Deep Drifts and Warmly Lit Windows — By Jennifer Shipp
Guanajuato Mexico North America

Deep Drifts and Warmly Lit Windows — By Jennifer Shipp

Last night, I dreamed that I was walking through a deserted city in the dark with my computer. Deep drifts of snow covered the streets and the moon was full it cast a blue glow over everything.  I could see the dim outline of houses lined up along a deserted block. I looked down at my footprints as I made my way to a house situated on the corner of an abandoned block and there, I opened my computer so that the screen showed a view of the house as if it were warmly lit from the inside. I sat the computer on the stairs leading up to the front door of the house and adjusted the “settings” so that, when I stepped back from it and looked at the computer screen, it was like I was looking at the house with brightly lit, welcoming windows, snow falling gently from the sky.

In the dream, after I stood back from my computer on the stairs and I just stared at the screen, imaging the snow falling gently and the way that winter sounds are muffled by heavy, low–hanging clouds. The house behind the computer was cold and dark. And the snow which was several days old was hard and ugly. But through my computer, or rather, a reflection of my own hopes and thoughts, the snow was light and soft and the environs were warm and welcoming on a beautiful winter’s night.

I tried to feel what it feels like to stand in the midst of a quiet street on a snowy evening with friendly neighbors and warmly lit windows all around me.

But before I could really tune into the peace, a light clicked on in the house and I saw the form of a short, withered old woman coming to the door. Before she unlocked it though, a black and gray spotted dog ran out wildly from the backyard. I tried to get to my computer, but it was slick on the street. I didn’t want the dog to break my computer. And then the woman opened the door and knocked my computer off the stairs. The keyboard broke in half, a problem that even John couldn’t fix (in the dream, he was immediately present to try to bring the computer back to life).

When I woke up in the morning, it was clear that the old woman was me.

And so was the dog.

My computer was (and is) a source of inspiration, anxiety, and disillusionment.

I’ve thought back on this dream many times over the past few days because I’m reaching for that emotion of peace regularly. But I can’t reach for it actively. It’s not an “action-item” so-to-speak. I can’t grasp for it or run toward it. Peace is passive. It comes to me on its own terms.

For the past few months, I’ve only interacted with Facebook as a result of business matters. I no longer LIKE or get LIKED by others. And that’s okay. I mean, it’s good, really. The spell has been broken. I now use Facebook instead of letting Facebook use me. But my social circle has had a complete turnover. I struggle to have time alone. And much of the time that I would’ve spent writing down my thoughts is spent writing to people who are asking for health help or to people with ideas regarding how to configure our new, empty spaces to accommodate this or that in our building.

I’m busy. Life just doesn’t quit for us here in Mexico. In fact, the onward march of things has been so intense that John, Lydian, and I finally decided to take a siesta from the ongoing siesta and go to Southeast Asia where no one knows our names. It’s an enforced Time Out from all the Mexico-related-crazy.

We have four apartments that we rent out now. Lydian is managing them at the moment, but a Canadian couple who are currently sojourning in Costa Rica will be doing property management for us while we’re gone. The building is waiting for the go-ahead to become something else. There are empty rooms that have the potential to become something. Or nothing. The big empty spaces want to be filled with ideas. But the ideas that I have at the moment are lined up like soldiers in a peace-loving country. They’re ready to go to war, but the peace is kinda nice. I don’t want to disturb it.

What I do with this building feels important but it probably isn’t. I don’t really believe that I can change the world anymore. Maybe, if I want it bad enough, I can change myself. So at the moment what seems important is plugging back into my own mind. I need to stand in the middle of Nowhere-In-Particular and be alone with myself.  I need to leave myself alone and quit bothering myself.

It’s not as easy as it seems.

A few days ago, John and I decided that it was finally time to visit Encino Park, a heavily treed area right next door to our property. From our upper floors, we could see things like cement turrets and playground equipment on the property and we were curious about it. So after our daily walk on Saturday, we finally paid our 5 pesos to go in and see it for ourselves.

The path meandered through several playgrounds. There was a kids’ library and a small castle built like a maze. At the back of the property were two small gazebos that were boarded up. John and I stood back from them and squinted. We both saw the same thing: with a little work, they would make the perfect haunted attraction. A picnic area was set up under some large trees. And finally, at the front of the property (we’d walked right past it) was a fairly large, and impressive theater.

What struck me about this place was the fact that we bought property next door without realizing that Encino Park was there. I have this loco but obscure sense that our chosen location in this city wasn’t accidental. It’s not that there’s an action for me to take or that there’s something I need to do in response to the fact that there’s a human-sized, miniature village of sorts right next door to our property and that this miniature village-like place is very similar to village-like spaces that I’ve built myself in the past (Cornstalk, School District 13). Right at the moment, I just feel weirdly reassured by How the Universe Works and that I could end up where I’m supposed to be without trying. And that trying may even fuck things up at times.

This reassures me because I’ve been really reactive over the past few months. Constant, ongoing noise (scraping, pounding, etc.) and being surrounded by humans that behave like wild animals has that kind of effect on me. Being reactive, like a wild dog, is unpleasant. I don’t like it. Given, if I’m surrounded by a pack of wild dogs, I have to resort to the animal-side of my nature to get through it. That makes sense and I suppose I’m glad to have that facet that I can turn to in a pinch. But anything could set me off while in that state, and once my brain gets going it keeps going. Every little problem turns into a slippery slope. I get angry with little provocation and I start to hate things.

The last time I felt that low and that reactive was probably in junior high school.

So I appreciated seeing that somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, our family positioned itself next door to a place that I’ve built in my imagination many times. It reminded me of some of the other layers of reality that coexist on top of the one I happen to be experiencing most often at this time. Some people don’t believe in the other layers, but I do. And so, for me, the layers exist. They exist all the time if I tune into them. If I stop and stare into my own mind for a little while, the dark houses will light up and the cold streets will be filled with carolers and Christmas lights. Eventually, summer will come.

But the broom has fallen and company’s coming late tomorrow night. They’re strangers in one sense, but perhaps not. I suppose we already know each other which is both reassuring as well as frightening. I know that we’re opening a new chapter in our lives. This couple coming from Costa Rica are diplomats for all the people who come into our lives through this portal after them.

But we’re leaving soon either way. It’s easier, after all, to stare into the abyss from a faraway place than it is from Home.

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