My model of the universe is inadequate in many ways.
I have long associated dreams with the brain dumping out all the things it recorded that day in a big heap on the floor and then putting bits and pieces together trying to find some kind of order. I have no real evidence for this view, but it seemed sufficient. But a recent dream fairly knocked this model out of my head.
I should note, for context, that the majority of dreams I can recall are both very short—often just a few seconds of dream time—and do not feature me except as a mute unobserved observer. Both of these seem to be outside the norm of dreams I hear rehearsed, so I thought them worth mentioning.
This dream actually had a plot of sorts, and the duration to match. A very short chubby boy, likely 10 or 11 years of age, was traveling with his eccentric uncle to Bruges, West Flanders, Belgium I have heard tell that Bruges is one of the best preserved medieval cities there is. in the early industrial revolution Or, as my mind described it upon waking, “Dickensian times,” though it was a bit before that really. .
In the first scene the uncle, whose face I never saw as my point of view remained quite low, was counting out pence and shillings into a small sack or large floppy purse Perhaps 25cm by 40cm, a muted mud-yellow chintz. The coins were surprisingly large. with careful machinations about how each coin could be used to impress some low-class person and avoid normal costs.
In the next scene the two were in Belgium in late dusk, though the land was rolling wooded hills with winding rustic trails and many fireflies; I have no reason to believe it resembled Belgium at all. The uncle was engaging two waifs in the task of leading him through the trails that night to Bruges. The older waif, a boy of probably 12 or 13 years, was pressing the uncle, claiming he couldn’t really afford the trip, and the uncle waved the bag of coin in his face saying “you see this? You see it? Now take us to Bruges!” There was more dialogue, but it has escaped my memory. The other waif was likely 8 years old but obscured by several layers of oversized clothing, never spoke so I could hear it, and I was unable to tell its gender. Eventually the pair set out with the waifs in the lead.
The next scene was some time later; it was still quite dark, though as I later learned this was because of the heavy trees above us and not because it was night. We had come over a small wooded hill and before us was a little barge in a mire of mud that looked a little like mashed potatoes. The four climbed into the barge and worked their way towards a dryer wall of this odd potato-like mud some ten or twelve feet high. Some golden light was starting to filter in through the now-thinning trees and the wall had quite the fanciful look with patches of different colors. The head waif parted this wall In true dream fashion, I did not even notice I didn’t know how he had done so. It split in front of the barge and sort of slid toward the barge a good distance, as if you had taken a wall of mashed potatoes, cut it, and then pushed the ring bigger so the cut opened up. and the barge went inside.
The interior of this ring was really quite impressive. Probably a quarter acre in size, it was treeless with its surface was brown and gold with blue and purple highlights cast by the late autumn evening sun. On the side opposite the entrance, and a bit to the left, the smooth mud ended in a short rise and then the forest fell away down a long gentle slope. The barge was navigated toward the middle of the mud pool and was suddenly lifted up above the trees on the side of a huge bubble that rose in the mud some hundred feet, then punctured and deflated gently. The view from the top over the golden forest below was literally breathtaking; I gasped quite audibly and expect I did so in the flesh as well as the dream. I rose into half wakefulness, marveling at the beauty, but resumed sleep before becoming aware that the dream was a dream.
The next scene took place in Bruges. Contrary to expectations Contrary to reality as well, as I have since discovered. , Bruges was a hilly city and nearly deserted, with just a few gypsy types living there as a sort of dishonest tourist trap. It was less than an hour since the scene on the mud field and the sun was just completing its setting. The uncle was arranging with some gypsies for some evening hospitality. There was an unusual number of details discussed and throughout the boy displayed his disapproval of the uncle’s willingness to accept the gypsies suggestions. Finally the deal was settled and the four visitors started to move off when a gypsy called out after them “and maybe there’ll be some dancing!” At this the boy’s face showed an incredible mixture of terror and shock, is mouth hanging open and drool pouring over his lower lip like water over the edge of a fountain. For some reason this must have struck me as very amusing, for I literally woke myself up laughing at the sight.
This dream was odd on so many levels it really shook me. How can a dream evoke gasps of delight at amazingly beautiful vistas and audible laughter at comedic expressions? Why mashed potato mud, and fireflies, and the odd lighting? And Bruges? Yes, I have heard about it, but it’s hardly significant to me. I had had a conversation that mentioned calico prints the day before, and the early forest walk seemed vaguely familiar though I can say why. But beyond that, it was, as far as I can determine, purely novel to me.
I suppose the mind is capable of creativity in sleep as it is in wakefulness. And I know I don’t understand creativity; it is, but why? Still, it was odd to be surprised and delighted in my own dream. And it is also odd I still remember so much of the dream in such detail this long after it was dreamed.
The world is full of oddities of which dreams are just one. As Westley Weimer is fond of saying, “never a dull moment.” How nice to find a delightful mystery within my own head.