On drawing maps for cephalopods

Jellyfishes in Brooklyn Aquarium by Elizabeth DaggarWe were making aquariums out of materials that, while they looked appropriate, were perhaps not sturdy enough. There were three or four parts comprising each coffin-sized plexiglas case, but occasionally the filtration system was sending surges of too much water upwards at times, and we were concerned about leaving them in a room, filter on, alone. About malfunctions, accidental flooding.

Then there was one in which I was somehow creating maps or sets of directions for sea creatures; jellyfishes, crustaceans, cephalopods. There was something like a computer through which they could request help finding one another in the ocean, and my job was to fashion a map or drawing or set of instructions for each. My waking mind cannot conceive how this would be done, nor recall how I did it in that place.



Photo of old book pages

In the ellipses between
drops of rain
In the space between pale night’s end
and grey morning

I find you.
I find forgotten things.

Between lines of writing
in the pages of books
yellowing in drawers
and on shelves,
In the leathery slips
between their bindings—

And in the spaces
between the notes of songs
not yet written.
In the dry crack
precipitating the death
of an incandescent bulb,
that moment the knob twists
(an old brass lamp)

I hear whisperings,
stories long forgotten
and faded—
or things confused
with memories or dreams,


I find everything, and

In the spaces between
things, now, I find

Cartography of the subconscious

When I woke I discovered my heart cast shadows longer than dreams in places where we moved as children, cured of fear, and never looked back.

Sometimes when I wake I write down my dreams, or the bits I can remember. If I wake with the territory intact, I map it. The drawings are invariably simple, as the tools of consciousness are ill-suited to convey that kind of shifting complexity*, but it’s fun.

I found some bits of writing from several years ago; notes for a project I never quite started:

The terrain of the interior is known only in the abstract. The places there are monumental and organic– even cities seem not altogether manmade.

I’ve never seen boundaries, or approached an edge of it. Unlike a world in the round, the interior has a precipice beyond which lies a void. Or it may be a sphere, inversed— the center of which now lies at the edges of everywhere, for the laws of physics apply only as far as they are known and believed true.

dream map

The map is drawn as each footfall hits the ground; comes into existence ceaselessly. It’s fluid. Stars by which to navigate wink into existence with every step— constellations formed against losing one’s way in the darkness (but are soon forgotten).

The interior is never in focus all at once. Places obscured for a time will likely be redrawn, subtly or altogether, by the next time (or if) they come back into view.

dream blueprint

  • Edited to add: This is absolutely untrue; it’s what all of art is for, ultimately, but when time is of the essence, it can be true. Depends on one’s mindset, and one’s intention in the moment. These things percolate and eventually can at least come close to expressing the under-explored territories; that’s the goal, difficult as it can be. 

The fleeting nature of dreams and summer

Unintentionally patriotic feet, in tertiary variations on red and blue.

A friend recently asked what art I’ve been working on, and my answer was, sadly, none. I’m feeling a need to do something so I return to the blog—I do enjoy writing. Maybe it will spark something.

Independence Day yesterday; a barbecue on a friend’s deck in the swelter, with spray bottles of water for misting away the heat. The company and food were delightful and spent time with some friends I’ve not seen in ages. There was dancing, and finally a perspiration-fueled walk back to the South Slope. Had a shower and slept like the dead until early this morning when dreams began. They were vivid and, if only by virtue of not being utterly lost, enjoyable. I’ve been aware of dreams very rarely for many months, and that’s disappointing. (I think I have a greater proportion of recall when I’m in the habit of writing them upon waking.)

By the time I remembered the ones of this morning, only a few slender scraps remained— unusual forks and a hasty gathering of possessions before leaving a place; a form of public transport somewhere foreign comprised of small, open-air taxis that seemed more like the cars of a carnival ride which stopped at small, designated waiting areas along a freeway nearly void of traffic.

*   *   *

I have a small book that I bought at Rehoboth Beach a number of years ago, called How to Live at the Beach by Sandy Gingras. It’s a sweet little illustrated meditation on, not just life at the beach, I think, but on the nature of Summer itself. The slowing down, the easing up, the fleeting sub-seasons of short-lived blooms, fireflies, summer storms, sunburns. Summer is a small town, a shooting star—blink and you’ll miss it.  The pages below are a kind of wistful thesis on the nature of summer days; I’m thankful it’s only the first week of July and there are many weeks of summer days still ahead!

The irresistible tide of dreams

It is time to obtain a coffee-maker equipped with the ingenious ability to be set up and programmed before sleep, as, with the arrival of autumn, dreams have returned, en masse.

Little matter what time I go to bed (nor how much or little I may read before actually going to sleep)– in the morning, when the alarm begins to vex, each time i touch the snooze button I slip immediately back into the perpetually shifting, ever-perplexing and often pleasant, sun-dappled or moon-dripped world of irreverent subconscious. And I simply do not want to leave it. Always, “five more minutes, please!”

Therefore the need for the extra reinforcement of the coffee alarm: a second phalanx, in the form of a cartoon-like waft of coffee aroma to lure me out of sleep. Rather more subtle than the harsh voice of the alarm sound– threatening rather than enticing. These days of cool weather, staying in bed a bit longer, beneath layers of sheet and down, with all those stories or scenes unfolding…

The difficulty is that getting into bed in the evening doesn’t hold the same interest or enticement. There is the possibility that sleep may elude. Tossing and turning in wait for slumber is a very different experience to that of half-waking, in which one’s sleepy mind remains between worlds, one foot still across the threshold in places where the color of light can raise or dash empires and oxygen is altogether a different substance, like deep-sea diving in gelatin, or honey.