I’ve been meaning to write about dreams for a while now, but after last night, it seems especally apropos.
So, with my writing, a lot of my character and plot development happens after I’ve gone to bed, but before I’ve gone to sleep. Yes, I tell myself stories.
On the flip side of this, I get a great many of my ideas for stories from dreams. I’m not alone in this; in his book “Counting Sheep“, Paul Martin recounts that such authors and poets as Mary Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Paul McCartney, and Robert Lewis Stevenson all gleaned inspiration for their famous works from their dreams. Robert Lewis Stevenson, is particular noteable. As Martin writes:
Stevenson’s acts of creation were assisted by characters in his dreams, whom he referred to as his Brownies or the Little People. Stevenson’s Brownies must have visited him mostly in hypnagogic dreams rather than ordinary REM dreams, given the technique he used to encourage them. He would lie in bed with his arms at right angles to the mattress. This enabled him to slip into the twilight zone populated by his Brownies, but if he sank into deeper sleep his arms would fall onto the mattress and wake him up. When Stevenson the writer was hard pressed from money, his Brownies would usually come up with the goods, delivering to the author ‘better tales than he could fashion for himself’. God Bless those Brownies, wrote Stevenson, ‘who don one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep’.
Martin, Paul. (2002) Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasure of Sleep and Dreams
Of course, as Stevenson notes, dreams are only half the work–and perhaps the easy half. After coming up with characters and plot, it is then up to me to figure out motivation, put it into words, and make it coherent to the rest of the world. Damn coherency.
The other issue comes with feasibility–what are the chances of me being able to write a convincing, entertaining story?
For instance, a while back I had a dream about a woman in the military. (Strike one for feasibility–everything I know about the military comes from TV and movies.) She was a commander over a small group of soldiers with unique abilities. (strike two; I think this came from watching too much anime, because my first thought upon waking was the story would be better told in anime or magna form. Still, I can’t get it out of my head) A new soldier is assigned to her unit, a man known as a “shell”. He can do anything anyone asks of him, but they have to ask. He cannot use his powers on his own accord. The commander is protective of him, but the second in command is suspicious, considering him to be a spy for the enemy. When the second in command confronts the commander confronts her–in the middle of a battle, none the less, she screams at him–“He is my brother!”
Anyway…a good story, I suppose, for somebody else to tell.
And yet, I can’t stop developing the characters, their personalities and powers (the commanders powers, as per my dream, a purely defensive. She can block and repel any attack).
Last night, as I was going to bed, I was thinking about this story, or a prequel to it. The commander had been badly injured, and was in the hospital recovering when she had a dream–a city was violently reclaimed by the forest that had been cut down to make way for human development.
The next day, she discovered that an enemy city had been destroyed overnight, in just such a way. She didn’t say anything about her dream, but can’t shake the feeling that she was the cause of the destruction.
That night, in her dreams, she is visited by two individuals wearing the uniform of the enemy. She asks them about the city, and they laugh, saying that she doesn’t understand what she can do. She asks what they mean, and they in return ask her what she most wants out of life–not what her family or the military wants from her, but what she wants. (A question I couldn’t answer for her; I don’t know enough about her–I don’t even know her name)
And so, I fell asleep.
And dreamed about what I most want out of life.
And woke up, first happy, then with an increasing feeling of melancholy because of the unlikelihood of it happening–especially in the way portrayed in my dream.
When I started writing, I intended to share what I dreamed about last night, but I don’t think I can. I’ll just say that on the periphery–the parts of the dream that weren’t central to the plot (if any dream can be said to have a plot) there were penguins, an apricot tree, a velvet painting, and a townhouse with the floorplan of those built by my grandparents.
So, I probably should write something for today. I mean if I have to.
Besides deciding that I have an unnatural affection for my carpet shampooer, (seriously, what did I ever do without it? Even before I had dogs?) today’s been pretty quiet. My hip has been aching, to the point that the pain causes nausea, so if I took anything, it would mean that my hip might feel better, but I’d be throwing up.
I decided to elevate my leg and ride out the pain.
I was thinking, though, about something that happened last Sunday, and Sis’s house. It’s a cute story, so I thought I’d share.
While I was in hiding, the door to the room opened, and a four-year-old with the prettiest auburn curls peeked in. It was my bro-in-law’s nephew. Max, fully aware that I didn’t want to be bothered, started growling at this little person with grabby hands, while Lulu ran up for loves. The nephew came in, and I talked to him about the dogs for a while. He then decided he’d had enough, and went to leave. As he disappeared out the door, I called him by name, and asked him to shut the door, please.
He poked his head back in the room, and, with a big grin on his face, asked “How do you know my name?”
I had kind of explained who I was when we were talking about the dogs, but I re-introduced myself as “Aunt [Sis’s] sister.” I told him that his Uncle [B-I-L] liked him, and talked about him a lot, and that’s how I knew who he was. This satisfied him, and he disappeared again.
A few minutes later, he came back. “Do you know EVERYBODY?” he asked
“No, just you and [I listed the names of his siblings]”
“I know two Jasons. Do you know two Jasons?”
“I know one Jason, but I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
“Do you know Jack?”
Please note my self-control in not getting snarky and vulgar with a four-year-old.
“I don’t know anybody named Jack.” I said.
“Jack is my friend.” He then proceeded to tell me all about his friend Jack.
While this was a super-cute encounter, I don’t generally know how to handle myself around kids. I guess having two fluffy dogs and knowing their names means I’ll have to start learning.
It’s February, and, if you work in Hollywood, anyway, that means two things. First, an overabundance of cheesy romantic movies for Valentines Day, and second, it’s time for the theatrical release of the scary movies so they’ll be come out on DVD in time for Halloween.
I thought I get into the spirit (ahem) of things, and, since I don’t have any plans for Valentines Day (besides going to church) I thought I’d share my experiences with ghosts. Or something.
The first one happened when I was about 14. I was spending time with my grandparents on the ranch they owned at the time, in Steptoe Valley, in Eastern Nevada.
I can’t remember why I was there when my sister or none of my cousins were–I spent a lot of time on my Grandparent’s ranch, but usually as part of a family gathering–holidays or helping to vaccinate, brand or AI the cattle (if you don’t know what AI is, don’t ask. And yes, I have helped with all three activities, although, there is a shortage of wimmenfolk on that side of my family, so I usually spent my time in the kitchen helping prepare meals for the big strong working men.)
One night, I was asleep with my arms above my head. I felt a tickle on the inside of my arm and armpit–like someone was dragging a feather across my arm. I had a pet bird at the time, (though not with me in Nevada) and I woke up enough to think it was my sister (who was perhaps one hundred miles away) tickling me with one of Sidney’s feathers. I mumbled “Knock it off, [Sister’s Name]”, and opened my eyes.
I saw, standing at the foot of my bed, a boy about the same age I was at the time. He had red hair and freckles, and was wearing a plaid flannel shirt and overalls. I could see that he was laughing, but not maliciously–it was more like he’d just pulled a joke and was happy to see that it worked, but I didn’t hear anything. Oh, and I could see through him. I thought “Oh, it’s just a ghost”, and closed my eyes to go back to sleep. By that time, what I had just seen had time to sink in, and my brain started shouting at me, so I sat straight up in bed, with my eyes wide open, but whatever I had just seen disappeared.
This ranch is very secluded, and I was the only kid my age for perhaps 20 miles. One of the hired men who lived on site at that time had a wife and children, but the kids were little–4 and 2, not to mention Hispanic.
It was years before I told anyone that story, I still haven’t told my Grandparents–they are very down to earth and Grandma would probably just laugh at me.
I fully acknowledge that the tickle that I felt could have been something like a fly or a random breeze, and the ghost could have been part of a dream, but I haven’t experienced anything like that before or since–and it change my life, at least in the fact that when I sleep with my arms above my head now, I make sure they’re covered.
The second experience is much more difficult to put into words.
I was living in Logan, Utah, going to school at Utah State University. I moved into an off-campus apartment, and, during the course of the year that I lived there, several strange, if subtle, things happened–it wasn’t until after I moved out did I think that they might be connected, and perhaps there was a paranormal explanation to them. I am aware that it could have all been a series of strange, random coincidences that just happened to take place while I was living in that apartment–and only when I was living in that apartment.
First, I would have episodes sleep paralysis, averaging out to be about once every six weeks or so. I would feel like there was someone sitting on the foot of my bed, then wake up enough to know that there wasn’t, start to fall back asleep, feel like there was someone sitting on the foot of my bed, wake up enough to know that there wasn’t…this would happen four or five times in a row until I either managed to completely fall asleep or completely wake up.
I was taking a psychology class at the time, and knew about sleep paralysis and hypnogogic trances, so they I found these episodes more annoying than freaky. And they completely stopped when I moved out of that apartment–even though my sleep, work or school schedules hadn’t changed, and my stress load hadn’t lightened any.
That apartment had three bedrooms, so I had two roommates. We were all issued keys that would lock and unlock the front door, and the door to our individual bedrooms–but not the other two bedrooms in the house. Somehow, I managed to constantly lock my keys inside my bedroom–to the point where I had an extra made that I kept hidden in one of the house plants. On one occasion, I locked myself out of my bedroom, but the property manager couldn’t come to open the door for me until morning. I spent the night on a cramped, uncomfortable love seat. While I was trying to fall asleep, I felt a kindly presence, and had the distinct impression that it was amused that I had locked myself out of my bedroom.
In retrospect, that kindly presence was pretty much a constant companion in that apartment, to the point where it felt like I was never alone. I remember on more than one occasion, coming home and feeling like the apartment was occupied, then being surprised when a while later both of my roommates walked through the door.
The word “Townhome” might better describe this property–it was two stories, with the kitchen, living room and a half-bath on the main level, and the bedrooms and a full bath on the second level. One day, I was coming out of my bedroom and tripped on the stairs. I slid down on my knees–I remember watching in horror as the wall at the bottom of the stairs came closer and closer, but my arms were pinned to my side, so I couldn’t raise my hands to stop myself from hitting the wall. I did manage to turn my head so I didn’t break my nose or split my lip–though I did end up with a wicked rug burn on my knees and a large bruise on my cheek.
I fully admit that I’m a klutz, and I could have tripped on my own, but I don’t know why my arms didn’t work when I tried to pull them up to protect my head from hitting the wall.
Like I said, I’m not even sure that these experiences were connected in any way, or that there is a paranormal explanation to them. I certainly didn’t think so at the time–I loved that apartment and would have stayed, but the property management company raised the rent to the point where I could no longer afford to. It wasn’t until much later did I realize that some people might consider that apartment to be haunted.
I don’t know if my experiences with the paranormal mean anything–or even if they were paranormal experiences. I do believe in an afterlife, and I think there’s a lot in this world that we don’t understand–and it’s phenomenally stupid to try and seek out ghosts and demons and the like.
That being said, even if I was provided a scientific explanation for what happened to me both in Nevada or in Logan (like sleep paralysis) I don’t know if that would be the beat-all, end-all answer. Just because we know how something happens, doesn’t mean we know why it happens.