Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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A Dream That is Becoming a Story

Dreams follow me around as memories, as lasting as tales printed in books, as vivid as words spoken moments ago, and the memories remind me I am not alone. I carry them around. They travel well. They are good company. They are my own, and as private as my thoughts. But every so often dreams and memories grow into stories. They get written down. They get told and passed around. They go public. How the words are put together create meaning, and the sounds they make create beauty, and between the words are echoes of our oldest memory: silence more ancient than birth. Sometimes stories lose their memories and become myths. Sometimes meaning gets lost over centuries. But sometimes words play a melody that remind us of time spent with someone, a pleasant memory of sharing, and we share the music of the story with someone and know we are not alone. This story is such a story, and comes from the memory of a dream.

* * * * *

On the first Mother's Day night after the death of my mother, I slip toward sleep and hope for a dream of her. After a twisted path of images that come back only as jumbles, the last dream is it...

It looks like a scene from a film with the young Glenn Gould sitting on the piano bench with his mother like I used to do with my own mother, and indeed I am there, and so is Mom, and we are playing Bach. We are at our home in Medford. The windows are open, and I see springtime through them. The drapes drift in the breeze.

Now the dream becomes lucid, and I consciously step into it as an adult and take the place of my child self on the bench. My mother stops playing, and I say to her, "This is beautiful springtime music, but can we step beyond the French Suites and out into the wildness somewhere?" She says, "Why, yes. Certainly."

I watch her hands as she starts playing again, and the music ripples like something I've never heard before. I hear words but they have no literal meaning. They are spoken moods. A memory of a poet's words rush through me. N. Scott Momaday speaks inside my dream:

"Now when I hear Kiowa spoken -- mostly by the older people who are passing away -- it is to me very good. The meaning most often escapes me, but the sound is like a warm wind that arises from my childhood. It is the music of memory. I have come to know that much of the power and magic and beauty of words consist not in meaning but in sound. Storytellers, actors, and children know this, too."

The music builds and I continue watching my mother's hands. I hear the spring breeze blowing into the house, and inside the breeze are the words, and the words blow through me, whispering:

words are the music of memory
words are the music of memory
the music of memory....

I look up and my mother herself has gone into memory, and I see that everything is in the present. Me at 44 on the bench and speaking words, and the woman making the magic happen with her fingers is a friend. When I listen to her music, I am reminded of how good poetry ought to sound.

The dream is still lucid, and I fade it out and walk into the springtime morning. I walk and I hear music in the breeze and in the rushing of the creek. Sometimes the music whispers sounds that gather into words like clouds gather and stretch and blow away into nothing. I hear silence between the sounds. Back home, I sit down and write this out as a memory:

Words are the music of memory. I write to remember. I remember the words to know I am not alone, and sometimes I speak them, here, as a story to be shared.

A year later, on Mother's Day night, I dream this dream again, with all its revisions.