Had a dream last night that I was in a store buying things to go camping. I don’t like camping, actually, so I will take this as a metaphor for starting out on some kind of intellectual or spiritual adventure. Earlier, I had another dream in which a little girl gave me a device she had made, which she called Danny Ray’s Magic Ray. It was constructed like a pair of glasses without the bows — you had to hold it up to your face with your hand — and consisted of, on the left side, beads and wire bent into circles and swirls; this was the “antenna.” On the right there was simply a circle of wire through which one looked at the world, turning it “magic.” No lens or anything, just a bit of wire to frame the view. I take this to suggest that we need to pick up the world’s signals and that ultimately we make the world by the way(s) in which we approach it. Not a bad insight to have if you are setting out on a solo “camping” trip. What did Theodore Roethke say? “I am a perpetual beginner.”
I had two dreams about Thanksgiving — the American holiday — last night. I woke from each feeling profoundly happy. Neither had anything to do with Vietnam other than that fact that I am in Vietnam dreaming. I don’t remember anything but the feeling tone of the first dream, but in the second I was in a church basement with strangers getting ready to eat Thanksgiving dinner. There was an old man to my left and a woman named Maria across the long table from me, as well as some other people. Looking at Maria’s smile, I began to smile too, a feeling of deep contentment coming over me so intense it woke me.
Eight years ago, standing on Tran Hung Dao St. here in Hanoi, Lady Borton and I were having a conversation about people we knew who had come to Vietnam — Americans — and been changed is various ways by the experience. There was Lady herself, John Balaban, a bunch of writers. I was a few days from going home and I had come through a rough time that I still can’t quite explain, a period of several weeks where a few minor health problems had spiraled into a bout of obsessive-compulsive thinking, restlessness, lack of apatite, and sleeplessness. All this just under the surface while I was apparently functioning pretty much normally in public, though a couple of friends sensed something weird was going on. At one point in the conversation, Lady remarked, “This place has healed a lot of people.” And it’s true, though I’m not quite sure why that should be. Writing this just now I can hear the dawn birds just staring up and in the distance a rooster crowing. My heart is at ease.
Funny how dreams lag behind events. Folk wisdom says that dreams predict the future, but my experience is that they predict the past. Over the last couple of nights I have dreamed, just before waking, about crappy things my colleagues have done to me. The events in the dreams are fictional, but related to things that have actually happened to me. The dreams allowed me to be outraged — in one I punched a former dean in the nose. The best part was that I punched him in the nose after telling him I was going to punch him in the nose. In the other dream I was slighted by another administrator & I gave him a thorough (& public) tongue-lashing. Very satisfying. The weird thing is that I’ve been feeling fairly good about my teaching life lately, though a couple of months ago I went through a period of resentment. Each dream worked like a little poem: specific details carrying a strong emotion. Also, a process of encapsulation: giving the feeling a form results in an ability to control the emotion. There is another sort of dream (& another sort of poem) that break open new realms of feeling & those are much more dangerous & more beautiful.