All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
– Edgar Allen Poe
Researchers say we dream four to six times per night.
Some people, like my husband, Bud, either claim to never dream or not to remember the ones they have. Those same researchers think we forget about 99 percent of what goes on in our brain while we sleep.
But every now and then we have a dream that is so vivid it sticks with us and causes us to puzzle over its origin and possible meaning for months – even years – to come.
About a month ago, I dreamed that Bud and I were out for a drive in the pickup near Nolynn church. It had been raining and there was some flooding in the area – as it is prone to do. The water was over the road, so we were driving slowly until we ran out of roadway. Bud pulled into a field and drove down the cornrows, chugging along through the mud. Definitely out of character for Bud – he likes his pickup to look pretty.
Anyway, we came to the church’s cemetery, except all of a sudden, we were no longer at our familiar Nolynn church. It was just a generic church somewhere that was surrounded by a vast cemetery.
We stopped at what appeared to be a caretaker’s house. There was a “no trespassing” sign out front. But since we could go no further through the mud, we had to stop there.
There were rows and rows of graves, as far as you could see – some with markers, some without. There were dozens of people digging fresh graves. Somehow I knew there were so many deaths, families had to handle the manual labor themselves. Young teenagers and middle-age women worked right beside the men, slinging dirt with shovels. The mood was tense, as you could imagine in such a situation, and men began arguing and threatening each other. The women and children just kept digging.
I had my handy dandy camera with me and was trying to take pictures of the scene from the safety of the truck. I had a feeling I would be parted with my camera very quickly if anyone saw me.
At some point, I lost track of Bud and decided to walk out of there.
Just before I woke up, I was standing on a suspension bridge that was swaying so much in the storm, it lifted me right off my feet.
I was glad to wake up, but I’ve been wondering … what does it mean?
Freud said, “A dream is, therefore, among other things a projection: an externalization of an internal process.”
Plato said dreams are “a communication from the soul of man.”
Sleep researcher William Dement told Newsweek in 1959: “Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of the week.”
John Lennon said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
Cinderella said, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.”
I say I’m spending too much time in cemeteries – I do feel a bit like the Grim Reaper at times.
Maybe my subconscious locked in on all the talk of war and disease and painted a picture of it. I watched a show about Arlington Cemetery a few weeks ago – maybe that was it.
Or maybe I dreamed of the past.
In another time, another place, those extra graves were all too common a scene. In 1918, the flu epidemic took hordes of people in the prime of their lives. It is estimated that 50 to 100 million people were killed by the “Spanish flu” worldwide. In the United States, 500,000 to 675,000 died, including my grandfather’s first wife.
Then there were pandemics of typhoid, cholera, typhus, measles and small pox that make the current “swine flu” scare seem minor.
Or maybe that hamburger I wolfed down at lunch came back to bite me.
Chances are – I’ll never know what my dream meant – if anything. And that’s OK – sometimes it’s better just to wonder.