Ruth and Edna

Here’s another early post from this blog. It reminds me that there are times when you yourself can be an unreliable narrator. I refer to events that unfolded in the wake of my friend’s death in January of 2016. There is one detail in this reblogged post that is not entirely accurate. I actually heard my friend’s voice shortly after I woke up from a “blessed” dream. At the time I didn’t feel that I should risk that disclosure.

Intensity Without Mastery

Some dreams are the opposite of a nightmare. I call them blessed dreams. My first blessed dream happened at the dusk of my teenage years. It was brief and involved my great aunts Ruth and Edna. This dream was exceptionally lucid, with a false awakening that made it seem even more real. While it is well established that very unusual things can be dreamed, their appearance was rare indeed. I have never met Ruth and Edna because they died in a car accident along with my great grandpa back in 1936, and I have only seen their death portraits.

In the dream, I walked into the long hallway of my parents’ house, and Ruth and Edna were bouncing a ball back and forth at the opposite end. The ball and their white dresses were embedded with an ethereal glitter. Seeing them provoked the most intense ambivalence I have ever felt, awake or asleep. I…

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Last Friday’s Dream

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Last week I had more time to blog because I scheduled a “staycation” to mark both the end of my daughter’s school year and the beginning of the summer season. I had hoped to squeeze in some housekeeping, as if I could wake up early every day and sleepwalk through the tasks painlessly until my daughter emerged from hibernation. Alas, I slept nearly as long each day as she did. Thus only minimal cleaning was done.

On Friday, I had a dream that first seemed to be of the classic wish fulfillment variety. I was walking through my house. The morning sun streamed through the windows. Not a book or a blanket was out of place, and every surface was free of dust. I surveyed my bedroom, very pleased that I had somehow cleaned the whole house to a level that I’ve never achieved in real life. I then said something so improbable that when I awoke I wondered if I’d had one of those dreams that seem to come from someone else’s mind, as if the experience were first person in a fictional sense. I smiled and said, “Now I’m ready to deal with Satan. He’ll be here soon.”

I then woke myself up. After all, this was one of those dreams that one doesn’t really want to see what comes next. The statements I uttered and the attitude underlying them startled me. I had the serene confidence of an regular hiker walking along a familiar trail. I knew a challenge awaited me, but I had no doubt I could contend with it (with the help of Jesus, of course).

I wondered over the origin of such a dream. I haven’t remembered many details of my dreams lately, but when I do, it seems that I am often dreaming of things I’ve recently read in the Bible. This pattern reminds me of Hebrews 4:12 (NIV):

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

My dream of the clean house could be a reflection on Luke 11:24-26 (GNT):

24 When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can’t find one, it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house.’ 25 So it goes back and finds the house clean and all fixed up. 26 Then it goes out and brings seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So when it is all over, that person is in worse shape than at the beginning.

I confess that I have a waking attitude about Satan that is still somewhat Gen X—he is a trite, gauche bogeyman whom psychology knocked off his cloven feet sometime in the 1950s. Now that I’ve taken time to read more of the Bible, I see that this perspective doesn’t neuter Satan at all. Actually, it opens a window for him. As we laugh at him, it is harder to see that pride, envy, isolation and indifference are his handiwork. When we give up, he smiles invisibly beside us.

But Christ denies him victory. By his sacrifice on the cross, he did neuter the forces that do not wish us well, that want us to be broken and alone. When you surrender to Christ, the demons may come to tempt you, but they have no victory over you, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39 (KJV):

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Last Night’s Dream

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Dreams are notorious in their capacity to slip from waking memory. I’ve already detailed what I can remember of last night’s dream to husband, dad, and sister. In writing about it, I hope to cement it a bit more to my memory. Or maybe this recounting is pointless, and the dream will surrender to its keeping about as well as my hair would submit to the hold of Aqua Net hairspray. Which reminds me that I failed at 80’s Big Hair. No matter how much extra super hold hairspray I used, the volume on the crown of my head would collapse within 90 minutes.

Last night’s dream does hearken to the Big Hair era in some ways, even though no one had lofty hair in the dream. Within this dream, my family reunited to the place where we lived during a time when perms were almost mandatory. Back then, we lived in a large second story apartment that had once been a convent. The apartment was situated on the grounds of a Catholic church where my dad worked as a maintenance man/groundskeeper. The first floor of the building housed a massive boiler, so at the time I hoped that we’d never get snowed in long enough for any of us to go the way of Jack Torrance/Nicholson in The Shining.

In the dream, we were planning to meet at the apartment for reasons unknown to my rational mind. I just knew I had to get there. Since I know next to nothing of the principles of architecture, my dream buildings have only minimal fidelity to reality. Schools and churches morph into malls or airports. The homes of my memory fuse into homes of people we once knew. In this dream, our church apartment was stuck to one of the school buildings, and part of an amusement park split the parking lot.

I had to walk through the basement of the grade school building to get to the apartment. On the way, I passed several children who had stock-photo perfection, with clear skin and perfect smiles. One of the girls asked who I was and seemed completely enthralled to meet someone who once lived at her school. I also encountered my sixth-grade teacher who lost several toes in a mowing accident and in real life left teaching to devote herself full-time to her local chain of donut/pizza shops named after herself (the shops are still popular, by the way). How anyone possibly has the time to teach full-time and oversee four restaurants is beyond me. It’s not like she did this all by herself, but I still wonder how her days ever ended. Now she’s retired, sold the restaurants, and she still makes time to appear in her former students’ dreams. Catholic school was full of people who accomplished impossible levels of multi-tasking.

So there I was talking to my teacher-who-never-slept, and I noticed that she was a perfected version of herself. Her Carol-Brady-minus-the-bottom-layer hairdo had stunning highlights, and her face had that wrinkle-free Snapchat glow. She told me, “When your daughter was in my third-grade class, I already knew she had autism, but it wasn’t my place to speak those words.”

What? I don’t think she ever taught third grade. My daughter never went to that school. Such are the mysteries of dreams.

Then I had to rush to the apartment to meet my family. I could see that security gates were descending from the ceiling in the school(another feature which doesn’t correspond to reality), and I started running to get through the building before I was trapped overnight.

I reached the apartment and met my mom and brother. I didn’t consider where my dad and sister might be. What the point of this meeting? To see each other in the apartment once more?

When I turned to leave, I noticed that the old front door had appeared. For whatever reason, we had to walk through the school to enter the apartment, but we could leave as we did in real life. I tried opening the door and walking down the metal steps to the parking lot, but I was terrified by two things in the parking lot, a roller coaster track and a massive water tower. Like many people, I am somewhat afraid of heights, but my bass-ackwards acrophobia makes me more afraid to look up at something high than to look down from a height. The sight of that water tower had the proverbial train wreck quality to it. It was taller than any water tower had the right to be (tall enough that there was a foggy haze between it and the ground) and it had five massive bulbs to store water, one in the center and four others arranged like points on a compass. The metal arms holding the four outside tanks looked too small to hold their weight. I walked back into the apartment, afraid that one of the massive water tanks would crash to the ground.

So then I did something absurd. My brother told me that there was a vague threat of a terrorist attack and that there might be an airlift to evacuate the wary. So I went out to the balcony where we used to keep a container garden, and I didn’t have to wait long for a helicopter to retrieve me. The inside of the helicopter was silent as an elevator and turbulence free. I looked down once I knew we were well past the water tower of doom, and I felt peace as I saw massive highways recede into the distance. The highways near Lima aren’t massive in reality.

And that is what I remember of the dream.

 

To Wish Impossible Things

I don’t have much time for writing this evening. This is the sort of reasoning that drives my dwindling number of blog posts. I don’t know where to begin, and I don’t have the time to start.

If I keep waiting to write until an afternoon yawns wide before me, eventually I’ll cease writing here. This blog will be yet another casuality of attrition.

So I will share this evening’s stream of thought, that I need daydreams about as much as my body needs oxygen. I’ve learned that waking dreams can be crucial in coping with many forms of adversity, especially chronic pain.

The key is to persuade my mind to reflect of pleasing things rather than awful ones. I’ve had persistent nerve pain in my right hip this week, which is a distressing development because my as-known nerve damage is on the left side. The pain strikes like a beacon from the black box of an airplane that’s crashed and refuses to let its wreckage be lost. The volume of its signal is a solid 7 out of 10 while I drive.

It is very tempting indeed to anticipate more of the same suffering in the days to come. However, I’ve found that a daydream of a perfect place is the best tool I have to cope with this nerve pain.

My perfect place isn’t merely some generic place like an idyllic beach. It is impossibly perfect, a forest retreat with city utilities and Wi-Fi that never fails. Here I relax in a cabin that is covered in vines and surrounded with flowers year round. Here I can stop time and have as much time to myself as I need. I might even let a pet or two join me in my repose:


I feel that this place has such a conducive vibe for learning that L’Orange and I could read through spans of the canon of literature with ease. He’d take along my copy of Washington Irving’s short stories that’s been collecting dust and good intentions on my coffee table in real life, and we’d thrill over those pastoral, sometimes spine-tingling tales.

My perfect place would be self-cleaning. It would engage all my of senses.Any food I wanted would appear at my wish. There’s something so comforting to me in imagining a perfectly satisfying meal, which would depend on what combination of salt, fat, or sugar I’m craving at the moment. Or sometimes I imagine something quite wholesome, like garden-fresh tomatoes on top of barley with a brightly flavored dressing.

What seems delightful today would be a small plate of the best fries I ever tasted, which was at a random restaurant in Solvang, California, back in ’94. I ate them at a sidewalk table, and the fries had a stellar crisp-to-fluff ratio with a hint of garlic flavor. The weather was superb for outdoor dining, as it almost never is semirural Ohio. In the perfect place, I’d eat those fries with a bit of fresh dill on top and school cafeteria ketchup for dipping. No ketchup has ever rivaled the high vinegar type of my school days.

And now my time for writing really has dwindled this evening.

Do you have a perfect place you visit in your mind?

By the way, I feel like I am remiss in writing about L’Orange without mentioning his real life sidekick Buddy:

Wetlands Photo Walk, August 18

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I haven’t walked through the wetlands since late July because it has been undergoing some necessary periodic maintenance to water lines and pedestrian paths. While I preferred this preserve in its wild state, there were portions that had become nearly impassable to visitors, which include biology students from the school that created this preserve from donated land.

When I moved to this neighborhood three years ago, I actually felt a tiny bit uneasy about living so close to something wild. This surprised me given my affinity for the local parks that offer acres of access to forest and prairies. The difference is in timing I suppose. I seldom wander through those parks when wildlife other than birds are apt to show themselves.

The first week I lived here, I had a short dream that I had a drone’s eye view of the wetlands, and I spotted a bear rear up on its hind legs and sniff the air. I quickly woke myself up and considered the odds that such a vision could actually become a reality in this part of Ohio. I drifted back to sleep content with its slim possibility.

This brings me to a tangent. Last summer I had the privilege of reading a century-old account that one of my ancestors wrote about the pioneer era of the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. It was a school report written by one of my third cousins, who related how her mother had seen bears picking berries whilst standing on their hind legs. One of my second great grandfathers was a game warden and pioneer to that region of Michigan. Back in that time, that area must have been far wilder than anything my dreaming mind could produce now.

I did spot a young coyote trotting down our street at dusk a couple years ago. That is wild enough for me.

Back to the present, I was delighted to see that the reed (Phragmites) are in bloom. Their brown/burgundy plumes signal that summer is at its peak.

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