A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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Saturday morning / July 7, 1973 / Nashville, Tennessee. Had very colorful, vivid and emotional dreams. Real. Just before I woke up I was standing on a rocky, windy hillside at night. Someone was there with me . . . We were sort of trembling like we were expecting something strange to happen or it had already happened. There was a noise like the sound you imagine a falling star would make. When I looked to the sky which was pitch black with brilliant stars, I saw a glowing white form. Someone said, “Jesus, what is it?” Or maybe I said it; it was a whisper, but amplified like the sound in a movie theater. We had just agreed that it was a giant swan: it’s neck was long and curved and as it got closer we could see that it had definite outlines, defined in black. And it had jewels set in it and it wasn’t a swan or a bird but a horse. A very small delicate little horse that looked more like an old wooden carousel horse than a real horse because when it first touched earth, coming down about five feet from where I stood and it all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to jump back nor did I have the power. However, as I started to say, from the time that it first came into my view and changed into a horse it was immobile, like a wooden or stone horse falling from the night sky.
But it didn’t have the look of wood or stone about it, white and phosphorescent with jewels inlaid so as to give the merest suggestion of a saddle and bridle and in its one eye I could see a jewel of some kind, maybe amber.
The second its tiny polished hooves touched earth it began to run but it was still like a falling star, that’s how fast it was. There was a house beside me and I watched the horse disappear around the far corner so that it was blocked from view.
I looked up to meet the eyes of the other person who was now about a hundred feet from me and just as I started to say something I could hear the little horse coming right at me; about the same time I realized it was five feet away it was at my shoulder and I was trembling and very scared, too scared to move, and the little horse brought his muzzle up to my ear and blew a jet of hot air into my head. Except in that second when I felt his breath in my ear I also heard voices, it seemed like every voice there ever was or ever would be telling me everything they knew.
S. L. Seagle
I use my dreams, savor them, ponder on them; they color my days; they sting me until I pay attention to them, understand them, accept them as the important revelations they are. They are revelations of myself to myself — they tell me what I’m feeling. As I grow, I’m less afraid to listen.
Dreams spring from the inner sage, who knows that I need to be healed. She wants to teach me, to heal me, so she shows me where I hurt, my nightmares, my fears and shame. She lets me know what I truly want, where my joy lies, what truth shines beneath the fear. I can use this feedback to change my life if I choose. In a dream I was onstage in front of all my relatives. They were booing. I felt devastated, utterly unloved. I woke up crying — knowing my pain in feeling that I was being judged, that I had to perform to win love, that I would never be good enough. That dream was six years ago. I’m still working on it.
From time to time I’ll have a cosmic dream, in which I encounter inner reality intensely, feeling and understanding truth in a way I don’t often experience while awake. These dreams leave me very high, filled with wonder and appreciation. Once I was the world’s creation, changing from black space and stars to molten fire and new earth, winds blowing through my grasses, creatures springing from my waters. I was everything. I knew the power and wonder of that truth.
Here is a dream I like, because I think it represents our existential situation: I am climbing a huge, gnarled, beautiful old tree. I climb up by putting my arms around the knobby joints of the tree and gripping the branches with my feet. The tree is filled with my Mother’s spirit, and wordlessly communicates with me — wise, loving, growing. I climb very high; I am in the sky and it is beautiful and breathtaking so far up. I look down; the ground seems impossibly far away. I don’t know how I am going to get down. The tree tells me to be calm and to go down the way I came up. Fear holds me back — such an impossible descent. I will be crushed to death if I fall. I imagine falling. The fear is terrifying and exhilarating. I am intensely aware that my fate depends solely on me. That freedom and that responsibility thrills me and terrifies me. I hope I can be calm and descend safely. It is up to me. I begin down.
I had a dream last night — part of which was being in a room and feeling strongly the presence of an angry spirit. Books, etc., were flying about. Then I saw a tree spirit who loomed up in the room explaining to me that long ago I had taken some wood from him to build a fire and I had not been appropriately respectful enough. The feeling was that although part of me at the time had wanted to be polite and kind to the tree, part of me did not really believe that the tree had any feelings — that idea that unless we humans can see something with our physical vision (i.e. the actual tree spirit) we cannot believe or understand. Also the feeling that yes — everything comes back to us!
Since dreams have always been such an integral part of my consciousness, the trick has been to give them a use, to let them teach me, but keeping them in proper perspective.
I neither want dreams to color my state of everyday consciousness subliminally, which easily happens when I ignore them, or want to be so acutely conscious and analytical of my dreams that they begin to control my waking actions; even becoming indistinguishable from “awake-consciousness.”
For several years, I have written down all my dreams that I can recall upon waking. I’ve discovered that I can extend that hazy alpha-wave consciousness only a few minutes after I open my eyes, so this is the moment when I grab my dream notebook and start to scribble. In this way, I not only record the “big” dreams, but I also catch glimpses of the one before that, and before that, and so on.
When I am awakened by someone else, or by a noise, while in a dream state, I’ve discovered that this is an optional time to recall the dream that was cut off just then.
The meanings that come across to me from this unconscious realm, I think of as a closed-circuit TV set where the programming has been all jumbled and juxtaposed. Sometimes the actors appear on the wrong show, and usually the action and conversation flows illogically.
For me, colors are vivid, and my dreams almost always involve several people.
With just a rudimentary, intuitive sense of Jungian or Freudian symbology, I am usually able to figure out what a dream is saying to me. Sometimes I can laugh at some absurd hope or secret revenge acted out on this plane. Other times my fears will be starkly represented to me.
Recently I dreamed very vividly of a white United plane swooping low over me and other people, trying to lift enough to miss the next low buildings, then bouncing back, doing a flip back over us, and crashing several yards away. No flames, just pieces of the plane shattering into the air. I woke up as I ran into a cool, dark cathedral.
After several weeks reflection, I see that this wasn’t prophesying a terrestrial plane crash, but that it, in part, accurately symbolizes my fears and frustrations about jobs, where decisions are often out of my control and I watch my bubbles burst from afar.
Other times, some of the symbols are less accessible, more complex — reflecting more obscure emotions within myself. Often I find it interesting to go back through several months of dreams along with my journal entries for the same period. Many times the more obscure dreams come clear after a space of time. Also, the prophetic power of some of my dreams I’ve discovered this way.
I keep a dream diary; I also sometimes draw my dreams and hang them up in my bedroom, thus living with them as parts of me I usually am unaware of. I have also done a little of the Senoi dream technique for confronting and making friends with the powerful figure in my “power visions” (what we normally call “nightmares”). With one dream, a result was a significant, emotional contact with my mother and the finding of some special gifts.
I’d like to mention Patricia Garfield’s Creative Dreaming. Also interesting is Carl Jung’s accounts of some of his dreams in Memories, Dreams, & Reflections. Very fascinating.
I think the concepts I find most exciting and challenging about dreams are the possibilities that I can control and shape my dream universe to be a happily integrated part of my total life, and that there are significant and powerful messages for me in my dreams.
Here is part of one very long, powerful dream:
I am sitting in an English class in a large hall. A witch lady is behind me. Somebody comes around with scripts rolled up in pieces of paper. Mine says, “All are Henry VIII at four. Sing a song.” I read it very carefully to protect a little girl. I know that everyone has his own song and it’s important to remember it. Mine is in a book, shiny and new, but it’s hidden.
I wake up, feeling sad for the little girl.
I had come to the place in my spiritual growth that I wanted to be more intimate with God. The relationship I had with Him was nice, but I wanted to feel Him living inside of me and filling me with a glorious joy. I had discussed my achings with Him and knew that I was ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As I prayed to my Lord, my words turned to melodies and my heart exploded and it was exalting! My veins were pulsing hot and my mind was controlled with an ethereal peace. I slipped into bed, never wanting this bit of life to pass. For hours I lay awake praising Jesus. I finally slept and was amid breathtaking music. Thousands, millions, “multitudes” of voices singing glory and praise to God. I was not aware of myself or my body as in other dreams. There was just so much music! I woke up during the night and was amused to find myself grinning from ear to ear. As I hurried myself to sleep, the chorus began again. This dream experience was the beginning of wonderful changes that have taken place in my life.
The predominant color in this dream is white. I awake not sure whether I am in a hospital or a hotel. The walls seem to vacillate between translucence and invisibility. My bed is a large, soft white mass of sheets, pillows, and blankets, in mounds around me. I wear a white gown and a large white “picture-frame” hat, like those ridiculous ones worn twenty years ago. In spite of these clothes, I feel completely naked.
Gradually, I become aware of men, something like spotless workmen dressed in white coveralls, carrying long white pipes, or maybe plastic tubes. These tubes seem much too light to require three men to carry them. They are in my room, but seemingly only as a result of the indefinite nature of the walls.
As I look straight ahead of me (the walls are replaced by beams here and there) I can see rows and rows of men in white metal beds. The men are indifferent to me, as though they cannot see me. They also do not notice the groups of workmen in white, periodically passing their beds holding white pipes.
I settle down into what has become a neat white bed like those of the other guests (patients, inmates). My room is definitely separate from their communal one. As I fall asleep I am aware of two or three naked men in my bed. No sign of my hat and gown.
I recognize many of the characters in this dream, and although in reality they were, presumably, friendly neighbors of mine, they take on a menacing role.
My childhood friend, older than me and Catholic (I am not), leaves with a friend of hers to go to a church service which may or may not be a funeral. They are dressed in hats and coats made for old women but are brightly colored in pastels. I am left alone on a farm, which supposedly is owned by her parents. I hear sheep outside and the snoring of my friend’s father inside.
I feel very alone suddenly and realize that everyone has left except my friend’s brother. He threatens me, suggesting that he will rape me. I run from the house and drive off. My young son is with me unaware of the trouble. As I drive past, the farmhouse has become a little ugly brick ranch house, my friend’s brother sinisterly smiling in the window.
Unable to pass a slow-moving car ahead, my car becomes a bicycle which I must pedal, uphill, back to the farmhouse to get my baby. I sneak among the sheep, find my son, strap him onto the bike and ride toward town. Somehow, I know my friend’s parents will be in a dingy room there and I hope to tell them what’s happened and seek refuge. On the way, I pass a funeral on a hill and see my friend. She looks up and sees me. She is smiling cruelly and knowingly.
When I reach my friend’s parents they are not shocked by my story, just sad. Their son arrives and pretends to be contrite and I am persuaded to forgive him. We all return to the farm.
When we arrive, a party with cocktails and small talk, the works, is in progress. The house is still a brick ranch house, but the sheep are in the kitchen. People are taking turns shearing them. My friend’s brother gives me a wicked smile; his eyes are slits. He hands me a sheep and I say how I’d like to raise sheep one day and begin shearing. Everyone else manages to shear the skins in one piece, so they look like limp sheep costumes on the floor, without zippers.
After what seems like a long time, I realize that all I’ve been able to cut from my sheep is a small tuft of dirt blonde, straight hair. It is my son’s hair.
I have, perhaps mistakenly, decided that you need not print my dream accounts anonymously. After sending you the dreams, I discovered these lines of Joan Didion’s:
On these pages she had tried
only to rid herself of her
dreams, and these dreams
seemed to deal only with
sexual surrender and infant
death, commonplaces of the
female obsessional life.
We all have the same dreams.
Rather than an exhibitionist self revelation, which is basically what I felt signing these little dreams would be, I now see claiming them as a gesture of good faith. Diving in with the rest of the skinny dippers, instead of standing on the shore safely ogling them. If Didion is correct, there should be nothing shocking in my revelation.
. . . I am standing outside, talking to someone. Someone else nearby calls out “hey, look up.” I look over to my right. Far beyond, barely discernible, is a little plane. It is bright with light, almost made of light; but it is doing amazing things like flipping over, and flipping around, doing figure eights, and twisting rapidly. We are spellbound watching it, and think that whoever is flying the plane must be a genius. All of a sudden, we become aware that the plane is out of control and may have been out of control the whole time. We become aware that the plane is going to crash. Very quickly, the plane just nosedives down in the bright sun. But before it does we become aware that there are a great many huge white billowing parachutes coming down alongside the plane. These must be going quite fast at this point because they seem to be just sailing down alongside the plane.
We hurry over to the site of the wreck to see if there is anything we can do to help. For a small while we stand in confusion, but then we see that the funeral is already set up on the spot. The parachuters land and immediately join in the ceremonial. There is a hearse and a coffin and mourners already there. The body, placed in the coffin, is carried to the hearse and driven away. The crowd that has gathered disperses. Somewhere in the middle of this scene my perspective changes and I am not there at all, but watching a movie of, in one of the front rows of the theater.
After the funeral, the movie screen becomes split into at least ten thousand different shaped frames: frames whose shapes are themselves constantly changing (and rarely if ever square). Within the frames are snatches, shots of all kinds of people doing different things. But the images are flashing by so quickly that I can’t get a hold on any one story or any one image. I watch, totally spellbound for a while. Then I say “No! I can’t watch this anymore — it’s too much!” I turn away from the screen.
Suddenly, I am in a clinical-looking room; a little girl in a blue dress is sitting in what looks like a dentist’s chair. She looks calm or at least resigned even though many different wires and instruments are attached to her. In a flash, I guess that these are attached to measure the effects of meditation on her. She looks very wise for a six or seven-year-old. And, watching, I surmise that she’s resigned, all she can do is what people tell her to do because she hasn’t figured out her own ‘beingness’ yet.
This dream has never been too clear to me in meaning. But, it reflects in part what I think to be a basic conflict in my own ‘being.’ That conflict comes from having a strong urge toward contemplation, and also a strong urge toward group action. In some ways, the struggle between these two seems to lead to paralysis — the desire, maybe, but not the clarity to join a group in action or in contemplation (except for a little while). The plane probably figures as a metaphor for my life among other things — lots of turns and twists and flips, and no real sense of going anywhere in particular, except towards death, ultimately. All the people on the movie screen, and the constantly changing frames maybe came from a feeling of being open (at that time) to “kali,” the dance of life; but, at the same time, my turning away shows a sense of its overwhelmingness.