I had a dream I went to Beijing for five days. On the runway, the captain said "the computers have figured out how to get to China, but we need 10,000 more tons of gas. The gas truck is just pulling up." We landed 15 hours later. The next day. It was night.
We blurred our way to the Beijing Bookworm, a restaurant-bar-library-bookstore-haven. Peter Goff the owner and singlehanded bringer of international writers to the annual book festival met us at the door. He welcomed and feted us. By us I mean there were four other Canadians in my dream but I think they were dreaming too. I seem to remember a lot of Margaritas. A lot of shelves, books. A lot of people happy to be there. I left early to head back to the hotel alone in the dark and someone said, "make eye contact with drivers crossing the road." Crossing the road on a green light in Beijing at night is like jaywalking with your eyes closed in Montreal, New York and Toronto put together.
The next day I sat on a panel called "Poets for the People" with Welsh poet Ifor Ap Glyn and Chinese poet Dai Weina. Each read in their own language then in English and spoke of translation. Someone asked about my work in hospitals and I talked about writing people poems on the spot. Its own kind of translation. Dai Weina said, "Every act of poetry is a translation of inner experience."
Earlier that day the dream was in The Forbidden City. It was snowing. Across the road, 3000 party officials were meeting for the Party Congress. The Great Hall of the People had red flags around it.
There was a panel on poetry in education with American teachers from Shanghai. A Chinese teacher in the front row asked how to bring more spontaneity to his students. But it was his own offering that woke the room. "Kids love to make mistakes," he said. I dreamt said "how can we encourage them?"
In the dream, I took a walk the long block from our hotel one morning, past embassies with guards, Balenciaga, Prada, Brutalist architecture, motor bikers with protective blankets on their knees and gloves that looked like oven mitts. People wore every style of N95 particulate mask. The air was relatively clear that day, at least to my lungs.
On the last day, we walked 4 of the 21,000 km of The Great Wall. Steep up. Steep down. Actually, we took a cable car up and a slide down. But along the top we walked. We shed layers in the sun. Leaned out, looking up and down the mountains, and stumbled on the uneven stones laid for horses. It was such a big place, such a big place. Yuan our volunteer guide and I strolled and chatted. She said, "we must walk more slowly to feel what's under us."
When I woke up I had these pictures.