Dream On – Part 1

I recently heard the author Robert Glück read from a memoir-in-progress called About Ed in which he incorporates dreams. Bob likes to fold in matter written by others and in this case the dreams belong to former lover Ed, an artist who died of AIDS. The dreams demonstrate, among other things, that the dreamer knew a thing or two about striking visual imagery, and, poignantly, that he knew he was going to die. As I leapt and shimmied from scene to scene along with the dreamer, I was intrigued to glimpse how the dreams simultaneously frame and are framed by the story of the two men’s relationship. I am looking forward to reading the memoir in its entirety.

I’ve always loved Bob’s writing, and felt especially close to this work because of my own involvement with dreams. My mother used to comment that the simple fact of dreaming boosted her self-esteem. Depleted by the demands of parenting four kids while teaching high school French, her dreams reminded her that she was an interesting person with an interesting mind, someone bigger than the sum of the items on her endless to-do list. Her comments must have programmed me to appreciate dream life. I still remember dreams I had as a child, and I started recording them when I was about 12. In my early 20s I saw a therapist who taught me dream analysis based on Gestalt principles. I still love this approach and the surprising insights it inevitably reveals.

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In my late 30s, as a grad student in the MFA in Creative Writing program at San Francisco State University, I encountered William Carlos Williams’ prose poem “Kora in Hell: Improvisations.” It includes diaristic entries Williams wrote at the end of long days working as a doctor, passages that allow the drift into sleep to modify his musings. This poem opened a door and I walked right through it—into my dreams. I’m completing my third full-length creative book and all three make extensive use of dreams.

But in addition to employing dreams for artistic ends, I also continue to record them, often several a night, with no particular goal in mind. Why, exactly? In a sense, just because. Because one of my favorite things about being human is the fact of imagination. As much as it gets us into trouble, it’s also one of the things that’s amazing about us. And dreams are the imagination at work every single night, in all its wild, vivid glory (and sometimes in its mundane, practical aspect—dreams leave no stone unturned). Even if I record a dream and don’t do anything in particular with it, I feel better knowing I’ve honored it by writing it down. I enjoy feeling the remnants of the dream cling to my day, coloring it with a vision from the beyond.

You might be saying, Well, Sarah, you dream, but I don’t. Dear reader, fact is, practically everyone dreams, every night. That’s just how it is. Even cats dream.

Or you might be saying, OK, I’ll take science’s word for it that I have dreams, but I don’t remember them. Never fear. In future blog posts, I’ll provide tips I give coaching clients who want help with dream recall and dream recording. I’ll also write more about the many benefits of dreams and various approaches to understanding them.