Sunday, October 7, 2007


Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something, as in a dream.
**Federico Fellini

Dreams have a poetic integrity and truth. This limbo and dust-hole of thought is presided over by a certain reason, too. Their extravagance from nature is yet within a higher nature.

**Ralph Waldo Emerson

HANK: I used to have a recurring dream where I am supposed to write a story for the 6 o'clock news, and I'm in the car on the way to the station to edit my video. I know, in order to get it done, I have to write my script in the car. (In reality, this happens every day for a general assignment reporter.) But in my dream, I can't find any implement to write with. All my pencils break. All my pens are dry. I finally wind up writing my story using my fingernail to make indentations in my notebook, hoping I'd be able to read them.

The first time I had this dream, I was so freaked out when I woke up! My husband said I should put that time on my time sheet as having worked--I was certainly as tired and stressed as I would have been if I were awake through it all!

Clearly this is a TV stress dream, and I had it over and over. (Anyone have the "I have to take a test and I can't find the classroom and why didn't I study" dream? I certainly have. I think it's so prevalent they call it the "Yale Dream." And I've always wondered whether they have it in other cultures, or what stress dreams are in, say, Siberia.)

But the last time I had the TV dream, I said to my sleeping self, and I remember this clearly: Oh yeah, this is that stupid pencil dream. And it stopped. And I've never had it again.

What do you think about that?

And is there a book dream? A writer's dream?

RO: A lot of people seem to have "The Test Dream." Anthony Soprano even had one....he was "unprepared." If I've ever had that I don't remember. I do have one recurring dream - all of you wannabe shrinks out there, get your pencils sharpened.

I'm in a one story house in the middle of a barren landscape. It's warm and everything in the dream is some shade of brown or gold. There are a lot of doors to the house. I'm outside and so is a pride of lions. They start to approach me and I manage to walk slowly to the house and get inside. One of the lions comes in another door. I go out a third door. I'm concerned but, I never run. This goes on for a while, but the lions never catch me.

Then there's the dream where Julia Roberts options my book. (Just kidding.)

HALLIE: Ah, anxiety dreams. I used to teach, so I have teaching anxiety dreams. I can't find my classroom. I can't get the class under control. Lately, it's that I've taken a job teaching and I'm going to have to do it, all year. That's a real nightmare.

What I love is when I realize I'm dreaming and I can make the me in the dream do what I want. Like fly.

Oddly, I never dream about the book I'm writing.

JAN: I have the reporter dream, where I've filed the story and there's nothing I can do but wait for it to appear in the next day's paper. I suddenly realize that I've gotten some key piece of information wrong. Like the name of the subject I'm writing about. Or the correct charges. Or whether the company made money or lost money for the quarter.

Lately, I've had a new dream . Now that my youngest is off to college and by husband and I are officially empty nesters, I keep dreaming I've adopted more children. Last night, I dreamt that I thought I was adopting one more child, only she came with two younger siblings and I was starting childrearing all over again! I don't think I need Freud to analyze what that dream means.

HANK: And if I might add, sometimes dreams do come newest Charlotte McNally mystery, FACE TIME, goes on sale this week! Sara Paretsky says "FACE TIME is a gripping fast-paced thriller with an important story line and an engaging heroine..." There's more from the divine Sara (whose anthology with other Sisters in Crime is on sale right now and a MUST read) but check my website for all the info.

And now--tell us your dreams! Or, if you dare, what ours mean...


  1. Just dropping by to congratulate Hank on the nice write-up in the Boston Globe and best of luck on the release of FACE TIME. Those are the nice dreams we have.

    Felicia Donovan

  2. Congratulations Hank! I am so happy for you :)

    OK, here are my three recurring dreams:

    1. I'm in a house, usually in the kitchen and I suddenly realize there are snakes everywhere. I climb onto the counter and I am paralyzed with fear because they're all over the floor and I think they're on the counter too. Eventually I wake up.

    2. I suddenly realize one of my teeth has broken off. Then they all just start crumbling spontaneously and I'm completely panicked and freaked out as they fall out and disintegrate.

    3. This is so insane, I can't believe I'm telling this. I am 46 years old, but even within the last year, I sometimes have a dream where I'm back in high school and it's almost time to graduate, but I realize I've been skipping some class the entire year and there's no way I'll be able to graduate and it's too late to do anything about it.

    I haven't had #1 or #2 in a while, but I've had #3 within the last year. God, I need therapy!

  3. My husband and I both have house dreams--we're in a house we've never seen before, and we keep opening doors and finding new rooms. (And the houses are usually in bad shape and we're supposed to do something about it.)

    And congrats again, Hank! Can't wait to see the book.

  4. When I was still teaching, the back-to-school-dream would strike late in July. It was always the same--I was in front of the class, in my PJs (or naked), I was completely unprepared and being evaluated by the superintendant. Ick.

    Another dream I have involves me having to run--through an airport, down lots of streets, across fields--tryign to find one of my children. I get so tired and just know I can't do it. It's not that the child is in danger; I just am too tired. I'm guessing that's a mom-fatigue dream.

  5. Hey Sheila,
    Come to think of it, I have that house dream, too.
    And not in connection with renovation nightmares! Sometimes I've been in that house and climb upstairs to a bedroom and am looking at the roof. Water is rising on all sides.

  6. I've always had the "school" dream--and its always been that stupid math class. I didn't do the work, I didn't attend classes, I don't have the units to graduate, and I'm never going to be able to pass the test. Panic, panic, panic.

    In real life, I started graduate school planning on going all the way to a PH.D. Hit SERIOUS burnout and disillusionment about three months in, realized this was SO not the place for me, but managed to hang on for my masters so I wouldn't feel like a total failure. When I drove my car out of Virginia to head back to California, I was PRETTY sure I'd finished everything, PRETTY sure my thesis was completed, PRETTY sure I'd filled out all the forms. I was TOTALLY sure that if any of those things hadn't gone right, was too bad. They could keep my degree.

    I still have the math dream. Except, now its changed. I start out anxious, realizing what I've forgotten, what I haven't gotten done, all that. Then it hits me. TOO BAD. They can keep their math class, they can keep their diploma and--thank you very much--I'll get on with my real life.

    It's a much better dream these days.

    Hank--congratulations! Can't wait to read Face Time!

  7. Oh--I have the house dream, too. (Anyone--what does this mean??)It's one of my favorites.

    I'm in a house, and it's my house. It's not the house I live in now, but I know it's where I live. And I keep opening doors to new rooms, and there are all kinds of wonderful things in the rooms. I remember a beautiful chest of drawers, like one of those thin map drawers. As I pull out each drawer, inside is a cashmere scraf, or an array of pearls, or some beautiful paisley shawl.

    Sometimes I wake up and think I should go look for it, it's that real. I think, just on waking, oh, I forgot I had that room, I should go back in there.

    (And thanks to all for the lovely and supportive words..I'm so happy with Face Time. And yes, the article in the Boston Globe was stellar...I'll put in a link tomorrow! thanks...)

    xoxo Hank

  8. Oh--I have the house dream, too. (Anyone--what does this mean??)It's one of my favorites.

    I'm in a house, and it's my house. It's not the house I live in now, but I know it's where I live. And I keep opening doors to new rooms, and there are all kinds of wonderful things in the rooms. I remember a beautiful chest of drawers, like one of those thin map drawers. As I pull out each drawer, inside is a cashmere scraf, or an array of pearls, or some beautiful paisley shawl.

    Sometimes I wake up and think I should go look for it, it's that real. I think, just on waking, oh, I forgot I had that room, I should go back in there.

    (And thanks to all for the lovely and supportive words..I'm so happy with Face Time. And yes, the article in the Boston Globe was stellar...I'll put in a link tomorrow! thanks...)

    xoxo Hank

  9. Why does Hank get a paisley shawl (probably Loro Piano) and I get lions?

  10. It WAS Loro Piano, how did you know?

    Why do I get a shawl and you get lions? Probably because I am shallow and acquisitional, and you are Xena Warrior princess.

    I still want to know what the house dreams mean. Anyone???

    xox Hank

    Still putting together the link to the Globe article. (thanks Felicia, I loved it, too.) I want to put the photo with the text, and that is eluding me. Soon. Maybe I'll dream about how to do it.

  11. Congratulations, Hank! And well done.

    I don't have many recurring dreams, but the one I do have always involves piloting an airplane, and I seem to have it at times when a number of significant issues are piling up all at once. In the dream, I'm usually either landing or taking off in instrument conditions and break out of fog just feet away from high-tension powerlines. Too close--or on landing, too immediately powerless, literally-- to pull up and miss them. This is my stress dream, and the symbolism seems pretty transparent. Usually I'm alone in the plane, though sometimes I have a flight student with me, and those are even worse -- as I know some mistake I've made or some instrument malfunction has contributed to someone else in trouble with me at the moment we break out of the fog. I feel responsible, and in that twitch of recognition at what's coming, full of deep regret.

    Sometimes in the dream I'm teaching stalls over a bank of fog low to the ground, and a stall escalates to a spin I can't recover, and we spin down into fog. That one's just as nasty, but it happens much less frequently. Usually it's the powerlines. I always wonder if the difference is the powerlines represent things out there that come up to surprise me versus doom created of my own doing (stall/spins over fog, a poor choice I'd consciously made).

    The dream has its literal possibilities, too. The day before I took my first flight lesson almost 20 years ago, a flight instructor and student here, flying visual in developing instrument weather, perished in this kind of accident. I remember my mother calling me in a panic because of it -- begging me not to learn to fly. So perhaps the dream returns as some sort of cautionary tale, or at least a reminder to doublecheck the temperature/dewpoint spread prognostics for the two hours of a scheduled flight lesson.

    I've heard that house, corridor and multiple door dreams -- especially doors (and drawers?) that open -- are all about the process of self-discovery, the house symbolizing the self, &tc. You guys have some rather beautiful versions of these; clearly writers at work, even sleeping. My father-in-law used to talk about the dreams he'd have while writing his dissertation: he'd be in a corridor with fifty or more doors, and he'd be standing, stuck, not sure which door he should go through, and when he'd try one, it would be locked.

    I've had the teeth dream (!), and I know a couple of others who have, too -- all of us in our 40s when we had it. Here's a rather encouraging interpretation of that unnerving dream:

    And the snakes get a whole range of possible meanings on the same site.

    I've dreamed of being naked, too, and in the last few years that dream brought with it a sense of relief. So am I grateful to have become vulnerable? Or am I leaning to a late-breaking (and ill-advised) career as a happy pole dancer?

    A couple of weeks ago I dreamed I was getting married. Three nights in a row I dreamed it, and once it was to a clergyman. The dream site noted above suggests this is about the resolution of conflict. I can only respond: Huzzah.

  12. In the Life imitating art department.... Blog topics are now affecting my behavior. Last night I had a dream I had a big assignment for The Providence Journal (where I no longer work) and completely forgot about it and flew to Annapolis, (where I am right now). To make it worse, someone told them I was sick, and I emailed from Annapolis, giving a valid excuse away!!

  13. Susannah, thank you for the links. I feel better now!

  14. Just had a new variation on the test dream. I'm going to be the official photographer at Crime Bake this year (that much is true), and I dreamed I couldn't get all my stuff together to get out of my house on Friday. I was missing the master classes, the seminars and pizza party I was supposed to be shooting. I kept throwing everything I could find--clothes, manuscripts, batteries-- into suitcases. Why? I live ten miles away, so I'm not even staying at the hotel.

    I have the house dream, too--discovering a secret room or sometimes a whole section of house I didn't know was there. Mine come overfurnished with flea market stuff.

    The dream I love is the flying dream, as long as it's not part of the anxiety dream in which I've ended up someplace high in the air (usually on a shaky pole or ladder) and can't figure out how to get down until I realize I can fly. The euphoria of soaring is not worth all the sweating and shaking beforehand.

    Off topic, but how tragically ironic that a plane full of skydivers crashed, and no one had a chute on as it was going down. (They were coming back from a jump event.)

  15. In dream interpretation theory, a "house" represents your self. So if your dream is that your house is being invaded, you are probably feeling encroached upon in your life. If your house is locked up and you can't get out, during your waking hours you probably feel stifled. That's the one thing I remember from a years-past course in dream theory.

    I started having the "test" dream in high school. I had it all the way through college and grad school. When I started teaching, it morphed into the teaching dream.

    I've also had the naked dream (you show up to some important event and realize you are naked) and the falling dream.

    I don't have dreams specifically involved with writing, but I think that is because, at this point in my career, the stakes aren't high enough to have "oh-my-god-I-am-so-unprepared" dreams.

  16. I still wonder about dreams in other cultures. Are they the same? I'd love to do the research some day.

    Laura and Susannah..thanks for the great info and links!

    Judy, that does sound like Mom fatigue. And probably means you're a great mom.

    Lisa, I've defintely had the teeth disintegrating dream. Eyelashes, too. Also sometimes I get my hair cut, really short, and I can't figure out why. I wake up, and I'm so relieved.

    I had a great flying dream, though. Where I knew all the rules. Like, you couldn't be holding something. You couldn't jump off a building and fly, you had to start from the ground. It was lovely.

    My favorite of all favorites, though, is the one where there was a big BOOM outside and everyone ran outside, out of the office, but I didn't, because I knew it was the wrong thing to do.

    Then, in through the broken window, came: flying clocks. One after the other. Flying through the window and around the room. Hundreds of clocks.