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OUR BOOKS > WAKING INTO DREAM

Waking into dream
Novel
Written by Chester Eagle
Cover designed by Vane Lindesay
DTP by Chris Giacomi
Cover painting ‘Six and forty’ by Vicki Varvaressos, courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Richmond
First published 1998 by Trojan Press
Circa 60,600 words.
First edition 200 copies
Electronic publication 2006 by Trojan Press
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Here’s what it says on the cover:

The passion of Josephine and Don has ended before the book begins, ended by Jo because it is taking her away from where she has to be. Her children require of her that she turn from lover/wife into mother, and the most eloquent demand that she do so comes silently from a portrait on her wall. The upraised hands silently insist on the transformation her mother has undergone before her. Submitting, she allows the change to take place. This requires both her husband and her former lover to adapt, and the book is the story of the changes that take place in all three. Painful as these developments are, each is made aware of other stories circulating in the world about them: humanity becomes, through the necessity of their development, the sum of all its tales.


To read some extracts from the book click here:
Don and the tree
Josephine and her mother’s portrait
Jo’s letter to Don in the days of their love
Don perceives that he won’t fall in love again
Don dreams of Josephine, who brings him an idea
Mozart and Haydn
The painting gets thrown out
Jo’s mother and the artist who painted her

To read about the writing of this book click here.

Don and the tree

Don hated the job. A huge tree was to be removed, and when he asked Beryl - that was the new owner - how she’d got his name, she’d told him that she’d found one of his business cards in the shed at the back of the block. It was where he’d first made love with Josephine, in the days of their passion. He couldn’t remember leaving a card there; or had Josephine put it somewhere out of sight, as a reminder to her and to no-one else that she’d done something beautiful, but risky, in that place? He didn’t know. And today, courtesy of the card, he’d been invited to destroy the tree, the shade, the ambience of love. Now that he and his lover were apart, it seemed that the tree alone had any sustained memory of what had happened between them. And he’d been asked to cut it down. He wanted to say he was too busy, but if he didn’t do it, some other tree surgeon would bring his ropes and chainsaw to the spreading branches. Our love was as grand as this tree, he thought, and I have to bring it undone. Josephine had taken the easy way out by moving somewhere else. He said to Beryl, ‘I’ll send you a quote in tomorrow’s mail. I’ll give you a competitive price, I don’t think you’ll get any better offers, though of course you can ask around. It won’t be an easy job, I have to say. There’ll be a lot of rope work because, as you can see, there’s hardly any of the tree that can simply be cut and allowed to drop. It’ll have to be done bit by bit, and each bit lowered carefully, and possibly even swung onto the back of my truck, if I can get it in. I’d better check that, I think.’ Beryl led him to the back gate, opened it, and they went through.

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Josephine and her mother’s portrait

The same night she woke again, and went, obediently, she felt, to the lounge, sitting in a chair beneath her mother’s portrait, and facing the light in the street. If the children woke, she thought, or if Robin were here, and realised I wasn’t beside him, and there was enough light to let them study me, would they see me as I think I am, or grown older? Identifying with her mother, whose portrait had been placed in its present position the week after she died, Josephine considered herself, hands resting softly on the arms of her chair. Something was starting to happen. She felt a moment of fear, then submitted, knowing there was no way of avoiding her transformation. Much that had been her mother she, Josephine, had rejected; much else had passed simply and without resistance to her as descendant: tonight, though, Josephine felt the process had moved into a further stage, of forgetting and acceptance. She was losing her instinctual connection with her years of childhood and youth. She was, at last and finally, in her complete being, a mother. Her sexuality was moving. Her years of love, of embracing an ‘other’, to have that addition complete her half-self, were now in her past. The years of helpless giving, of abandonment, were over. She felt regal, enriched, and deprived, a ship completed after its initial launching, and ready, now, for the oceans of the world. She stood, and the thought crossed her mind that it was a pity no other eyes were there to see her as she assumed the full identity of her importance, crossed the room, checked the children in their beds, and then, simply, sumptuously, cautiously yet with pride, spread herself between the sheets of her marital bed.

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Jo’s letter to Don, in the days of their love

After a period of indecision, he opened a zipped section of his case and took out a letter.

In Melbourne, he’d wavered for days about whether to take it or leave it behind. He’d decided that it would act as a test of his detachment from the writer, a condition he both wanted and fought against, trying always to reinstate the claims of their love.

My love, it began. He fondled it, fingertips responding, murmuring the words from memory. I’m alone. I’ve just taken the children to school, Robin’s overseas for a few weeks, and you, too, are away for a short time. I say ‘short’ mainly to convince myself, because every moment is long until I can be with you again, watching thoughts cross your face, making your eyes move like a living sculpture of the mind. As I look into those eyes, following my responses, my thoughts, in deepest reciprocity, I know that I have never been more perfectly loved. You touched my thigh and I knew you wanted me to sit under the tree with you. Our tree. He felt his face go stiff. I wondered, as we sat, how long it had been there, readying itself for the moment that will always be ours. Much of the time we have to steal our moments, or create them by pushing the borders of responsibility, of other people’s claims, back just a little so there’s a space for us. Knowing that you want to make those moments too gives me energy to do it.

Where does energy come from? Do you think we are stealing it from others? Or have we tapped some psychic source not usually available? The sight of you gives energy that feeds my love. My energy feels other energy pouring into you, so that you and I can flood each other with love. People must lose the ability to claim this psychic gift. Old people seem entirely to lack it. When I see them, I wonder if they ever had what we have. If they had it, how did they lose it, because nobody could ever want to be without it, it must be taken, or lost, in some way. Or were they unfortunate - I want to say lesser - people who never knew it was in them to live as we do, wound around each other, swimming in each other’s souls like beings unbound at last. Love is freedom, my love, and it’s you who’ve given me a liberty that releases everything in my being, and I - miracle! - have done as much for you!

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Don perceives that he won’t fall in love again

He’d been walking a few minutes when it occurred to him that he was happy. Happier, in fact, than he’d been for ages. Even the excitement of flying into Europe couldn’t compare with what it felt like to be strolling along this road. Why? He looked around; the sun was shining mildly, the air had a pleasant tang. He couldn’t identify anything in the scene that made him as he was; what was it, then? He looked inside himself, wondering. Then he realised: his obsession with Jo, and his pain at losing her, were gone. Where had he lost them? What had made them go away, those constant companions of pain? He didn’t know, but he could feel that, empty as he was, now, and in a countryside which interested him but for which he had no attachment, he had slipped into the next phase of his life, and that it was a void waiting to be filled.

The one thing I’m sure of, he told himself, is that I’ll never fall in love again.

The realisation was crucial. Humans have available to them another world they escape to, where their passions rule them, where conscience and responsibility go passive, and elemental storms sweep through them. He’d been in that world for a long time, exploring its parapets and crevices with Jo, mostly, though not always, on the high lands where vast visions and richly clad costumes were natural if not inevitable, and now, courtesy of a bus driver who wanted to punish him, he was in a countryside he didn’t feel a connection with. It’s as if I’ve fallen out of the sky, he thought; I’ve no connection with what I see, I’ve broken with my past. I’ve had the rest of my life handed to me, free of what I did in the first fifty years.

It was a gift of considerable magnitude, he saw.

That evening, back in his hotel, he studied the people, staff and guests, who were moving about him. They didn’t have his detachment, and he felt sorry for them. It was better to be liberated. He got out his map of France, found Rennes, considered the roads that ran from the town, and marked one spot on a minor road with a large and inky - the paper was glossy - X.

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Don dreams of Josephine, who brings him an idea

In a single bed at the doctor’s residence, Don dreamed of Jo. She came to him in the night, time and again, trying to tell him something, he felt: not love, but acceptance. He woke, or half-woke, several times, and felt her presence in this room, strange to him and never visited by her. In his dream it was her hands he saw; he knew her face was there more than he actually saw it. Sometimes the hands were cupped, as if she was trying to make him see a shape; sometimes they were simply unfolded, in the gesture of someone who’d said something important. When he woke the last time, with sunlight entering the room, he felt he had her message in his mind. What was it? Where was it, in his thoughts? He pushed himself up on one elbow, staring down at the sheets, then he found himself tracing the outline of a circle with his left hand.

Was that all his love had come to tell him? Something as simple as that? It seemed disappointing. He lay back in the bed, his mind summoning the places he’d visited the day before with his friends. The school. The bus depot. The Bartletts’ house, by the river. The roads ruling lines across a country that shaped itself in other ways. What had Jo been trying to tell him?

It came to him then, in all its simplicity. His memorial would be a circle of trees. It wouldn’t be restricted to one place. There could be a circle of red gums at the scene of the crash, a circle of roses by the front gate at the school. The next detail presented itself. Seven people had died; there would be seven trees, roses, or other plants, in the circle. Anyone who felt moved by the circular memorial could make one for themselves, could even appropriate the symbol if they had no connection with those who’d been in the accident. It was a symbol which, being perfectly joined, could join any two people or groups together. It was exact, yet free. He got out of bed..

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Mozart and Haydn

Driving home after taking the children to school, she turned on the radio. A suavely spoken announcer was presenting the last of Mozart’s piano concertos. ‘Many people have commented on its autumnal, valedictory character, and some of them have claimed that Mozart knew he had only a short time to live. Others have dismissed this, pointing out that he was in excellent health and, as far as we can determine, excellent spirits, at the time it was written. The premonitory view is supported, though, by an incident that happened at the end of 1790, less than a year before Mozart’s death. His friend, Franz Joseph Haydn, whom he greatly admired, had been invited to London by the impresario Salomon. Mozart dined with Haydn and Salomon on the day of their departure for England. Haydn’s biographer Griesinger describes this as a merry meal, but when the time came to say their farewells, Mozart, with tears in his eyes, said, “I fear, my papa” - Mozart referred to Haydn, who was twenty three years his senior, as papa - “I fear, my papa, that this is the last time that we shall see each other.” Haydn, who was also touched to the point of tears, took this to be a reference to his age and vulnerability, because he had not been a great traveller until that time of his life. But as we now know, it was Mozart who was to die, and Haydn who was to live another eighteen years. Did Mozart know his end was near? See what you think.’ The concerto started with murmuring in the lower strings, then a melody that only Mozart could have written. Jo found it distressing. Beautiful as it was, it made a statement she didn’t want to hear. She took her eye off the traffic and pressed a button..

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The painting gets thrown out

She said, ‘This is an entirely destructive conversation. I’m going to bed. I’ll sleep in the spare room. Keep your door open, when you go to bed, so you can hear the children if one of them calls out.’ Turning her back on him, she went to the small room opening off the kitchen which had been built for a cook, or maid. She heard him walking heavily, noisily, upstairs a few minutes later. Before she turned the light off, she finished the chapter she was reading, then lay in the dark, trying to catch, with her mind’s ear, what was happening in her house. She felt aggression running through its spaces like a nervous attack, but caught no sound of movement. In the morning, though, when she went out for the paper, she found her mother’s portrait on the lawn, beside a tap, with a corner of the frame cracked and a tear in the canvas at the point where the artist had signed his name.

Powerful feelings swept through her: rage; an awareness of being watched; contempt for her husband for being so uncontrolled, so childish; a sense of herself as victim, with the possibility of further outrages to follow; and a revulsion against any attack on him, any rebound action which would exacerbate what had already been done. She stood before the painting, with, she knew, her husband high over her, behind, looking down on her neck. She leaned forward. There were her mother’s hands, in a gesture Jo knew well, but incapable of affecting what people in the living, brutal world were doing, unless they responded to the compassion and the sense of wisdom that they conveyed. I must not act, Jo saw: I have to stand here, stock still, until the meaning, the outcome, of this barbarity reveals itself. On its own, his damage to the painting, his ripping it from the wall, meant no more than that he’d been overcome by a tantrum. The meaning of what he’d done, the sense of it as an action which would have consequences through the years, depended entirely on what happened next. When there was a second action, a line could be drawn from the first to the second and beyond, and a direction would have been ... implied? No, she saw, imposed. The direction would be one they’d follow, she, Robin and their family, for as far into the future as any of them could perceive.

She heard a sound. He was lifting the window. She kept her head where it was. He called. ‘I’m coming down.’ She straightened, still looking away from the house. She heard him on the stairs, she heard him come out. She waited for him to stop; where would he put himself? The moment expanded, swirling destiny around itself like a cape. He stood beside her, at the same distance, close but not touching, as at their wedding ceremony. Was he back?

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Jo’s mother and the artist who painted her

Josephine was in the middle of the room, her children close by her; Robin was near the painting, looking out, as it did, and rubbing his hands, as if to surprise them by making the gesture it portrayed: the man they were speaking of, Josephine’s father, had died long before his daughter’s marriage. The family, waiting for the explanation, found themselves guessing what they were going to be told. Alexander said, ‘Maybe he was shy. I wouldn’t like having to sit while someone stares at me. I think it’d be awful!’ Jessica said, ‘It would be a bit scary, but no worse than having your picture taken.’ Melissa said, ‘It’s somehow more than having your picture taken. You get that back from the chemist in a couple of days. How long does it take to paint a picture, mum?’

Josephine said, ‘In the case of that picture, it took many, many weeks. The artist, you see, fell in love with his model.’ Robin’s interest lifted. ‘You never told me that before.’ The children found that interesting too. ‘The sittings,’ Jo said, ‘were done during the day. My father was never there. In fact I don’t think he ever met the artist.’ Robin bent to look at the signature, and found himself noticing, ever so faintly, the line of repair. ‘A. Schell ... what is it?’ He peered closely, as if the name would tell him about the love.

‘Schellenberger,’ Jo said. ‘He hadn’t been in the country long, and he was single. What his life had been like in Austria I’ve no idea, but mother was his first love in his new country. After he painted, they made love. They never met away from her house, and once it was finished, she never saw him again.’ Robin looked at his wife. ‘She told you this?’ Jo said, ‘I guessed it, and I showed her that I thought I knew, and yes, she told me. She said I was never to tell my father. She said, “Knowledge has a way of running recklessly around the world, and if you can contain it, you can do most things, as long as you’re comfortable with them.” Obviously she believed that what you don’t know won’t hurt you.’ She caught the question in her husband’s eyes. ‘Do I believe that? Not entirely. I think that knowledge we don’t share is out of control inside ourselves. I think that’s why we tell people things. We need to see their reaction. We know what we make of it by knowing what they make of it. It’s not as easy as people think to carry something alone. Most people let out what they’ve done eventually. Confession seems to be necessary in some form or other.’ Robin said, ‘So it began and ended with the painting?’

‘It began after the very first session, and ended after the last. Mother said it was his eyes. “He knew everything about me, and I had to give him the only thing he didn’t know.” She frowned. ‘I thought then, and still think, that that was silly romantic nonsense. She had an impulse and she gratified it. Did it do any harm? We don’t know. I know nothing about Schellenberger from that day to this. If he’s still alive, and it’s possible, he may never have outgrown the love he had for her. It may have been so strong that it was never surpassed. Or he might have done the same thing any number of times, who knows?’

Robin said, ‘And your father? You guessed. Did he, do you think?’

‘Yes, I think he did. He would certainly have noticed how long the whole thing was taking. He would have noticed, too, that the painting came and went with the artist. There’s nothing unusual about that, I know, but somehow it’s expressive of what was going on. He knew he’d have to leave it one day, but he wasn’t letting go until he had to.’

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The writing of this book:

This book is a sequel to Victoria Challis, although the characters have different names and circumstances. The first book dealt with a great passion, the sequel with its aftermath. Stories have endings, but life is more persistent. People have to find their way forward after a huge experience, no matter how much it has affected them. In this case the two people who have to find a new path are Don, a tree surgeon, and Josephine (Jo), mother of three, and a deeply inward person.

The magical voices and movements of Victoria Challis are absent from this book. Instead, there is a replacement for ‘normal’ background description. The book provides almost no setting, described as physical presence. Instead, there are any number of stray conversations, chance meetings, and interruptions from radio broadcasts: the ‘background’ enters the book via the ear rather than the eye. I didn’t do this by deliberate choice, I merely noticed that the book was writing itself in that way. I was driving to the Ivanhoe post Office one morning and an ABC broadcaster made the comments on Mozart and Haydn which I have included here. As I heard them I knew that I would use them, and listened with delight. Mozart and Haydn, two men with very special minds, sensed that they would never meet again; I sensed that they would live again, for a few lines, in my book.

One morning, in the cafeteria of the Marseilles railway station, after an overnight trip from Brest, on the other side of France, I saw a photo in a newspaper someone had opened on a table not far from me. There was a young woman lying on what seemed to be a cape, and her arms were thrown out wide. There was also a lurid headline which I no longer remember. I know nothing about this young woman but she came to mind when I started writing about the Englishman, searching for his daughter, whom Don encounters on a train and at a station – Marseilles. It may seem quirky, or arbitrary, of me to make the imagined encounter happen in the spot where the instigational reminder, shall we say, had happened too, but for me this was a way of alluding to the fact that we are surrounded by others’ lives and it only needs a slight opening, or widening, of the doors of awareness and a great deal can come flooding in. Similarly, we can keep our doors of perception closed and we can thus, we think, protect ourselves. Does knowledge hurt us more than ignorance? I cannot say.

I would like to add here that both Victoria Challis and Waking into dream have on their covers paintings by Vicki Varvaressos. I am most grateful to Vicki and to Niagara Galleries, Richmond, for making this possible. Women’s awareness of other women, particularly those closest to them, is a theme of both books and something which Vicki has treated in a way that I admire.

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