Dreams

Cobwebs

ou would think, after so long a silence, that I would have something more profound to say. I fear I must disappoint you. There are many reasons I have not been blogging, some of them trivial, some of them more compelling, but I don’t think any of them have produced in me any new wisdom or wit.

My job has me writing a lot each week: weekly newsletters, press releases, editorials, forwards and introductions to books—that sort of thing. I’ve also been participating in a weekly short fiction writing group (500 words max, on an assigned topic, in a very short time limit); a couple of the pieces have been recorded and aired on a public radio station in Kentucky, though I feel shy about posting any of them here. I’m not entirely sure why.

However, all this writing, coupled with an over-eager participation on Facebook, means my urge to simply write found other outlets; and as I was not moved by any great need to expound at length on any subject, the blog languished. Since May of 2010, I have written only five blog posts.

The big event last year was of course the illness and death of my friend Lee, my dear friend Adam’s wife. I am not sure what to say about it just now—a few sentences couldn’t begin to express how it affected me; I doubt that a few hundred pages could do much better. What shocked me, though, was the depth of the grief I experienced. Even though I could understand and rationally explain what her death was touching in me, on an emotional and spiritual level I found myself quite unable to cope with the intensity of the pain and loss I was experiencing. And it set off a recurrence of the terrible depression that nearly took my life a decade ago; the only difference is that now it is more dangerous, since I am far less willing, or perhaps able, to tolerate it: It must stop, I told myself, and stop soon, one way or another. There is no longer any thought of living with it chronically.

In the 1920s, Carl Jung coined the word synchronicity, which he described as “meaningful coincidences” and as the “acausal connecting principle.” In rapid succession I had my spiritual worldview rocked, ran painfully into walls where I had previously experienced open vistas, discovered some remarkable Chinese herbs that work far better than any antidepressant I have ever encountered, began questioning my purpose in life, and found myself in the office of an astonishingly gifted psychotherapist pouring as much of my life’s story as I could into a fifty-minute session. Meaningful coincidences indeed! In the space of two months it feels as if much has changed in me forever.

I am eager to see what this next phase of my life brings. And I thought it might be useful to start blogging again, not only to keep you all in the loop, as it were, but also to help me clarify my ideas. As E.M. Forster put it so succinctly, “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?”

You may have noticed that the blog has a new design. From the first I’ve called it “Notes from the Dreamtime,” but I’ve never really talked about where the name came from.

The term “Dreamtime” is a translation of Altjeringa or Altcheringa (it may also be translated “the Dreaming”). Altjeringa is a word in the Arrente language spoken by aboriginal Australian tribes living in the Northern Territory, around Alice Springs. The traditions and lore of Australia’s indigenous peoples belong to what may be the oldest continuous culture on Earth—around 50,000 years.

The Altjeringa is both a sacred “once upon a time,” a time out of time when ancestral totemic spirit beings formed all of creation, and the spiritual realm itself. Anthropologist and historian W.E. H. Stanner rather saliently called it “the Everywhen,” since it is experienced as a confluence of past, present, and future. Indigenous Australians consider the Everywhen of the Dreaming to be objective, while linear time was considered a subjective construction of waking consciousness of one’s own lifetime—the precise opposite of our usual way of looking at things. The Dreaming is the sacred, timeless, creative ground of being—and the continual source of all things that are manifest in our world.

So that’s what I hope to write about. There are great cobwebs in my brain, and heart, and I hope to use these pages to help sweep them away and create room for new things to come forth. My great error has been in thinking that I needed to have Something Important to Say; the truth is, all I need is to tap into the Dreamtime, and talk about what I find there.

Categories: Depression, Dreams, Earth-based Religions, First Nations, Shamanism, Writing | 3 Comments

Lineage

My parents are appearing in my dreams with disturbing frequency now.

After my father died in 1982, I saw him in dreams and dream-states only once in a while. He was about 3/4 the height he was when alive, and he was often mute or had a gag over his mouth.

Then he went away. Couldn’t access him through dreams or journeys. This phase lasted a good dozen years. When he reappeared, he was (a) of a “normal” age, neither young nor old, (b) relatively healthy, and (c) almost without exception not married to Mom. In many dreams they had been married once, but they had divorced or separated. (In waking reality, they had a three-month discussion of separation, but then he became ill, and they reconciled and were very close again.)

In the the ten months (exactly) since Mom’s death, she has appeared uniformly strong and healthy and vigorous and independent, just as I believe she always wanted to be. Sometimes she was much younger and prettier than I knew her, sometimes she was like herself in her 60s, which were a vibrant time for her.

For the last month or two, Mom and Dad have both been showing up in my dreams. When they appear in the same dream, Mom is tired but healthy, while Dad is extremely ill, walks with a cane, can’t see well, and has balance problems. They are usually long divorced, but have come together for some event or over some situation in their lives where they need to work together.

Last night Dad was cold and arrogant, listed to the left when he walked, and his left eye didn’t seem to work well. I was trying to help Mom get ready for a visit from some old friends of theirs. They were best man and matron of honor at my parents’ wedding, and remained fairly close emotionally to my parents throughout their lives, even if they weren’t always in close contact. These friends died in the early 1990s. Now last night they’re all alive, and I’m helping Mom prepare drinks and food for the party, while Dad is doing his best to annoy people.

So strange. When Mom was in her last stages, she’d talk about reuniting with Dad, and it was always with great longing and affection, as if this would be rest and home to her. By the time Dad died, they were close and loving, and he and I had the best relationship we had ever had, which has made his post-death appearances all the more confusing.

I have no doubt whatsoever that these dreams are all very Freudian or Jungian, and mean very dark things about me, me, me, but I’m fascinated at how visceral it all is: I wake up feeling terribly disturbed at seeing them together again, changed, uncomfortable, when both my hope and my honest belief is that they are happy and whole and free.

Categories: Body and Mind, Death, Dreams, Family, Spirituality | 1 Comment

Helen, Dan, Stephen, Gordon, Mia, and Glia

Someone once asked if I took hallucinogens before bedtime. I said no, but I’m beginning to think there’s something in the water. Last night I slept well, but I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. And since this blog is all about the Dreamtime, here are some notes that came through last night from that wonderfully bizarre realm.

Act I was a new episode in a continuing series. In this recurring dream I am apparently the host of a British television call-in show, though I am always off-screen. Regular callers send in their photos, which stay on screen during their phone calls, with the legend: “Now speaking: [name], a [occupation] from [location].”

Today’s is a frequent caller, a woman named W.H. Logan who is a prison doctor from Aber-something, a long and vaguely Welsh-sounding name with an overabundance of consonants. (I looked up UK prisons and none begin with “Aber-.” There is a market town in Wales called Abergavenny, lauded in a 1968 song by Marty Wilde, but Ms. Logan has a thick Scottish accent, not Welsh, so don’t really know where she lives or works.) The H. in her name stands for Helen, which is what she prefers to be called. The screen shows a backdrop of the prison at which she works, with an inset of her face. Helen looks vaguely like Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie. Continue reading

Categories: Brain, Dreams | 2 Comments

Learning to Swim

Disturbing dreams last night; in fact, they rattled me so much that I remember ordering the dream to stop at one point. Mom and Dad and I were all traveling, but they were going on ahead without me. We were able to keep in touch with each other from our various vehicles—they shifted from cars to motorcycles to planes—and I remember having “a few more things to do” before I could join them.

When they were on their plane, I could see it up in the sky, and its wings were suddenly ripped off, and the long cylinder started flipping and turning and swinging back and forth like some grotesque carnival ride. Then it stopped, clearly ready to plummet to earth, nose straight up in the air, and it started falling, heading right for me. I said, “Stop!” and made the plane freeze; it wasn’t that I was trying to change its (and my) fate, but I didn’t want to have to experience it in the dream. I wanted to go on to other dream-things.

And I did. There were several other sequences that I forget now, but there were also repeated images of me able to swim in what appeared to be puddles on the ground but which were surprisingly deep. They were the color of coffee with cream, and they were pleasantly warm but not at all hot. I swam bravely, boldly, with people looking at me, and I didn’t care, even though I’m pretty sure I was skinny-dipping.

When I got up this morning and looked at my Raven’s Brew coffee, I noticed the name of the variety: Resurrection Blend. Continue reading

Categories: Buddhism, Death, Dreams, Food and Diet | 19 Comments

Strange Days

Jim Morrison wrote “Strange Days,” the song, for The Doors’ album of the same name, in 1967. The album was considered an artistic triumph but a commercial failure. The cover depicts circus performers (acrobats, a juggling mime, a strongman, a trumpet player, and two dwarves) in a quiet NYC residential mews.

Most carnivals were out on summer tours so it was a struggle for the album’s cover photographer, Joel Brodsky, to find professional circus performers. The acrobats were the only ones he could find; the dwarf, Lester Janus, and his younger brother Stanley were hired from an acting firm; the juggler was Brodsky’s own assistant; the trumpet player was a taxi driver; and the strongman was a doorman at a nightclub.

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down . . .
Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone
Bodies confused
Memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone

My sleep these days isn’t terribly comfortable. I dream constantly, but the dreams are confusing, jumbled, elusive. I wake early—I’ve always awakened many times during the night—but now for some reason, by 6 a.m. or so, I no longer go back to sleep. I’m finished. It’s not like I’m driven from my bed with lots of happy energy, ready to tackle the day. It’s just that I’m done. I’m finished. This is something I have never done in fifty-three years, at least not with any regularity.

I get up, turn the TV for some companionship, and fire up the Internet. The news is decidedly odd. Continue reading

Categories: Brain, Dreams, Life in Florida, Movies and Television, Politics | 3 Comments

The Edge of a Storm

I am not a particularly heavy sleeper. You could say I sleep like a dog, or a wolf; that is, with one ear nearly always awake, ready to pull the rest of me to alertness should the need arise. That came in handy, of course, during the years Mom was sick. We had a baby monitor in her room so I could hear her calls (or falls) in the night. But even before I became her caregiver, I would wake frequently in the night to turn over or occasionally pee (the curse of middle age), usually falling back to sleep quickly.

But this habit also means I tend to remember my dreams more easily than other people, because I, like others whose brains are similarly hardwired, go through life with a brain wave pattern significantly slower than most people (Alpha rather than the normal Beta); I’m closer to the dream state when I’m waking, and I slip into the trance or deeply meditative state (Theta) more easily. I assume that I sleep closer to Theta, whereas most people go from Delta (complete unconsciousness) to Beta (which is found in both normal REM sleep, when dreaming usually occurs, and states of extreme alertness) and back again, making dream recollection a bit more problematic.

Two nights ago I went through a rather bad patch. I encountered some familial stressors—something to do with Mom’s will and probate—and I was suddenly a young boy unable to cope. It was not so much the specter of death, or the anxiety and sadness over loss, but rather that all the months and years of exhaustion came rushing back. I found myself, once I had gotten off the phone, weeping uncontrollably, making animal noises and wailing like a professional mourner in the Middle East. When there were words, it was “Leave me ’lone!” and “Go ’way!” as if I were a battered child afraid of more abuse. It was the strangest bit of grieving I have ever experienced. I went to bed utterly spent, and woke up much saner.

Then last night, a very odd little dream. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Brain, Death, Dreams, Family | 1 Comment

Notes from . . . well, not necessarily the Dreamtime

I’ve been waking up lately with my head crammed with a bunch of disjointed thoughts. That in itself is not unusual; my head is a confusing place to navigate through. But they don’t fit neatly into a single blog post, and there’s not enough in any one of to make a post on its own, so I hope you’ll pardon the disjointedness.

*   *   *   *   *   *    *

I lost fourteen pounds last week.

I’m not, it turns out, a big proponent of weighing oneself religiously as a gauge to determine dietary success or loss. I’ve seen myself gain weight even when being scrupulously faithful to my plan, and lose weight when I’ve cheated. And gaining weight, or losing little or nothing, when I’ve struggled so hard, does nasty things to my emotional state. So I weigh once a week at most. When the weight loss slows down (it’s always fastest at the beginning of a diet, and always fastest with very heavy people), I may drop back to once a fortnight or once a month.

And I’m not even crowing about these fourteen pounds: it’s mostly water, which my body accumulated in response to the inflammation caused by the reaction to bread, and in response to the high levels of salt and sugar I consumed during the funeral trip. Continue reading

Categories: Body and Mind, Death, Depression, Dreams, Food and Diet, Healing | 4 Comments

Who is Hoda Kotb, and Why Is She Haunting My Dreams?

It’s 4 a.m., and I’m in Florence, South Carolina, on my way north to perform the second of Mom’s two funerals. I spent a surprisingly pleasant day with my brother Darryl, and found that we’re good traveling companions. We like similar music. We like the same car temperature. And we like the same balance of talking and quiet. We’ll have spent more time together in these five days than we had accumulated in the previous fifty-three years of my life.

I’ve been sleeping quite well since Mom died. No sleeping pills to convince my body to rest. No listening with one ear cocked toward the baby monitor to catch any moans in the night, or (God forbid) yet another fall out of bed. Just a few days before she died, I heard Mom make a series of strange noises. I rushed in to find her dead asleep but 180 degrees out of kilter: her feet touching her headboard, her head on the quilt at her feet, and her pillows placed carefully on top of her legs and torso to keep warm. I woke her, and she was completely lucid, but without any recollection whatsoever of having made this strenuous revolution.

I have a king bed at Red Roof Inn, which comes with free high-speed Internet access. Continue reading

Categories: Dreams, Humor | 6 Comments

The Shibboleth

Okay, I think I must have been in one of those what-cha-ma-call-ems: a fugue state, or something. But in my drafts folder I found this decidedly peculiar unfinished post, written a month or so ago, called “The Shibboleth.” This was the entire text:

  • A girl named Frank
  • Mom praying with her phone
  • Trying to find the way out, through an empty church at a recreational park, a different entrance, something about a Twelve Step meeting
  • Listening to the mockingbird talk

Continue reading

Categories: Dreams | 2 Comments

Vectors

In the seventh grade, we were taught Modern Math. My teacher, a man with a thick Southern accent whose face looked like one of those dried apple dolls, thought my grasp of the theoretical stuff was good but my basic arithmetic skills were lacking a bit, so he didn’t want to promote me to Algebra. My father marched down to the school and straightened him out. He never revealed the content of their discussion, but I secretly hoped some brass knuckles were involved.

I excelled in Algebra. Almost pure theory. Geometry set me back a bit, because we were dealing with three-dimensional space. Trig, in the tenth grade, was monstrous. I forget what we had in the eleventh grade, but it was full of polynomials and advanced trig and things that made my brain freeze up.

One thing I took with me along the way, though, was the concept of vectors, and even now I’m not sure I’ve got it quite right.* When you define three-dimensional space graphically, you use a Cartesian coordinate system, with x, y, and z axes.

It’s days like this when I think I’m actually not geeky enough, or I’d be able to explain this better. Please try not to laugh into your corn flakes. You’ll get milk up your nose. Continue reading

Categories: Body and Mind, Brain, Dreams, Healing | 3 Comments

Stepping In

A frequent motif in my dreams is where I step into a life I am (or someone else is) currently living elsewhere, to taste what that life is like. It’s the experience of that “stepping in” that has made me consider that the notion of alternate realities or parallel universes might not be such a crackpot idea.

In these dreams, I visit an ongoing life. Sometimes the person is me, but a few of the circumstances of my life are different (Mom is healthy, Dad is alive, I’m in a different profession, I live someplace else). At other times I seem to be visiting someone else’s life, and the dream is peopled with characters I’ve never met before.

What distinguishes this type of dream for me is that nothing that happens in them seems remotely dreamlike. Nothing happens out of normal time, scenes don’t shift suddenly, no one can fly, the sky isn’t green, there’s nothing that would say, “This is a dream.” It feels very much like waking reality, everyday life, a few normal hours—in someone else’s world, or in a parallel reality. Continue reading

Categories: Brain, Dreams, Writing | Leave a comment

Vanished

An odd two-part dream last night. In the first part, friends haven’t heard from me for a week or more contact my brother, who has keys to the house, and they come in to find me . . . well, not dead, as I (and they) expected, but gone. My car is missing too.

They soon learn that I have disappeared, vanished, fallen off the grid and gone Elsewhere with no notice to anyone.

They are shocked. Was I running from the law? Was I in witness protection? Had I left to start a new life? Had I been kidnapped—and if so, why in the world, since I’m not worth anything monetarily? Continue reading

Categories: Dreams | 2 Comments

Every Damn Morning

Categories: Dreams | 1 Comment

Dogs in the Basement

One of my recurring nightmares involves a scenario in which there are several dogs in my care, usually one large and several smaller ones, which are kept in my basement. I suddenly realize with horror that I have forgotten to feed or let them out for days and days. (My house doesn’t have a basement in real life, and I currently don’t have any dogs.)

They have never barked or done anything to remind me they’re there; the realization just dawns on me suddenly, and I rush down to find them in various states of neglect. Sometimes they’re just really hungry and anxious (and messy); sometimes they’re doing rather poorly and need medical help; once, I remember, I found a skeleton wearing a dog collar.

Now, I am not a neglectful pet owner. The dogs I’ve had have been very well cared for, very much a part of my daily life. All would have liked go on longer and more frequent walks, but otherwise they were healthy, happy, and loved very much.

I suspect I have these dreams when I’m behind in my client work, or am feeling there are things I’m not paying proper attention to in my life; the basement symbolizes the unconscious. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Dreams, Psychology | 11 Comments

Too Many Kittens

A recurring dream, which last night became a nightmare: I’m in a house that looks vaguely like my own, only it’s filthy. There’s a vague sense that I’m trying to pack up and move out.

Now, I’ll be the first to grant that I’m not the best housekeeper in the world, but the only rooms that ever are this bad in real life are my bedroom and occasionally my office, and they’re more cluttered than dirty. But in the dream, the whole house is thick with dustbunnies, grime, strange objects (like my parents’ old bowling trophies), books, papers, Cheetos (which I don’t even eat)—and kittens.

Somewhere along the way I have received a litter or litters of kittens, but (a) I keep forgetting about them, so I leave them for days on end to fend for themselves, which is making them feral, and (b) they are so tiny that a couple of them are easily mistaken for dustbunnies. Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Dreams | 4 Comments

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