The Ruricolist is now available in print.

Dream Places

There are some things we can trust, even in dreams. One of them is the dream version of a real place. Little as they resemble the places they represent, in the dream we recognize them, and across dreams we return to them, and find them as we left them. Often they are on a larger scale than their models. For places known in childhood this is explicable. Imagination magnifies and interpolates the facts until they match the impression we retain from when we were small in a place and looked up to it. But all my dream places are magnified, whenever I knew them. Perhaps cinematography is to blame. Many who grow up watching black and white dream in shades of gray; my dreams are wound up to the geographical key of New Zealand. True, I return to dream places which are born of dream stuff, and have no anchor in experience; but dream places, when they are born of real places, retain a cord of connection with them. The change that a place undergoes in becoming a dream place is not lawless: there is a topology, with invariants. The shape of a coast or the path of a river may change, but the waters remain. The dream place has the same palette as its model; no new colors appear. Trees never appear singly, always in stands. New buildings are found, and new features of old buildings, but always of the same stuff as the real ones. Roads widen and narrow, but never change their course, nor whether they turn or go straight. In order of instability the elements of dreams are events, things, people, and places. This is a lesson in the mechanics of imagination: even when anything can happen to anyone at any time, it must still happen somewhere.