Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Dragons Eye - Part Eight

Into Your Dreams

The road finished near an old wooden barn. A track continued on to a small brook, across a stone bridge and an old two storey stone house. There was a whiff of smoke from the chimney and a glint of early sun off the windows.

I spent the next couple of days falling in love with New Zealand, the old farm, the animals and the dragon lady’s soft accent. I felt safe. As I recovered, she started to show me things.

Occasionally, I would take a meal from the house down to the small brook, across the stone bridge, and to the old wooden barn where Bob was trying to repair the stolen car. He would not come near the farm house. Instead, he spent a bit of time cursing the stolen car in his rough New Zealand accent – Second rate Aussie sports car rubbish. Should have got an old four wheel drive.

The clean air and water had an effect on him. He looked twenty years younger with a wash. He must have washed and dried his clothes in the brook. He didn’t smell so bad.

The clean air and water had the reverse effect on me. As the time came for me to leave, I could not work out what to do.

The old dragon lady was very kind. She said that I could stay forever. I started to do some of the heavy jobs around the farm. When the sun came out we took tea out the back of her farm house out of hearing of Bob’s occasional curse.

She tried to help me explaining - We all use one of two ways of dealing with uncertainty.

She paused, holding out one hand with a single finger outstretched - We can make a list, identify all the risks, assess possible impacts and likelihoods, and then try to deal with them one by one.

Then she smiled and continued - Or we can attempt to come to terms with the whole system, at the same time, trying to track through the most likely course of events, and working out a strategy for dealing with it all.

I looked her and said – But those sound the same, surely ?

She said - There are important differences. The second way forces you to consider everything together. If you look at everything together instead of separately you may see new paths.

She could see me pondering - You can try both ways. In fact this can be useful. Follow me.

Just beyond her garden a clay-pan where the geese sunned themselves. She had brought a broom and swept the area.

She said - Draw your problems in the dust for me. Handed me a twig.

I had not drawn stuff in sand or dust for years. It was a struggle. At the end, we both laughed at my efforts as I explained – an asleep man, a gun, my boss, spiders, my life back home, my mobile, New Zealand.

She said, with a smile – I don’t need to know the details. Now we have to sort these a bit by impact and the likelihood of them happening.

She saw me look momentarily confused. I said – But they have all happened.

She persevered - Just for now, circle the one that is the most important for you, the one that will have the great impact on you.

I was caught in indecision. I thought, teeth gritted – My life. I want my life back.

I went in circles. Uncertainty at every point. If I can wake the guy in a coma, maybe everything will improve. But I am not a doctor. If I recharge the mobile, I can look at it but I will be thrown back to spiders. It might be used to track me.

I started to feel sorry for myself. I cried out – I cant believe that my life changed because a stupid Aussie started to talk to me about dragons. I don’t believe in any of it.

I scuffed the marks out hugging myself and feeling like I was spinning out of control. I will not cry. But a single drop fell onto the clay.

She let me crouch there for a while.

Softly she said - Things change. Even if you could go back to your old life now, how could you live knowing that the worlds intersect and that, at any time, the barriers keeping them apart might break.

She waited for a moment - Sometimes, making a list works. It helps for doing chores or shopping. But when things get complicated, lists just make things worse. You might be looking good on paper but going to hell in a hand-basket.

Almost to herself she said, drawing in the dust, absent mindedly - Looks like a list is not going to work. Taken altogether, none of the things you are interested in are achievable. They seem to all be outside your control.

Then she smiled - A different approach might help. Sometimes it still comes out wrong. The process to resolve uncertainty is itself susceptible to uncertainty.

She looked up – But sometimes you come out with something new.

I asked - What?

She smiled - Insight.

I looked at her drawing - So how do I do this.

She gently wiped the picture she had been drawing in the dust, a knife, and said - Well, this is not about making lists. It is about relaxing, exploring your issues calmly, analyzing your options, working out how everything fits together. How can I explain this simply? Let me try. Imagine two people. One has an empty house. One has no house. Considered separately on your list, you have two disasters. If you consider them together, there is a solution for both.

She suddenly looked old - I do not know what your future holds or what you need to do. I can help a little, but I am old and tied to this place by bonds of sentiment.

She continued - There are many ways to proceed with the second approach. Some use supercomputers or teams of analysts. Some people daydream. Other dream.

She smiled.

It was hard to resist the touch of her smile.

Her eyes sparkled.

It was hard to resist the touch of her eyes.

Her words made sense.

I smiled, caught in the moment - Ok, what do I have to do?

She said - Well, lets have a meal, and, come evening, we will come back here. I will light a fire and we will watch the stars rise – and I will give you something to help your dream.

I said - This does not sound very corporate – it sounds more like something out of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Her laughter echoed off the hills.

We spent the day working on a number of small chores.

Late afternoon she went into the garden and collected some thyme and rosemary from the garden and, she said, made an elixir.

On evening, we went out to light the fire. She smiled as she gave me the bottle of elixir. She had handwritten the label: “Close your eyes and inhale. Ask your heart what you really want and wait for the answer.”

I laughed and gave her a kiss. I shouted – An original elixir from Egypt! Thank you.

Her skin was rough, old and dry.

The fire sent showers of sparks into the sky, as shadows rushed over the land. The noise of the farm and the surrounding woodlands faded. Mist rose in the east, back towards Christchurch, as the stars start to come out.

The cool of the night on my back with the warmth of the fire on my cheeks.

She threw a rug over my back and nodded to the elixir. We smiled. She gave some last unnecessary instructions – Remember, nothing can hurt you in the dream. You are not leaving your chair and I will be here.

I read the instructions again, looking serious but feeling a little silly, then shut my eyes and brought the bottle up to my nose and inhaled.

The scent was rich and sweet. And then intoxicating and dizzying. And then it hit my lungs and I started to cough.

I opened my eyes. The fire was still burning.

She was still there, her eyes locked on mine. And she smiled, a big smile of a thousand teeth, scales and wings tucked into her ancient blue body.

She said again - Nothing can hurt you. I am here.

I asked – Is this a dream?

She said – Yes, and a little more. It is a pathway to the future. One for us to explore together. Look around you.

We were in an open field next to her farm house. The stars were full ablaze.

The blue dragon asked – Where would you like to go first?

I was watching the stars – I did not know you would be here, in my dream.

She said – I was not sure I would be. I did not want to give you false hope. Wait!

She climbed to her feet, high in the air, and yet still old and bent. She bent her face to the east and concentrated.

She said – I sense something wrong. We need to go back to your city.

She turned again and smiled at me. She said, shyly – Would you like to fly?

Suddenly I was a small girl, lying in bed, listening to my mother telling me stories in the half light. Stories about flying. Of feeling the wind in my hair. Of lifting into the air with my air held out. And my mother’s voice, telling me a story - You cannot kill the dragon. You cannot resist the touch of the dragon's smile, eyes or words. In the end, all you can do is not become one.

I smiled, and nodded, holding a small stuffed teddy bear close – I want to fly.

The blue dragon smiled and said – There is just one thing.

I said – How far can we fly?

The blue dragon shut her eyes – We can fly to the end of time and back. We can go to any point in the past and force a new path, with the slightest breath, one sweet kiss, a single drop of blood. There is just one thing.

She turned to one side. Around one scaly leg a shimmering band. Around the band a slight, insubstantial rope, as fine as a spider’s thread.

She looked at me – Can you cut this thread. Then I can fly away from here. I can take you to save your friend and restore your life.

I looked at her and smiled – I believe in dreams!

Dancing around, away from her talons and tail - I know just the thing. I saw an axe this morning.

When I got close to the farmhouse, I ran to the east.

She said – Wait! There is a knife just here.

I answered – I want to fly! I will be back with the axe in just a moment.

I ran past the old farm house toward the old barn. I had seen an axe there this morning.

She shouted – COME BACK NOW! You are just dreaming.

I crossed the little stream and headed for the stolen car.

Bob was there waiting for me. He said – Told you she would fix you up.

He was shaking a little, so I offered to drive. He apologized – I haven’t had a proper drink in days. I don’t think I could drive straight.

We both ignored the screams from the old farm house, as I drove back down the track.

I could feel Bob looking at me as I concentrated on the road. He said – The police will be looking for the car. Should not have got such a flashy one. Give me that mobile you had, the one out of charge.

I asked – What you got in mind?

He said – I know a short cut.

Peter Quinton

February 2015

> Part Nine

Image - Molonglo High Plains, today 

(No dragons or cats were hurt writing this part.)

I have a couple of people to thank for ideas in this part. 

Firstly, the ballet sequence - Out of my Dreams - from Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma contributed a bit to the title, the handwritten note on the elixir bottle and some of the imagery - the lyrics from the song are:
Out of my dreams and into your arms I long to fly
I will come as evening comes to woo a waiting sky.
Out of my dreams and into the hush of falling shadows,
When the mist is low and stars are breaking through
Then out of my dreams I'll go into a dream with you.
Ok, maybe it has not aged well, (but Rogers and Hammerstein had a sort-of-dragon waiting at the end of their ballet).

Secondly, my colleagues and I at ARPI have been theory-crafting complex risk management - and this has allowed me to bleed some additional content into the story. While we did not discuss using daydreams or dreams to sort problems - and this may seem a little crazy - it is a very human way of solving difficult problems and we actually do it all the time.

This is a continuation of a story (a "braided yarn") that started on an earlier G+ post. Details and story at: 

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