Dreaming of a Nuthatch



When I go to sleep it's like going to the movies. Character actors walk on and off my set. Celebrities with cameo parts appear and disappear. Time becomes inconstant. The film runs forward and backward. In one episode, I am a youth. In another, I am married, in my 30s. In still another, I am poised in the present.

My big production dreams are almost always in color, three-dimensional, and the sound is good. The camera work is good. Everything is fine. Sometimes better than Hollywood.

I fear (or maybe I should celebrate) that as I become older all of life will become a dreamscape. I am a scuba diver with a movie camera in a lagoon of a million memories, idly inspecting the accumulated detritus of a lifetime. Impressions glide by, thin as eels, imitating life. I am a skydiver, falling from one end of the heavens to the other; the earth, a tiny kumquat, floats beneath me.

The frames of film whiz through my camera, which turns into a projector, which becomes a series of images on a screen. Faces appear and disappear. The action seems predetermined.

Faces and events blur, lose the sharp edges of reality, merge and coalesce, change into fictional characters which become ghosts that dissolve into my nightdreams. In effect, I become a time-traveler, a hominid with a dragonfly's multi-faceted eyes trying to distinguish dream from reality.

Almost always, even in the most inconsequential encounters, it seems I am a victim of circumstance. But what else is new, I ask myself? A dream is nothing more than a reflection of one's life seen through a cracked and dusty lens.

Usually I am the leading man; less often I step aside and become a spectator without a role of any kind. I'm not even in the dream at all. It's the truth. What kind of a dream is that anyway? Only once in a blue moon can I control the action. Most often not. Sexually, for instance.

I can be alone with a magnificently attractive woman and all I can do is follow a hackneyed script, and from far away, I can hear my own real-life voice screaming, "Do something! Take her in your arms! Kiss her!" But I remain deaf to the entreaties. Or, to be more accurate, shackled by my inhibitions.

All I do is blather away, keep up my end of some inane and endless dialogue or, like a dummy, try feebly to unravel some unsolvable puzzle aligning numbers, filling in an imagined crossword, - over and over and over again, like a rattled Pavlovian dog. Maybe I should write a book titled "Dreams for Dummies!"

I am an actor-director-producer of a movie without a script. So where do my lines come from? I don't know. No one knows. Maybe they've been censored. Maybe good old St. Christopher is the Hayes Office to all our dreams. I can do re-takes. I can do that. Sometimes I can prolong one scene into what seems like a full-length movie. But there my influence ends.

If I have any complaints it's that too many of my dreams are disjointed and nonsensical, or long-running episodes about nothing in particular, or perhaps some small problem, or abstraction, that I keep going over and over and over. It's as if somebody turned the camera on and walked away.

I dream a lot, and in spite of my grousing and perhaps having a few too many B-movie-type dreams, as a rule the quality of production is excellent. My big production dreams are almost always in color, three-dimensional, and the sound is good. The camera work is good. Everything is fine. And there's no bothersome talk in the audience.

I have pleasant dreams about my three children and my grandchildren. I love them all very much and it shows up in my dreams. No nagging, no arguments, no admonishments. Another interesting thing. They appear at all ages in the dream; and when they are younger, I presume, so am I. That's nice.

Old lovers pop up occasionally. Never, it seems, in an amorous role. That's too bad. It seems that remembrances of love and the act of loving are effervescent. More often than not, I bump into them accidentally, as it were. Or so it is with almost anyone. Once, John and Ashley Abbot, characters in the TV soap The Young and the Restless figured in a dream, and I didn't even have to contact their agent.


Many years ago I had a very simple, clearly defined dream that I remember to this day, this one about a bird.

I was walking along the edge of a woods when I noticed a white-breasted nuthatch creeping along a fallen tree trunk in a deep drainage ditch. I was looking down at it. The only unusual aspect of the dream was that this particular bird when not around feeders is most often seen above eye-level in large trees, frequently crawling along upside-down, gleaning for insects and grubs. That was the dream and I remembered it vividly.

The next day I was out birding, walking along a tree-lined ditch similar to the one in my dream when, lo and behold, there was a white-breasted nuthatch, down in this culvert, creeping along a log. Was the dream a presentiment, a precursor of the future, inexplicably notable because of its very insignificance? Is that the way fate operates? In tiny unimportant increments? Are we allowed only occasional peeks through the chinks and cracks of the wall that separates us from the future?

Do the deeply religious believe that dreams are messages from God? Do they confuse dreams with visions? When they see a departed loved one or friend in a dream, do they attach a special significance to it that escapes me? It would be easy for them to suppose that these were visitations, friendly spirits contacting them from the Great Beyond.

Since devout Christians are always thinking of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, is it any wonder that these figures miraculously appear in their dreams?