Sunday, November 23, 2008

Animal Dreams

Six bear sketches, pencil on paper.

Planning/thinking sketches for a piece I'm working on. You wouldn't guess that I don't have any interest in being a wildlife artist. I always enjoy looking at good wildlife art, but as with the rest of my work, it is the memory of experience that I am interested in. Memory of the natural world, and how that shapes us as human beings. What things fill my mind and imagination, inform who I am and how I relate to the world.

Jim Harrison has written of his dreams of animals and how he thinks they are somehow representative of himself and how his psyche is trying to work things out symbolicly that he can't figure out in his waking life. I'm sure that's a terrible interpretation of what he said, but that's why I paint and don't write novels. It doesn't mean I agree with him any less.

Bears, dogs, horses, birds, fish. And pretty much every other animal. All interesting to me. All in my head after I see them. It's funny to me, but I dream of animals frequently, and while I can easily see how many/most of the animals I dream of could be representative of something else, Molly and Finn are always there as themselves.

Always themselves

Horse by Jim Harrison

What if it were our privilege
to sculpt our dreams of animals?
But those shapes in the night
come and go too quickly to be held
in stone: but not to avoid these shapes
as if dreams were only a nighttime
pocket to be remembered and avoided.
Who can say in the depths of
his life and heart what beast
most stopped life, the animals
he watched, the animals he only touched
in dreams? Even our hearts don’t beat
the way we want them to. What
can we know in the waking,
sleeping edge? We put down
my daughter’s old horse, old and
arthritic, a home burial. By dawn with eye
half open, I said to myself, is
he still running, is he still running
around, under the ground?

from The Theory and Practice of Rivers, Winn Books, 1985

Lifted from poetry dispatch & other notes from the underground


David Oleski said...

Now I'm wondering if my dog ever dreams about me, and what part of the components of his life I might represent. Does he talk to me in his dreams? Does he ask me questions? Do I answer him in his language or mine? Now I'm wondering...

Richard C. Harrington said...

Hey DO,

Does he talk to you when he's awake? In which language? That Frankie's a pretty bright boy.

I think communicating with animals is something most of us have forgotten about. I don't mean in any Disneyish way, but inhabiting the planet more in unison with other species.

My friend Kim (studio landlord), can read a horse to an amazing degree. It's interesting to watch and learn from, and you quickly realize that she has an affinity not typical of most people.


David Oleski said...

Other than his "Son of Sam" stare, I think he has all kinds of things to say. Aside from "more treats, please", he can say "those treats were great!" and "any time you want to give me more treats like that, I'd love it!" And then there's always that "what, no treat?" message. And of course he always has that "what now?" look. I used to go crazy in the beginning when he was a puppy and was constantly asking "what now?" And I'm always surprised with how much the cat seems to comprehend, and of course refuses to acknowledge.

dylan S. said...

Do you know how often I dream about dogs? Unless I've mentioned it before or you observe my dreams, you don't.

I dream about them a lot. Dogs are the most frequently occurring characters in my dream. Few other animals make appearances in my dreams.

I dream about passed dogs, other peoples dogs and seemingly random dogs that might be from the future.

When a dog I know, even my own, has died, I am never terribly upset, but not because it was "just a dog." But rather because their lives always appear so complete and fulfilled, their death being the final logical step.

Maybe the relatively short lifespan of dogs is gods gift to man because it allows us to know so many of them.

Richard C. Harrington said...


I think their short life span may be a sad gift in many ways, but getting to know more of them is definitely the up side of it.