Tag Archives: dreams

The Cornucopia List: June 4

Sometimes it’s hard to think of just five things to appreciate in the week, whereas we can always think of a long list of ills, disasters and problems. But by concentrating on this it does take me away from the more dire thoughts. This week’s Cornucopia List includes:

  1. Mushrooms–Some people hate shrooms and consider them slimy, or get all squeamish about them being grown

    Irish shroom outside a Benedictine abbey

    in manure but the truth is that many of the vegetables that we eat are grown in some form of fertilizer made from cow, horse or fish excretions. That’s a lot of what earth is made of: decomposing waste in the form of leaves, bark, animals bones and wastes, and ground down rock. But mushrooms are just amazing in their variety of shapes and colors, are deadly poisonous or delicious, and can be found in many places.  They have flat caps or little pointy gnome hats, red spots, yellow stems, brown, grey blue. They grow round like puffballs (which I have yet to try) and ruffled like the chicken of the woods which grows on trees. And yeah, they are a fungus, unique in and of itself and reproduce through spores. There have been enough horrors stories spawned from this form of reproduction. And they do have a certain alien lifeform to them. But I like ’em, with garlic, in sauces or soups, or on their own, cooked or raw.

  2. Red Wine–Thankfully there are many brands to explore, some out of my price range for now. And of course there are different wines. I like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and if at all possible, a Bordeaux though they’re hard to get. Wine is a bit of an odd duck in flavors. Not particularly sweet, usually slightly bitter or tannic, and made of rotted grapes, yet I do appreciate the subtleties of the flavor.
  3. Salt–We may be made mostly of water but we are of many degrees salt too and it’s essential to a diet to maintain aspects of health that I can’t even explain; electrolytes are one. When we’re dehydrated we need to take in salt and water, what all those horrid Gatorade drinks have in them (yes I find them gross.) But salt, on popcorn, or corn, or eggs, or turkey is a very yummy thing and sometimes it’s salt we seem to want more than the other flavors. My family used to abuse salt (my mother still salts pizzas) and when I hit my late teens I cut down and stopped salting cheddar cheese. But without salt many of our dishes would be a lot blander.
  4. That some people appreciate me–We can’t all be liked universally, nor even hated the same. Some personalities mesh, some people change and some people blame everyone else for their problems. Even if just doing part of my job, it’s nice to know that some people think I’m doing it well. A simple thanks can make a big difference. A word of appreciation to a stranger on their coat, or hat, or shoes, can just add an extra smile to the day. And it doesn’t to do it. I appreciate that people sometimes appreciate me. It lightens the day.
  5. Sleep–Seriously, I love sleep. Of course, we’d be zombies without it but I love drifting away in a restful world and then ending up in all sorts of worlds. I love waking up slowly, though my bothersome cat doesn’t always let me. Slowly coming awake (as opposed to the obnoxious eeeee of the alarm), registering the sound of people talking, dogs barking, birds chirping, cars moving, and then feeling the shift from darkness to a lighter gray behind the eyes is great and languorous. I wouldn’t want to sleep all the time but I do like sleeping.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, food, Ireland, life, nature, people

Dreams & Nightmares

The title is the name of a poetry magazine specializing in speculative forms. However, I’m talking about those things that hit you when you’re asleep.

We all dream. It’s part of the mind’s way of processing daily events and emotions. If we don’t dream we go mad. People who suffer from apnea risk never dreaming because they don’t go into the right leve of sleep, REM (meaning rapid eye movement) where dreams take place. A person can develop a neurosis or suffer other health problems if they don’t achieve sufficient sleep and depth of sleep. This is still debated because the brain is a crafty organ to understand.

Needless to say that most mammals seem to dream. And that dreaming is part of the normal sleep process. While a dream might be the processing of the day’s events, it is also a place of alien concepts. My dreams rarely correlate to what happened during the day. Sometimes they will, like being at my ex’s party this weekend (we’re still friends) and going to sleep thinking about a relationship I”m writing in a story.

It brought out a strange dream about my ex not paying attention to me though there were two of him in the room. I awoke crying, realizing that it was a dream and thinking how bizarre it was to dream of our relationship many years in the past. But that was a combination of things on my mine or recent events.

However, I often dream of different worlds and societies, or  place where people walk around with their skins off. How these dreams relate to my everyday is very unclear. My dreams are often fantastical and science fictional. I read once that a study showed that creative people suffer more nightmares on the average than others. Why that is, I’m not sure anyone knows.

My dreams have often been the fuel for stories and sometimes poems. Dreams however, have dream logic. They’re often a mishmash of images and even storylines. In an average night a person may have five or six REM episodes, and although we have longer ones later into the night, I bet our brains sometimes mix the different episodes into one.

So a dream may be vivid and colorful and have a complex plot but as I start to unwind the storyline I see the gaps in it. I must then iron it out and not be slavishly true to the dream. Years ago I had a dream so complete with religious society, nobility, races, conflicts, plots, characters, that I started writing a novel from that dream. I had enough material to get through half a book. I’m still writing that book and I can no longer tell how much was dream and work I’ve put in since then doing world building. But I have the dream written somewhere and I know that society was very complete.

Where did that dream come from? Not from what I was reading, nor from my day-to-day activities. All I can presume is that I entered a different world, one of what-if. My sleeping brain, given freedom to roam and create, said hey, what if there was a world like this? And off it went.

I’m glad  my brain makes bizarre connections and imagines worlds and races not of this earth. My creativity sometimes carries on even when I’m not aware of it. I’ve also gone to sleep with a half completed story whirling in my thoughts specifically so that I can dream up an ending. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes several naps. And sometimes I’m still looking for an appropriate ending.

I am very happy that I can remember at least some of my dreams. It makes my sleeping more fun and my creativity more bountiful.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, fantasy, health, life, memories, people, science, science fiction, Writing

Phobias, Or: Spider Spider Burning Bright

Yes, I am misquoting a William Blake poem in the title. The actual line reads, “Tiger, tiger burning bright…” Yet it speaks just as well to anyone who has ever experienced a spider phobia, known as arachnophobia.

My progression into arachnophobia started as a child. There were two incidences that I can think of that may have been the beginning of my fear of spiders. I’m not sure which came first. We used to live in a house that was a split level. My sister and I shared one of the basement bedrooms and the room was mostly below ground, with 2-foot high windows at the top. Below these windows was a ledge that ornaments sat upon.

I remember I had this plastic bubble bath container in the shape of Pinocchio as well as a plastic piggy bank that I’ve talked about in an earlier post. One night I dreamt that the top popped off of Pinocchio and out poured hundreds of spiders. One other night as I was falling asleep I heard a “plop” upon my pillow. I don’t know if I actually found the spider or imagined it but after that I feared spiders.

Calgary had daddy longlegs mostly, which, depending on where and how they’re described, may be called Harvestmen and are arachnids but not spiders. Still, they’re spidery enough for any fear. The phobia was manageable while I lived in the colder clime that controlled the spider populations. Then I moved to Vancouver.

The first year I moved in with a friend and she was gone through the summer to Greece. And the spiders came a visiting. There were so many creepy crawlies in Vancouver because of the warmer climate that my phobia escalated. The worst were the wolf spiders; large, hairy (at least I think they were) and fast. I was completely freaked out and like a true arachnophobic, I could not kill them because it meant getting too close to them. So my place was littered with plastic containers that trapped spiders beneath them. I put a book on each container for fear that they would get out. When a friend came to visit, he had to dump them for me.

When I vacuumed I’d moan and shriek as the spiders hung from the edge of the long nozzle. Every once in a while I’d dropped the vacuum cleaner’s wand and run back if I thought the spider was crawling down the pipe. I’m sure it would have looked hilarious to anyone watching but the phobia was very real. Camping was a real issue. My tent was zippered tightly shut and if there was a spider someone had to get it out or I couldn’t sleep.

The worst that first year was this monstrous wolf spider that lived in a hole in the wall of the house, right next to the door knob. It was all I could do to get the key in the lock and at night I was terrified. (Note, that people with severe phobias can die from fright. One should never find it funny to chase the person with the phobic producing object.) This spider was one of those granddaddy wolf spiders, with a body as long as my thumb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_spider

One day I couldn’t take it any longer. I loaded a spray bottle with super hot water and went out to the spider’s home. I started shooting in sprays of hot water…and all the wolf spider did was leap out to attach the water. I couldn’t kill the bugger. Years later I read that some wolf spiders live in warm underwater currents.

My phobia became so bad that I couldn’t go near any spider. It could be the size of a pin dot but if it landed on me I was shrieking and batting it away, in full hysterics. It wasn’t funny and it was getting so bad that I was about to go to my doctor. In a coastal rainforest you can’t avoid spiders and sometimes they fly through the air on their strands. Even staying indoors wouldn’t help because spiders are everywhere. So yes, the spiders burned very brightly in my life.

Along the way I spent a year upgrading hiking trails. I had to hike in and out an hour each way. I started the job wearing gardening gloves and carrying a stick so I could knock the webs out of the way. Imagine being in the forest and keeping watch for spiders. That meant checking every branch I was under, every log I sat on, every piece of foliage I had to grab.

Then one day, about six months later, a spider was on my hand and I flicked it off, calm as you please. It took a few minutes for it to sink in. My phobia was gone. One form of therapy for phobias is a slow introduction to the phobia inducing item. I’d been doing this by being in the forest every day. I no longer freak out or cry. I still don’t like wolf spiders but I’ll leave other spiders hanging in the window and watch them spin and eat. Somehow that natural therapy probably did the job faster than months of counselling ever would have.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, life, memories, nature, people, science, weather

Dreamscape

Well it’s the usual Friday, except it’s still pouring and it’s a long weekend and I’m going to try and camp. Ick.

But I’m going to relate a dream I had two nights ago. It was amazingly visual and perhaps this was one of those muse visits. In the dream:

I’m driving some kind of Rolls Royce down the highway and several people in the car (I have no idea what they looked like) said I was going too fast. Then we’re in this meadow, which is hummocky with sparse trees, a few old locks and rocks. It’s light green and brown and looks an awful lot like my friends’ ranch in Clinton, BC. I’m driving down the middle trying to avoid various humps when a moose comes up to the car. It’s small for a moose and has moss on its antlers.

Then up the middle comes this amazing animal. It looks like a deer but in truth it is made of wood and moss and twigs and leaves and its alive. We just stop and look at it, noticing its dark eyes.

Next, as dreams do like to shift, I’m walking with some people into a glacial snowy area. There is a huge mountain and something like a high white shelf piled with hundreds of feet of snow. I look up think it looks pretty weighty and then proceed into the cave that turns into this long, downward sloping roughly chopped snow tunnel. It is in pale shades of green and white and light blue and just at the bottom I can see it starts to slope up again.

Then we hear a rumbling and great torrents of ice and snow flood up the passage, an interior avalanche. I manage to crawl out some side holes between the grey rock with two other people. Five are left in there including two friends, Karin and Eric (who I haven’t seen in years). Once it stops we go back in to find them and all the snow has turned to sand. We pull each person out from under the sand and besides being slightly damp and unconscious, they wake and are fine.

A friend of mine likes to interpret her dreams but I’m not sure I can with this. The interactions with nature were very strong. And groups of people mattered but were mostly anonymous.

Many of my dreams are muse driven, that is, they end up becoming stories. I don’t think this one will and even though there was that avalanche the feeling in the dream was one of wonder, where no one was injured. The colors were vivid and important, and I really hope this is not just a portent of early winter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, environment, fantasy, life, myth, spirituality, Writing

Musings on the Muse

94stranger has replied with the following on my original post “The Muse”

hi Coleen,
I didn’t respond at once because I was – and am – thinking about it. It’s all making me feel slightly uncomfortable: because it’s well known, for example, that a scientist can worry about a problem to the nth degree and then get the solution in a dream: in fact the Naskapi Indians of Labrador, if my memory serves me correctly, used to use dreams systematically as direction-finders for hunting.
There’s no doubt that some poems, or sections of poems, ‘write themselves’ – in fact, I’ve written things which didn’t have any clear meaning for me and which, years later, I discovered what they had meant – yet my unconscious – or however you want to express this – knew what was going on all along.
I recently had a similar experience with the following poem: the first two lines came on their own; the next two almost at once, and the rest was a struggle to do something with what had arrived from ‘out there’. I don’t know what the references in those first lines are – but maybe one day I will.
http://94stranger.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/poem-camelot/

I don’t know if this conversation of ours is going to go on: are you O.K. with me re-publishing it on my blog? In my experience, this is a subject which greatly interests the writing fraternity. Over to you!

I’m not sure why you feel uncomfortable. Is it that you think that muse-driven works are misappropriation or that inspiration may not come from the muse, or something else? If the first, I believe that if the muse visits, one is a fool not to use what’s given. If the second, well…a rose by any other name.

The muse may just be detaching the logical linear brain and letting randomness enter. Dreams are sometimes a processing of the day’s events and thoughts. Though for me I find my dreams are rarely mundane and take in other worlds, literally. But is that the muse or just my imagination, or both? When I’m working on a story and stuck I will often take a nap, going to sleep thinking of the story to see if I can jog the plot or conflict to its conclusion. Sometimes it works; often I struggle.

The muse could be completely outside of oneself too. I do believe in divine energy (god, gods, sprites, insert preferred term); that which is greater than me but can sometimes be used in some small portion. The muse, generic, as opposed to the muse specific (Calliope, Terpsichore, etc.) can just be that divine energy funneled into someone and tempered by their own life, events and personality to be shaped into a particular form of art.

Except for that rare exception of “The Fishwife,” where it sprung, like Athena, mostly full formed from my head, I think there is a blend of conscious and subconscious, linear and nonlinear that comes to play with art and inspiration. The use of archetypes is so universal that our cosmic consciousness, as Jung presented, does in fact flow through our processes sometimes at the same rate. I could even be picking up other peoples’ evolution of ideas.

As for your poem, I didn’t paste all of it here as I haven’t asked first to do so but I can tell you what I thought upon reading, besides that I like it very much and the images are crystal clear. You said you weren’t sure what the references were to these lines:

I shall ride high to meet

the lords of barley;

I shall ride by and parley

with the lords of wheat

One thought was of John Barleycorn, from a 16th century ballad. It has various versions, including Robbie Burns’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn

But beyond that, in centuries past there were grain goddesses such as Demeter and Ceres, but there were grain gods too. Lugh brought Lughnasa or Lammas to the Celtic lands and even earlier were the Sumerian and Babylonian tales of Inanna and Dumuzi, or Tammuz and how she sacrifices him to Erishkigal when he doesn’t honor her on her return from the underworld. Coincidentally the sacrifice of Dumuzi corresponds to the grain harvest, as does Lammas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammuz_%28deity%29

To me your poem hearkens obviously to Arthurian but older elements of the grain god, and the sacrifice. By “lords” instead of lord, I see that as the wheat fields but the raising of an army, a contention of sorts between the mighty who too will be cut down and sown again. I see the narrator as someone there to appreciate, partake of the natural world before the mighty bring war or strife or blood to that realm. That’s a pretty simplified version as there is a lot of depth in this poem.

I think it’s very strong and visceral. Now, was the muse the calling of your ancestors, your spiritual roots, your imagination, experiences and self-searching; a grain god/Arthurian archetype working through you, or all of the above?

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, poetry, spirituality, Writing

The Muse

writingMany people ask writers (and I presume, other artists), where do you get your ideas?

I think, though I’ve never done a study, that some people get their inspiration always the same way. But for the majority of mortals the muse may or may not come and our ideas flow from various sources. My ideas come from many sources. The least likely is that I see a call for submissions on a particular themed anthology, say, spotted flying pigs. If the idea really hits me, or I have something in the works, I’ll give it a go.

A fair number of my ideas begin with dreams. It might be a world, an image or a conflict. Dreams are tricky things, though. They follow their own logic. They make sense at the time but the scene changes are sudden and sometimes psychedelic. A story based on a dream often takes straightening out on the chronology, as well as adding a flow and logic that might be missing or too obfuscating. The novel I hope to work farther on this summer (a fantasy novel on a different and complex world) was based on a dream. It was very detailed, with conflict, hierarchy and politics. I couldn’t pass that up.

Often I will think a what-if. What if people breathed through their eyes? What if flowers grew underground? What if we were invaded, not by highly intelligent and technologized lifeforms, but by microbial life that changed us into creatures unfit for our world? A galaxy of what-ifs. They’re only the starting point, the basis of a setting. The conflict, personalizing (adding the characters) is always the hardest, for me anyways.

Sometimes stories start with a random image, a phrase, something someone says or does. I once had some day surgery, a laparoscopy, which involves several small incisions. Anything invasive takes the body time to heal. I had to wear loose clothing for a couple weeks and would experience some pain and discomfort. I said at one point, “It feels like I have a black hole in my stomach.” From that phrase I started working out a story, which started with, “Jenny has a black hole in her stomach.” I sold that story “Consuming Fear” very quickly to the Northern Frights anthology.

Once in a blue moon the muse truly hits. I’m not sure she’s truly taken over more than once. I was in the middle of a story, writing along when these phrases and images started pouring into my mind. I finally had to just put aside the story I was working on and write the other one. It flowed out in just a few days, in a lyrical style quite different than my style in other stories. “The Fishwife” sold to Descant, again on its second or third submission.

But most of the time we can’t wait for the muse. It’s no surprise though, that through history writers sought their muses in opium dens, drugs of various sorts and drugs. We look for things to inspire us, to move us beyond the norm, to fire our imagination with a story that should be told. I try to remember the muse moments and see if I can sometimes draw on those styles. But in the meantime, I look for ideas and sometimes plod through a story, one paragraph at a time.

4 Comments

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, Publishing, spirituality, Writing