Friday, May 4, 2012

Bede's Bird for the Bard

Bede's Bird for the Bard

Dreams have a way of disturbing the psyche. What is the significance? What is the symbol? Why have that particular dream? Why have it as a recurring theme? What began the subliminal trigger? How possibly does the dream and me configure?

Back in history, before English was a known language, there was Bede. In about 700 a.d. he authored the Ecclesiastical History of England. In one of his famous passages there is a sparrow that flies out of a winter storm through an opened window into the great hall, is briefly warm and protected, but then in consternation at the goings-on flies out again. (Actually, it was a door, and the passage is about the conversion of King Edwin.) But that sparrow image, fleeting and disruptive, pervades my subconscious. I had to translate the Anglo Saxon as an exercise in my undergraduate years, and the concept has stayed with me. In fact, in my painting of Passing Through Too, the sparrow flies in through the open window of the train carriage, flustered and fragmented in its depiction, while all within are solidified images, surreal as is the work in its entirety.

And now there are my dreams. The sienna-colored sparrow flits about in a cavernous dark burnt-umber colored hall, like being trapped in an old Colonial School prep room, and it perches on the edge of a silver garbage can, or pecks about on the stone-paved floor after crumbs. Indistinct others are reposing about, caring little or not at all about its presence. In my dream I feel concern for its safety. I see it adapting. I see it free to roam about, but still trapped within the confines of the edifice. And the building, I am sure, is a university or school. My compatriots are young people, teenagers, but there is no sense of their sex or physicality, near as I can recall, other than that they pose a threat to the bird by their lack of compassion, their possibility for cruelty. At times I dream it to be on the floor of a corridor. At times it sits on a window sill. But the window pane is opaque, glazed in the pastel of pewter. And always, the bird needs someone to set it free. Me.

We travel from one known into an unknown. We may become warmer, more easily fed, protected from the rain, but we are uncertain, fearful of the indistinct, suspicious of the movements around us. Vulnerability accompanies our journey, our breakdown from the paradigm we know. Whether it is a trip away from our home, our country, our familiar, or the simple intrusion of a stranger, our delicate sensibilities can be so disturbed that an overexcite-ability of apprehension can threaten to overwhelm, perhaps subconsciously if not overtly. Perhaps our fears take the bird-like form of the flitter-flutter, found in a place unusual, possibly life-taking. Cloistering. And like Bede's venerable bird, we seek escape, even if it means yet once again out into the very winter of our initial discontent.

It is adaptability that most indicates intelligence. The facility to take on a sea of troubles, and by not so much opposing them as integrating them, end them, is the ability to fly above the perch of being caged in one place overlong. That one may take flight is not necessarily so much a sign of cowardice as of a desire for mobility. Perhaps it is the soul yearning to be free of the cage of one's very bones, particularly if they burn and burn unendingly. A bird for Bede, and a bird for the bard. Ha! What poetic license may one not take on one's flights of fancy? To dream of a bonded bird again, or to fly free?

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