I don’t dream the way I did in past years. I miss that because those nighttime adventures were something to behold. The visions of H. P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker and Steven Spielberg were mere cartoons when compared to the places I would go in the hours beyond midnight…when REM sleep was most active.
Very rarely do I wake in the morning with the words, “Holy Crap” on my lips and the burning desire to tell my wife what just happened inside my brain. But, I found I couldn’t put my dreams into words that could come close to describe the worlds I wandered in while my eyes were closed and reality didn’t exist..for those moments.
Some people claim they don’t dream, but scientists find that nearly everyone does…they just don’t remember anything. I still remember, in vivid detail, the landscapes of the night that I found myself wandering in sixty years ago.
Some of those after images are a delight to recall…but many are places I never want to revisit.
When I was a little boy, I had a great deal of trouble falling asleep. I still do. But, my dreams as a child were not of lambs jumping fences or riding across the prairie, bareback, on “Old Paint”. No, I had odd dreams of odd objects that would sometimes chase me or kill someone I loved. We had a long hallway in our house. I had this one frequent dream that a giant ball was rolling down the hallway and if I didn’t move, I would be crushed.
I always moved.
There was a dream (?) I had in my youth that went like this: My brother, Chris and I were walking through the woods of Beecher Hill when we pushed through the trees and found ourselves in Evergreen Cemetery. I remember being terrified enough that Chris had to carry me like a baby until we made it through to the front gates. The odd thing about this, is that I’m not totally sure it didn’t really happen.
As a teenager, I began to have dreams that were intensely erotic. Most males (if not all) go through this. As I moved into adulthood, the nature of the eroticism changed, but it still left me with sweat on my forehead in the morning. The females in these dreams were people who I knew, sometimes. But, more than once, these beings were goddesses, sirens and dreamy forms of feminine beauty. Alas, these kinds of dreams rarely visit me. Perhaps its my mind’s way of giving me a visual demonstration of my lowering hormone levels that come with aging.
Too bad, I had some good times with some naughty ladies of the night.
But often, too often, my night-time travels would take me to dark and desolate places where death sat in old wing-back chairs, layered in dust. That image comes from a monumental dream I had in the 1970’s or ’80’s. I found myself on the edge of a city. I needed to pass through to the other side of town…but to do so, I had to walk through an immense cemetery…a necropolis…a stone city of mausoleums and crypts. In these large houses, I would encounter the dead positioned in the manner of their lives. I recall a table of gamblers, covered in cobwebs and dust.
I hesitate to describe what the rest of my trip to the far side of the city was like. Just know it wasn’t pleasant, but it was memorable.
When I went to live in England for a year in 1984, I knew I was only going to see my daughter at the Christmas holidays when she would fly over with my mother, brother and niece. I had numerous dreams about her being in mortal danger. Once, I was caught in a basement of a store in Owego, NY when tornadoes struck. I looked out the windows and they appeared like black vipers, twisting and hissing and snapping at everything. But my daughter was back at my home on Front Street. I had to get to her and rescue her. When I finally made it to the back door of our house I went into the kitchen and found her sitting on a stool crying. Once, in an Owego that really wasn’t Owego, I stood and watched her being crushed by a flying Brontosaurus.
Now, that’s strange stuff, but the images are still with me.
When I moved away from New York City in 2011, I had frequent dreams of being lost in a Manhattan that didn’t look at all like the real place. And I had these dreams over and over…so many times that I knew which subway I needed to take to get home…a home that wasn’t my home and in a city that existed only in my mind.
Well before I retired from teaching, I began to have the “teacher’s nightmare”. It’s quite common. I’ve spoken to a number of educators and they all say that when they dream about teaching, it’s always the same. With me, I can’t find my class, I’m lost in the school, I’m on a field trip and something happens and I know I’m responsible for those kids.
It fills your school holidays with anxiety. There’s no rest from a group of 5th graders.
But, the oddest thing about my dreams is that I rarely dream about the most important people in my life. My wife shows up once in a while. When my older brother Chris, died in 1995, I had only a few dreams about him…and in those dreams, he was almost always standing in the yard or in the room and not saying a word. Silently, he watches.
I went through a period of intense nightmares…ones that would have me sit up in bed and scream. Often, these involved someone or something coming toward me with a noose or a gun. The threat was immediate.
Not at all like the one dream my brother, Denny, told me he had in the early 1960’s. His nightmare was that he was being chased down Main Street in Owego, by Nikita Khrushchev who was shaking an axe at him.
No wonder he turned out to be a Republican.
But, I feel now that the nights of my truly fantastic, sometimes morbid dreams, of flying, falling toward the ocean or swimming with a mermaid are drawing to a close.
Maybe I’m all dreamed out. Maybe the incredible visuals I experienced are spent.
Sleep, when it does come to me, is getting boring.
[Note: The title is a line from Bob Dylan’s Never Say Goodbye. Appropriate.]