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Tim Parks: My Invisible Sea

Parks explores his watery dreams @ The New York Review of Books. In 2006, despairing of doctors and official medicine, I went to see a shiatsu practitioner. I was suffering from an impressive array of chronic abdominal pains and bladder problems. The urologists had imagined an enlarged prostate but found no evidence of any pathology, despite having done batteries of invasive and unpleasant medical exams. The shiatsu man heard my story, invited me to lie down on a futon, took my right foot in his hands, contemplated it for some time, then having chosen his spot, pushed a thumb in hard. Immediately a line of tingling pain lit up between foot and bladder. It was extraordinary. The line was sharp and continuous—oddly electric—but faded away the instant he removed his thumb. The “water meridian,” he commented, as an ordinary doctor might say, Your appendix, your kidneys. Then he said, “I suppose you dream a great deal about water.”

I was completely taken aback. All my life I have been dreaming of water in all its manifestations; indeed I had just completed a rather wayward and troubling novel entitled Dreams of Rivers and Seas, in which a son receives from his father, almost simultaneously with the man’s death, a letter that includes an account of a number of dreams, puzzlingly interconnected: the dreamer discovers a stone staircase under his house, descends many hundreds of steps and eventually finds, in the pitch dark, a strong river flowing underground; the dreamer, with friends at the beach, shows off by rushing to throw himself in to the sea, but the beach stretches away to the horizon and the sea is nowhere visible, at which point he falls into a hole filled with smelly, stagnant water; the dreamer is driving towards an important appointment when he finds the road interrupted by a stream that has broken its banks; the dreamer dives into a lake only to find it so full of weeds that his body remains on the surface. These dreams were in fact all mine.

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