Thursday, January 17, 2013

All You have to do is Dream

RHYS BOWEN: A few months ago Hallie's sister Amy wrote an interesting column for the New York Times' T Magazine. It was about visiting the Mormon Temple in LA for the first time. The link to the whole column is here and it's well worth reading:

However it was the last part of the column that fascinated me. Here is what Amy said:

AMY EPHRON: As I start to leave, a painting on the wall stops me. It is the only piece in the room that has neither an artist's attribution nor a caption. It is a landscape of a river, a riverbank in the forefront with palm trees, a river and a view across the river of mountains on the other side.

I used to have a recurring dream when I was a child. The image in my childhood dreams was identical to the landscape in the painting. It was always the same landscape except occasionally (in certain variations of the dream), there would be people on the riverbank and, sometimes across the river, there would be people and houses on the other side. Nothing ever happened in these dreams. It was as if I were an observer looking at a landscape.

I've puzzled over it often, trying to figure out its meaning, trying to decide if it had any spiritual context. It even occurred to me once that it might be heaven. And there it was on the wall, my dream, the landscape in my dream, in its natural state with no houses on it and no people on the riverbanks. No signature on the painting, no inscription, no caption underneath.

I called Elder Grover over and asked him if he knew what it was. I thought he was going to tell me it was a sacred place in Utah or at least the hills in New York where Joseph Smith discovered the golden plates. "Oh," he said, "I think that's a painting of the Santa Monica Mountains."

It was sort of in the "always keep a pin by your spiritual balloon" department. I decided not to tell him about my dream. I tried to remember if I'd ever visited a riverbank in the Santa Monica Mountains when I was young, as I answered very softly and somewhat cryptically, "Oh, I think I must have been there when I was a child."

RHYS: The reason this fascinated me so much is that my grandmother had a similar experience. All her life she had a recurring dream of driving down a steep hill and seeing a little humped bridge at the bottom, then driving under that bridge. When she was seventy she went with my grandfather on a coach tour of the Lake District in England. As they started to drive down a steep hill she exclaimed, "There's my bridge." And the kicker was that my grandfather died soon afterward. Significant?

I've always wanted to put meaning to dreams. Scientists tell us that they are just our brain acting randomly, re-processing what we've done, and rewiring itself for the next day, but I'd like to believe in portends and messages in dreams. The only two that are really clear to me are after my parents died. I had one dream about each that was so clear, so real, so overwhelming that I had to believe they were contacting me. In the dream with my mother she ran toward me and hugged me tightly. I said so loudly that I woke my husband "I can feel the hug."

So dear Reds and readers have you had any amazing dream experiences? Have you ever dreamed the plot of a book?

p.s. Amy emailed me yesterday to say that she'd had swim lessons as a small child right next to the Mormon temple so maybe she had seen that picture before. Thanks for bursting the bubble, Amy!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Don't even get me started. (Oh, too late.) I have the same dream, all the time, about a house. I would recognize the house anywhere, and I wish I would have the opportunity!
 It's, ah, sort of disappears when I try to describe it, but it's on a lake, very big and lots of windows. It also has a stairway, with flowers painted on the risers. And in my closet--"my" closet, because I live there--there's a door that opens into another room, and in that room is a, like, closet of beautiful things. Map drawers--you know?--filled with scarves and pearls. And clothes I forgot about.
It's all beautiful wood, and opulent and wonderful. And EVERY time, I think--oh, I keep forgetting about this! Why do I never remember this room is there? and someitmes in the morning, I feel as if I should go look for it.

Plot of a book? No. But there's still hope.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I have recurring dreams about living in a huge house that has far more rooms in it than are used. Often, it's some variation of my grandmother's house (an 1820's Greek Revivial since passed out of the family.) Sometimes, it's an older two story house with an unexpected third story that leads to a light-filled, modern apartment. In my dreams, the rooms aren't secret, exactly, but are extra spaces, places I can fix up or retreat to or live in. The houses (or occasionally barns) vary - I can think of six off-hand - but my sense of excitement and pleasure as I go exploring is always the same.

My other recurring dream is about needing to use the toilet and not finding one. It usually ends with me waking up and dashing to the bathroom.

HALLIE EPHRON: Ah, yes, all the Ephron girls took swim lessons at Camp Tocaloma on Santa Monica Blvd. in the shadow of the Mormon Temple. I adore Amy's tart notion: being prepared to stick a pin in your spiritual balloon.

Like Hank I dream of houses, and drawers loaded with goodies I've forgotten about, and like Julia of houses with hidden rooms and desperately seeking a toilet and finding only ones that don't work. I'm also big on packing dreams -- I have to pack up everything by a deadline that I can't possibly make. Anxiety, anyone? I wake up and my jaw aches. I know this must sound familiar to a few of you at least...

LUCY BURDETTE: I know the toilet dream too--ridiculous! My recurring house dream has to do with figuring out where I'm going to put a big group of visitors--I mean hour upon tedious hour of assigning rooms and beds.

I also had a dream recently in which I was in law school. No offense Julia and Ross, but law school? Pure torture. Plus I was turning 60 and trying to hide it so the other students wouldn't realize I was over the hill and tackling something way out of my realm.

Take that Dr. Rhys Bowen!

RHYS: I took a course in dream psychology when I was in college and learned that recurring dreams about a house are how we see ourselves. So Hank, Hallie and Julia with your big beautiful houses, you have a healthy ego--but Julia you have talents you haven't had time to explore yet.

And I think we've all had the toilet dream, and I have the packing one, and the being too late for my flight one. I wonder why that is?

So has anyone out there dreamed a plot for a book? Been contacted by the dead? Seen into the future? Inquiring minds want to know.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have, not exactly a recurring dream, but a similar dream, very often. I'm in a house and I know I live there, but it's not like any house I've ever seen, or actually lived in. And in every dream the house is different. Rhys, I'm sure a dream psychologist could have a field day with that one!

My most memorable dream? The morning of my beloved grandmother's funeral. I don't know how to describe it except to say that she was there with me, and telling me that she was all right. This was thirty years ago, and it was such a profound experience that even now I can't write about it without tearing up.

And have I dreamed a book?  Yes, for the first time ever, THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS. I knew the basics of the plot but little else. I woke about 4 a.m. one morning with what seemed like the ENTIRE book in my head. Characters, scenes, dialogue, atmosphere... I got up, grabbed a notebook and a pen, and wrote like mad for about three hours.  I didn't manage to capture everything, but a good deal of what I dreamed that night did end up in the book. It was a bizarre and wonderful thing. I hope I'm lucky enough to have it happen again someday.


  1. Sometimes those early childhood memories can stay with you in strange ways and what we remember is repeating the story to ourselves again and again.

    I swear my dreams are my inner psychologist trying to help me work out my stuff on the cheap.

    I took my reoccurring chase dreams and stuck a character with them to illustrate his worrying. I haven't had the toilet dream, but I have had the one where I discover it's the end of semester and I just realized I had a class I had never attended or done any work for.

    My partner, Jan, claims dreams are developed by her brain to entertain her while she's sleeping.

    I've asked to trade with her, but she hasn't shown any interest!

    ~ Jim

  2. What a fascinating piece . . . much food for thought.

    I cannot say I have the same recurring dreams over and over as I tend not to remember what I have dreamed. What is more likely is that I will be some place, or find myself in a particular situation, and it will seem so familiar to me that I am forced to think about why it feels that way . . . and the answer is always the same: I dreamed this.

  3. Forgot to mention, my favorite dream: flying. Like Peter Pan. I haven't had that one in a while, but when it happens I just love it. Then there's the falling dream... fortunately I haven't had that one in awhile, either.

  4. I never have dreams that stay with me the next day; they vanish, like wisps of smoke, as soon as I awaken. So who knows? I could have dreamed a million plotlines by now.

    But remember dial telephones? I used to have a recurring nightmare of needing to call for help and misdialing the stupid phone, over and over and over again. So frustrating! No one was happier to have pushbutton phones than I.

  5. Coincidentally, today's word is "hypnopompic":

    hypnopompic \hip-nuh-POM-pik\ , adjective:

    Of or pertaining to the semiconscious state prior to complete wakefulness.

    He shudders, snaps himself out of it; as one can, with effort, do, to escape from a bad dream, working one's way in stages, toward hypnopompic state until finally, fully awake.
    -- Mary Caponegro, The Star Cafe

    He woke fitfully, from a dream where his work had gone terribly wrong. He was still hypnopompic.
    -- Richard Powers, The Echo Maker

    Hypnopompic literally means "sending away sleep" in Greek. It was coined in English in the early 1900s from the roots hypno- meaning "sleep" and pomp meaning "sending away."

  6. Hurray!

    And the winners of Brad's books are!

    Danielle Gomes and Jennifer Rummel

    Contact me at h ryan at whdh dot com

    and send me your address!

    whoo hoo!!

  7. Oh,Karen, the dial phone dream! ALWAYS!

    ANd flying--yes. I can tell you EXACTLY the rules for how to fly.. Like--you can't carry anything. ANd you have to take off from the ground, you can't jump off a high place. How do I know that? I learned in the dream.

    I've only had it once , and I loved it. But--I think--let me know if this wrong, dream people--that it's NOT a positive-meaning dream.

  8. I used to fly all the time. Sometimes it was wonderful, soaring over a bright blue ocean. Other times it turned into a nightmare. I'd flap my arms to raise myself off the ground when bad guys were chasing me and only be able to get about seven feet in the air--low enough for them to grab my feet.

    But like Hallie I seldom dream it any more. And sometimes it turned into falling. I'd fly faster and faster then be out of control with that falling sensation.

  9. I often dream of driving to a town and see town and neighborhoods of old houses very clearly. Memory or past life? Who knows?

    I also dream of hometown as it was when I was younger.

    Like Rhys, I have had dreams of dead loved ones that are so real I feel the person's presence.

    Premonition dreams: yes, esp when I was a child. I think I still do now but don't remember them.

    Plots of book: yup! I jot them down add plan to spend my summer writing my first mystery novel.

    Rhys, do I need to see a shrink or what? LOL.

  10. First let me just say I am crushed, CRUSHED, to not have won a copy of Brad Meltzer's book. But, it's okay . . . really. don't give it another thought . . . really.


    I love today's topic and all the comments - this is lovely!

    oTAY. Moving right along. Recurring dream, oh yes. And mine is roaming through a big house trying to find my way to the ONE room that I really want to find. Sometimes I find it, sometimes not. I don't feel particularly sad when I don't find it, nor do I feel particularly thrilled when I do - just always searching for it. Oddly enough, yesterday my cousin Laurie commented that the stock image of a house I've used for the cover image of my first novel (squeeeeeeee!) reminded her of our grandparent's house in Cambridge, MD. We all loved that house so much. I don't think the house really looks too much like it - except the porch. And it does. And it bothers me a little that I didn't realize it until Laurie pointed it out to me.

    My most memorable dream is one I keep wishing I would have again, but it's only happened once. Donald and I were at a black and white ball (think Truman Capote or Dominick Dunne). He was in a tux and I was in a long white gown. The only colors in the dream were huge gorgeous desplays of flowers everywhere. Everyone we have ever known was there and everyone looked so beautiful and so happy. I loved that dream.

  11. Kaye, I've never had such a fashionable dream.
    But I do dream that I'm starring in a big play, usually a musical. Sometimes it's a good dream--I go onstage, open my mouth and the lines just come out.
    Other times it's a panic dream. I'm about to go on and I can't remember my lines. Search frantically for script, only find grocery lists.

  12. I have dreams of a large, spacious house with lots windows and light and outdoor spaces--screened porch leading to terraces with umbrella tables and chairs with steps leading down to lush gardens with benches and tables and chairs under vine-covered arbors and pergolas. And I have lots of guests and am wandering around, making sure everyone is comfortable and happy. Very pleasant dream and one day I want to own that house.

    Off the top of my head, I can think of two prescient dreams--there have been more. In one, I dreamed a lover and the nickname he called me months before meeting a man who became my fiance and called me that same nickname in that same voice. In another, I dreamed a science fiction short story and once awake wrote it out. A friend read it. A year later, I met Ben and we became friends and then a couple. My friend, after meeting him, said, "You wrote about him in that story." I looked it up, and I had.

  13. I've never had the flying dream, only the falling one, which I hate. So not fair.

    I've had the "end of term, didn't realize there was a paper due" dream many times. That's not hard to figure out.

    I want Kaye's dream.

  14. I'm a definite believer in dreams and that they are the keepers of memory and communication with others -- both in the present, past and future. I think there are so many things about our brain that we don't know about, and I wonder if we ever will. I mean, that's gotta mean something when even the fastest, most advanced computer can't do what the human brain can. So yeah, I guess this is my way of saying that there's more going on in our heads than we realize. And yep, I've used my own dreams and sensations to fuel many of my own stories!

  15. I dream houses all the time--sometimes familiar ones that have been transformed, sometimes strange ones although I always know my way. Nice to know my ego's in good shape.

    But my best dream ever: I was getting ready to leave my day job and write full time. I dreamed I was cleaning out closets, gleefully. I knew I'd made the right decision. And I did.

  16. I've studied dream analysis, and was in a dream group for several years. It's really amazing stuff. In my experience, recurrent dreams tend to shift a bit, meaning something slightly different each time, but also indicate continuing threads in our lives.

    I've dreamed bits of plots, and seen characters come to life, but am really impressed that Deborah dreamed the bulk of the plot of her book! Dream Voice was really busy that night!

  17. No one has mentioned sex dreams.

    I had a recurring dream about myself and the parent of a student. The man was not particularly attractive, so it was not a fantasy.

    But later this man was involved in a public scandal -- perhaps I picked up his overactive libido?

    Anyway. I also dream of houses that feel comfortable, although they are not familiar -- and usually there are a lot of people.

    Some days, morning is a jarring interruption to a fascinating dream life.

  18. Nora, brilliant. SO brilliant.

    I want Deb's dream, and THEN Kaye's dream.

  19. What I want to know is what is it about houses? Are houses some Jungian archetype or something? Because I have a recurring dream about a house too. I call it the labyrinthian house.

    I rarely remember my dreams unless they are the recurring ones. Here's a weird thing and what leads me to believe that memory is illusion--memory's not based much on what really went down or how things really were: I have dreams of Sao Paolo, Brazil, where I lived for awhile. The dreams are vivid--like memories--and they're usually of me exploring the city and being proud of myself for negotiating the public transport system--buses--all to get to a gigantisimo shopping mall with a chocolate shop (figures) that I love.

    This is one of my memories of living in Brazil. Only, it is really? Have I simply had that dream so often that it's as good as a memory? All I know is that I perceive it as a memory, therefore, to me, it's my reality. I did negotiate the buses, did have a favorite chocolate shop, etcetera. And if I believe it, then it in fact becomes my reality...Whether it really happened or not (which I honestly don't know anymore).

    So weird...Does anyone fathom what I'm talking about? :-)

  20. don't start me about the elevator dream I used to have when I was in my twenties.....

  21. Rhys, Hallie, and all, thank you so much for including me -- Love Jungle Reds.
    some people believe houses are the many aspects of your life and memory....or in Jung's case collective memory. But I love the idea of trading dreams that James suggests -- sounds like a great idea for one of those weird matrix-like movies!

  22. I have a recurring house dream also. But mine's a bit different. Usually I'm moving into a new place and exploring, or maybe I'm visiting someone and exploring, but I keep finding room after room after room. Bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, sitting rooms - multiples of each. Sometimes they're fancy, most of the time they're shabby and need fixing up. At least they're interesting dreams!

  23. My recurring dream is that I'm working at a radio station but I don't have any music to play and the record library is locked. Pretty clear what that means. And it gives away the fact that I'm old enough to remember vinyl.

    I think I'd like the house in Linda's dream--for real and in a dream.

  24. My rotary dial phone nightmares were replaced by push button phone nightmares, especially back when they were new. In actuality, I DO sometimes have trouble with those buttons: my finger slides between two different buttons or I hit two at the same time. In the dreams, I have generally witnessed a horrific accident and it is up to ME to call for help. Nobody else wants to get involved!

    I often have dreams about a Victorian house. When I was in high school, we moved out of a housing project and into a duplex apartment in an old Victorian house. I LOVED everything about that place, despite the ancient plumbing and the fuses that were constantly blowing. It was in the downtown area of the city where I grew up, and was an easy walk to lots of places, including the library, where I often headed after school. In my dreams,I am often escaping from some sort of danger and I just keep running. Then I arrive at our old house. Except that when I walk inside, instead of of finding myself in our old apartment, I discover that the inside has been turned into a fancy tea room, and there is a craft fair going on in most of the rooms. The two apartments have been gutted so that there is plenty of space for the tea room and the craft fair. Everything is being run by sweet little old ladies wearing lace collar dresses, and everything is just so delightful! A few days after 9/11 I had the first of these dreams.
    I dreamed that I was running away from terrorists. When I got inside and found the tearoom and craft fair instead of the old apartment, I explained to one of the old ladies what I was running from and she promised that everyone would be safe inside that house!(I think it is probably significant that we moved to that house from a neighborhood that was not especially safe.) In some of the dreams that I am running to this house for safety, I discover rooms I never noticed when we lived there and I end up hiding in one of them with other people who are also in danger. One time I "discovered" an entire apartment that I never knew was there!

    And then there is the occasional dream that I have to go see one of my doctors. His office is on the second floor of a modern two story medical office building. I enter the building and walk upstairs. I walk down the hallway to his office and open the door. Instead of his waiting room, I find a very large craft fair! There is an area set up as a tea room! By the way, there is no resemblance in this dream between the craft fair and tea room of my other craft fair and tea room dream. In the doctor office dream I am never running away from danger as I am ALWAYS doing in the Victorian house dream. And in the doctor office/craft fair/tea room dream, the rooms are all modern. I only started going to this specialist about two years ago,and the dreams began a few months later. By the way, I happen to love tea rooms and craft fairs!

  25. There are people in my dreams that I know in my dreams, only in my dreams. When I was a little girl I called them the people of the dream. Years later a person from an old dream will appear in a new dream. I recognize them as I dream and know they are only in my dreams. I am always happy to see them and know who they are. When I am awake, though, I can't remember what they looked like, what they did or said, or why they were there.

  26. I have never had a flying dream, darn it. I've had dreams where I'm in falling elevator and I'm calculating when to jump up in the air when the elevator hits bottom. Sort of optimistic, isn't it? My recurring dreams are always frustration dreams. I'm returning to college to finish a degree but I can't figure out what to major in. Nothing seems interesting. Or I've been cutting class, and now it is time for finals and I haven't read the books. Not even sure where the class meets , my locker combination, my locker location, you name it.But I've had really cool dreams too, just not the same ones.

  27. elevator dreams, don't start me....

  28. Lisa wrote: "Are houses some Jungian archetype or something? Because I have a recurring dream about a house too."

    Yes. They often represent ourselves, or our sense of ourselves, finding our place, and the like. That's why a recurrent house dream will change slightly when it recurs--because you are in a different place. Dreaming of a hotel or dorm room has a little different meaning -- those are transitional places, and dorm rooms often relate to studying or learning, or setting out on our own. A lot -- almost everything -- in dream interpretation depends on the individual dreamer and the context, although certainly we can identify general themes, like transition dreams, anxiety dreams, and the like.

    Dreams that feature specific people are sometimes disturbing because we don't think of the person in real life the way we dreamed about them, e.g., in the sex dream mentioned. Specific people may show up not so much as the literal person, but for what they represent.

    Mr. Right had a flying dream this fall and flew right out of the bed!

  29. I have recurring dreams about still being in school. I either haven't attended classes or don't know where my classes meet. And sometimes they're subjects foreign to me, like paleontology. I have to wake up and remind myself that I'm through with school, have an advanced degree, etc. I read somewhere it's a sign of childhood insecurity. Oh, swell.

  30. Judy,

    I'm a college instructor and I STILL have those dreams. I think it's a form of text anxiety that we never get over.

    Cathy AJ

  31. Living in a big house near a lake is what I really want. I just don't know if there are any lake-house that is for rent.

  32. I am currently looking for a property just like in the picture that is for sale. That will serve as my retirement home.