Thursday, October 24, 2013

Adventures in Dreamtown

Paul Klee Dream City 1921

There's a town  I visit in my dreams almost every night. It's the same every time I'm there--only the plot changes.

I've come to know the neighborhoods, shopping malls, an enormous grocery store, the school, hospital, even a small casino. In homes, towels and mixing bowls spill from partially packed boxes and I never know if the residents are moving in or out. Some of these are houses I used to live in, but they are no longer my home. Wandering through the neighborhoods I used to know, I cut through back yards and living rooms, encountering children who run to find their parents. After all, I am sometimes in a hospital gown, dragging my drip IV behind me like a hobbyhorse.

I'm often on my way to a hospital which I enter through a loading dock.  I never really know if I'm there to visit or to have another surgery. I try to find out at the nurses' station, but it is always deserted, except for an old man smoking a cigarette. He has nothing to say. Sooner or later I encounter my mother who is strangely calm. She wanders off find someone to help me, much as she would to find a cup of coffee.

Dream window
Walmart-esque nightmare
I shop at a mall where most of the stores are closed or understocked, but through the windows I sometimes see outlandish but beautiful clothing: tall hats made of silver fur, silks figured with scenes from a fairytale, whimsical crafts clicking with magic. When I open the door I am in a Walmart-esque nightmare.

There are a few spots of brilliant beauty in Dreamtown, for example, a bare silver tree in whose branches a hundred yellow canaries wearing red pagoda-shaped hats trill Vivaldi. For the most part, though, the light is always dim and ramshackle buildings sway under matchstick scaffolding. Every street ends suddenly and my dreaming self asks endlessly, What is this place? Why do I return here night after night?

Freud might say that the houses, which in women's dreams represent their bodies, demonstrate my unhappiness with the way my own aging corpus betrays me. Jung might identify the old man smoking as an archetypal gatekeeper or mentor who will remain silent until I unlock his tongue with the right sort of magic. In these dreams I trespass in homes no longer my own and in hospital wards marked DO NOT ENTER. According to Dream Moods, one of the most popular dream interpretation sites on the Internet, "To dream that you are trespassing suggests that you are forcing your beliefs on others." Perhaps. Readers? Students?

Writing, we are told, is a process of discovery. I write this blog as a way of thinking, more than as a means of communication. And as I've written this particular post, I've remembered that, whatever else dreams may be -- portents, warped figments of the mind at rest, echoes of the deep, dark past -- they are always metaphors. But what does this one teach me? Perhaps that I know more as a dreamer than as a waking being. As a citizen of HereAndNow, I am so often frustrated, afraid and angry. I curse while I drive and as I read the newspaper. I worry about the prices of gold and gas. I continue to despise Karl Rove and Reinhard Heydrich.

My Dreamtown may have emerged from unresolved fears and thwarted expectations, but oddly enough, I am never afraid there or angry, merely curious. So, is this series of nightly vignettes instructing me to meet what I encounter with curiosity? With acceptance? Not expectation or judgment? Will calm consideration dispel the threat of whatever I confront? Turn a bomb into a bubble or a serpent to a string of pearls?

I don't know, but I suspect there is something to this lesson.  I will try for now to unclench my mind from expectation and my heart from fear. I think that such a change can at least do no harm.


  1. This was fascinating. The descriptions are so detailed I felt as if I were there too.
    So much seems unsettled or in transition somehow: the overflowing boxes, closed, understocked or grossly disorganized stores. And then there's your wandering dressed in a hospital gown with a trailing IV to complete the outfit. I don't know what this all means, but it's certainly interesting to speculate!
    I feel like I need to step up the quality of my own dreams. By comparison, they're pretty pedestrian. :-)

  2. You're funny! I'm sure your dreams are just fine ;-) It's a matter of audience. Mine seem pretty tedious to me ...

  3. I have a recurring dream but nothing as terrifying as Walmart. Remember the old Twilight Zone where the mannequins get to leave the store every so often. Great stuff Mary!

    1. That was a creepy TZ -- although I think the clockmaker who turned his daughter into a clock bothered me more.

  4. He would say, "Tell me mor eabout the cigar..."