Author: Cornish, Rick

To sleep, perchance to dreamÖ

Good fifth Thursday of the month from Whiskey Creek, where from one day to the next we, the human residents of our little mountain retreat, have no idea what new little surprise wrought by that natural of all process, aging, will be visited upon us next. My own special treat, which arrived gift wrapped about four weeks ago, is a sudden and excruciating inability to sleep through the night. No, Iím not going to bore you with a column about my troubles getting a good nightís sleep; in fact, owing to my wifeís always-wise, always-caring counsel, (ďDEAL WITH IT, WILL YA, JUST BUCK UP AND ROLL WITH THE PUNCH!), Iíve actually found a way to exploit the problemÖwhen I wake up at two or three a.m., instead of fighting it, I jump up, pull some warm close on, put on a pot of coffee and start writing, that being the prime assignment Iíve given myself in this, the latest chapter of my life called retirement.

No, I wonít fall prey to the temptation of rambling on about how aging isnít for the faint of heart, (my God am I tired of hearing that old and over-used axiom), at least not more than I have already. But dealing with this sleep issue of mine has gotten me thinking about it a lot more than usual and one of the little rabbit holes Iíve found myself exploring of late is dreams. And more specifically, recurring dreams. Here are what Iíve found to be through my vast research (started and completed in the last twenty minutes) the ten most common themes in recurring dreams:

Losing things
Nakedness in a public place
Being held back or failing in school
Being visited by the dearly departed
Finding new rooms in one's house
Not being able to find a toilet
Being unable to turn on the lights in one's house
Losing control of a car
Having oneís teeth fall out.

So it turns out Iím a pretty normal guy after all, experiencing recurring dreams that pretty much include all of these, with some variations on a few. For example, I donít just lose ďthingsĒ, I lose motor vehiclesÖcars mainly, but also trucks, at least one bus and many motorcycles. As for flying in my dreams, I used to do that but following a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2002 which couldnít be fixed, Iíve taken up the more pedestrian activity of running, which, believe me, if you canít do it anymore, can be just as exciting as flying.

Like the shift from flying to running, the flunking out of school thing was replaced at mid-life by the even more nightmarish, for me anyways, flunking out of WORK. That is, screwing up so badly in my job that I get fired, robbing me of my ability to provide for my family and worse, robbing me of my dignity, even my identity; this one produces a cold sweat every time. Public nudity? Hah, thatís pretty much a sub-plot in all of my dreams. Having dead folks drop in to my dreams is also standard faire. Most times itís my mother and I always wake up missing her horribly. (Dreaming of my mom has always been bitter sweet for me. I love seeing her and being with her but in every single dream Iíve had about her since she died, my momís been sick.)

Finding new rooms in my house and, more generally, finding new buildings with extensive, complex lay outs, bizarre room after bizarre room, is one of my favorite recurring dream themes, and itís one of the few that I can return to after getting up for a pee break. And speaking of peeing, my oh my, yes, do I ever search for toilets in my dreams. Iíve looked in hotels and airports and strange houses and sport coliseums and military installations and restaurants, on the surface of the moon, in an equatorial rain forest and even once in my own house. Fortunately for my wife who does our laundry, Iíve never found one.

My dreams do very specific and consistent variations on the turning lights on theme. Itís not my home, itís always a hotel or motel room and, like a few of the others, the frustrating situation is anchored firmly in real life. (During much of my career I traveled a lot and stayed in more hotel rooms than Mrs. Winchester had staircases.) And then thereís another strand for this particular theme, that of turning my computer or handheld device on. Never, ever can in my dreams. Losing control of a car happens in my dreams for one of two reasons. Either I canít quite reach the break peddle with my foot or my view of the road is compromised. On particularly bad nights, such as those following the late-night eating of pizza sprinkled liberally with red pepper flakes, Iíve had both occur at the same time and I can guarantee you itís a scary business.

Interestingly, in that extensive research I mentioned, I found that having oneís teeth fall out of oneís mouth is second only to flying in on the Top Ten List of recurring dreams. I say interesting because, of all ten, itís the only terrible thing thatís never happened to me in a dream. I feel very fortunate in that, though I canít imagine how Iíve managed to escape that one and none of the rest.

So then, that leaves just one dominant dream theme unaccounted for in my pantheon of somnambular plot lines. One that didnít make it on Psychology Todayís Top Ten list and far and away the single most recurring of all my dreams, and thatís bluegrass festivals and camp outs. Some of you think Iím kidding, but others of you just experienced a tidal wave of resonance.

The bluegrass event theme, (BET) can manifest its self in two ways in my dreams. The first and most common is bluegrass festival as driver in plot line; the second, bluegrass festival or some other kind of bluegrass event as simply a backdrop for some other plot line.

Okay, so itís 4:05 a.m. and Iíve been here at my Mac for just about an hour. But just minutes before that I was deeply immersed in a BET dream, finding myself at a sprawling bluegrass festival being held along some narrow waterway on the San Joaquin Delta. Iíd been lucky enough to grab a spot for my í54 18-foot Siesta, (for some reason I wasnít in my larger, later model ArgosyÖall right not much larger and not much later), right on the river, or more precisely right next to the levy that kept the river in bounds. The source of this BETís tensionÖmy dreams ALWAYS have tension, even the enjoyable onesÖlie in the fact that two of my band mates and I couldnít find the other two, bass and banjo, and we had a sound check in ten minutes (Losing things). We decided to split up, find the two and meet at the festivalís main stage. I climb up the steep levy bank and take off running toward a big encampment of RVís (Flying/running). As I approach a large jam in the midst of Will the Circle Be Unbroken and am about to ask them if theyíve seen my two pals and I realize that Iím wearing a tank top and nothing more (Public nudity) and duck behind a huge cotton wood tree. Naturally throughout the dream Iím increasingly in fear that we wonít make the sound check and my band will be fired on the spot (Failure in school/job).

Further down the levy I come upon a ramshackle old resort/general store/bar/bait shop. From the outside it looks like a tiny dive, but upon entering I realize that the place is enormous, with an almost endless series of interlocking rooms, each decorated in the style of a different period in history (Finding new rooms). Oh, did I mention that this whole time Iím desperately in need of relieving myself (Not being able to find a toilet)? Anyway, as I enter the Middle Ages Room, (thick stone walls, thatched roof, various implements of torture), Iím greeted by a broadly smiling Done Stover, the guy who wrote the wonderful and poignant ďThings in LifeĒ, (ďNow when they lower my casket downÖĒ), (Being visited by the deceased), who kindly offers to take over banjo duties if I canít find my band mate in time. At just that instant my cell phone rings, I see on the screen itís Bob our banjoist, but when I touch the Ďacceptí button, nothing happensÖthe phone just keeps ringing (Being unable to turn on lights/devices). I can, however, use my GPS to check where the call is coming from. ďItís a half mile up the slough,Ē I say to Don, ďweíll never make it!Ē ďSure we will,Ē my new friend cries, ďto my jet ski!Ē, which of course we canít find (Losing control of a car/vehicle). Fortunately, through the entire ordeal no one loses so much as a single tooth. However, while searching for the jet ski, which Don assures me is a ďtwo-mannerĒ, my prostate refuses to go unheeded another moment, I head to the bathroom, the real bathroom and a few minutes later here I sit.

I know what many of you are saying right nowÖway, way too much information, Cornish. Well, Iím sorry, but friends share with friends, and they lean on them in times of trial. Iíve spilled my guts this morning and feel better for it. Have a terrific Thursday and a terrific weekend and listen and/or play some bluegrass music.

Posted:  1/31/2013

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