Discover more from An Ordinary Disaster
The Dream I've Dreamed a Thousand Times
An Ordinary Disaster — chapter 25 — One Dream
This is part of my book-length memoir AN ORDINARY DISASTER, one man's proof that despite what may seem like our inability to hear it, we can all learn to listen to ourselves, and to act upon the inner voice of our self, our sanity and our soul.
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There’s a singular dream of mine that I’ve had for as long as I can remember—a dream that I’ve had at least a thousand times. The details vary with the night, but the dream is always about a chase. The version I remember most vividly is from my twenties, and, as it is in dreams, the image arrives fully-formed. All at once, I find myself swinging through the treetops of a primeval forest so vast that it forms an entire landscape all by itself.
This endless expanse of impossible trees, each even larger than the massive redwoods of California, shapes a fantasy world through which I move like a monkey in a sea of leaves, past treehouses suspended from giant branches and huge flowers overhanging, dripping with wetness and life, precious sunlight streaming down from the canopy far above.
Far below, on an old road gone overgrown and shady, a small humanoid robot lopes along, pacing me as I move through the tree-tops. The machine is following me—not quite hunting, but it feels important that I stay ahead. I ape along from vine to vine and from brown outstretched limb to massive limb, thick and wide as a whale’s back, and then again, below, I catch another glimpse of the square metallic head and glinting electronic eyes turned upwards as they track me. A small red light pulses, seeking.
Already half-erased by florid growth, the dream road below me is like the road that ran from our house in Maine up through the woods to the sloping back field overgrown with wild blueberries. This was the road that I walked, and these were the woods that I ran through as a boy—then of course, not pursued by anything at all. In the dream though, I must move continuously to remain out of reach of my pursuer. I’m breathless and excited by the chase, and while I’ve ever quite been caught by whatever it is that’s tracking me—in this dream, in my haste, I miss a step, my feet slip off a branch, and then I’m falling.
When I was just sixteen, I wrote about this same forest in a youthful homage to the eco-futurist worlds built of words by writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Larry Niven, and in a tattered copy of Ernest Callenbach’s delicious—and very unlikely—Ecotopia. In my own story, I wrote of a home high, high up in these otherworldly trees, and, just as in my dream, the entire universe of that world was forest, like a green God all around me.
In other versions of the dream, that forest landscape has instead been a foreign city, a mansion of many rooms, or a jumble of giant colored blocks, and other things have taken the place of the robot: a tiger, a swarm of bees, a group of muscular parkour athletes—but whatever shapes these symbols take, they’re always after me.
I take a Jungian approach to the interpretation of dreams, according to which everything that appears in a dream originates in my own psyche, and also that, of course, there is no one fixed or correct interpretation. Like a spread of tarot cards, the meaning is whatever emerges from the reading of the images in the moment, and will appear differently at different times. Several different meanings can all be true, simultaneously.
Most often, and most of all, this dream feels like an anxious threat. The dream is also an expression of another major theme of this book—the primal importance of physical movement and adventure, outside, in the natural world. The character in the dream—which of course is always me—is always running, leaping, swinging, moving—and he is being pursued, or driven, one could say, not only to escape pursuit, and not only to simply move, but to be going somewhere and doing something.
He’s driven not just to escape, but to reach some goal, to accomplish something. The clock of life is ticking, and the dream is an expression of my basic drive to do something meaningful enough to satisfy what or who is pursuing me—which of course is also just another part of me. As Michael Meade has put it, “We are hunting our fate, even as we are pursued by it,” and so in this so-often-recurring dream, that part of myself that is my fate is pursuing me, pushing me along so that I may become someone.
I think it also shows, perhaps more than anything else, and just as it was for Le Guin, that for me, the word for world—and for home—is “forest.”
There’s only one other thing that has recurred so often for me as this dream of pursuit—and that is the feeling that I’ve written about so much here: the feeling of I don’t know, that I don’t know what to do, and that I can’t…at least not alone.
Just like this dream that has been with me for decades, that feeling has also come to me a thousand times and more, with its own message of unknowing, blockage, statis, and of terrifying loneliness, mental static, and paralyzing fear.
Now, only now, near the end of this story, that dream is gone—and so is the feeling of not knowing, along with the anxiety, the fear, the running, and the need to escape.
Now is the time
This is part of AN ORDINARY DISASTER, one man's proof that despite what may seem like our inability to hear it, and all of our attempts to avoid it, we can all learn to listen to ourselves, and to act upon the inner voice of our self, our sanity and our soul.
Especially if you’ve been following my work with interest, now is the time to become a paying subscriber, to show your support as I prepare The Final Chapter and move into the next chapter of the book’s journey, and of my journey with it. Paying subscribers will able to order a copy of the book (now, or later) for just the cost of shipping, and, also, and just as importantly, your commitment will show your appreciation for the work I’m doing here, and that we all do together.
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Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert A. Johnson — a manual for Jungian dream interpretation and other inner work.
Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
The Integral Trees by Larry Niven
The Word for World Is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin
You might also enjoy some of my other writing on subjects mentioned here, such as:
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I’ve got some questions for you
Do you have any recurring dreams?
How do you interpret the meaning of dreams?
Is there a word that means “home” for you?
What’s your own favorite forest world, fantasy or otherwise?
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