Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The House of my dreams

Are there places you return to in dreams? Places you recognize when your dream-self goes there - you get a sense of "Oh, I'm here again."

For me, it's a house.

It's a big wood frame house, built 100 years ago. Foursquare, with bare floors made of planks of douglas fir.

I've never visited this house awake, but it shares features with a house where I once lived. But this house is larger, emptier, less whole and more haunted.

It may be in Seattle; it may be in the midwest; it may be in the upstate New York town where my son was born. It's defnitely not in Los Angeles. The house sits on a typical size city lot, in an older residential neighborhood. Here the houses crowd one another - only a narrow passage separates the house from the one next door. The entrance is at the street grade, the lot slopes away to the back. There is an alley - of that detail I'm sure.

It's ours, but we've been gone a long time. We've returned to find it abandoned. Sometimes when my dreams take me there, I am frantic to seal the front doors against intruders. Sometimes the back garden's retaining walls are falling away. Sometimes I pry boards off windows - or nail them back on.

This time, I dreamt I was in the kitchen, where leaking rain had soaked and swelled the wooden cabinets, where piles of wet newspaper rot in piles. From the ceiling above, plaster falls and reveals the fragile lath.

I hear a scuttling sound, animals in the upper floors or within the walls. Rodents?

Then I realize it's my first dog, Trouper, who I adopted as a puppy. How had I forgotten him here? He is in the dark empty room, he is cold and thin and his fur is matted. I need to feed him. Can I find the dog food in the cracked and buckled cabinet drawers? Are the cans and bags buried beneath the rotting newsprint? Is there a can opener that works? Here the dream-sense of thwarted goals, of frustrated tasks, of chases that never end, of trains or planes missed -

And it wakens me. My eyes open in the dark. The frantic rush to feed the starving dog falls away. Just the memory of being there, in that familiar yet strange house remains.

What are the places you return to in your dreams?


Anonymous said...

I rarely remember my dreams. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Except for the alley, you were nearly describing the house my mother and her husband lived in on Capital Hill.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The house of my dreams is the House of Substance.

Sharon said...

I had a series of dreams as a youngster in the 50s. It always took place in the same house where we once had lived.

The dreams, which happened once a year or so, always started with an air raid siren and ended in our finding a place in the house to hide from the "communists". In each dream, I remembered where we had hidden before and came up with a new hiding place.

It was always a lucid dream in which I said to myself--"I've been in this dream before. Where can we hide this time?"

21 Wits said...

Oh I really enjoyed this post, and your delightful story. I snap pictures of random houses myself, probably why I dream of these kinds of places too....great houses every one! Especially the first one....could be a cover to your own book of houses! I'd read it!

A Paperback Writer said...

I frequently dream of very grand houses in my dreams. Often it's a house I know -- my own or my parents' house -- but in the dream it will have extra rooms done in a tremendously grand style. The bathrooms tend to be particularly amazing.
I've never quite figured out why I dream these things over and over, as I'm not an interior decorator and I don't covet a huge, expensive house.
Most of the time I can figure out where things come from in my dreams, but these home additions I've never quite understood.