Of whales and caterpillars

I’m having recurring dreams of whales. They bob around happily, with faces like hippos. Frolicking on the cote d’azur. Nosing up to me as I swim beside a cliff at Victor Harbour. And, most excitingly, snuffling around while I am a superhero who flies through the air and zooms through the water, friend of whales and foe to sharks who hunt in packs. Ahem.

I think it must have something to do with the thesis. Great lump of a thing that can nevertheless swim gracefully through the water. That’s the goal, anyway. I had a facebook conversation with a phd friend about this, and she said that whenever she’s gestating an idea, she puts up a profile picture of a foetal elephant. That sounds a bit funny I know, but it’s quite a lovely photograph. Here it is, in lieu of my dream-whale-hippo:


They have something in common, no? Heavy and awkward and light and beautiful all at once.

Tomorrow is my last day in the library before I go back to Norway for two and a half weeks. I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted writing time – there are so many ideas zipping around! I’ll have to be very focussed collecting the last essential books and articles. It’s strange, because each chapter needs something doing to it (some more than others) and somehow I’m holding it all in my head, all at once. I used to have trouble holding a whole chapter in my head, and now I’m holding a whole thesis! My brain has turned into a phd machine. All this focus means that it never switches off – if I have a shower, or walk along, or wash the dishes, or lie in bed, the ideas keep bouncing back and forth, crashing into each other, reflecting each other, building on each other. If I notice a significant theme for one of my writers, my mind immediately says: does it work for any of the others? And it tries different angles and pathways, to see if it fits. Or, to use a creaturely metaphor (which I am fond of doing, as you well know), my brain feels like a caterpillar who won’t stop munching. Munch munch munch on the ideas and the images and the connections.

I spent the day tracking down references. There is so much left to do and I am trying to do it all at once. So tomorrow is the last day of gathering, and then there will be many days to write and to think.


2 thoughts on “Of whales and caterpillars

  1. you sound happy oh Whale-ish one! And I love the photo. One of my friends has a book of 1st Nation American symbolism and totems. It identifies whales as the “keepers of the records”. If this is reliable your dreams seem remarkably apt. I’ll see if I can find out more about what it says. Enjoy your writing and piecing of it all together into the graceful light but heavy whole you speak of. And don’t bite off more than you can chew! Good luck for your time of writing now. We’ll be thinking of you.

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