Friday, March 02, 2007

Shore Pebbles from Author David Weale: Dream of Lights

Dream of Lights

There was a period in my late forties and early fifties when I made a gallant effort to come to terms with my dreams. I even kept paper and a pen by the bedside, and often in the night I would turn on the light and jot down notes for the next day when I would write out the dream in full. Eventually I wearied of the practice, but by that time the account of hundreds of sensational, often bizarre nocturnal excursions had been filed away in a large binder. Some of them were dark and horrific, and I would sometimes wonder how I could be more frightened in a dream than I ever was in waking life, and whether the terror I experienced was my own -- the emotional residue of some forgotten childhood trauma -- or whether in my dreams I was somehow tapping into a terror that belonged to a dimension of myself which extended beyond the bounds of personal life experience. I do recall that in a number of these frightening dreams there was the suggestive presence of descending stairs or ladders, and in one a manhole cover of some kind that opened to a ghoulish underworld where emaciated figures gestured pleadingly.

Who were those pathetic sewer-dwellers, looking up at me in such misery, and how and when did they become stranded there? They seemed to believe I possessed the power to liberate them, but I felt such a powerful aversion to their pain and helplessness that my desire was to get as far away from them as I could, even though there was another part of me that felt I should embrace them. I am an introspective person, and there are days I fancy I know myself quite well. But do I really? After a dream like that one I am humbled. How well can I know myself when I am unable to recognize the strange cast of characters inhabiting my inner life? Are they aliens, invading from outside? Or, lifetime inmates, begging for emancipation, or perhaps just acknowledgement? Or are they all just actors in a play? But whose play? My own, or another’s?
My dreams make me wonder about my facile, daytime assumption that I am living my own life, for many of them suggest I am more interpreter than author, and more audience than actor.

Happily, there is a sweet side to all of this, for there also have been many ecstatic, liberating dreams: the kind I hated to wake from. In those the limitations of everyday life would disappear and it was possible, not only to do things I couldn’t ordinarily do -- like flying -- but also to roam through fields of wonder and delight that were, in everyday life, strictly off limits. I attempted at one point to master the art of lucid dreaming, hoping it might enable me to prolong, or even direct, those ventures of lightness and joy, but it never worked for me, and now I just take them when they come, and am grateful for them.

Time, like identity, is often a casualty of the dream state, and one night I had a dream that was recapitulated in waking life years later. In the dream it was night and I was a boy, returning to my home across an open, rolling landscape that didn’t correspond to any place I knew in the everyday world, but was remarkably similar to the fields of Entry Island that I visited for the first time just last year. As I walked I was singing a beautiful Christmas carol that also was unknown to me. Suddenly, the air was filled with tiny, brilliant pinpricks of light. They weren’t far away, like stars, but were just above me, and all around me, in the air itself. I’ve witnessed something similar during daylight in winter, when the air is crowded with tiny flakes of frost that sparkle like diamonds in the sloping sun, but in the dream it was night. The spectacle evoked a feeling of great gladness, and when I awoke the euphoria remained for some time. It was one of the most memorable of my recorded dreams and when I spoke of it to friends I recall stating that it was the only full-fledged epiphany I had ever experienced in a dream-state. Certainly I never expected to experience anything like it again.

Ten years later I was returning to my home on the Five Houses Road in the company of my second eldest son, Josh. It was a cold, clear winter night under a brilliant moon, and all the branches of the trees and shrubs were covered with a thin layer of ice from the freezing rain that had fallen earlier in the day. As we passed by a large lilac bush Josh let out his breath in astonishment. “Look at that,” he exclaimed. The moonlight was deflecting off the branches of the bush and as we moved by, changing our angle of vision with every step, the result was a scene of thousands of tiny points of light, sparkling and winking above and around us. When we stopped the flashing stopped, but as soon as we resumed walking the air was filled once again with the same magical light-show.

We retraced our steps a number of times, filled with amazement at a sight so rare and exquisite. Both of us said we had never seen anything quite like it before, but that was not entirely true. Later, in the house, I told him about my dream of lights, and how remarkably similar it had been to what we had just witnessed. He, of course, didn’t know what to make of that, nor did I, except for a hunch that occurrences which appear to be separate and unconnected, aren’t, and that a moment is no small thing, and not really a moment at all.
David Weale writes his Shore Pebbles from Prince Edward Island. He is the author of The True Meaning of Crumbfest, the unabridged audio edition of which is available from Rattling Books and the print edition from Acorn Press.