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.


  1. Rob, your dreams are on a higher plane than mine, and that is a good thing.

    Virtually all of my dreams are anxiety dreams, and almost all of them present a situation from back in my corporate days, which were lengthy (30 years) and highly stressful, but which ended over 20 years ago. Yet, still, the pressures of that life live with me, if evident only in my dreams.

    I met a woman the other day who shared her stress on the job. We talked, and my encouragement to her was to focus on the fact that her career was just a way for her to support herself and her family, nothing more. When I left the company for academic pastures, I instantly became yesterday’s news, and she will be also.

    She acknowledged that she always considered it to be more than a job, but allowed that my experience would probably be hers as well. I hope she finds some peace before the stress burrows too far into her being.

    1. Vic, your description of the corporate life reminds me of what people say about the military. It stays with you and even defines you for the rest of your life. However, in the end, you’re living somebody else’s dream (corporate company or military company), not your own. Good advice to the woman.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I didn’t see a comment being reviewed notice when I posted my comment, so I’m reposting with some new observations added and typos corrected. I’d also like to eventually quote from your blog (with a link to and recommendation of it of course) in a future article on my site. You can reach me at jonathanzap@hotmail.com, if I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you don’t object.

    I don’t read all your blogs–who has time for all the info coming at us no matter how valuable?–but instead open only those where I feel an intuitive prompting, and in every case where I’ve done that there’s been something for me to comment on. An exception was your “Blexcroid” post, where that numinous word was visible without opening, so I can’t claim intuition there. I also haven’t tested if I there would be something for me to comment on if I opened ones where I didn’t feel the intuition.

    Anyway, in this case I did, and I do have multiple points of connection to the content. For one, I’ve been doing dream interpretation since my last year at Ursinus, for myself and for others free at certain festivals. I’ll begin with my standard disclaimer: “Dream interpretation is highly subjective, so the only validity is if anything the interpreter says resonates with the truth sense of the dreamer.” No interpretation should ever be imposed on another’s dream, and dream expert Jeremy Taylor says every interpretation should begin with the phrase: “If this were my dream . . . ” Also, most dreams should not be interpreted, IMO, the only reason dream interpretation works is that people tend to bring what Jungians call “big dreams” for dream interpretation. This is clearly a big dream, and given that it converges recurrent dream themes, it’s a maximal case for interpretability and meaningfulness.

    Also, though I have some intuitive confidence about the major themes of this dream testimony, I don’t have the dream present to share associations which handicaps the interpretation. For example, if I’ve ever seen Dr. Zhivago, I have no memory and don’t know the context of the scene, though I get the numinous white theme from the clip. Also, the clip you chose ends with Omar Sharif opening a desk drawer and finding paper, ink and fountain pens. Unlike the white sterility of the dorms where you can’t find what you’re looking for, here we have a white palace, and Yuri does find something. This might be significant–auspicious for you as a writer, during a winter life phase–but I’d need to know more context and associations.

    I’ll start with the interpretation, and then move toward supporting examples. The dream shows your soul moving toward (as are we all) toward the “white light” frequently reported in NDEs–in other words toward the winter season of life and the overwhelming white light at the end of the death tunnel, with ambivalence, longing to return to youth, and feeling the loss of authority that can come with retirement from an official position and the other loses accompanying aging, dying and death where we molt worldly authority.

    I’m guessing you have similar thoughts about the dream as you write poignantly relevant words about that life stage: “I am lost in time as well as space. None of the old coordinates apply anymore. I am rendered powerless and incapable of returning.”

    I usually don’t give flying in dreams a psychological interpretation in itself , as it is commonly enjoyed as a freedom discovered when one is in a dream body not bound by gravity, but the dream where the lost and flight themes converge is full of relevant content: “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. ” Here we see the image of the authoritative persona, the spiffy uniform, and a plane captain has absolute authority in regard to all the lives onboard. “SIlver wings” suggests the authority of an older man with slivered hair. But this confidence in your outfit/uniform/persona is dramatically contrasted with desperation, low altitude, and physical hazards. The goal is to land the plane in a wintry landscape, in a last season of life.

    At the same time, there is a longing to return to youth and this associates with a search for a fraternity brother who was a pilot and who died young. The soul, or what Jung would call the “Self,” is transtemporal and especially in dreaming it may return to scenes from childhood as well as looking toward future trajectory.

    The longing for the dorm may have a dual aspect. Many have nostalgia for their school years. Jung was struck by this aspect in his father, a Protestant Minister, who seem to have a devitalized connection to his ministry and faith and only really came alive telling stories about his college years and singing fraternity songs, etc. To use the dream metaphor, he was unable to land the plane in the season of life he was actually in. As a Mary Renault character says, “Man must make peace with his seasons or the gods will laugh at him.”
    The other aspect is a longing to return to the developmental and metamorphic vitality of both adolescence and school. One of the most common themes in NDE reports is a realization of human incarnation as school. The soul wants to regain that vitality and openness to change associated with schooling and youth, but it’s lost because it can’t do that literally and nostalgically, but only by landing the plane in the present season and accepting that the winter season leads to the white light at the end of human incarnation.

    In the video clip, the Ice Palace is portrayed as quite numinous and beautiful. It is a less organic season, and could be seen as lifeless, but the writing implements are perfectly preserved and when Shariff looks back at what seems like an anima figure, there is a feeling of soulful approval and recognition.

    How to get to that more favorable place in the winter season (the “winter writing palace”) is also illustrated in the dreams. Both dreams have a “low-ceiling” motif suggesting a temporal urgency in making the landing, and relinquishing all the the dorms, described as narrow and low-ceilinged represent. “As I passed offices, I saw new staff and faculty. The men wore mustaches and were preparing for an important academic event” There are new people in the offices who have the official authority and are doing important academic events, but you don’t know what those events are, nor do you know these new officials. From what I read in a previous blog, you are retiring from being a professor who presumably had an office and knew about important academic events. Also, significant is that they have mustaches, the facial hair associated with police and men claiming official authority in a number of cultures. Freud, probably in Civilizations and its Discontents, said something about shaving facial hair as a form of voluntary castration, of men surrendering male id (And ID or identity) to be civilized, etc. On the physical level, in the fourth season of life, all men are forced to acknowledge that it is new, younger men, who have reached the age of authority and who, on the bodily level, have more masculine potency, etc. This is dramatized in the presidential drama with two leading candidates people judge as too old to hold office.

    The two elfin figures have painted faces, and in the photo posted there’s a child with a face painted white, so we have the white theme again, and could interpet these string line defending charactes as the threshold guardians of the winterland.

    So this brings us to the denouement of the big dream, the bathroom sink, which I see as an image of rebirth. To land the plane in the winter season of life and prepare to move toward the overwhelming white light, the red action handle (not blood, but the color of blood which can come during shaving, and for women childbirth, and which suggests pain and sacrifice) by grasp the red action handle and taking the shave, despite feeling overwhelmed by the approaching white light, is to move with this inevitable curve of change, not get lost by trying to return to what is, on the literal level irretrievable, but to proactively move with the curve of change, to shave off, or molt, the male authority of the past, make peace with the season, which could be highly auspicious for writing and lead to a winter writing palace where the anima figure (the soul and/or a partner) looks on approvingly.

    In college, both you and I had beards. As in the familiar phrase about financial sacrifice, “taking a haircut” the dream suggests you need to take a shave. “…sun shining through a window beyond” poetically invokes the event horizon of death.

    I was drawn toward this blog at a propitious moment because I was taking a quick break between writing projects, and was trying to land the project of this month, a major article and associated video on Halloween: https://zaporacle.com/ai-the-singularity-archetype-and-the-high-possibility-of-an-impending-viral-apocalypse/ I on a one- day retirement from writing, as I’d done all my part, and now it was up to my Godson and webmaster to render the video and upload to youtube, etc. But there are also amazing parallelisms between your blog and my article. I was compelled to write this article because of a dream on the 2nd day of this month, and the article contains more than one dream interpretation, and it relates to crossing the event horizon of death, and it also discusses at length three significant episodes at Ursinus in 1976, 1977 and 1978 when we were both students in dorms. The article is about AI and the two sides of what I now call “The Singularity Archetype” that I discovered at Ursinus in 78′ which relates to the parallel event horizons of death and species metamorphosis, so much of my article is highly relevant to the death theme of the dream/blog and we are contemporaries dealing with the fourth life season.

    Also, I should emphasize that the dreams do not seem to be warning about the imminence of death, though that event horizon is always imminent for mortals, but the winter life season. Another cross-period and cross-cultural NDE theme is the afterlife place is an ideoplastic matrix where terrifying bardos may occur) but in its more landed and stable versions it is seen as a “summerland” with flowers possessing colors not seen on earth ant that appear to be illuminated from within, colored, illuminated glass palaces, etc. It’s a summerland of evergreen vitality and not a wintry place. These descriptions are strikingly common. Also, when people have contact with a deceased beloved, who were typically aged and/or terribly ill when last seen, they are usually reported as looking at an idealized 25 years old and glowing with vitality. So, the red action handle here is about what you need to shave off or molt to bring vitality, and likely new writing, to the last, winter writing palace season of incarnation, so that you can be ready for the overwhelming white light to follow.

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