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Ella Dawn McGeough

There she stretches, spreading across fresh cotton sheets printed with crimson flowers, faded by age and sun. After pulling down a corner, she thinks better and rolls herself up burrito-style, turns her head and listens to the wind, 


A tall birch tree with nearly bare branches waves to her through the window and a scattering of husky leaves flutter in manic applause. There have been warnings of ninety kilometer an hour gusts, but she isn’t worried—if the electricity goes out, there’s a large fireplace and plenty of wood. She is cozy as a chicken, huddled in a roost of soft straw.

She arrived last night after a feverish three-hour drive compounded by a mixture of hail, wet-snow, and larger-than-life eighteen-wheelers bearing down on her from behind, headlights on high. What can it mean if winds are the same speed as a driving car? If the car is thrust with near equal force in two directions simultaneously, driven east by the engine and north by the lake, where would she end up?

One of those new LED floor lamps occupies the room’s corner, an inverse and flattened capital ⅄, held upright by arms that spread across the floor. Even though only early afternoon, it has been turned on, casting a hazy strip of key lime green glow against the wall. Her limbs feel heavy, pushed down by gravity and lethargy. A combination of end of term exhaustion plus the drugs.

That light is sooo pretty. During an online workshop the poet explains that luminescence is the world’s primary method of communication. On Wikipedia she learns how several fish and cephalopods communicate with polarized light patterns. The strobing zebra stripes of male cuttle fish turn florid when encountering a sexual rival and the Caribbean reef squid hunts zoo plankton with disco-light chromatophores glowing under their skin. Certain shrimp (Pistol, Mantis) even create light-filled micro bubbles with the sound shock of striking or snapping. This process is properly called ‘sonoluminescence’ but has whimisically been dubbed, ‘shrimpoluminescence.’ Claudia Eberlein of the University of Sussex “suggests that the light in sonoluminescence is generated by the vacuum within the bubble in a process similar to Hawking radiation, the radiation generated at the event horizon of black holes.”[i]

She tries to move luminescence slowly across her tongue…loo-ma-nes-sense, loooooomaaaaaaneeeesensssssssss, loomanaissance and finds herself swimming in glistening phosphorescent oceans off Keats’ pier, the water cold as sweat in the midsummers heat. Night turns to afternoon and she is laying face-down on a bed of damp seaweed. Occasionally light catches around its edges turning the dark forest vibrant, an underwater emerald city.

The weather app says there will be blue skies around three and she can already see a change. Bright steaks illuminate the room while strange shadows follow, elongated houseplants turn into rabbit ears, donkey tails, and the strings of jellyfish. Funny to think about the expression, ‘blue skies’, as if the sky could be plural—although with atmospheric layers, pressure systems, and the jet stream, what is the sky if not a multifaceted system of circulation? Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek instructs the reader to follow Stewart Edward White’s suggestion: “if you look closely enough you could see the wind—the dim hardly-made-out, fine débris fleeing high in the air.”[ii]

Someone on twitter says only fifty percent of the population experiences an inner dialogue.

She is twenty-two and spending a few days at a guesthouse owned by an American astrologer on his blueberry farm in the highlands of Central Guatemala. He tells her that fourteen spirit guides watch over her, although she forgets to ask why.

Lazing in a hammock next to the river she tests his hypothesis—politely introducing herself. A Voice in a remarkably good mood responds, both singular and somehow plural. It is happy to chit chat about the weather and whatever, like if she should continue dating the current boy or some other one.

A few days later, when she begins bussing from town to town, the Voice speaks to her only occasionally, but when it does, there is a quality of insistence. Advice, warnings, permissions, nudges in a particular direction. Once, the Voice tells her to leave a popular tourist destination immediately. Taking the first ride out of there feels amazing. She is elated, wonderfully free of expectation and responsibility. Before cellphones and social media, the Voice makes her feel less alone. The Voice tells her she is someone special.

The astrologer’s website expired last March, and she is saddened to realize his final e-newsletter arrived years earlier. Its topic, Living the Dream, closes with a passage from the twelfth century polymath, Hildegard von Bingen:
“The visions which I see, I don’t receive in a dream, in sleep, nor by a disturbed mind, not with physical eyes nor with the ears of the outer man, but in wakefulness and by a clear mind, with the eyes and ears of the inner man.  What I see or learn, I bear in mind for a long time, so that when I see that light and hear, I remember, and at the same time I see, hear and know, as it were, instantly learning what I know.”[iii]

In the previous paragraph, he writes,
“We are closest to dream body awareness in our quotidian lives when we are operating on intuition rather than thought…. [Recognizing] opportunities, or avoiding danger and evil people—are actually messages from our dream bodies…. Similarly, the spontaneous acts of audacity and daring which we occasionally rise to in response to extraordinary circumstances (which surprise us as much as the people around us) are dream body responses…. It is our dream bodies which are the source of all our creativity; and our estrangement from our dream bodies is what makes life in modern day society so empty and meaningless.”[iv]

Watching sun sparkle off the wild late autumn fields after a hard rain, she remembers a joke.

A whale walks into a bar and sits down next to a guy.
The guy turns to him and wails, 
Whale looks at the guy and says, “Man, you are tanked!”
Man says, “True. But do you know why crabs never tip?”
“They’re shellfish.”

[i] Xin Tang and David Staack, “Bioinspired mechanical device generates plasma in water via cavitation,” Science Advances5, no. 3 (March 15, 2019): eaau7765, doi:10.1126/sciadv.aau7765.

Claudia Eberlein, "Theory of quantum radiation observed as sonoluminescence," Phys. Rev. A 53, no. 4 (April 1996): 2772-2787, doi:10.1103/PhysRevA.53.2772.

[ii] Stewart Edward White, quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013), 20.

[iii] Bob Makransky, “Living the Dream,” Magical Almanac(email newsletter), July 28, 2019.

[iv] Makransky, “Living the Dream.”