When I dream of beaches, as I did last night, there is often a small mountain or cliff rising out of the ocean 50 or a hundred yards offshore which creates a small lagoon in the shallows between it and the beach. It’s not usually connected to the mainland–it’s its own formation rising out of the water, sort of like Haystack Rock in Oregon, but the shape and size change from dream to dream. Last night there was a resort built out over the water right up against it, and my mother and I were searching for a rare red hawk that was known to nest on the cliffs.
I have a city dream, too, and the city is often the same one. How is it in dreams that the fantastical is so recognizable? Yes, I know, Mr. Jung. These are the symbols of the things that happen deep in my subconscious all through the day, so of course I would recognize that those two vastly different places are part of the same city. Or that the labyrinthine series of rooms and staircases in another recurring dream are all part of my grandmother’s old rambling Victorian house.
There are those school dreams, where I am always late and running ragged through unfamiliar halls and stairways to find a class I might or might not have even signed up for. But there’s another school, too, a boarding school, deeper in my psyche, I think. Those school dreams are not about time and responsibility, but about finding people I might know. They come to me in clusters, like the anxiety school dreams–none for years, and then several in a month. They don’t feel anxious, though. More curious. They seem to be about loneliness and anticipation in equal measure.
There’s a German word, fernweh, that expresses the state of being homesick for a place where you have never been. Somehow I think it’s connected to these familiar/unfamiliar landscapes in my dreams. That dis-ease, that sense of unsettledness and longing, grabs me in these dreams of place. I want to be back there in that place, wandering and exploring, even though the place is nowhere (no physical where) that I have been in my waking life. Or maybe something in me longs to be back in those half-familiar, half-confusing places of childhood: the boarding school where I went in first grade, the old house we came to when we came to the US from Tanzania, the American schools with their confusing wings and hallways, the family trips to Mombasa or the New Jersey shore.
These places rise out of liminal times from my childhood, threshold spaces where I stood between one place and another, between home and school, between East Africa and the US. Perhaps that is why the beach dreams are so compelling, poised as they are between land and sea, with cliffs rising high out of the water. Change, with its odd mix of anxiety and anticipation, is inevitable, and in the midst of shift and transformation, the familiar/unfamiliar places return in dreams, offering a picture of the shift that is occurring.
1. Dream worlds
2. The way sunlight slants down the hill in the chill mornings
3. The manager at the bank yesterday who helped Ellis set up a savings account. She took him seriously, asked him questions, complimented him gently without talking down to him.
4. Lunch Bunch day–both kids at school until mid-afternoon!
5. Preparations, plans and anticipation.
May we walk in Beauty!