The other night I received an email from one of my sisters and her daughter regarding the subject of dreams. As dreams have always been fascinating to me I thought I might respond here on The Althing. They asked, “When you dream do you remember what you dreamed when you wake up and do you ever see specific faces in your dreams? Also, if you see a person is it someone you know, like family or a close friend, and is it the face of someone who is no longer with us, or someone who’s still here?” I’ll answer, but first some background.
For most of my life I had good dream recall, but only when I first woke up. Most would fade relatively quickly. There were exceptions. The earliest dream I recall a substantial amount of was over fifty years ago, when we lived on Chicago Avenue in Daytona Beach. The TV series “The Wild, Wild West” had just come out and my next two older sisters and I loved to play “Wild, Wild West.” If you recall the series you know that West and Gordon traveled in a ridiculously opulent private rail car. One night I dreamt I was on that train, but either fell off or was pushed. I tumbled down a steep, rocky embankment, and when I came to a stop there was a large conical hole gouged out of my knee. Looking into my knee I saw the layers of a club sandwich. Don’t ask me why, but let the analysis begin.
I had several recurring dreams over the years, mostly when I was younger. I never dreamt of falling but often dreamt of flying, but the variety of flying I did was typically a couple feet off the ground. I could just concentrate, and then I would levitate and move through the air standing straight up, as if I were riding an invisible, hovering Segway. I often dreamt of walking along a coast, be it sandy beach or rocky shore. As I walked the dry land got narrower and narrower until I had no choice but to walk in water that grew steadily deeper. I often dreamt of driving across low bridges that were covered in water a few inches above the surface of the roadway. I often dreamt of a couple homes I never lived in, one in the woods and one atop a hill in barren prairie. I often dreamt that I was in a building in a large city, leading a group of strangers out of the building to safety. As a small child I dreamt it was night time and there were monsters outside. Not just any monsters, but the movie versions of Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Dracula. Some nights I was outside with them, trying to get back in.
Probably my most oft repeated dream was me sifting fine sand through my fingers and finding coins. I had this dream over and over and over again. Many different details surrounding that one constant. Fine sand. My fingers. Coins. Around 1980 I was doing body work on my second car, a 1968 Buick Skylark. I had borrowed my brother-in-law’s sandblaster and was sandblasting my trunk in preparation of fibre-glassing it. It was in my parent’s driveway, beneath the shade of their pecan tree, and my Mom had pulled up a lawn chair and was watching me work. I scooped some of the fine sand out of the trunk with my hand, and as I did I came up with a handful of coins from down in the rear wheel well. I said, “Mom, look at this,” and I was about to tell her about my dreams of sand and coins, but before I could say anything she said, “Oh, that’s weird. You know, I’ve always had this dream where I sift coins out of fine sand with my fingers.” We compared notes and discovered we each had more or less the same recurrent dreams all our lives without the other one knowing it.
Sometime in that timeframe I also discovered that I had lucid dreams. That is to say, I would realize I was dreaming while I was in the midst of a dream, but I would keep dreaming. I even participated in a university study on lucid dreaming by Stephen Laberge and Jayne Gackenbach. Their research was all about controlling your dreams like some sort of movie, but that aspect didn’t interest me at all.
There were a couple instances when I had a vivid dream that I later set down on paper. In one I was “in” an upstairs room at my parent’s house, but at the same time I was “in” the Garden of Gethsemane. I knew I was some sort of lesser Apostle and the soldiers had arrived to arrest Jesus. I was making a vain effort to reason with the situation. “No. No. If we all just take a moment and talk about this we can work it all out.”
One night a sister-in-law’s father was in the hospital. I dreamt of a large family gathering at my parent’s house. I became aware that a lone figure was standing apart from everyone, leaning against one of the cars in the driveway. It was the old man. I knew it was him, but he wasn’t old. He was no more than twenty. Bald. Muscular. Healthy. I motioned for him to come over and join everyone but he just silently shook his head and stayed where he was. The dream ended and I heard the phone ringing downstairs and my Mom called upstairs to tell me the old man had died in the night.
Before I met my wife I wrote down details of another vivid dream, in which I met a woman walking down the street. I wrote that she “lives with her aunt” and “plays (or played) volleyball.” I wrote down that her last name was something like “Callabeff” or “Carabeff.” When my wife went to college she lived for a time with her aunt. She played volleyball in school. Her last name is Campbell. Not all the things I wrote down match, but there’s enough there to be interesting, make of it what you will.
Generally speaking, I did not have bad dreams or nightmares, but I had one very disturbing dream shortly before my Dad passed away. He and I were in the back yard of my parent’s house, where he and I would throw the football or baseball back and forth. It was cool. He was wearing his blue plaid flannel shirt. Abruptly he collapsed on the grass and I knew he was dead. That dream is one of the reasons my Dad is buried in that blue plaid flannel shirt.
But a week or so after my Dad’s funeral, when I was not doing so well, I had another dream. I was in that same back yard and someone stepped out of the back door of the house. It was my Dad. I yelled out, “Dad!” and I raced up onto the porch. Understand that I barely touched my parents after about age six, but I gave him a hug. I felt much, much better after that dream.
I’ll repeat a story from an earlier posting. In his later years my Dad informed me that he did not dream. I told him that was nonsense, and that everyone dreamt. He just didn’t remember his dreams. A short time before he passed away he told me he had dreamt of his Dad, that his Dad told him they were going on a trip and that he should be sure to wear his jacket.
For myself, I once dreamt a beautiful dream, most of the details of which have slipped away other than I was walking down a blue hallway lined with curtains. It was a lucid dream, so I knew I was dreaming but I also knew the dream was ending and I didn’t want it to. There was a woman there, and I asked her if I could come back. She said, “Yes, but if you come back too soon the fantasy will wear off.”
So, back to the original questions. “When you dream do you remember what you dreamed when you wake up and do you ever see specific faces in your dreams? Also, if you see a person is it someone you know, like family or a close friend, and is it the face of someone who is no longer with us, or someone who’s still here?”
I remember less of my dreams these days. Interesting to say, I almost never see faces in my dreams and I never have. When I have, it is almost always family, and they’re alive in my dreams.