World War 2 has been an obsession of mine since my early memories. At 6 years old I dreamed of battlegrounds of burnt and broken trees and houses and men. Ten years ago I had the following dream that has stayed with me. I wrote it down when I awoke. I have always remembered it but the details grew sketchy over the years. Last week while flipping through old journals I found it again. It was not surreal like so many dreams. It made sense and could have really happened. It was like a scene from a movie or novel. I thought of enlarging it into a story with added details from my imagination but I like it just as it happened.
I dreamed of a soldier in WW2. He was dirty and exhausted and lost but peace was called that day and he was slowly making his way through bombed out villages. He was alone in his battle gear and separated from his unit. He came upon an abandoned, shelled-out farmhouse. It was coming on night so he found himself a corner of a room upstairs, pushed aside the fallen plaster and glass and put out his blanket. He had a transistor radio and with an earphone listened to the armistice. He kept his rifle handy in case there were Germans around who didn't know they could stop killing each other now. Then downstairs he heard sweeping. He sneaked to the top of the stairs with his rifle loaded with his last two bullets. He peaked around the corner and the farmer who had lived there had come home, trying to make some sense of his crumbling house. The soldier waved and they spoke. That night two more soldiers arrived, also lost and making their ways toward the beaches to find their units. A mother and her girl arrived looking for shelter. They pushed aside more rubble and glass and all laid out their blankets and pooled their food. Someone had bread, another had cheese. There were some army rations and a chocolate bar. An unbroken bottle of wine was found in what was left of the farmhouse pantry. They talked quietly. They were not jubilant or celebratory, just worn out and ready to go home. Then the first soldier saw behind a broken wall an undamaged banjo, tuned it, and in the flickering candlelight with this group of tired stragglers he played, almost sadly, "Ode to Joy."
After this dream I woke up, put on my army helmet, carried my banjo to the top of the bluff, and played "Ode to Joy" to the Salish Sea.
Jay Rainey is an artist living on an island in British Columbia, Canada.