Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dreams Are Funny That Way

Several months ago, I had a dream. I'm not talking about a concept or an idea, as in MLK, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. No, I just had a dream while I was sleeping. When I awoke, I remembered it very well, which is somewhat unusual, and as I thought it over, I realized it was fairly remarkable.

In my dream, I was in church. A new song was introduced, one I'd never heard before, and I liked it right from the start. In fact, I amazed myself in the dream by picking up not only the melody very quickly, but a harmony part as well. Within only a few seconds of the song starting, I was singing along as I read the lyrics on the screen in front. In my dream, the amazing part was that I had picked up the harmony part so effortlessly, on a song I'd never heard before. It just came to me so naturally.

In real life, I do prefer to sing a harmony part anyway, so this part is not a surprise. Occasionally, when I've not heard anything but the melody, I am able to still create a few bits of what sound like a working harmony part, but I have no musical training whatsoever, beyond kids' choir at church when I was in elementary school. I can't read music, never learned to play an instrument and I abhorred singing (if there was the slightest possibility someone might hear me at least) until I was into young adulthood.

Being forced to be in kids' choir had not exactly been a great experience for me. I was teased mercilessly as a child for having a deeper voice than all the other girls. I just couldn't hit the pretty soprano notes that all the rest of them could. The choir director decided that I would just have to sing "the boys' part" and moved me to the back row. For a girl who was tall and athletic and flat-chested, often mistaken for a boy anyway, this was devastating. I decided that I hated singing with a passion for so many years after that.

In private, however, I still loved to sing. My parents both sang. They sang in church choirs. They sang around the house. My mom sings alto, so just from standing next to her in church, I know the alto part to most all of the traditional old hymns. As the years have gone by, I have discovered that I actually really like to sing, and I have found it easier and easier to pick out a harmony part and sing along with it. And the more I do, the more I love it. Harmony is good for the soul; I'm convinced. I could go on and on about this topic and all the depth of symbolism found in singing in parts here, but that's not the point of this post.

When I awoke from my dream, I was at first just pleased that I had been able to pick out that harmony part so easily with no one else singing it and I physically hummed the tune again some more as I got up. It was a great song with powerful lyrics and a compelling sound. But then I stopped suddenly as I realized that the dream was more amazing than I'd first thought. I realized that I had made up that entire song! I had written the lyrics to three verses and a chorus, created the melody and added a harmony part. I had created the power point slides with the lyrics all written out on them; I had created the parts for each of the instruments (piano, guitar and drums); I had invented a music leader singing the melody, and then sang along with a harmony part while I listened to the rest. Whoosh.

I reached back into my memory to retrieve part of the song, but it was gone. It had vanished like a vapor as dreams often do when you grasp at them. I could still see the images of sitting in church during the music time, but I couldn't read the lyrics on the screen anymore, and I couldn't hear the music. It was gone.

But I had done that. Somewhere in the vast untapped regions of my brain, I had the ability to do that. All of it. Incredible.

Last night I had another similar dream, although perhaps not quite as amazing. It also was one of those ordinary life dreams, featuring people, places and situations that are familiar (as opposed to a crazy flying dream over an impossibly beautiful meadow of rainbow colored flowers or something like that).

In my dream, I was putting my hanging flower baskets back outside. It's true--I really did bring them in last night because it was predicted to get down to 34 F overnight and I just brought them home from the greenhouse on Sunday afternoon. Sunday night it rained and the heavy cloud cover kept the temperature up at a reasonable 41 F, but last night was clear and cold and I didn't want to take any chances. So, it was a very normal thing, in my dream, that I would need to take them back outside and hang them back up on the hooks.

I had a conversation with Nancy, my greenhouse owner/friend on Sunday (for real), in which I admitted to her that gardening just doesn't come naturally to me. I don't seem to have much of an aptitude for it for some reason, even though I really enjoy having beautiful garden areas around my yard. I admitted to her that, even though I hang out at the greenhouse a lot, and have done so for several seasons now, I don't find that I retain a lot of what she has directly taught me or what I have indirectly overheard as I listen to her and the other employees talk to customers. She laughed it off good-naturedly and assured me that I will learn; it just takes some time.

I reminded her, though, of all the times she brings me in to the back room of her house to help her do something on her computer. She often asks for my help with simple things, like getting images off her camera's memory card, resizing the photos and inserting them into emails. Just last week, in fact, I was showing her how to do something. I was being very slow and methodical, doing the same sequence of actions over and over so she could clearly understand them. At the end, she shook her head and admitted that I would have to show her again the next time she needed the same task done. It just wasn't clicking and she didn't think she could ever remember. I recall chuckling and telling her that she'd get it down with a little practice, but she wasn't convinced. It just wasn't easy for her like it was for me.

Same thing with the gardening. It just doesn't click for me like it does her. That's why last night's dream was interesting to me.

In my dream, Nancy happened to be at my house as I was taking the baskets back out to hang up on their hooks. I started to put them back right where they'd been before, but she quickly stopped me. She told me that I needed to rotate them into different positions frequently, as different parts of the front porch receive differing amounts of sunlight because of shadows cast by the big pine trees and the corner of the garage. She also suggested that I turn them 180 degrees around sometimes so both sides get an even chance at the light and they don't grow completely lopsided. She was totally right and I took her advice in my dream, grateful to have a friend who knows so much about growing things.

But guess what? If I dreamed that Nancy gave me that good advice, then that means that I knew it myself. My brain had Nancy tell me the words that I already knew, perhaps because I would trust her advice better than I would my own thoughts. That's cool.


I had a third example that I was going to include here, but it seems to have vanished. Oh, well. Dreams are funny that way.

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