Last night I woke from a dream that took place in the conference room of my old office. Variants of the old office have become one of my standard dream locations. The oddities of what becomes and does not become a dream setting, or influence on dream settings, is the topic of what might become a rambling post.
In the dream that inspired the discussion, I was back there, years after the fact, with some other people I didn’t recognize. There was some problem we were going to fix for the big client that was the reason for the office being where it was. I checked with them that I had the correct password. The rest centered on discussing terms, shades of Bronn, with two scruffy guys and a girl who seemed to speak for them; what they’d do, how they’d be compensated, and whether I’d actually be able to compensate them. Bottom line seemed to be that they’d risk a minor amount of work, but beyond the task at hand, forget it. Perhaps they wanted Highgarden.
The dream reminded me that it’s coming up on an amount of time since I was finished with the last of the last activity around closing that business that will equal the amount of time start to finish for the business. About three years total of the time for the business was before and after the office. I spent a lot of time there and it was pretty personal and distinctive.
It’s not normal for me to have dreams based at places where I worked. It has happened, but it’s been selective.
You would think that places where I spent a lot of time, especially formative time, would be prominent. Places I had no serious connection with or that were transient would not factor into dreams. That can be generally true. It’s just as true that some places appear out of proportion and others appear seldom or never despite being prominent. I have also dreamed completely fictional places that are as real in my memory, from dreams, as real ones.
The house where I grew up is naturally prominent. Often it’s the yard or other surroundings, including some of the outbuildings on the land around us. My father had his business just up the street. The original one was gone when I was 5, but is as likely to be what it is in a dream as any later location. The building that replaced it after a year or so doesn’t appear. That was gone relatively quickly. I sometimes dream about the temporary place where he did business in between. I don’t really dream about the final, longest lasting location that ought to be the most significant. That’s the location he sold when he moved on.
Second only to the house where I grew up is my maternal grandmother’s house. That most commonly appears melded into features of other houses. For instance, last week I faced out of my room in a dream. My room was a bedroom in that house, but the part I was facing was somewhere else. Perhaps the most identifiable other house that is part of dreams now and then is my old friend Zack’s childhood home, razed a number of years ago, but before that one of the oldest in the town. Places of influence include my great grandmother’s house, my aunt’s house that had been my great aunt’s before that, a rest home or something I visited once to see a great aunt, Daphne’s house, Kara’s house, and the home of a family we visited a couple times when I was little. That last is significant because my older brother would later have an enduring crush on one of the girls in that family.
The most unexpected is the shack my father’s mother’s parents lived in, barely in my early memories, visited once or twice when I was at most 4. Dreams set there owe more to the woodsy location by water than to the exact building. The way the building appears is almost like a hobbit hole. It’s cozy, safe, and mostly a single room. Completely rustic.
That one borders on a purely fictional location, however inspired. There’s an actual fictional location that to my memories may as well be real. It’s a yellow house, in the trees on a sort of ridge line between sections of swamp, down a stretch of grassy fire road if you know it’s there. I want to put it in a book if I can, someday. In dreams, I spent time growing up there with my brother and sister. It recurred when I was young, even more often than having a forest fire in the woods across the street from my actual house recurred in dreams. I’d be out there trying to battle flames blazing up to tree crowns with a garden hose.
I used to have school dreams. Not based on the elementary school or high school. Mainly based on the junior high and later the college. Sometimes I’d have dreams in schools with odd architecture, like walkways along the walls of the outsides of the buildings, at second floor level. You’d enter up there. They’d connect to other buildings or ramp to the ground. No rails. Similar to dreams I had when i was a kid in which we’d ride through Boston on roads that ran along the sides of buildings, connected precariously to crumbling brick. The roads through the city now look a lot more like what I was dreaming than they did then, but obviously you’re not driving up flimsy ramps hooked to sides of old buildings.
My big stock location that draws inspiration from others but is not the same as any of the exactly is the giant, creaky old wooden house with endless rooms. The floors are sometimes thin to the point where it seems I’ll fall through. The rooms can be empty, or full of junk. If there are people in the house, usually I am on my own, whether looking for something, exploring, or going to my assigned room. If this building has a street location, it is usually on a street not far from Zack’s house, where something like it doesn’t really exist, and there’s no building I’ve been in.
A variant on that is at a house that is now owned by my cousin. It was owned by her father and, when they were still married, her mother, my father’s sister. Except in the dream it’s bigger, and centers around the cellar, with a rickety floor perhaps 20 feet above the cellar floor. The floor has gaps, ends abruptly, and is very thin. The fall seems deadly. There’s not really a way into the lower part of the cellar from the elevated area above it, which is apparently accessible from the house. In real life, the house is on a hillside sufficient that you walk into the cellar through a regular door at the back. It’s normal, though, with a normal set of stairs up to the main floor of the house. That dream is always terrifying.
Speaking of terrifying, I can never remember what it’s about or why I scream, but the one I commonly have set in the yard where I grew up ends with me screaming “Mom!” Out loud, as I wake up. I don’t know if I am screaming for her, or because of something she’s doing to me. I did have a version once that was inside the house and was definitely her doing something to harm me. Smothering me in my bed, as I recall. Weird.
I once dreamed about an alien stepping up to my car while I was driving around, delivering papers. Vivid. I drove off in a hurry. It had a threatening feel. On the other hand, I once traveled in a beam of light that acted like an elevator. I was going out toward Jupiter and a family of aliens who looked completely human were on there way to Earth when we paused for a brief, friendly chat before continuing in our respective directions. Inspiration from surroundings only goes so far.
Which reminds me I forgot to mention the point of places that never seem to register in dreams. At least, I don’t think I mentioned it. The place where I lived the third longest, in two separate stretches, has been notably absent from dreams, The one time it appeared was such a surprise I made a big deal of it. Somewhere I lived for 11 years doesn’t rate, but a place I visited once becomes part of the architecture of dream houses? Has to be age and impressionability of the brain.
Speaking of youth, perhaps the most significant dream I ever had was of my kids before I’d met their mother. I may already have told this story here. Oh well. I was in an amorphous, gray place where people wait to be. An area cleared into a strip of lawn, gray still swirling behind it. Three kids were there. They were a girl, a girl, and a boy, in that order, but in the dream they were already perhaps 6-8 years in age range. The two younger ones, obviously close, chased each other around playfully while the older one stood and addressed me sternly, chastising me about taking my time and keeping them waiting. Then they stood side by side before me, in what would be birth order. I don’t have a clear memory of exactly what they looked like, but their appearance, relative ages, and personalities as much as you could discern in that short time were close enough to the kids that were waiting in the wings that it was uncanny. As it turned out, the first of the kids was “impossible.” She was conceived at the earliest possible point when she could have been, as if in a rush.