“Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”
I don’t always remember my dreams, but the ones I remember always seem to be telling me something, and often I believe them in a way that I can’t believe reality. The other morning I woke in a strange place (I’ve been traveling a little bit) and recalled vividly being in a room with an arched ceiling with nooks in the walls rising all the way up, filled with all these different beautiful glowing blue and gold blown glass bottles. So many I couldn’t count. And I felt completely loved when I woke. As I am writing this, I understand that my dream was perhaps telling me that I am surrounded by walls of fragile vessels (I think that’s all of you, my dears), that are providing light for me, but also require my care. What a gift from my subconscious.
The night before my father died–he died across the world, so I was likely dreaming as he died–I dreamed of storms. I woke, went back to sleep, fell into the same dream. After he died, he was in my dreams often–though as soon as I asked him a question, he disappeared. It was through a dream, months later, that he finally convinced me that he was really gone. I woke up weeping. Tears had eluded me for the most part up until that point, but on this trip, away from my responsibilities, in the company of someone I felt safe with, my mind finally allowed me to feel his death for the first time. I trust my dreams, because I trust my unconscious self–the parts of me that aren’t constantly looking for a grounds and justification for my instincts. In my dreams I just know. There’s a great Carl Jung quote (that I don’t feel like looking up, so I’ll paraphrase) about how it is likely that we are constantly dreaming, but our conscious minds are too loud for us to get the messages from our dreams while we’re awake. I love that idea.
Below is a fantastic poem about dreams. Ask yourself four questions about dreams and answer them with authority. The authority is key, I think. The asserting knowledge. Here are my four questions (which you are welcome to use):
What do you thirst for in that quiet space between wakefulness?
When you dream of the dead do they dream of you too?
What dreams to you wish to press into the sleeping eyes of your children?
What name do you call yourself by in your dreams?
by Susan Stewart
1. Is it true that they dream?
It is true, for the spaces of night surround them with shape and purpose, like a warm hollow below the shoulders, or between the curve of thigh and belly.
The land itself can lie like this. Hence our understanding of giants.
The wind and the grass cry out to the arms of their sleep as the shore cries out, and buries its face in the bruised sea.
We all have heard barns and fences splintering against the dark with a weight that is more than wood.
The stars, too, bear witness. We can read their tails and claws as we would read the signs of our own dreams; a knot of sheets, scratches defining the edges of the body, the position of the legs upon waking.
The cage and the forest are as helpless in the night as a pair of open hands holding rain.
2. Do they dream of the past or of the future?
Think of the way a woman who wanders the roads could step into an empty farmhouse one afternoon and find a basket of eggs, some unopened letters, the pillowcases embroidered with initials that once were hers.
Think of her happiness as she sleeps in the daylilies; the air is always heaviest at the start of dusk.
Cows, for example, find each part of themselves traveling at a different rate of speed. Their bells call back to their burdened hearts the way a sparrow taunts an old hawk.
As far as the badger and the owl are concerned, the past is a silver trout circling in the ice. Each night he swims through their waking and makes his way back to the moon.
Clouds file through the dark like prisoners through an endless yard. Deer are made visible by their hunger.
I could also mention the hopes of common spiders: green thread sailing from an infinite spool, a web, a thin nest, a child dragging a white rope slowly through the sand.
3. Do they dream of this world or of another?
The prairie lies open like a vacant eye, blind to everything but the wind. From the tall grass the sky is an industrious map that bursts with rivers and cities. A black hawk waltzes against his clumsy wings, the buzzards grow bored with the dead.
A screendoor flapping idly on an August afternoon or a woman fanning herself in church; this is how the tails of snakes and cats keep time even in sleep.
There are sudden flashes of light to account for. Alligators, tormented by knots and vines, take these as a sign of grace. Eagles find solace in the far glow of towns, in the small yellow bulb a child keeps by his bed. The lightning that scars the horizon of the meadow is carried in the desperate gaze of foxes.
Have other skies fallen into this sky? All the evidence seems to say so.
Conspiracy of air, conspiracy of ice, the silver trout is thirsty for morning, the prairie dog shivers with sweat. Skeletons of gulls lie scattered on the dunes, their beaks still parted by whispering. These are the languages that fall beyond our hearing.
Imagine the way rain falls around a house at night, invisible to its sleepers. They do not dream of us.
4. How can we learn more?
This is all we will ever know.
The poem linked below is from What is This Thing Called Love by Kim Addonizio (which if you’ve been hanging around me lately you know I’m always carrying around and ordering for other people–I ordered my third copy yesterday). I have had almost exactly the dream she details here, though mine was several pieces of paper, that I was risking everything to catch up to. You could write to that instead, if you like. You know, write whatever you want. You know, just write. And send me your writing if you like. I got four poems in my inbox this week. I was overjoyed. FOUR. If you didn’t send me one of those four, you are on the hook, baby.
In Dreams by Kim Addonizio