“joint otherworldliness situation”

5th December, 2006

 That’s how a friend of mine described the following experience:

 Last Wednesday morning I dreamt I woke up from a dream and found myself in another place that I didn’t recognize.  When I awoke in the dream the trigger seemed to be conversation coming from another room.  I attributed that conversation to friends that were actually visiting, but as I listened carefully to the voices I realized that while they sounded familiar, they actually weren’t.  Opening my eyes in the dream I looked around and found myself on a bed in a wood paneled room on the ground floor of what felt like a detached house.  I realized I wasn’t in my apartment and thought that I’d gone away for the weekend, had fallen into a deep sleep and was having one of those complicated awakenings in unfamiliar surroundings where you don’t know where you are for a moment or two. The sensation of waking in this dream was so “real” that, as I came to consciousness, I was convinced that I couldn’t remember the surroundings; I became very concerned.

 I began to touch things in the environment to ensure that this wasn’t a dream.  There was a clock on the wall – an analog clock that fit with the “woody” décor.  It read 7:42 (approx.).  I looked out the window and noticed it was dark, and concluded I was waking from a nap.  I felt a bit woozy and wondered if I wasn’t in bed because I was sick.  I became increasingly concerned as I was convinced that this wasn’t, in fact, a dream – but was an environment that I was a part of but couldn’t recall.  I got out of bed and began exploring the room to determine if I really was awake, and if so, where I was.  I had memories, in the dream, of my real life, and was comparing the two – carefully searching for any information that would clarify my current state.

 Noticing a door at one end of the room, through which I could hear conversation – perhaps a small party, I walked down an opposite hallway into a small room that at first reminded me of a small laundry room in an apartment I lived in as a kid – but realized that it wasn’t that room.  I was touching everything that I could, touching, tapping, rubbing – trying to figure out what was going on, and thinking that if I could feel things with my hands that meant I was, in fact, awake.

 While in the room I thought that if I could find one familiar object it might form a basis from which to construct an array, however small, of associations to form, perhaps, a memory – something to anchor me to the environment.  While racking my brains the door at the end of the hall opened and a woman, approximately 5” tall with long, straight, black hair tied in a ponytail walked in.  I looked at her and she didn’t seem surprised to see me.  Something about her behavior suggested that she worked as a cleaning person in this house.  I remained in the small anteroom while she made up the bed I had been in.  Not wanting to alarm her by strange behavior, I walked down the hall toward the bed with the intention of getting back into it, acting as if everything was as it should be.  We passed each other in the hallway and I nodded – and she barely acknowledged me but didn’t seem surprised to find me there – she seemed clearly to work in the house.  I noticed she was wearing a yellow sweater.

 I got back onto the bed and as I did I extended my arms on the blanket – which was a gold/brown/black knitted item.  I remained on top of it and, as I ran my hand along the surface found a small pin with a black plastic top that was bent in the middle.  I took the pin and ran it along my fingertip, gently pushing it in to my fingertip – again attempting to generate a haptic experience that would indicate this was, in fact, real.  Again my experiment created an effect that seemed to verify my situation as having woken up in another place.  I shut my eyes and tried to relax.  I again noticed conversation – this time from a bit closer to the door.  Again I attributed the voices to some friends but, as I listened more carefully, realized I couldn’t identify them.  I began to feel like I could sleep a bit and looked again at the clock, it was now 7:50 (approx.).  I shut my eyes, hoping that when I awoke I would be able to orient myself.

 I awoke in my apartment seemingly moments later.  I opened my eyes and, noticing the similarities in the way I experienced both environments was again unsure if I was now in a dream or actually awake.  I felt concerned that I was caught up in something that I couldn’t understand but told myself that if I took things in slowly I could definitely familiarize myself with whatever was going on and build up from there.  I sat up in my bed and knew that I was, at least, “home”.  I walked into the apartment and thought to check to see what time it was: 9:53 am.

 I don’t ever remember having such a vivid dream.  I’m not sure how well I have conveyed the experience here, but the experience of being awake while in the dream was, well, real.

 And there’s a bit more.

 Two days after this dream I was participating in a workshop in downtown Baltimore.  During a break from our activities I was standing around chatting with a few participants and began recounting the dream.  As I went over it, I looked around and noticed that the warehouse space we were in was very “woody”, reminding me of the wood paneled space I woke up in during the dream.  I also noticed that a woman named Beatrice, with whom I had been working, had, while I was speaking, borrowed a coat from someone in preparation to go outside and do some field recordings. As I spoke about the dream she put the coat on and I noticed that it was predominantly yellow.  Beatrice had long, dark hair tied back, loosely, and is approximately 5” tall.  She was standing to my left and I remembered that as I passed the woman in the yellow sweater during the dream I glanced down at her across my left shoulder.  I didn’t share any of these details with the group.  I gave them, essentially, a synopsis of the experience – not wanting to come off as a boar (like now…).

 Later that day I spent some time with B doing field recordings outside.  As we walked she began telling me that her thesis project (she is a photographer) dealt with an exploration of making connections between significant elements in dreams and analogous things in waking life.  I had not, and have not, shared with her all the details of my own experience.  She said that, for example, she might have a dream in which she vividly experienced a blue “something” – she would then, while awake, note which objects seemed to connect to those dream elements and explore the contexts of both the dream thing and its real life complement.

 A friend of mine’s father has a special term for dreams: “brain poop”.  Another friend suggests that there is always “slippage” in our perception of the world, and what we come to understand as reality is that which is most consistent, most probabilistically significant – the rest is, essentially, noise.  I think I understand these points of view. I’m interested in thinking about relationships between the things I experience and learning to integrate in such a way that I may have a better understanding of the present.  I think that in order to do this I might have to suspend my will to judge their significance and accept their presence, then work out the cloud of associations from there, the resulting form being a description of here.

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