A Friend in the
House of Time
But you’re dead. This was a terrible faux pas, of course, even as a thought not spoken out loud. I hastened to redeem myself. I meant, of course, that the very idea of Maxwell Perkins had vanished, at least from the big-city publishing world that I knew. I thought, where in the world am I going to find an editor like you? Quick as thought, the message came back that I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I needed to begin by cutting old publishing ties based on business calculations, and trust that as I opened myself to a new kind of relationship – centered on creative and personal affinity rather than money up front – I would draw the right editors to me. This was wonderful advice. When I found the courage to follow it fully, my life as a writer was transformed. I did not find Max Perkins in the physical world, but I found editors equally passionate and caring.
I had enjoyed a lifelong relationship with William Butler Yeats. I had always loved his poetry and have been able – since elementary school – to recite long passages from memory. I have had dreams and visions of Yeats and his circle for as long as I can remember. He was not only a marvellous poet; he was a Western magus, one of the leading figures in the Order of the Golden Dawn.
Yeats began to appear in my dreams at night as well as my daydreams and willed journeys in consciousness. In these dreams, I sometimes seemed to be living in his era – sometimes I seemed to meet Yeats in another reality altogether. Many years later, I dreamed I received a message from him inviting me to visit him at home. I was not sure where ‘home’ for Yeats might now be, but it did not appear to be in Ireland. In a subsequent vision, in that promising state of fluid awareness that sometimes develops in the hypnagogic zone between waking and sleep (or vice versa), I found myself floating above my body, up through the ceiling, and then through some kind of mesh that looked like an intricately woven fabric or netting. I was drawn up as if a traction beam had been turned on. I was under no compulsion, but I let myself rise on the intention of the one who was calling me. I had no doubt who that was. His lines were running through my head:
I shall arise and go there, and go to Innisfree…
Oh, yes, the early poem that has been quoted so often that Yeats himself got bored and irritated by it, vastly preferring the maturity and complexities of his later work. But its rhythms helped me travel, helped me swim through the subtle air. You don’t reject a wing song that works (and indeed, Yeats wrote many).
I passed through many landscapes, perhaps whole worlds. They were separated by dividing partitions that were sometimes like cloud-banks, sometimes like membranes that stretched to let me through, and sometimes like woven fabric or netting. I came at last to what appeared to be a pleasant country cottage on a winding path. The flower beds were bright with colour. It seemed to me that, as I glanced around, the colours at the edge of my peripheral vision would change. Behind the cottage was a gentle river, and on the banks of the river, spires and towers that might have been those of Oxford. I began to drift along the path beside the river and saw another town beyond the first, this one quite certainly Italian; the architecture was that of the Quattrocento Florence or the Urbino that Yeats had loved and sometimes threatened to make his sanctuary from the critics and civil unrest in Ireland.
I was thrilled that scenes the poet’s words had often conjured in my mind in lesser, drifting states of reverie were now so vividly and palpably available to explore. I hurried toward a palazzo worthy of a Medici that looked as if it has been constructed that day.
But again there was that tug of another’s intention, and I allowed it to pull me back to the cottage. Did the cottage really have a thatched roof before, or was that detail changed while I was looking elsewhere?
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