Communion Of Dreams

Looking back: moments of transition.

While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on September 24, 2007.


“All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation.”

-G’Kar, Z’ha’dum

Yesterday a buddy of mine and I got out to do some shooting. It may seem odd to someone who isn’t into shooting sports, but this can actually be one of the most relaxing things you can do, at least for me at this time. Why? Because, when I’m shooting, I have to be completely attentive to what I am doing – I can’t be thinking about what is going on at home, whether my MIL is stirring and needs attention, et cetera. As I have mentioned previously, one of the most exhausting aspects of being a care-giver for someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia is that I always, always, have part of my attention diverted to keeping track of what is going on with my MIL. You try doing that with part of your brain while accomplishing anything else, and you’ll quickly understand the problem.

Anyway, it was a good time, doing some informal shooting out on private land. We shot some pistols, a little 9mm carbine of mine which is just a lot of fun, and then my friend got out one of his black powder rifles: a Peabody .43 Spanish made in 1863. My friend is something of an authority on 19th century guns, and has been educating me about them. We shot several rounds, the large 400 grain bullets punching paper at 40 yards, the gun giving a slow but very solid shove back into your shoulder. That’s typical with black-powder: it’s not the sharp crack you get from modern weapons, with their higher pressures from faster-burning powder. After each shot, we’d pull down the trigger guard, rolling the receiver down and ejecting the cartridge, then insert another cartridge by hand and set it before closing the rolling block to prepare the weapon to fire again.

After all the shooting was done, our equipment packed up and put away, we headed back into town and got some lunch. As we talked over lunch, I asked my friend about how long it was before the Peabody we had been shooting evolved into the later repeating rifles which proved so reliable and popular. Because, as I saw it, all the elements were there: a dependable brass cartridge, a mechanism to extract and eject the spent shell, the moving receiver. All that was needed was a way to hold more rounds and feed them.

As we finished up our meal he gave me the brief run-down of the history or the repeating rifle development (which is basically what you’ll find in this Wikipedia article, particularly the sub-headings of ‘predecessors’ and ‘development’), and the conversation moved on to a more general discussion. I started to explain that one of the things I find so interesting, one of the unifying themes in all the things I have done is an interest in…

“Transitions,” my friend said.

I stopped. I was going to say “innovations,” but he was right.

“It shows in your novel.” (He’d recently read Communion.)

“Actually, I was thinking more of ‘innovations’ – those instances when people bring together different and diffuse elements to achieve something new, whether it is a mechanism, or a procedure, or just a way of looking at the world.”

We paid the bill, headed out to the car.

“Yeah, but it’s like the way that the people involved in your book – the characters – are all struggling to understand this new thing, this new artifact, this unexpected visitor. And I like the way that they don’t just figure it out instantly – the way each one of them tries to fit it into their own expectations about the world, and what it means. They struggle with it, they have to keep learning and investigating and working at it, before they finally come to an understanding.” He looked at me as we got back in the car. “Transitions.”

Transitions, indeed. Moments of transition, moments of revelation. Because that is all we have, when you come right down to it.

Jim Downey


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