Last night, I had vivid, wacky dreams; maybe it was all that delicious green Thai curry I had for dinner. Usually I can’t recall my dreams, but for some reason, this morning I remembered three. In the first, I found a cardboard box with a hole in it. I put an old blanket and a bowl of water inside, hoping a bear would come along and decide to hibernate in it. In the second dream, I wasn’t sure which of our two houses I was sleeping in; the room and our bed kept expanding and contracting. And in the third dream, I had just attended some kind of conference and decided to stop at a country inn with two friends on the way home. The narrow dirt road leading to the inn had ovular turn-arounds in case someone wanted to go back to the airport. When we got to the inn, a woman in a gingham dress came to take our bags to our rooms. That’s when I woke up.
I gave up trying to decipher my dreams a long time ago. Now I just enjoy them. They are rarely disturbing and I can’t remember the last time I had a nightmare. The symbols in my dreams—if that is what they are—always elude me; why should I want to make a home for a hibernating bear, or why did the road to the inn have all those ovular turnarounds, or an innkeeper with a gingham dress? I’ll leave it to the Freudians among you to analyze me.
But I love my dreams. I wish someone would invent a machine that would record and play back my nighttime wanderings; maybe I would remember or understand them better the next morning. But I have to admit: I’m intrigued by my dreams—their imagery, their ephemeral qualities, their strange and crazy meanderings. They suggest that in some sleepy dimension, there are all kinds of permutations of reality possible, and what’s not to like about that!
There are many different types of dreams: daydreams, sleep dreams, lucid dreams (dreams in which you are conscious that you’re dreaming, but you keep on dreaming anyway), false awakening dreams, and nightmares to name a few. Years ago, I used to have a common recurring dream—you know, the one where you suddenly realize you have an exam the next day and you haven’t studied a lick for it and you’re stark naked to boot—but that dream, thank goodness, now seems to be a thing of my past. Back then, the panic of that dream could only be quelled by waking, and even then, it took a few minutes for my heart to stop pounding. Many scientists and psychologists believe that our dreams are trying to reveal critical aspects of our waking selves; in the case of my old recurring dream, that would certainly seem plausible given my usual state of unpreparedness and perpetual student deshabille. Now I just care less and have more clothes.
Most dreams occur while we’re in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and can last from just a few seconds to as long as twenty or thirty minutes. It’s healthy to dream. Dreams, even the most vivid and fantastic ones, have been shown to promote effective and creative thinking, improved memory, and better emotional processing. Makes me want to go take a nap!
If it’s true, as Prospero muses in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, that “we are of such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep,” then just maybe there is a gentle, playful world beyond this mortal coil. I suppose it’s equally possible that there is a hellish nightmare still to come; I guess we’ll all just have to take that chance. In the meantime, I wish you sweet dreams and should you happen to encounter a bear looking for a place to hibernate, please tell him I have just the spot.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.net.