The dream came to me in the early morning hours while I was sleeping beside my husband in a beachfront condo in Florida. Our teenaged daughter was asleep down the hall. Our view faced east, across the causeway, where we could see the sun rising over the water. At first, on waking, the dream held me in such a spell that I started from the pillow and stared up at the shining white curtains that were drawn across the sliding glass door to the balcony, illuminated from behind by morning sunlight, and I wasn’t sure where I was. I gazed down at my arm, tan against the white sheet, then at the sleeping face of my husband, and peered around the room, at the wall, the dresser, the picture of a heron, until reality came flooding back.

I jotted down some words to remind me of the dream, and I went out on the beach to experience the lively morning, raucous with the cries of birds, the murmuring tide, and rustling breezes. The light was brilliant, the air heavy with moisture, the sparkling sands strewn with treasures of shells and sea mysteries. In the beauty of the morning, I forgot about my dream. It was a kernel, a seed, in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until later, when my husband and daughter left to join other relatives, and I remained alone in the quiet condo, with the door behind me shut and the door to the balcony open, so I could hear the sounds of people on the beach below me, that I began to think about my dream and ponder its meaning. It seemed to me that I had been a visitor in the night garden of my muse. My poem, Blessing XIX (“In my dream I was standing...”) is about inspiration, that elusive subject so beloved of artists.


In my dream I was standing
in the courtyard of a villa
built on a hillside
in a tropical country.
The soil was the color of ochre.
From it grew variety
upon variety of trees and bushes
whose branches and leaves
seemed carved of metal,
gray trunks amid dark,
glittering greens and golds.

And here and there a red flower or white.
I could apprehend only the details,
not the mysterious whole.
I breathed in the scents of earth
and flowers, water and decay,
listening to the parrots in the trees,
the shrill insects.
The equatorial night fell suddenly,
and in the fragrant darkness
a woman seemed to float toward me
from across the courtyard.
I couldn’t see her clearly,
only shadowed features,
round face, upturned nose,
small, sturdy, delicate.

She extended her hands to me
they shone so white
I took them both in mine.
Their touch impossibly soft
filled me with rapture
I wanted never to let go.

I wasn’t sure who she was,
a woman from the present or past.
Her features were vaguely familiar.
Had I dreamed myself a visitor
into her life?

I was confused and afraid.
Had I sought this attachment?
I didn’t know what it meant
but when I tried to deny it,
I felt I was killing something.
Opposed by my doubt, she vanished.
I woke empty-handed,
with a vision and memory
that wasn’t really a memory,
longing for such a touch
to caress my mind and free my thought,
bringing into expression
the frail idea in danger of perishing,
the flight of the mind
that moves without movement
to the stillness that is not death,
from life to the fullness of life.

Art begins in desire. The sculptor desires to make the sculpture; the composer, the music; the poet, the poem. Without the will to create, there will be no creation. From where does creativity come?  Perhaps it is a shadow possibility that is always present, though mostly unseen, because it goes unnoticed, and, unnoticed, it is not used. In order to recognize creativity, to develop it and make it into some thing, one must allow the space for it to come into being and to grow. The space begins from within, a kind of inward attention, almost as if one were fine-tuning one’s mental listening to hear what speaks back, in order to be able to select the raw materials that will allow one to realize one’s vision. For a writer, these are ideas and metaphors, themes and images, characters and story, the music of language.

And who was the mysterious woman who appeared as my muse? I have my suspicions.