An experience is in search of me. Last night I dreamed that I had my car washed. In reality, I don’t own a car. I also dreamed that I sat on the ground in a forest, in a meditative position, watching a tree grow. I felt it growing. I don’t want to drive again, which is strange to see in writing, although I haven’t sat in the driver’s seat since 2002, the year I moved from Seattle to Madrid. I’m afraid to count the years between then and now. The counting happens on its own. A tree grows on its own. I don’t control my mind. I experience it. What might it mean to me to be in the driver’s seat of my own inner experiences?
I imagine the opening sentence in the paragraph above appearing and disappearing in the surface of my mind, as if I were meditating in a forest and observing a tree experience its own natural process of growth. I pause before writing the next sentence. Silence becomes the pause, before noise in my mind returns and the pen moves again. Trees belong in a forest. My imagination has made the impossible possible: I sit on the ground, and the growth of a tree becomes a moment to moment visible experience.
More words that feel strange to see in writing come to me: this experience is experiencing me. I am being experienced by life in the forest. The mind is a miraculous place.
I must arrive at the bookstore before it closes. It feels like a matter of life and death. I don’t realize it’s raining until I’m on the sidewalk. There’s no time to take the elevator or run up four flights of stairs to grab an umbrella.
Somehow I know that the book I’m running to NonStop Books to buy has yet to be finished. I’m writing it. I imagine the bookseller with whom I spoke on the phone before I walked out the door without an umbrella. She said she was in a hurry, that she had much to read and write before I arrived in the rain. After speaking with me, she sits down and starts reading a book open on the table before her. She falls asleep. Somehow, I know that she does her most creative work while she’s asleep.
I run in the rain. I dream in it. The question of what I’m seeking seems lost in the rush. Then I realize I’m still, except in my dream.
I woke up this morning feeling closer to death than I did last night.
Out of all the sentences I have ever written, the one above seems the most alive.
A glance at my bookshelves confirms that this room hasn’t changed since I went to bed last night. All of the books, softcovers and hardcovers, will be here after my final breath.
“How many more years will we have together?” I ask the books aloud.
An inner voice responds: “I’m right here in front of you! Focus on me!” My eyes return to the desk, to my dream journal. I don’t have to open it to know that last night’s dream has been recorded inside.
When did I write it down? None of the dream’s images come to mind. Moments later, with a new sentence, they do.
A plant is on fire in front of me. Maybe it’s a single leaf. Fear makes my own motion an image for another dream. Motionless, I marvel at the growing flames.
There’s no caffeine in my system yet, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive. The following sentence comes to me as if it were a figure emerging from the darkness: My future is in the fire.
The image speaks to me as if it were part of my waking life. I’m trying to translate it into words in my journal. A woman who knows me quite well awaits me in a forest. I’m within a few feet of her when I wake up.
I’m preparing my morning coffee when I see the woman’s face again. A bridge appears, and I imagine it connecting my current state of mind with the world of fantasy, where dreams live.
My coffee cup is empty within ten minutes. I haven’t left the kitchen. I can’t remember the last time I drank my morning coffee without a book in my hands. The caffeine should start waking me up soon. I feel as if I’m in a dark tunnel, and I’m uneasy because I can’t see the end of it.
I’ve returned to my desk. I’m writing more words in my journal. The image of my psychoanalyst in the forest returns. She appears different in the woods than she does in her consulting room, although what she’s wearing I’ve seen many times. She looks as if she belongs there. What are we going to do together in the middle of nowhere?
Why couldn’t the dream have continued? I woke up too soon. These words in my mind are interrupted by another voice, as if someone else were also in my head. “The dream hasn’t ended yet. You two encounter each other in the forest. Let the dream continue. Imagine what might happen next.”
I wrote a paragraph of words, turned the page upside down, and I was surprised that I could no longer read my own sentences. My hands, as if they were listening to my head, turned the page right-side up, and everything felt right again. It had never occurred to me that I would be unable to read my own writing. This thought brought to mind memories of criticisms I’d received decades earlier for poor grammar in my sentences. Back then I could imagine words and sentences only as they appeared on the page. I pictured myself shaking the page with my paragraph of words on it and watching the letters of all of the words fall to the ground. I would have to start over, which was what I was doing in my mind. I was discovering the grammar of images and symbols, and this thought brought to mind dreams. I had yet to record last night’s dream on paper. I imagined it unfolding in different ways than I remembered it. Maybe these imaginings would lead to new dreams while I was awake. Without warning, the images in these sentences I was writing came back to me, one by one, as if they were suggesting that I was missing something in front of me. Images and words and sentences were leading me toward thoughts and insights. Perhaps all I had to do was continue shaking things up in my mind.
As I walked from the bathroom to my writing room, I wondered how an elephant, a meditating Buddhist monk, two wrestlers facing each other in a wrestling ring, and a writer drinking a beer at his desk, might fit into a single sentence. The sentence would have to appear in a dream. I pictured a list with all of these images on it. When I reached my desk, an image of a Buddhist monk appearing in a wrestling ring between two wrestlers came to me. Then, in the next image, all three were meditating in the middle of the ring. On the blank screen before me, I wrote that I hoped I wouldn’t imagine an elephant in a meditative position, and then I realized that I just had. The next sentence in my mind that insisted on appearing on the screen involved an image of a writer drinking a sixteen-ounce can of Rainier at his desk, which a moment later became this desk. I was drinking coffee, not beer, as I wrote these sentences. The opening sentence did contain all of the images. They were alive inside of me. I stood up. I knew where I would walk and what I would buy. The art supply store was nearby. It was time to draw. The images weren’t done with me yet.
Time and space are altering my perspective of reality in my imagination. The two rooms are alongside each other. I imagine an underground tunnel connecting them, which I know would be impossible in reality since the two offices are on the fourth floor. The images don’t lie: I’m in both rooms at once.
In rereading the opening sentence above, I find myself replacing perspective with perception. Words seem to be helping me imagine what’s happening in my mind. The images I have yet to mention alter my perception of reality as I hold this pen and move it across the page. As I wrote the previous sentence, I thought: you should mention that you’re writing across the page from left to right. Now I imagine myself writing from the right side of the page to the left, and this image or series of images disorientates me.
Did I make both appointments for the same time, or did I appear in each room without warning, as if I knew that each of the two psychotherapists in my imagination would be expecting me? The image of me seated across from a woman, a Jungian psychoanalyst who in reality I saw at a lecture a few years ago, and another, of me lying on a couch with a psychoanalyst seated behind it, don’t seem interested in providing me with a verbal reply to my question.
The same dream is talked about in both rooms. I’m digging a tunnel. In which direction am I digging, east or west? It’s unclear. Clarity arrives in the next image. I’m digging in both directions at once.