I had a vision. I saw, in my mind’s eye, a small dog, yapping at a patch of brambles. I could not see what, if anything, was hidden in the brambles that had attracted the attention of the dog. The bramble patch was close by a bog. This was a terrain of both fens and bogs. I was not clear on the distinction between a fen and a bog, so I sought to educate myself on the matter. The water in fens is rich in minerals, and it is alkaline, and supports many animal and plant life forms, including tall marsh plants. But the water in a bog is acidic and low in minerals and in terms of plant life is dominated by low-growing sphagnum and other mosses. Because the vision was so vivid, and burned on to my brain, I was able to revisit it, as if it were a snapshot, and so could confirm that the body of water by the bramble patch was a mossy bog and not a reedy fen.
It might be asked why I did not educate myself likewise about types of small dog, so I could be more specific in my description of the pooch that was yapping in the direction of the bramble patch. To which I would say in response that there is only so much educative material one can cram into one’s head in a single day. Dogs, small and large, are invariably fairly low down on my list of things I wish to learn about. There always seems to be something of more interest, of more urgency. I can only speak from my own perspective. There may be some readers who do not give two hoots whether the bramble patch at which the dog in my vision was yapping was close by a fen or a bog, but who are avid, avid!, to know what type of dog it was. I could dissemble, for those readers, and say “Oh, it was a Jack Russell terrier”, but that would be conjecture on my part. As I said, the vision was vivid, but I do not know enough about dogs to identify with pinpoint accuracy precisely what type of dog it was. It was a small dog, that much I can state, unequivocally, and it yapped.
It did seem important to me to be able to distinguish the type of the wetland, whether bog or fen. That is why I consulted certain reference materials, with the mental picture of the bog or fen clear within my brain. Why my insistence on precision in this case, and not in the case of the dog? After all, it could be argued that the dog was the more critical element of my vision than the bog in the vicinity of which lay the bramble patch at which it yapped, and yapped relentlessly. The bog was merely a side issue, a wet marker the better to place the vision within some recognisable terrain.
This begs a couple of questions. Was the vision one brewed in my brain, a phantasm with no counterpart in reality, or was it the swimming into consciousness of a long-suppressed memory? As far as I know, there are no reference materials I could consult to assist me in answering that question. It must remain moot, pending the intervention of a psychobabbler or a neurosurgeon, neither of whom, I hasten to add, I am in any hurry to have gain access to my cranium.
A second question which arises is why the marker in my mind is a wet marker. Either because I have imagined it, or summoned it from half-forgotten memory, the marker that gives me a sense of the location of my vision is a bog. Other wet markers might be a fen or a marsh or a puddle or a lake or a mere or a cwm or a pond or a duckpond or even the vast and roaring sea. I will not even begin to catalogue the multitude of unwet markers, or dry markers if you will, which could have served equally well. On the other side of the bog there might be, for example, the remains of an ancient burial mound, or an abandoned cow byre, or something base and brickish. Dammit, I am in danger of beginning the catalogue I said I would not list. So I shall cease while I yet have my wits about me. The point is that my focus all along was on the bog, the bog.
So there is the dog and the bog, but what of the third element? I have been silent so far on the bramble patch. That too, of course, could be more specifically defined, had I the gumption. After all, there are many different types of bramble patches, possibly as many as types of small dog, or wet markers. Of thorny foliage there is a huge variety. Again, in the purview of my vision, the bramble patch was at best a generic bramble patch. I can give no specific details. In any event, what was clear was that it was the focus of the dog’s yapping, either in and of itself or because of something that lurked within it.
It is this last point that leads us, perhaps, to the significance of my vision and to the form it took, and to that part of it upon which I sought to educate myself and those parts which I was happy to leave blurry and beclouded and phantom. It is quite obvious that the nub of the vision is the object of the yapping of the dog. That may be in plain, if blurred, sight – the bramble patch itself in all its pointy brambliness – or it may be hidden, occult, concealed within the brambles. If I am to have any understanding of my vision, and of what it means, then surely that should be my focus. Yet I shy away from it, and instead turn my attention to the scarcely relevant bog, the wet marker. It commands my attention, so much so that I consult reference materials to ascertain if it is indeed a bog, or might possibly be a fen. I show no such compelling interest in the dog, nor in the bramble patch.
While the vision is yet imprinted upon my brain, I ought to revisit it, to winnow from it further and better particulars of its secrets. If I delay, the vision will fade, and I will have learned nothing from it save for the basic distinction between a bog and a fen. Perhaps that is enough, at least for today.