Dreamtime: A Happy Book

Dreamtime: A Happy Book

Dreamtime: A Happy Book

Dreamtime: A Happy Book


Sweeping in and out of real and imagined places, Dreamtime highlights the curious character of an unconventional teacher, writer, traveler, husband, and father as he takes stock of his multifaceted life. Sam Pickering--the inspiration for the main character in Dead Poets Society--guides us on a journey through his reflections on retirement, aging, gardening, and travel. He describes the pleasures of domesticity, summers spent in Nova Scotia, and the joy of sharing a simple life with his wife of almost forty years.

"Life is a tiresome journey," Pickering muses, "and when a man arrives at the end, he is generally out of breath." Although Pickering is now more likely to shuffle than gallop, he isn't yet out of breath, ideas, or ink. The refreshing and reflective substance of these essays shines through a patina of wit in Pickering's characteristically evocative and sincere prose. The separate events depicted in Dreamtime invite the reader into Pickering's personal experiences as well as into his viewpoints on teaching and encounters with former students. In "Spring Pruning," Pickering describes the precarious tumor in his parathyroid and the possibility of cancer affecting his daily life. In a refreshingly honest tone Pickering says, "Moreover the funeral had become a staple of chat, so much so I'd recently mulled having the raucous, insolent ringer on my telephone replaced by the recording of taps."

Appealing to creative writers and readers who enjoy an adventurous account of travels through life, Dreamtime accentuates the lifestyle of a longtime master teacher whose experiences take him from sunny days in the classroom to falling headfirst over a fence after running a half-marathon. Unpredictable, spontaneous, and always enlightening, Pickering's idiosyncratic approach and companionable charm will delight anyone who shares his intoxication with all the surprising treasures that might furnish a life with happiness.


Last month I dreamed about a family so famously happy that the government commissioned a study of them. “Unearthing the secret of happiness,” the principal investigator said, “would spread blessings around the globe, ending all wars and thus altering the courses of human history and evolution.” Accordingly scientists began the study with great enthusiasm and high expectations. Magnetic resonators thumped. Neurologists scanned, and psychiatrists questioned and probed. Hematologists drained quarts of blood, and biologists sequenced dna, dividing and subdividing, recombining and multiplying, using machines hidden beneath a mountain in Utah, the devices so secret that aside from the investigators only the Central Intelligence Agency knew they existed. Alas, despite the expenditure of a black hole of money and intellectual efforts so intense that three score researchers collapsed and had to be bused to sanitariums to undergo nerve cures, the study failed to reveal the source of happiness. in dreams, and actually in waking life, knowledge depends as much upon happenstance as it does upon planning and investigation. Two months after the study ended, a plumber flushing a pipe running under the basement of the family’s home cracked a slab of granite and discovered the house sat atop a river of nitrous oxide.

Laughing gas has drifted misty across my years, some of the zephyrs, I am afraid, generated by the soiled and the bawdy or, as aficionados of southern barnyards know, by bluegrass marmalade. Most of the gas, however, percolates from my character. in “Self-Reliance,” Emerson described “the nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner.” I grew up as one of those boys. I’ve had a fortunate life. Never have want or mood pinched years into frowns. I have been extraordinarily lucky. As rainbows appear only in the sunshine, so my days have been bright. Consequently this is a happy book, perhaps not one that people unable to shake the burden of thinking themselves burdened will enjoy. the matters I

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