Recursion


Monique Forestier, Verdon Gorge

Like everybody else, I have been experiencing unusually vivid and complicated dreams lately. I presume this has something to do with the stress of quarantine. However, in spite of the increased intensity of the dreams, I’ve found it difficult to remember them after I wake up. This is actually pretty unusual for me: normally, if a dream is clear enough, I can usually remember enough of the threads to write it down after I wake up; but the dreams of late tend to disappear the minute that I open my eyes leaving me with only a vague feeling of unease and the kind of deja vu you experience when you can’t remember something, but know you’ve forgotten it.

With two exceptions.

Back in April, I managed to write down a dream that I’d had about hiking along a cliff face and coming to a place in the path where I was going to have to climb or make a leap in order to get to the other side. It was a path I’d taken many times before and I knew I’d completed this leap before, but I didn’t know how. All I knew was that it was easier if you approached it with confidence. And I had none. Not even to try it. I froze on the path, clinging to the rock face and begged some other hikers/climbers to go get help. And when I did, hand and foot holds appeared in the rock and I could make it across the gap easily.

It was a fairly narrative dream, which is probably why I remembered it, and I wrote it down. To my mind, it seemed clear that it was about learning to ask for help during a difficult transition in my life.

Then, last night, I had it again. Not quite the same dream, but similar enough in theme and structure to set off bells of recognition. I was once again walking a steep and narrow path up the side of a high cliff. I was going to visit an aunt’s house: a place that I’d been to before. The path seemed to be full of… not quite obstacles, but features that had to be navigated: a rickety wooden staircase in which the steps were so brittle and dry they cracked ominously under my weight, a long rickety bridge stretching out over a chasm with a wide break in the middle… etc. I found myself wondering how my aunt came and went along such a treacherous path. But then again, this was home for her.

I came to a place in the path where the only way forward was to climb ten or twelve feet up the face of a boulder. The rock face was mostly smooth: an experienced rock climber like my cousin probably could have climbed it, but I wasn’t sure I had the grip strength to free climb it myself. Looking up I realized there was a man sitting on the top looking down at me. And nearby was a rope ladder that, with a little effort, I was able to pull down within reach. but I realized that the top was only anchored in place by a few threads: a decoy.

“Can you tell me if the ladder will hold me?” I asked the man. He replied that the only thing I could count on was the strength of my grip.

I dithered for a minute, considering my options: I couldn’t go back and I didn’t know how to go forward and it was urgently important that I not look down! I was aware that I was high, high up on a cliff face and that if I looked down I would become too frozen with fear to move.

I reached above my head, as far as I could grasp, and grabbed the cliff face. I discover that I can sink my fingers into the rock and pull it towards me like fabric. I can bundle it into any shape I want: hand holds, foot holds, etc. And it is easy to climb because it is easy to grip. The man on top of the rock is astonished: he says he never knew it could be done that way and that it seemed like it should be “against the rules”, but nonetheless I am climbing by the strength of my grip and I reach the top.

And then I wake up.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 4, 2020.

One Response to “Recursion”

  1. You, too, with the dreams, ay? I’ve jotted down what I could in a journal. My last vivid-ish one involved two fairly pretty women with too much makeup; they looked like “housewives” from one of those shows about semi-rich women with nothing better to do than get catty on TV and go out to eat and drink all day. I don’t remember anything that happened, though, just that I was sitting with one in front of me and another to my left, and they were saying something while smiling and glaring at me, while all I could do was say to myself, “Gee, you’re pretty…but way too much makeup.” Semi-prophetic-ally, I just met someone online who showed me a pic of herself with too much makeup. Coincidence?

    Interesting dream YOU had…I feel strangely as if I was the man on the cliff.

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