some time off from writing to lie fallow and see what wants to come through.
I received a different kind of nudge on my first flight on my long journey home later that day. My rowmate was a reader, with a used copy of a collection of short stories by John Sayles she had picked up at Shakespeare & Son in Prague. We were soon talking about Czech writers, especially Milan Kundera. She volunteered that she had attended the well-known Iowa writers' workshop "decades ago." Yes, she had kept on writing. "I have finished several novels, but they are all in the garage."
I said I admired anyone who completed a book, especially without the benign pressure of an editor or agent who is waiting and wanting to receive it.
"I do have an agent," she told me. "He's only been enthusiastic about one of my novels. I heard from him just before I came on this trip. He wants me to do a lot of work on that book, so I decided to let it go."
Intrigued, I asked her if she would like to share something about the novel. "I guess you could call it a ghost story," she said, with a little hesitation.
"You mean ghosts as in shapes floating in midair, and making funny bumps in the night? Or do you mean a story of an encounter between the dead and the living?"
She meant the latter. She explained that her novel centered on a love that survives death. Grounded in her intimate knowledge of a locale in the East Bay area near San Francisco, the story recounts the love between an unlikely couple - a lifeguard and a female minister - that survives her premature death.
I told her that people are hungry for good writing on this theme. I mentioned my work with dreams of the deceased, and reported that the number #1 reason why people have told me their dreams, over the years, is that they have had an encounter with someone who has died and need confirmation that this kind of experience is for real - and guidance on where to go with it. I mentioned that on Friday I am giving a lecture at Unity Church in Madison, Wisconsin, on "Dreaming with the Deceased".
By the time we landed in Frankfurt, my flight companion was eager to get back to that novel about a love that survives death, and get it on the road to publication. Guidance from this synchronistic encounter worked both ways. I have had it in mind for a long time to try to turn my personal encounters with Death and with situations on the Other Side into something that can be published as a novel.
So synchronicity on another plane played literary adviser for both of us.
Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Sychronicity in Everyday Life will be published by New World Library in October. It contains a chapter with fresh stories of chance encounters during airline travel.