Zoomorphic Dreams

Text by Steve R Plant
Photography by Annelie Bruijn

Such is our craving to fly unassisted that we often do so in our dreams. I suspect it has got to do with our ego and the fact that we, as self-proclaimed lords of the Earth, feel that we deserve to fly. Despite a well-practised egotism, my own flying dreams are modest; I tend to hover at just below head level, but then I am very tall so things can be worse.

I have a recurring dream. I am making my way (on foot or by low hover) toward an idealized taxidermy emporium. Due to repetition, I am familiar with the surrounding streets and the mounting excitement as I near my goal. Excitement can cause me to wake before crossing the threshold in the frustrating way of dreams, but occasionally, I get there and know that all is well.

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I even have a routine once I’m safely inside—a quick scout amongst the mammal mounts, a glance at the corals sitting on their turned pedestals, and then it is on to the bird section with its innumerable drawers full of prepared specimens. This is where I truly belong. I pore excitedly over the serried ranks of plovers, trogons, tragopans until I find what I’m looking for—a new species, mislabeled, waiting to be recognised by me! Needless to say, this is when I wake up, my trembling fist clutching a threadbare eiderdown.

Zoomorphic Dreams

At least I think I wake up, but sometimes it is hard to tell. Twenty years ago I moved from Ireland into a ruin in a remote part of France and ever since, I have stocked it with things I like. I now live surrounded by taxidermied animals, particularly birds. My favourite is a Pink-backed Pelican that is to my left as I write. One of Annelie Bruijn’s wonderfully revealing photographs shows how the evening light pervades its paper-thin pouch. It is remarkably satisfying to share my quotidian life with such an exquisite creature. Pelicans are extraordinary birds: their bills are longer than any other and their wingspan can rival that of the albatrosses, whose giant wings prevent them from walking, or at least according to Baudelaire. My own pelican no longer waddles, flies or fishes, but the organic architecture that made that possible is still apparent. Its pose suggests alertness and contentment as if it is here of its own volition, and its role in life is to keep an eye on me.

Read more in N˚4: Flight.