This sort of follows the theme of my last blog. I’ve been thinking a lot of the power of the subconscious mind and in particular dreams and that short interval between waking and sleeping which is often a time when snatches of dream are particularly vivid and ideas will suddenly occur to me. Of course I need to be sure to have pen and paper close at hand so that I can write them down otherwise they are as temporary and insubstantial as mists.
I have two or three recurring dreams and I have had the same two or three since I was a child. One is the secret room I wrote about in the last blog.
Another is of flying.
Everyone dreams about flying, don’t they? I hope so. They are glorious dreams yet oddly tiring. The way mine works is that it is exceedingly difficult to get off the ground. It takes immense concentration and will but once I’m about four inches up it gets much easier. Then I can rise and rise and suspend myself on my stomach or my back or shoot straight up and then dive down as if I were in water. I do not dog-paddle- that would be undignified in the ether- but I do steer and propel myself with small motions of my hands. I’s great to have the ability and it comes in handy if I’m dreaming about zombies or vampires when I can travel above the roofs and avoid any unpleasantness. I used to wake up from these airborne dreams quite exhausted with my leg muscles strained and quivery and frequently a headache as if I had been concentrating very, very hard. It would have been interesting to see a video tape of myself asleep. Were my legs scissoring through the air, was I flailing like a beached whale instead of soaring as I was inside my head?
Tiring as they were, they were lovely and I’m so glad I still get to fly even now when real life too often impinges on fantasy.
The other dream is not so nice and it involves tunnels and tons of earth and rock above me as I try to dig my way out of a passageway that becomes increasingly narrower. Do you know those indoor McDonald’s play lands like a gigantic hamster habit-trail for children? Those would be my worst nightmare. The thought of getting stuck in a plexi-glass tube with the oxygen running out. I refused to even take my son to one of them when he was three or four because I was positive he would go up a chute and then need his mommy and I wouldn’t have been able to force my fear aside to go get him. I also didn’t want to introduce him to Big Macs any sooner than I had to.
Curiously the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where big-boned Augustus gets stuck in the chocolate tube does not trigger my anxiety but I’ll tell you what does.
Alan Garner’s “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen” had a profound effect on me as a child. It and the sequel, “The Moon of Gomrath” are exciting, chilling, fantastic adventure stories for kids perhaps not altogether ready for the epic length of “Lord of the Rings”.They’ve both been re-issued by Harcourt Books. I read them at age ten and I’ve recently re-read them as an adult and they still kept me up at night, chewing my fingernails and prey to a feeling of claustrophobia in my throat.
Here are a couple of excerpts from “The Weirdstone” where the two children are negotiating a series of tunnels hundreds of feet below the surface:
“They lay full length, walls, floor and roof fitting them like a second skin. Their heads were turned to one side for in any other position the roof pressed their mouths into the sand and they could not breathe. The only way to advance was to pull with the fingertips and to push with the toes, since it was impossible to flex their legs at all, and any bending of the elbows threatened to jam the arms helplessly under the body.”
And a little further along they encounter a sharp bend, a hair pin turn.
“Colin was an inch taller than his sister and that was disastrous. His heels jammed against the roof; he could move neither up nor down, and the rock lip dug into his shins until he cried out with pain. But he could not move.”
Ok, Colin does get out but he spends some time imagining himself as a living fossil and thinking how shocked archaeologists would be to discover him in the future. He is a British child and pragmatic and sees the humor in the most unpleasant situations. The dwarves who accompany them get out too. They may be smaller but they are bulked up with armor and long swords which obviously do not bend when the tunnel takes a 90 degree turn.
This is edge of your seat stuff and it epitomizes my recurring dream. And thank goodness Alan Garner wrote about it so that I never have to confront this demon myself in my writings.