Most people have recurring dreams. Some even have recurring themes though the particulars of each dream may change. For instance, two recurring themes for me are flying and getting lost. Sometimes, the two merge and I dream of getting lost in flight. I recall one dream in which I flew a commercial airliner at an extremely low altitude through fog, snow, and whitecaps, trying to avoid power lines in a desperate attempt to find the runway. I wore a blue uniform with silver wings and a matching pilot’s cap. I cut quite the figure.
This week I had another dream of the lost variety. I attended a retreat at a university and was part of a discussion group run by two enormous women; one with short, blonde hair who seemed to be in charge, the other a brunette. I wasn’t interested in group therapy and so focused on other things like the in-law who suddenly appeared singing lullabies to an infant in Hindi. The in-law in question (a real person) is not Indian and speaks not a word of Hindi, but there she was, sing-songing to the child as if she were Indira Ghandi.
I walked across campus. Two elf-like men came toward me. They aimed right at me and were attached by a thread or cord. I did not change my trajectory and passed between them. One yelled, “Hey, we’re on a walk here!” He was short with a pinched, painted face. I expected him to get vehement, even violent, but he backed off with his friend, leaving me alone to explore a Gothic building that I recognized as the hall where I spent many days and nights as a doctoral student in Washington, DC. This building, however, was all white with an all-white interior. Picture the scene from Doctor Zhivago (1965) in which Yuri and Lara enter the frozen dacha, but without “Lara’s Theme.”
None of the people from my student years were there, which is characteristic of these dreams. That is, I am lost in time as well as space. None of the old coordinates apply anymore. I am rendered powerless and incapable of returning. Returning where? Home, of course. The graduate school building served as a kind of home for me but, more importantly, it represents a time in my like that I cannot return to. As I passed offices, I saw new staff and faculty. The men wore mustaches and were preparing for an important academic event, although I could not tell what that was.
Then the building turned into a dormitory. Frantically, I tried to find my room, passing up and down the white staircase, looking into white dorm rooms in an effort to find my place. But again, none of the old, familiar patterns or memories applied. It was like using a map to find a place that no longer exists. I went up and down the staircase, checking each of the floors, finally getting lost on the fifth floor, where the rooms had narrowed to a point just below the roof and had dormers.
I lost a fraternity brother forty years ago. He was training to become a naval aviator and died in a plane crash. I remember his death affecting me at the time, and I have thought of him over the years, but finding him suddenly became an all important task as I rushed up and down the staircase. However, I never found him, nor did I find my room.
At one point, hopeful, I peered into an open room and saw a porcelain sink and sun shining through a window beyond. A bar of soap and shaving kit sat on the edge of the basin. I noticed the color red, not from blood but the handle of the razor sticking out from the kit. Then whiteness overwhelmed me, and the dream ended. As soon as I woke, I wrote down the details as best I could remember them.
This dream felt intimate and real in that it dealt with things at the core of my being. What might those be? I feel within me a drive to find home, to return to the past, to struggle with myself (and others) so that I do not waste time on the trivial, which has consumed all too much of my energy to date. After all, how much time do any of us have left?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t force things anymore, having learned the hard way that when I do, it often backfires. I am just acutely aware of how important home is for everyone. Is this not even more evident now given world events?
Somewhere in that white building is my room.
Image credits: feature by Ba Ba; child joker by Zachary Kadolph; staircase by Loegunn Lai. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.” Happy Birthday to Lisa Marie Brancatelli.