. . . On the evening that I received the mysterious mailgram, I had a dream, and in the morning lay in bed a little while, wondering why I had dreamed it. It was not a new dream, but the remembrance of one that I had dreamed a very long time ago.
In it, I am a child, about three years old. I am lying on a white coverlet spread on soft, green grass beside a wide, slow river. I cannot the see the river, for my face is turned away, but I can hear the water moving, and also smell it.
A few old leaves lie scattered on the coverlet, and bits of grass. I am lying very still, thinking of nothing, when I see my mother, some little way from me, just emerging from the wood. Suddenly, she halts in her tracks, gazing toward me, and just as suddenly, screams.
All at once I am aware of a buffetting, something both stiff and soft beating against my cheek. In a moment, it is gone, with a thrum like a bit of felt drawn over the unstopped strings of an autoharp.
I start up in alarm, turning, and behold--rising from where it had been nestling so near and utterly unbeknownst to me upon that white coverlet--a swan is taking wing. It seems the whole sky is taken by surprise.
I cry out, reaching with both hands toward that beauty, but the swan is already beyond my grasp. There is the scent of tea roses all around me, and of candles burning, and a bitter sweetness like burnt sugar comes into my mouth. I am infused with the pain that is also joy.
It is exactly the same feeling, I realized later (much stronger in the dream and much more piercing, but the same) that I feel when I write. . . .