|A hummingbird nesting outside my boyfriend's|
bathroom window. The moss cup is the
size of a large egg.
So I woke up this morning with the clear memory of a moment in a dream where a hummingbird, wise and minute and glittering, came to sit weightless on my shoulder under the drift of my hair; it was a guide of some kind, although I can't remember why, or to what. And the memory of this dream startled me, because it was a dream-moment of a kind I have so rarely that I can count every instance I remember on my fingers: a moment of gladness and joy.
|It's not about egrets, either, but here's the one|
I miss seeing every morning at the Palace of Fine Arts.
But not just joy. The entire part of me - my favorite part of me - that sees beauty, and wonder, that makes meaning, that loves poetry, that feels divinity or exultance or delight, the part of my brain that allows me to imbue the world with any kind of radiance or importance, is not there when I dream. At all. In any way. I may wake up in the morning and recall a landscape my dream-self saw and know that it was beautiful, but my dream-self did not experience it that way. Although I rarely have nightmares (my dreams don't fall into the categories of good and bad so much as interesting and frighteningly, horrifyingly, stickily boring) I never have good dreams. Wish fulfilment, sure, but always with panic and excitement, not real happiness. I don't feel any of the things that make life beautiful to me in the waking world - there are rare times I've really enjoyed eating something in a dream, but I count the three or four instances in which that's happened as belonging among the handful of exceptions that I mentioned.
Once, just once, I dreamed I glimpsed the full moon through the window of a train and thought how beautiful. In my waking life, these moments happen to me every single day, in multitudes. Gladness, gratitude, joy, exhilaration, the sense that there is wonder in existence - obviously, if you know me even a tin bit, these things are a huge part of my life. But they do not enter my dreams. In fact, if you had to ask me to describe my idea of hell, I would describe to you my dream world: an existence in which I am given no chance to experience the things that matter most to me. I've fought zombies and climbed mountains, but it's flat. Interesting, but meaningless. A world in which joy is absent. I do suffer in my dreams; I feel every other emotion normally. It's just the part of me that makes me most myself is glaringly, bizarrely gone.
I find it sort of terrifying and sort of fascinating simultaneously. The terror comes from the possibility of getting stuck there; the fascination comes from wondering why on earth this is. If dreams are a kind of dumping ground, as scientists seem to think, am I clearing out all the non-joyful junk in order to make more room in my conscious brain for joy - a kind of nightly housecleaning? Or is there something darker and weirder at work? It's hard for me to feel that there's not something of value in being given a glimpse of the world-without-joy when joy is so intensely important to me, but I can't say exactly what the lesson's supposed to mean.
|I don't have a good daylight picture, but this is my view at sunset.|
Whether or not it is the lesson I am meant to learn from this, because my waking self can make meaning as it chooses, and furthermore delights in doing so, the sense I choose to make of this disparity has to do most of all with gratitude. Perhaps it's no more than neural flickers, a cranial logic that has nothing to do with the complicated webs my conscious mind can weave to see a pattern, but for me, the whole and conscious self, awake and curious, it goes like this: I have dreams without joy so that I don't take joy for granted. I am aware that joy is a gift, a blessing, not a right, not just the way things are, because every night I descend into a world without it.
I often like my dreams; they can be fun and even funny. (Humor, oddly enough, does not vanish when I sleep, although it changes slightly; my dream-jokes are rarely funny in waking life, but at least I don't lose the ability to laugh. usually, however, it's based on some kind of irony or an elaborate, dreamy pun I could never hope to explain, any more than one can explain why things are funny when stoned.) But there is an unshakeable bleakness in them, too. And so, although I see the world in all sorts of shining, luminescent ways, I never get so light that I forget that there is weight, and fly away into the cloudless skies of improbable serenity, into the realm where the truth of things-that-are-not-joyful are ignored and overlooked. My dreamlife is a braided thread that tethers me to the reality of the earth. How necessary that is, how beautiful, how frightening.