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The Movement of Our Irregular Spirits

Reed McLean / Maine Arts Journal / Winter 2024

Before our eyes open there are dreams in which we first see the world not as it truly is, but as we imagine it to be. By these passing lights and shadows we conceive the many games of our lives.

As a child I woke and ran out into the morning yard to gather the lights of the dew on the grass as so many gems scattered by some traveler passing in the night. I explored the location of the hidden jewels but could not locate their gleam. I found only dampness. The illusion of treasure faded but would return many times in other forms as fugitive and mutable as the light itself.

It is in the character of play to wander. Children bored with the rules of their games invent others and outgrow their toys for serious industries. By whatever shrewdness responsible we find our lives speeding in directions no one can predict. The sparkling company of play will follow us if we are lucky or able to conjure it. But there are times when play abandons us at school or on the job and labor takes on dimensionless weight and leaves us with the unendurable drudgery of daily life. On these occasions we may easily become traitors to our own dreams. Any discipline we can muster remains unfruitful and our halfhearted endeavors are meekly diagnosed as “good enough.” But even at these moments when we are lost and confused, overcome by shifting nausea, the trickster play is hiding and waiting for the right moment to lighten our burdens.

I went to bed late in the early hours of the morning in the weeds with a deadline looming. I was hopelessly struggling to finish a video interview showcasing the artist Barbara Sullivan. Nothing was working. Near a state of panic, I barely slept. In a stream of half-consciousness I dreamt repetitively of the same memory, a road trip with my aunt where we listened to nothing but Patsy Cline. I awoke before dawn with her world-weary voice in my head singing “Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely.” I went straight to the computer and began rapidly sifting through Cline’s discography, grabbing at any title or detail that caught my interest. An hour passed, then two. I grew more and more agitated by a need for an elusive quality to hold the video together whose parts I had failed to reconcile. I moved through my list methodically, disqualifying each selection. I didn’t feel convinced by any of them....


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