Cover of The Sandman, No 1 Neil Gayman, Jan 1989; art by Dave McKeen
I sleep 8 or 9 hours, but can resuscitate these three complicated early morning dreams:
- A tour group in a foreign land. I think it is London, a favorite place. I have a 2×2 plastic ticket in my hand; maybe it is for entry to a church, because museums are free there. Another tourist exchanges tickets with me. There is no conversation, but we go off together to rent a car; I will drive because I have driven right hand roads in South Africa. Connection with reality: After retirement I enjoyed several years as tour ship doc and leading tours to South America.
- A mountain trail. I don’t know who my compainions are but we are talking about a project providing elder-care, the subject of a book of mine about caregiving. I am retired, but still a licensed physician who can supervise caregivers and assist or intervene when appropriate. Connection with reality: a life long love of the trail, the river, the mountain top.
- ‘Mustering out‘ after two years with the US Navy I am wondering if I should re-enlist. Connection with reality: 1957 -59 as I completed the first year of a surgery residency, I was drafted into the US Navy and sent to the 32nd St. Naval Sation in San Diego. Part of my job was to read hundreds of 4×5 cm chest Xrays every week; advised to apply for a short course in radiology, I broke the basic rule in the military: Never Volunteer. Bingo: I was immediately reassigned to the USS Orca, AVP 49, a Seaplane tender in the Western Pacific (Fifth) Fleet. Yet in retrospect, that was fortunate. Seaplane Tenders, at the time, set up seadromes and provided fuel and support for seaplanes used for antisubmarine warefare. That inclued medical care for pilots. The Navy had decided aviators should command aircraft carriers: football field sized floating cities with several thousand residents, and good medical and surgical resources. Yet to bring a carrier as big as that past coastal shoals and rocks, or into a harbor is a complex task involving politics, regulations, and seamanship. Therefore aviator carrier captains must first become ship captains; the Orca was devoted to training them. A captain trainee took command for six months to learn the ropes (a fortuitous old sailing ship term; but it should have been ‘sheets’; sheets, however, generally was taught ashore!) The captain trainee needed to visit and become familiar with ports like those in Hawaii, Cebu, Guam and in Hong Kong. During each month-long visit to Hong Kong I, as a 25 year old physician with only 3 weeks introduction to the Navy, was responsible, among more traditional health matters, for medical liaison between US Naval vessels, and the Royal Naval Hospital, if a visiting ship couldn’t care for a crew member. While alcohol was a frequent shoreside fuel for US sailors, I held the only alcohol on board under lock, reserved for medicinal puposes, like a sailor who fell into the contaminated harbor. But for the Brits, fine alcohol in all forms, seemed to be a daily religious ritual. I enjoyed my work, was always treated tolerantly and leniently on the Orca; in port there was little for me to do except treat hangovers and venereal disease. At sea I did some minor surgery like the correction of a sailor’s prominent forward facing bat-like ears; read the Will and Ariel Durant’s huge 13 volumes of world history; played the guitar; and was allowed to bring aboard a motorized bicycle to drive around Okinawa while we are at White Beach. Best of all there was no live conflict with China over their intent to invade Formosa/Taiwan; that was one reason for the presence of the Fifth Fleet in the area. I feel priveleged to have been a physcian and officer in the Navy during a relatively uneventful time. Back in the real world a few years later I reflected: Should I have re-enlisted? But no. Half the time I would have been away from my young family. I had to become a physician for real,
Organizing and leading tours is the backgroud for the first dream. The Mountain trail conversaton and The Melba Notebooks. second edition, now in galley proofs and is background for the second dream. And Being a physician on a Seaplane tender 1957- 99 is the basis for the last.
What astounsds me most are the details of dreams. Where do they come from! I have never, to my memory, seen little plastic admission tickets like those in my dream today. I have never seriously considered a career as a US Navy doc, or thought of managing a team of elder-care givers. Or have I? I can’t say.
Wiki claims Dreams are the stuff of memory and myth. Dreaming is thinking. We examine our current issues. We come up with ideas; we gain a }clearer picture of ourselves Consider:
1) Alice in Wonderland; getting lost in a dream state with connections and observations about real life.
2) Greece and the dream infused by Zeus, to persuade Agamemnon to attack Troy. Homer believed in the influence of dreams on life, as did many in those times.
3) The Hogwart hero is led astray by subconscious thoughts implanted by a villain. But “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
4) Wuthering Heightss. Caththerine accepts a marriage proposal from Edgar after a dream about going to heaven with him.
5) Orwell’s 1984... Dreams are beyond our control. The Thought Police can read them and know that ‘If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.’
6) Midsummer Night’s Dream: Bottom: ‘I have had a dream, past the witt of man to say what / dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about t’expound this dream.’
7) Scrooge ‘You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!’.
8) Freud: Dreams are wish fulfilment or an attempt by the sleeping mind to heal festering issues in our past.‘The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in life.’
9) Niel Gaiman’s brilliant book, features dreams of transplanted American Gods … also he is very active and keeps a live blog, well worth looking at!
10) Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis “One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.”… a cockroach.
11) Elias Howe’s nightmare: In a dream, a spear with a hole in one end allegedly inspired his concept of the sewing needle.
12) John Lennon: , #9 Dream. The chorus repeats the phrase ‘Ah! böwakawa poussé poussé’. He says it came to him in a dream.
13) Salvador Dali referred to his painted dreams as Persistence of Memory where meltiing clocks, are melting time.
Well. I don’t want to go on so long that an innocent reader has nightmares. Life is but a Dream, is it not? If so, hope to Dream On.
Rooftop rain wakes me from a dream.
A thirsty land is suckled by the storm.
An open window inhales sweet breath
of Winter snow and silver Summer stream.
I rush to save sun-faded cushions
that fear the stain of dank black mold;
and return again to indoor light,
chilled by October’s sudden cold.
Our little dog peers from her lair,
moves only eyes in pet disdain
for forays into night wet air
long before dawn’s duties call.
I feel I must explain:
“We come; we go; like everything we know.
We dreaming dreamers dream
among the galaxies that blow
through time and place and space.
“We’re twins, you and I.
Born hungry, blind, and dumb,
We learn and grow and become,
but never see the years run by.
“What are we now, old girl?
Each instant was forever at our birth;
Then years shrink and fade like proven truth,
and now we dream at the edge of eternity.”
“Nonsense!” she snorts. “Enough!
Sleep, old liar; be still!”
Again my little dog barks outraged
that I talk while no one speaks to me.
Silly looking, but complex and wise,
She turns away with poodle sigh,
head down, with tight closed eyes,
shuts out the noise of rain,
and time, and humankind.