Beware of the snakes

WALDEN POND. IT’S DEEP WINTER, with a good two feet of snow on the ground. My thoughts turn to logistics: getting there from the town, what books and projects I’ll be taking, what food and cooking gear (if any) I should pack.

The prospect is liberating and exciting – an invitation to get down to some Real Work.


I’VE BEEN OFF SOMEWHERE and am returning with a friend as we come over the crest of a hill and look down to a very green meadow. A figure runs across the field. A moose? Or a horse? But a very full tail follows, and then I realize it’s a giant squirrel.

No wonder I awaken!


WAS SOMEHOW VISITING BROWN, a small group somehow in a social setting when we “went out back” to see is latest work. (This is where the dream picks up:) Not at his house and farm in Berwick, but rather beside the sea or a large gray lake. It’s a former industrial site, and he leads us into a large half-shell, somewhat like the Hatch Shell along the Charles except this has large piles of dirt inside, the kind that have been moved about by bulldozers. The shell is surfaced in rough concrete, and this is what he’s been painting on. Another person tells me Brown’s been doing very little of the painting these days but has others, including Mennonites, as apprentices who are doing much of the work he envisions. It’s largely gray, with some red and yellow. Brown tells me he’ll never be finished with this project and has no intention to.

We step back and the structure is no longer open to the air but rather goes back like a large Quonset hut or airplane hangar with office cubicles along the floor. This time, much of the surface is salmon or pinkish. What’s happening overhead is quite incredible, a contemporary Sistine Chapel. I retreat to a far corner to sit down to take it all in. Brown approves of my move with a nod or a wink.

In the final tableau, I’m outside in open ponderosa and see three typewriters in the sagebrush or palmetto. Warily, watching for rattlesnakes, I step out to get one in order to finish some project we’re engaged in. That’s when I notice the IBM Selectric II in a taupe shade. Before I can retrieve it, a stiletto-heeled secretary in black hosiery approaches to say, in effect, keep my hands off. As I retreat, something drops from a tree onto my neck and shoulders. I’m trying to brush the snake off as I awaken.

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