Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 54: For love or money

It was a day of rest at Crooked Lake, spent in the usual way. I showered, washed my clothes in the sink, recharged my batteries, read and wrote.

In my writing I reflected on a dream I had in the night. I was magically transported to Calgary, which promised me everything a city might offer. I could rent a large dilapidated iron foundry for $29 a month. It might lack some domestic conveniences at first, but the extra cash on hand would go a long way to relieve that. Women would fall at my feet, the air would be always clean and never too cold.

I turned this down for some vague feeling I should really be on the river instead. Who can say if I turned down a devilish temptation or providence's call out to a wayward son?

The $29, though. Dreams about money bother me. They usually come in a particular form. I will see at first some unusual, large coin on the ground, and pick it up, finding it to be valuable. Then there is another, and another, and the dream turns to greedy coin-collecting until it all vanishes at my waking.

It ruins the dream. The pleasant memory of a dream comes from visiting strange places with exotic rules of physics, saving people with your magical powers, fighting or running from terrifying monsters, falling in love with impossibly perfect women, or making love in impossibly public places. There is no pleasure in acquiring a wealth that is never spent.

The worst dream along these lines I had long ago, and I hope I do not bore you too much in relating it. Two lines of dejected people were filing into a stadium, and long-hooded men carried out caskets as the lines slowly advanced. I was told that the heads of the lines fought to the death in the stadium; the winner earned their heart's desire, and the loser was carried out like this. I chose one of the lines and waited my turn.

But when I reached the front, heading the other line was my heart's desire Herself, and I Hers. We did not fight but walked out together to the confusion of those evil monks. We enjoyed each other's company until some man stole the bag of coins I carried. I had to get it back, although She said this was not important. I defeated the thief and took back what was mine, but when I returned She was gone and I could not find Her.

I feel revulsion when I have these dreams. As in dreams, so in waking life I must waste time chasing such worthless valuable. When I was a child and had these dreams I could not believe the effort of acquisition was wasted, and I would actually search my room for the missing coins when I woke up, offended that they were not there.

This trip has been encumbered with money. I need it, I feel, to buy food, repair kits, and the occasional designated campsite. Oh sure, I could have done a lot of fishing, but even fishing has heavy costs if you do it legally; $100 per province by one estimate. The mythological stature of Christopher McCandless, of "Into the Wild", was that he began his trip by giving his bank balance to charity, and burning his cash. My savings give me a sense of security, knowing I could fail many times and still get back up. I worry this security has its costs in freedom.

I remember reading a story in English class about a boy, lost in the wilderness, using the $100 in his pocket to start a fire, to survive. The class balked at this waste of money; it was a symbol we were not ready for.

As I fed the flames of my cooking fire that night, the tender in my wallet itched. I felt like I had to turn just so, keep the right angle to protect it from the flames.

Day 54 ended: 50*36.218N, 102*40.335W

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