I don’t sleep much, but when I do, I do it very, very well. I’m a championship sleeper. And a world class dreamer.
When I reflect on particularly vivid, memorable dreams I’ve had throughout my life, what usually sticks with me is a sense of place, not the things that happen in the dream, nor the people to whom they happen. My dream plots are always notoriously surreal, fragmented and scattershot. But my dream locations, my dreamscapes, are often well-realized, if improbable. There are certain dreamscapes that registered as totally, convincingly real to me at the time I dreamed them, and have since archived themselves into my brain as if they were places I’ve actually visited while awake.
The oldest dream that I can still remember having had, and then intellectually processing later when I was awake, occurred when I lived in New Jersey. I was somewhere between three and six years old at the time. It was set in a scary old house that I saw in black and white in the dream, very Addams Family, except real scary, not funny scary. There were severed heads that rolled around the floor under their own power, back and forth, back and forth.
Another lingering dream from that early childhood period featured a dirt path, with woods on one side and a wire fence on the other, and a high speed highway roaring by on the other side of the fence. I dreamed a friend stuck his head through the fence, and in probable response to the way that parents of that era would say “You’re going to split your head open if you keep doing that,” a car did indeed split his head open, a clean seam, right down the middle. He was fine, otherwise, except that his head was split right down the middle. I remember how he looked with his head split open, but I remember even more how the path, fence, road and woods looked around him.
Then there’s the mysterious bubble room from some years later, a very Grecian looking room filled to about chest level with bubbles. And there’s the pink country, a warm outdoor location, very comfortable and inviting, with patio furniture and buildings that were almost all in varying shades of pink. And another path through the woods, this one with a creek alongside it, a little rural oasis between two very large, developed, bustling cities, a secret trail between them. I remember specifically getting muddy on that path, and wondering if the people in cities would know where the mud came from. I didn’t want them to know.
I recently dreamed of a secret network of pathways through Albany that connected via closets in people’s homes, and allowed those who knew of its entry ways and layout to get completely across town in a flash, surrounded by hanging coats and ties and suits and hats. There were friendly tramp sorts of people who lived in the closet network, too, so lots of pleasant greetings exchanged within, quietly, lest the people who owned the homes beyond the closets hear us.
Then there’s a spot that has appeared in multiple dreams over the years: a very high, rocky, forested crest that has paths that lead up one side to it, and a road that leads up the other. In dreams, I’m usually knowledgeable of the knotted series of paths, and am taking one, while cataloging the others in my head (I like maps, that’s probably why). One variant of this location has the main road on a high thin ridge, while I chart and navigate the paths up the sides of the ridge. Another is sort of a circular version of the same, winding in curved paths, ever upward, to the high point, which I never quite seem to reach, although I know what it looks like, and know in the dream that I’ve been there before.
I keep waiting for the day when I turn a corner unexpectedly and see one of these places in the real world, the ultimate deja vu, knowing my way around a place I’ve never been.
I record some of the most vivid dreams just to help me remember those places. Maybe I will share them. Maybe you will know where they are. Other than in my head, I mean.