Why do we go to the places we go when we dream? Last night I was in an enormous house with a boyfriend I haven't seen in almost thirty years and his family, two of whom are dead now. My kids were there. Sam had a really great, very white old Jeep Wagoneer, wood panelling on the side and a bunch of skis on top. Coco, the same age and size she is now, had a driver's license and a car. My friend, Katie, who teaches at Emma Willard, was there, with very long hair and one tooth missing in the front of her mouth. The weather was beautiful. Much of the dream felt sad, seeing people I miss and watching my children drive away.
A missing tooth, children driving, people who are dead. Dreams are so weird!
Do our dreams have anything to do with what we are doing right before we go to sleep? What we're reading or talking or thinking about? Last night I read about liberation theology and Jesuit chastity before falling asleep.
That doesn't help much.
I read an article somewhere the other day about how insufficient sleep has become a public health epidemic. It surprised me, and then again it didn't. I would imagine that the amount of time humans now spend looking at a screen during the day is in direct proportion to the amount of sleep they are losing each night. I would even go so far as to say that it's a bad idea to keep electronics in your bedroom while you are trying to sleep. It's my theory, but there's probably evidence out there somewhere to back this up. Think about all the things we associate with sleep and have since we were little: a cozy blanket, a soft stuffed animal, a dog sleeping nearby, pillows. Humans aren't meant to be sleeping with light-up buzzing and beeping electronic displays near our dreaming heads.
A slight digression and food for thought.
Do our dreamscapes take us places based on the events of our day?
Yesterday I made a list while I was making hospice visits, of the things I wanted to remember to be grateful for when I did my examen at day's end. I got this far:
hearing my brother's voice
conversations with Sam and Nate
the sweet bakery girl I spoke with in Bozeman
running into Mairi at the co-op
taking Jane for a short walk, outside her public housing nursing home
the smell of the logs on the truck in front of me at the stop light
the dispatches Brett was sending me from the road on his way to Nashville
the boots I had decided to wear that I hadn't worn in a long time, how good they felt
that I didn't die in the car wreck that almost happened on Woodstock Avenue
the sweet message I got from Raina
that I had gotten three loads of laundry done before I left the house
the kindness of Margaret's message
the sun came out
That took me up to the late afternoon. There were many more things to come before the day ended.
Maybe it's the cultivation of the awareness of the minutiae of a day that makes the details of my dreams so vivid. Maybe in being grateful for the people I interact with in my day, I am gifted with the opportunity to be with people I love and haven't seen in some time, in my dreams at night.
I don't know. I love the curious nature of dreamland and of our sleep time. Yesterday I sat with and watched a person who is very close to dying. Though not with us here in this realm much anymore, she was still very active: eyes moving beneath her eyelids, hand motioning, lips forming words not spoken. What is she dreaming about? I wondered. What do people dream about when they are in-between death and life?
If you read my book you know that for many years I had a recurring dream in which I was despondent over leaving college. It didn't make sense to me until someone pointed me to what happened right after I left college. I had been confused and focused, all along, on college itself. I didn't want to leave college in my dreams because I was hit by a car a few weeks after I graduated, in my reality. Once I understood what was going on, the sad dreams ended.
Life, death, waking, sleeping, dreaming, I love how these things are all miraculously and mysteriously rolled together into this funny experience of ours.
Shakespeare, of course, summed it up nicely in The Tempest in the words of his character Prospero:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
I hope that you live well, today, all days, that your life is place upon which dreams are made, and that you sleep well, tonight, all nights. Amen.