Saturday, March 1, 2008

Connecting, by Aaron Paul Lazar

Every night when I settle into my pillow, a strange thing happens. Just as I close my eyes and allow my brain to float… to drift… to slow down, dreams from the previous night flash before my mind’s eye. Bits and pieces of vivid scenes flit and dissolve into sensations, movement, colors, buildings, and people. A sense of place evolves, and it is always the locale of the dream that occurred the night before.

What’s going on here? I rarely think of the dreams during the day, but when it happens, it’s like a light bulb clicks on in my head and I remember it, often in its entirety.

For example, on Monday night the most powerful dream of the evening involved me running around Salzburg. That’s right, I took off for Austria in my pajamas and wandered cobblestone streets, passed high-spired churches, and drooled over delicacies in bakery windows. There was a sense of urgency that went with this dream, a searching for … something or someone. Maybe it was an apple strudel or Berliner (jelly donut). I can’t remember that part. But the scenes, streets, buildings, all came back as soon as my head hit the pillow the next night. In seconds. Maybe milliseconds.

On Tuesday, I dreamed of my father. He passed ten years ago, and although you might think it odd, I consider these dreams “visits” with him. They are always pleasant, full of conversation, validation, and affection. In this dream, he was teaching me how to filet a fish. Dad was a great fisherman. I guess in Heaven cleaning a fish isn’t quite as gross as in real life. This fish had no stinky innards and its flesh was flakey and white, as if already grilled to perfection with lemon and plenty of butter.

On Wednesday, similar images returned before I moved on to new dreams. I saw Dad, the fish, and then swirled into a new adventure.

Is there a scratch pad memory in our brains that keeps an imprint there from the night before? The Dream RAM, or something? Maybe that’s it.

Some of my best dreams – mostly the ones involving skiing on gorgeous fluffy snowy hills – come back as well, months or years later. Now, see, it’s extra cool because I don’t downhill ski (I’m a wimp), but I do cross-country. Merged in these dreams are the thrilling sensations of sledding down a hill with the freedom of being upright on skis. With no fear, of course, and no falls. It’s bliss.

Then there are the recurring dreams. Like the one where I can’t find my locker in school, or my class schedule has disappeared and I panic.

How long has it been since I’ve wandered the academic hallways?


The flying dream also recurs frequently. I cherish that one. Willing myself from my earthly bonds, I lift up, higher and higher, until with arms spread I soar across the skies. Sigh. It’s the best one of all.

These connections, from night to night, as well as the connections with loved ones lost, are not dissimilar to another sensation that hits me daily.

When I’m writing a novel, I need to be in a certain zone, immersed fully in the story and in my character’s mind before I can move on to the next chapter. I write a chapter a day, in good times, and each night before I begin the next chapter I need to review the work from the day before to get into that zone. I ease into it, with anti-noise headphones doing their thing, relaxed in my comfy leather chair with my dog beside me. It’s connecting, it’s establishing the ground plane, and it’s essential. The feeling is not unlike that dreamy quality of just-before-you-sleep drowsiness. There’s a bit of a dreamlike quality to writing. After all, it’s all happening through pictures in your head. Right?

Is it close to the subliminal? Do writers tap near their subconscious when they create? Is it like this for an artist or musician?

I wouldn’t be surprised.

The layers of our lives are complex. Those deep-seated pockets of the subconscious, where fears from childhood fester, are not impossible to breach with focused therapy. The middle ground – the place where we dream – floats beneath consciousness and above fundamental memories, wafting like clouds waiting to descend. They’re all connected.

The next time you lay down to dream – notice what happens. Can you connect the events to the night before? To a commercial you saw on TV? A dialog you read in a book? A fervent desire? Think about it.

And remember, we’re all connected. Whether through God, oxygen, atoms, the net, or something more ethereal and lovely. We're all connected.


Marta Stephens said...

Dreams are a funny thing, aren't they? When I was young, it seems as if I could remember not just one dream a night, but several. Now I'm lucky to recall only the very vivid ones -- about one every five or six months (sigh).

I think you're right though. There is usually something in our waking life that triggers the dreams. I enjoyed reading this post, Aaron. Thanks!

s.w. vaughn said...

Skiing dreams are your favorite?

I still fail to understand how anyone could possibly love snow...


Kim Smith said...

Fabulous post Aaron. I do this too. In fact, I feel like I can program my mind to dream specific things. When I am tired or afraid I tell myself what to dream. Like I say, okay tonight we are going to the beach, and I will envision a hot sand beach with a blanket, some music playing somewhere, and the sun beating down on me. That is where I can relax, most any time, so that is where I send my mind to dream in order to relax into sleep.

I believe our brains do need to reconnect one side to the other some times and this maybe the way it does it.

Thanks for the insights~!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta - I think the folks who don't dream much are those who don't sleep enough. Like you, Marta. And you, SW. Maybe Kim and I are the only folks in our blog who get enough shut eye? I am a sleep hog - I must have my 7-9 hours each night or I can't function. And most of the dreams I remember are early morning - late in the sleep cycle.

SW - you know I'm insane, I love snow. And today I felt cheated because I'd planned a day skiing out in the sunny hills, but a family accident prevented anything like that happening. We've only had two possible ski days this season, and this was the third and best. Oh well. Everyone's okay and hopefully I'll have another chance soon. I know if I lived near you in the snow belt, I'd probably end up getting really sick of it!!! LOL.

Kim - I love that you can program your dreams. How cool is that???