i have always had an intense relationships with my dreams.
my earliest memory is a dream, when i was two years old. i dreamed that ants lived under my pillow, and were marching down a secret staircase under my head into a stone cavern, like the Wicked Witch’s soldiers from the Wizard Of Oz. in my dream i woke up panicked, and went to the staircase of the old farmhouse where i lived. i fell down the staircase and rolled to the first floor, feeling my bones snap and break. when i stopped rolling, i was looking up at the mantel in the main room of the house, where an ancient dusty violin hung over the fireplace. later when i woke up for real, i cried and asked my parents why they didn’t come to help me. they tried to tell me i’d just had a bad dream, but i didn’t know the difference from a real experience and a dream yet at two years of age.
in some ways, i guess i still don’t.
over the years, i have had many intense dreams, long ones that are cinematic in scope and length. i usually remember them, and in college we were encouraged to keep a dream journal, which i have done with various degrees of regularity over the years. i’ve never understood people who don’t remember their dreams, or feel casually about them if they do. i’ve always felt that my dreams have something important to reveal, and the sorting out of their messages has frequently been a full time job–tricky when i’ve had to work distracted at a regular paycheckery.
i have dreamed many times of flying/floating/hot air ballooning, being able to turn into something else, of species that that have out-evolved humankind. i have had a large number of predictive dreams, been delivered good advice from a higher power. i have had more dreams about the end of the world than anything else, although rarely have i ever had what you would call a nightmare, as often in the dream i wake with a sense that even though the world is hard and headed in a bad direction, there is a latent something in a small number of individuals who are born lucky with superpowers, or the will to save the planet from people who don’t think the air, water, or others like themselves are important.
a few weeks ago, i had another “society on the verge of collapse” dream. there wasn’t a war or plague or anything like that, just a logical extension of the world as it is today: a widening chasm in the classes that led to average people not having enough to eat. many houses around the country and globe were just sitting empty as people went hungry and wandered away from cities to forage and farm. i was one of a group who held onto the city, and lived in a huge house with people who were still civil enough, making art, scavenging technology to create indoor farm food. i had a walk in closet in my room. when i reached in to get a coat, i wandered through a vortex in time, and came back out ten years into the future into the living room.
the house was still the same, and the rest of the world had gotten hungrier and more sparsely populated. my home was now a farm for a kind of lobster that had been bred without a shell. the creatures were mostly transparent, and i could see their hearts and brains pulse inside them as they swam in their tanks around the house. the breeding process and their new light weight made them very tricksy and speedy. the lobsters got out of the tanks a lot, and had to be chased and captured often. as i watched, one got out of its tank and attacked my bare leg. with no shell or real claws, it didn’t hurt. it felt like two weak, toothless gums clamping feebly onto my calf and ankle. i shouted, and the thing with its blobby guts showing through backed off, and circled to charge me again.
from a dark corner, a grizzly looking cowboy with a gray beard and long leather coat stepped into the room, lit with black lights. his eyes and teeth looked electric and purple in the UV light. he drew a huge bowie knife as the jelly-lobsterblob came back at me. it leapt from the ground. the cowboy’s knife spun through the air, and pinned the creature to the floor between my feet right through its brain. it’s blood glowed on the floor in the black light. the cowboy flipped the creature off his knife to a group of hungry people, who i recognized as gaunt versions of my friends from a decade before. the cowboy spat over his shoulder and sneered at me. he called me an impolite word meant to convey that he thought i wasn’t very brave.
i went back to my room. it was the same as it was a decade before, but very dusty. i wiped down my drawing table, where the thing i was working on long ago was still taped to the wood. it was a postcard i’d been working on for the holidays. it was a christmas tree made of tentacles, and instead of being topped by a star or angel, it was crowned with a bowl of fruit, and flanked by a sprig of mistletoe and a lobster claw. when i woke up, i could recall exactly how that card looked, and i knew that i had to paint it.
so, that’s why my christmas card looks the way it does this year.
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EDIT: Here’s what the finished cards look like.