30 Thoughts in 30 Minutes (or so)
This is a template I read about in 2009 and have tried a few times since. Today, I’m thinking consciously of dreaming, landscapes, dreamscapes, and we’ll see what happens — I’m not sticking to 30 minutes but just typing thoughts as they come, over about two hours.
- It’s almost November, and we’ve had a fire most every night for weeks in the woodstove.
- I dreamed the other night of a teacher who gave me a list of criticisms, including that not only could I not express myself adequately in speech or writing but that I didn’t have enough art on my walls.
- It’s true, there’s not enough art on the walls. Not enough colour, either.
- As I type, the husband of one of my sister’s closest friends (600 miles away from me) is in the last stages of dying, his blood pressure and temperature dropping, and I’m distracted thinking about that.
- I dreamed for about three hours last night and now the dreams have flown back to where they came from, and I miss them.
- It’s Halloween and I’m thinking about how we’re haunted, in dreams and during our waking hours.
- Chuck Palahniuk (in Lullaby) said that “we’re all of us haunted and haunting.” I wonder who I haunt? Who lies dormant in me? What shadows me?
- We’re not who we started off as: In just a year (on average — some cells last only a few days before being replaced, some as long as a year), 98% of our atoms are replaced by other atoms from what’s in the air and what we eat and drink. So a 2-year-old is almost a completely different person from the 1-year-old she was, and similarly with an 85-year-old and the 84-year-old he was. What remains the same is the 2% of us that’s DNA, plus parts of the eye as well as neurons in the cerebral cortex, where memory, language, thought, etc. reside.
- In a very real sense, we’re almost entirely a collection of atoms in the same place at the same time for a while, until those atoms reform somewhere else, and that cookie or sauerkraut we’re eating becomes our very flesh and blood, and perhaps the person who made the cookie or sauerkraut and shed a skin cell or breathed ever so lightly on them as well.
- But because the cells in the cerebral cortex don’t rejuvenate, we have memory, and we have forgetting and dementia.
- I’ve had dreams that incorporated memories that weren’t mine originally, such as a story told to me by someone else about themselves, the plot of a novel I read, a magazine ad or image, a radio snippet. And I often find myself wandering dreamscapes, places I’ve never been in real life and don’t recall having seen images or heard descriptions of.
- Earlier today, I was walking around the lake about 30 yards behind a man smoking a cigar. I could smell it perfectly well most of the time.
- I thought, these are aerosols being carried back to me and entering my nostrils and sensory organs — if he’s also infected with Covid-19, would those aerosols also travel that distance and potentially infect me? Why is six feet the magic social distance number if I can easily intake air particles smelling of cigar smoke from 30 yards away, outdoors?
- And will there be cells created in my body from his cigar smoke? Are we all, after a few decades on earth, connected at a cellular/atomic level to everyone else, and not only to other people but to all other living beings, including trees, bees, birds, sea creatures? And in fact connected to anything made of atoms, which is pretty much everything, including this laptop, my desk, the sand I wish were between my toes?
- If dreams consolidate our memories and I have always remembered my dreams vividly, why is my event memory so poor, throughout my life? Sometimes I really think I might be living a parallel life that I’m unaware of consciously.
- My only really good memory skill is place memory, i.e., flashing on a memory when I’m in the spot where the original event took place. Often I’ll be walking on a trail and think, this is where I saw that cold snake that one time a few years ago, or here’s where fungi that look like brains were growing last year, or here’s where a dog ran out and menaced me.
- My cat is knocked out asleep near the fire. I have no concept of his dreams. Possibly they involved hunting small furry animals, or eating fish, or similar clichés, but on the other hand, maybe he dreams of his former people before he came to live with us, or his sister cat from whom he was separated 3 years ago, or Egypt or Asia where his ancestors lived once. Maybe he dreams about my desk, the carpet, the colourless walls around him.
- What I love about dreams are the places, entire landscapes or cities or buildings that are not a conscious part of my waking life but that seem as real as any place I know consciously, and which are often more intricate, detailed, interesting in design and scope.
- Are the people in my dreams ghosts? Whether or not they are people I really know (and not all are, especially the “extras” but also sometimes main characters), they are also products of my imagination, and it’s my imagination that gives them actions and motivations. Or is it? Is there another force at work animating them?
- Am I a ghost, since I’ve virtually disappeared every year since birth?
- I do feel that 13-year-old me haunts 58-year-old me at times, not just because the consequences of her actions, and of the people in her life then, reach into my life now but because she is a fragment of “me,” a constituent piece whose presence I can vaguely feel sometimes and then with a chill breeze she’s gone.
- Which is very like dreams — there’s a strong sense, maybe a chill that gives you goosebumps, and then the air settles and it seems there wasn’t anything there after all, except something’s changed, you’ve undergone something.
- It’s Halloween and the veil is thin, as they say. The veil between the living and the dead, the earthly plane and the spiritual one. We can cross between the two more easily, whether we want to or not.
- The veil is thin in heterotopias, too, like cemeteries where both the dead and the living co-exist, or museums, housing historical relics and modern day humans, with art created by emotion as well as physical touch.
- And sometimes the veil between sleeping and waking is thin, as remnants of the night, fragments of dreams, the atmosphere of wherever you were while unconscious linger into consciousness and the day.
- A veil is a barrier, a boundary, and boundaries are sometimes there for our protection (think condoms, face masks, Trump’s Mexican wall ha ha ha); to cross over a barrier or through a veil can be dangerous, scary, destabalising. We might encounter reminders of mortality, ghosts we’d hoped had been laid to rest, an unsettling revelation.
- On the other hand, in permaculture “the edge,” where two habitats or ecosystems meet, is the place where there’s the most diversity, the most activity and vitality. There are not only more plants and animals on the edge, there are specific plants and animals adapted to thriving there. On the edge, everything is in flux, materials and resources are moving, flowing, being blown by the wind. It’s a wild place, much like our bodies with atoms constantly joining and leaving the ecosystem, reshaping it entirely.
- Meanwhile, the cat sleeps.
- Meanwhile, someone is going from life to death on this Halloween night of a full blue moon and a thin veil. May he rest in joy and love.
- Meanwhile, we sleep and dream, connect ourselves and gather our fragments, remember or not, exchanging atoms with every disappearing and rematerialising thing around us in all our breaths.
featured image: T-shirts and baby clothes inside tent at night, River Street, Savannah, GA, Dec. 2019