Jim Ross ~ Four Dreams

Dream 1 – Harvesting Eggs

I’m work­ing on the egg har­vest.  Our first task is to cre­ate long, near­ly flat bowls of birch (aka: birth) wood for use in gath­er­ing eggs.  The sec­ond is review­ing ancient texts to guide our work.

We find eggs in two places. The ancient eggs we find under­ground. The new­er, com­mon eggs we find above ground. My favorite tech­nique is to har­vest them from the end of beds.  The eggs nat­u­ral­ly roll there, become trapped, and hard­ly any­one real­izes they’re there.  Sometimes, I pat down the bed’s end; more often, I reach under the cov­ers and care­ful­ly feel around.  Usually, I find either none or several.

The shells of some eggs are hard­ly intact. Chicks begin peck­ing through oth­ers. Some chicks need patient nur­tur­ing; oth­ers are still­born.  Eggs and chicks are sent down­stairs.  We har­vesters have to accept that, even if we feel a con­nec­tion with an egg or chick, we have to ignore that because the har­vest serves a high­er purpose.

As the har­vest is end­ing, I leave on break and return.  The old woman who cleans up after har­vest has a cat, dark green with orange splotch­es, bad­ly man­gled, hard to keep out of things. When we try to lock her cat in account­ing, the hinges fall off so the door hangs irreg­u­lar­ly. The only hope is that the cat’s accus­tomed to stay­ing in that room where she can’t find new trouble.

Looking around, I see hard­ly any com­mon eggs have been used.  The old woman says most­ly it’s the rare, ancient eggs that are used in research to find cures for human dis­eases; to treat peo­ple who con­tract­ed them; and, in main­te­nance of threat­ened species.

The egg pro­cess­ing area is a sham­bles, filled with com­mon eggs, nev­er used or bro­ken and serv­ing no pur­pose.  I archive the ancient papers that guide our work. Sitting there, I too feel broken.

Dream 2 – Harvesting Decorative Funereal Gardens

Decorative fune­re­al veg­etable gar­dens adorn ceme­ter­ies with var­i­ous shapes, col­ors, and visu­al tex­tures while allow­ing for peri­od­ic har­vests to feed a garden’s care­tak­ers.  To study such gar­dens, I vis­it them before the war, at the war’s height, and years after the war’s end.

The pre-war gar­dens ful­ly serve their intend­ed pur­pos­es.  They dec­o­rate a ceme­tery, invite observers to expe­ri­ence the life cycle, and feed the garden’s ten­ders.  Such gar­dens ide­al­ly include veg­eta­bles har­vest­ed above ground, such as cab­bage, cau­li­flower, Swiss chard, brus­sels sprouts, and squash, and root veg­eta­bles, such as car­rots, beets, rutaba­gas, and turnips.

During the war, the pur­pos­es for such gar­dens are lost.  People treat them as if they pro­duce peren­ni­als requir­ing min­i­mal tend­ing.  There’s no fer­til­iza­tion, new plant­i­ng, or crop rota­tion.  Inadequately nour­ished, they come to be seen as fail­ing.  Harvests are per­formed hap­haz­ard­ly by rene­gades rather than timed to dis­play the col­ors and forms through which such gar­dens pass over the sea­sons   By war’s end, van­quished, such gar­dens are in ruin.

After the war, the ratio­nale for such gar­dens is redis­cov­ered.  They offer ways to recov­er from war’s hor­rors by cre­at­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful while teach­ing about the life cycle and feed­ing a hun­gry peo­ple.  Such gar­dens often begin in new loca­tions because their wartime pre­de­ces­sors deplet­ed the earth almost beyond repair.  New, hardier, brighter veg­eta­bles dis­play­ing var­ied visu­al tex­tures are fea­tured in post-war gardens.

A paper about this long-term project, incor­po­rat­ing pho­tos of gar­dens and har­vests across three time peri­ods is sub­mit­ted to a referred jour­nal, accept­ed with­out ques­tions or changes, and prompt­ly pub­lished. The cover’s con­trast of oranges and pur­ples has great eye appeal.

Dream 3 – Blighted Potato Harvest

In 1842, at the University of Dublin, a young pro­fes­sor named Eileen O’Connor with dual com­mit­ments in Math and Biology depart­ments deter­mines that, in two to three years, Ireland will face a pota­to famine. Farms won’t pro­duce because the blight­ed pota­toes will rot in the ground. Millions will be close to dying of hunger, espe­cial­ly those liv­ing close to the land.  Many will die.  Those who have the means and oppor­tu­ni­ty will drop every­thing, take the lit­tle they can, and leave, thus for­sak­ing the coun­try to “the will of God.”  Dr. O’Connor argues the pota­to holds a vast por­tion of Ireland’s pop­u­la­tion in dire pover­ty and over-reliance on it places us at risk.  This can be pre­vent­ed if we act timely.

With her University’s sup­port, she gains entre to Parliament, where they laugh at her because she’s from piti­ful Ireland, a mere assis­tant pro­fes­sor bare­ly rec­og­nized by her peers, not a mem­ber of the Church of England, and an agnos­tic, which they equate with athe­ist.  Why should we believe this ungod­ly uni­ver­si­ty woman whom nobody will ever take in mar­riage?  After they laugh her back to Ireland, she can’t find an audi­ence there either.

The famine comes.  The pota­to har­vest can’t even feed the pigs.  Millions either die or pull up their roots, nev­er to return.

Eileen O’Connor is back, warn­ing that we face immi­nent threats a thou­sand times worse than Ireland. “The whole plan­et is at stake,” she says. “Without action, the whole food sup­ply chain will go out of whack.  In many please, what once grew will cease grow­ing.  We’ll be up against mul­ti­ple pan­demics direct­ly affect­ing humans and anoth­er set affect­ing the planet’s capac­i­ty to sup­port life.  The solu­tions are part­ly known, part­ly unknown.  To whom can we appeal?  I won’t go down this time with­out a fight.”

Dream 4 – To Count and Be Counted

Ginger and I dis­cov­er a small, crys­tal-clear lake. Stepping in she says, “It’s chilly.” Jumping in I say, “It’s delight­ful­ly warm.”  After we resume walk­ing, we real­ize we’re both naked below the waist and rush to cov­er our­selves by pulling our shirts down.

A sign across the street des­ig­nates the church’s dioce­san offices. I won­der whether they clothe the naked.  Outside the build­ing peo­ple sit­ting on park bench­es wear black plas­tic trash bags—the attire of the des­per­ate­ly home­less.  Perhaps they’ll have a cou­ple of extras.  Up clos­er, I real­ize the bench warm­ers are mil­i­tary in casu­al dress, who car­ry their for­mal attire pro­tect­ed by trash bags. I approach one of the nuns sit­ting against the wall about our need for cloth­ing.  She calls on a novice to assist.

The novice says, “I don’t know whether we have a cloth­ing store for the poor.” She dis­ap­pears and returns.  “I have an idea.  Come with me into the back room.” I fol­low her.  Ginger waits out­side.  Identical dark suits—black with thin blue stripes—hang from a suc­ces­sion of large racks.  “Why don’t I just give you your cen­sus tak­er out­fits ear­ly,” she says.  “What do you mean? Is every­one going to be a cen­sus tak­er?  Will every­one be required to wear those out­fits?”  The novice says, “I only know that every­one will count and be count­ed.”  Without dis­cussing sizes, she pulls two suits off the rack, one for me and one for Ginger. “I’m sure these will fit,” she says.  “Thank you,” I say, and start putting on mine.  I can’t wait to tell Ginger, “This is going to be great.  There’s no rea­son to be afraid.”


Jim Ross has pub­lished in Bombay Gin, Barren, Columbia Journal, Friends Journal, Ilanot Review, Kestrel, Litro, Lunch Ticket, MAKE, New World Writing, Roanoke Review, The Atlantic, The Manchester Review, and Typehouse. A non­fic­tion piece led to a role in high-pro­file, doc­u­men­tary lim­it­ed series.