Dreams

I put a lot of stock in dreams. I dream almost every night— meaning, I wake up conscious that I have dreamt. Most often I can only remember vague details or a sense of emotion, but occasionally they are intense lucid stories. These are the night-thoughts I never forget.

I once dreamed several times about a cow, a pet cow, who would not stop lowing. He was in the upstairs portion of my house. I had the overwhelming sense of annoyance and I kept trying to get the creature to go outside where it belonged.

I told a friend about the cow dream.  She got very excited and insisted that I had money stashed away in the house somewhere. Cows, in the dream-interpretation world, indicate wealth. There is no money, I insisted, but then I would have the dream again. At the time, the only ‘undiscovered’ money I could think of was a government grant of sorts. But I had applied before and been denied. At my friend’s insistence, I applied again. I was granted an amount close to $30 000. Cha-Ching!

I understand that dreaming in a neurological function, and there are several theories about why we have them. I have my own theory, one that piggybacks off of more scientific, concrete explanations. In my mind, dreams, the lucid ones, are the forum used by God, or the universe or the fairies (however you want to imagine the ‘Other’) to communicate something important that I keep missing.

I imagine A Great Cloud of Witnesses watching from another dimension, trying to send me signs that will help me along the way. On occasion, they have a conversation that goes something like this:

“Did you tell her?!”

“I Did! Several times.”

“She’s so unconscious. And she’s almost halfway through her life!”

“I know! You think she would’ve started meditating or something by now.”

“I keep getting the yogis to pop up all over the place, and she still hasn’t taken the bait. Anyway, not sure how we’re going to get her to clue into this idea… it’s so important!”

“We’ll just have to resort to her dreams again.”

“Urgh! So base.”

“So simple, I know. But she pays attention every time.”

“Right. Okay, I’ll do it tonight.”

And then, shazam, I have a whopper of a dream. And it means something to me, and I fix something, or do something or go someplace I haven’t been before.

About four years ago, I had a game-changing dream:

I was in Algonquin Park, with Mike and the kids, looking for a cottage to rent for the summer. {Algonquin Park, Cottage… Nice!} Somehow I got separated from the family, and I stumbled into a little cottage on the edge of a lake. The cottage was small and quaint and smelled delicious. I walked into the kitchen, and standing by the stove was, Alice Munro, making Chicken Noodle Soup. Hello Natalie, she said, do you want to learn to make soup? She proceeded to teach me how to make soup, from scratch using alphabet noodles. End of dream.

Now, I’m a pretty good soup maker already, so I knew this dream was not about cooking. Up until then, I had only written non-fiction. I was writing personal essays and blogging. Ms. Munro wrote fiction, short fiction. I had never read any of her stories. Moreover, I didn’t like short stories.

SO, I started taking courses on how to write fiction. Particularly, short fiction. And I’ve read, Alice Munro stories. Lots and lots of them.

Last night I got an email from the Alice Munro Writers Festival. The story I submitted for their short story competition, did not make it into the top ten chosen stories. Drats!

But I’ll keep at it, bashing away at writing fiction; I’ll keep learning. Why carry on? Because that Great Cloud of Witnesses, I can still hear them cheering… they’re still sending me dreams: whole stories from beginning to end, with plot and theme and characters all fully formed. At least once a month I dream a complete short story, and then I write it. One day, one of them will stick, and I’ll have written a good short story.

A story that, Alice Munro herself will read.

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