Thursday, 25 March 2021

Glimpses into past lives? Lent 2021, Day 37

And lo! I dreamt... I was a young man - hardly a man, maybe 17, 16 even... It was early spring 1831 and the Polish insurgency against the Russians was under way, with skirmishes occurring here and there. I was wearing a Napoleonic-style military uniform, bloodied and torn by brambles; I'd lost my hat and musket after the defeat of my unit by a much larger Russian formation. I had managed to escape from the resulting slaughter. 

I had made my way to a nearby estate owned by good friends of my parents. I'd been there last summer - wearing the same uniform - for a ball attended by the children of local minor nobility. I had danced with beautiful girls - and now here I was again, dressed in tatters, desperately seeking sanctuary from the Russians who were scouring the country for insurgents. Countess __________ greeted me and said that they would indeed hide me from the soldiers should they come looking, she bade her servants to attend to my wounds. I felt anguish, fear, disgrace; I felt that I am unfairly jeopardising the lives of these good people. I felt guilt at their willingness to help me. I felt the utter disappointment of seeing action for the first time, expecting glory and instead being painfully humiliated. Had I been a coward to run? Above all, I felt despair at the prospects for my fatherland, which just a few weeks earlier looked so promising - a restoration of independence after 35 years of Tsarist rule.

I woke up; the emotions I'd experienced in the dream were so real, so vivid, so intense; it was a relief to be back in 2021.

A rare dream, one of those that ticked the boxes of the Three Unities of Time, Place and Action, rather than being full of disjunctive cognition, where people, places and things blend together and action is illogical.

Now, I have long felt an atavistic, metaphysical link to the lands to the north-east of Poland's current borders - in particular the north-west fringes of the Pripet Marshes, but I'd felt by parsing my exomnesial qualia experiences of this time and place that "I" had been there, though not as the scion of a noble family. Instead, I have hitherto seen myself as a good-natured peasant who was neither Polish nor Lithuanian nor Russian but 'from there' who fished and hunted duck around those times, who went to the Orthodox church on Orthodox feast days and to the Catholic church on Catholic feast days, generally kept out of trouble by keeping a low profile and avoiding the gaze of his betters. The connection in time and place are strong - but as to the person?

Marais de Pinsk - Pripet Marshes on a French map, 1880

This was an intensely puzzling dream, one of those outliers well beyond the usual canon of my dream-themes and locations. In recent days I have dreamt of my old offices in London (twice); Covent Garden, London; a line of warehouses on the Chicago waterfront in the 1930s, Katowice, West Ealing, Poznań, Leamington Spa; Kraków, 1950s London. Here we have a time and place that has never featured in any dream I've had, only in flashbacks usually brought about by landscapes - wide sandy tracks between silver birch forest, flooded water meadows at a river's edge, moonlight through the trees. But here - a nobleman's mansion, the clothes, the period - nothing out of place yet unfamiliar. I have never been here before in my dreams.

It's good to keep a daily dream diary - it opens doors to new possibilities.

[I wrote a short story set in the aftermath of the 1863 rising, which strongly alluded to 1831, ten years ago. Link to it here.]

This time last year:

This time three years ago:
New bus stop for Karczunkowska

This time four years ago:
"Jeziorki bogged down in railway mud"

This time five years ago:
Ideas, and how they take hold

This time six years ago:
Russian eyes peering down on Jeziorki

This time 13 years ago:
The fate of urban wetlands?

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