For many years I’ve been recording my dreams each morning and trying to listen to the messages they bring me from the depths. I subscribe to Jung’s view that dreams are messengers from the unconscious, both personal and collective. To ignore them is like refusing to open and read letters from beloved friends that come in the mail. Not spam. Not advertisements. But serious, heartfelt missives.
What kind of messages do dreams bring? It depends. Sometimes they comment imagistically on our daily routines, pointing out, perhaps, areas in our relationships with others that might be lacking. Other times they bring news from afar, tossing onto the shore of our conscious minds images and narratives from a more primal level in our psyches. These dreams resemble ancient myths in the way they evoke universal themes that still play out in the modern mind. To ignore them is similar to turning away a wise uncle or grandparent, someone who has lived through it all and has a valuable perspective on things.
In simpler times, dreams held the place of honor in our morning conversations with each other (and still do in some more “primitive” societies), giving dreamers guidance and a starting point for interaction with each other. They’ve been replaced by our preoccupation with a variety of digital gadgets. We are so involved with iPhones, iPads, iPods, computers, video games, and all the variations, we have little time not only for face-to-face relationships with others but also with in-depth conversations with ourselves. These toys collude to distract us from anything but the more superficial, mechanical elements in our daily lives: the hours some people spend on social networks like Facebook that gives the illusion of “friending” when it really does the opposite. It provides a soapbox for one-way monologues, the kind of behavior that can kill an actual relationship. It reminds me of sitting through a meal with someone whose only interest is in him/herself and the words coming out of his/her mouth. There are no eyes to look into—mirrors of the soul. There are no souls!
Of course, just by keeping a blog I’m engaging in the kind of action I’m criticizing, climbing up on my soapbox to vent into the stratosphere. But anything that subverts the imagination and impoverishes it concerns me. Perhaps by reflecting on this situation here I can be more careful in the future, limiting the times I spend digitizing rather than dreaming.
Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.
My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing. I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all. I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week. We are so fortunate here at the Lake now. The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript. Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.
Here is a synopsis:
Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.
A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.
Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.
In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.
Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.
But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.
Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.