Into the Abyss

The other night, I had a dream.  It wasn’t just any old dream, though.  It was extraordinary in several respects.

For one, I rarely even remember my dreams.  On average, I recall maybe one or two dreams per month, and even then, they are often fleeting, swift seabirds flying undetected, beyond the radar screen of my consciousness.  I might remember them for a few minutes, perhaps an hour at the outside.  The dream I had the other night, though, remains fresh and vibrant in my mind, holding on and unwilling to let go.

seabirdinflight

 

It started innocuously enough.  I was driving along a dirt road, somewhere in the wooded hills of rural Vermont, where I’ve lived for the past dozen years.  It was evening, the light of day fading, slowly, into dusk.  The road was isolated, off the beaten path–not another car in sight.  I had my window rolled down, and the sounds of the encroaching night were all around me:  the distant call of a hoot owl, returned moments later by a friend; the high-pitched, almost electronic song of the spring peepers as they stirred from their winter-long slumber; the whisper of the wind, rustling the dried-out fallen leaves from the previous autumn.  Early springtime in Vermont.

springpeeper

 

The thing was–I had a sense of being lost.  I didn’t know quite where I was–not exactly–or where I was going.  I was just . . . driving.  But that was when a sudden realization dawned on me.  I was going the wrong way.  Why or how I knew this, I wasn’t sure.  No new landmark had cropped up; I still felt lost, uncertain where I was headed.  It was just a strong, forceful conviction:  I needed to turn around.

lostonroadhavetoturnaround

 

That would be easier said than done.  Back roads in Vermont are notorious for their lack of turnabouts.  It might take miles to find one.  The stretch I was on contained no houses, no driveways, no intersections with other roads, and the road itself was too narrow to turn the car around.  I was forced to keep driving, in the wrong direction (or so I told myself), my heart rate increasing, an undefinable tension rising within me.

vermontbackroadnoplacetoturn

 

Suddenly, I spotted it–a slight widening of the road just ahead.  It was apparently a man-made section designed specifically for turning your car around.  (Who would have gone to the trouble of putting that in, way out here?)  I didn’t bother signaling.  Who would see me?  The owls?  I doubted they’d mind the oversight.

hootowlswontmind

 

I veered to the left, toward the turnabout.  I just needed to pull in, then back out and head in the direction from where I had come.  But I didn’t step on the brake.  I just turned the wheel to the left, confident I wasn’t going too fast.

I was.  Immediately the car began to skid, tires sliding along gravel and dirt.  I slammed on the brakes–too late.  There was no way to stop in time.

skidcantstop

 

Just beyond the turnabout, the road gave way to a small, narrow depression, perhaps a foot or two deep, cut through by the trickling of a shallow stream and flanked by a thick copse of trees and shrubs, their still bare limbs reaching out as if attempting to catch the car and prevent a potential disaster.  If only they could . . .

tricklingstream

 

As the car’s front wheels left the security of the road, suspended momentarily in midair, I felt a sick sense of inevitability.  I was about to crash into the depression.  The car might even tip or roll over.  Would I be trapped?  As if in response, another hoot owl cried out in the rapidly darkening twilight.

darkeningtwilight

 

The car careened over the edge, and I braced myself.  The force of the impact would be significant.  The stream appeared to be only a few inches deep, so at least I wouldn’t be submerged.

Or so I thought.

There was no sudden, crashing jolt of fender and metal against hard, rocky New England earth.  There was only a sudden splash, and a complete and overwhelming darkness.

rockynewenglandearth

 

The stream had somehow been something more, something it hadn’t appeared to be.  The car sank, deeper, impossibly fast, into what had become a bottomless pool of dark, still water.

bottomlesspool

 

I’m sinking, I thought, looking for something, anything, to see, to grab hold of.  That’s when I realized.  My driver’s-side window was closed–no water was pouring in.  How had that happened?  I hadn’t remembered closing it.  But what good would it do me now?  It served as nothing but a death trap.  At the rate I was falling, I had probably sunk several hundred feet already.  There was no way to force open the door–the pressure of the water pushing against it would be far too great.  I took a breath, tried to open the window, knowing I had to make a break for it before I sank deeper still.  It wouldn’t budge.  I scrambled, looking for something to break it with, but the car continued to sink at an alarming rate.  Was I a thousand feet from the surface now?  Two thousand?  There was no way to tell.

twothousandfeetunder

 

I felt a rising tide of panic.  I could see nothing–it was black, the most complete blackness I had ever experienced.  There was only absence–of light, of sound, of anything life-giving and life-sustaining.  And the air supply wouldn’t last long.

absenceoflightandeverything

 

No longer thinking clearly, I tried breaking the window with my elbow, tried to pry open the door.  Nothing worked.  I gasped, the air already dwindling, and the car continued to sink . . .

That’s when I woke up, sat bolt upright, breathing in short, choppy gasps.  It took a moment to register that the darkness around me was nothing more than the soft curtain of night, and not the impenetrable black hole of a bottomless pool on the side of some preternatural back road in the hill country of Vermont.

softcurtainofnight

 

I got out of bed, walked around the house for a while, as if attempting to assure myself that I was still here, still alive.  I didn’t sleep well the remainder of the night.

****************

Later, once the sun came up and the songbirds greeted the day with a springtime chorus, I began to think of the dream in a new, less sinister, light.  The way it had unfolded was like a story.  It might have been the beginning of a novel (or the end!).  And where had it come from?  What had caused me to dream of such a scenario to begin with?  (Oddly, it resembled a dream from my childhood.  Perhaps my subconscious is telling me something about my feelings for water!)

feelingsforwater

 

Where does any dream come from?  Are our dreams and nightmares merely chance occurrences, the whims and megrims of our slumbering mind?  Or do they originate from a more personal place, perhaps symbolizing deep-rooted fears, too long denied, or elaborate metaphors stemming from life experiences or long-held aspirations?  Maybe they are even offering us brief glimpses of alternate selves, parallel worlds, or previous lives.  Science may never truly know the answers.

parallellives

 

Or maybe, just maybe, they serve as reminders, teachers of a sort, guiding us along on the right path.  And perhaps, specifically, my dream was trying to tell me something about the storytelling process, a truth I sometimes forget.

The creative life, to a large degree, is much like falling into an abyss.  I learned early on that, try as I might, I cannot take the reins of the creative process.  I cannot force ideas that aren’t there or force characters to behave in ways they are unwilling or unable to.  Ideas come when they come, out of the ether–out of the depths.  Sometimes they resonate, sometimes they don’t.  But they are always capricious, even shy, revealing themselves only when they’re ready.

theether

 

I first took the plunge into creative writing years ago, when I was a student in the second grade.  Anytime I have tried to force the issue, to grab the wheel and direct the flow, to steer the car along that country back road of the mind rather than let the road take me where it will, I have hit the proverbial brick wall, mired in a tangle of undersea snarls and weeds.  It is only when I can swim with the current, fall gently into the deep flumes of my imagination that the story flows and the characters speak in truth and with sincerity.

underseaweeds

 

The abyss of the writing life isn’t a scary thing.  It may seem like a nightmare at times, but in actuality it’s not something to fight and resist and fear.  We just need to take that jump, go over the edge, and fall . . .

edgeend

 

. . . right into the waiting arms of our muse.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

47 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wallacecass
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 02:09:30

    There’s nothing like a dream with visual aids. 🙂

    Reply

  2. An Inspirer's Blog
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 03:41:02

    Nicely written, Please checkout my blog.

    Reply

  3. DaisyWillows
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 04:48:55

    Hi Mike. The way you told your dream was written with such panache. It was indeed like a short story. I don’t think dreams are just a way to pass the time while you are sleeping. There must be some connection to our day lives. Indeed I think it is important to take notice of them when we can remember – look up what an owl means or the ocean or whatever was stuck out the most in a dream and try and interpret it into something you can take with you into your waking world

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 02, 2016 @ 12:53:06

      Thanks so much! And I think I will do that:)–looking up the symbolic representations of the images in my dream, I mean. That may unearth some new light on the entire dream!

      Reply

      • carolineturriff
        Oct 08, 2016 @ 12:19:19

        Beautifully written post. And what a pregnant and poetic dream! I am a control freak so I rarely write fiction without a story line/synopsis in place first. But maybe I just need to let go as you say in this piece and fall into the creative abyss. I’ve never tried it maybe I will one day.

      • The Eye-Dancers
        Oct 09, 2016 @ 23:10:38

        It isn’t easy.:) As much as I strive to do it, I often “plan” too much ahead of time. I guess the way I look at it is–even if I plan and have a sense of direction of where I want to go, the main thing is allowing the possibility for the creative flow to take over and let unforeseen events/developments take place without me getting in the way.:) Always great hearing from you!

  4. ritaroberts
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 06:55:38

    Hello Mike. This story had me on the edge of my seat. It is as you say, sometimes I can remember my dreams, others only parts. It seems strange, but I usually remember the nice dreams but almost always only remember part of the bad dreams but then I wonder all day how they may have ended. It would be good to collect several dreams from different people and then write a book. That would be unique !!!

    Reply

  5. ritaroberts
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 11:48:19

    Hi again Mike. I forgot to tell you about my partners dream Some time ago he was overdosed by the doctor with antibiotics which caused him to have a very vivid dream. He got up the next morning to tell me his dream was about talking to the squirrels in the New Forest., which immediately sparked off an incentive for me to write a book for children. Also I had been searching my family tree and found I had a relative way back in 1634 who’s job was A MINSTREL OF THE WOOD. So I combined the title…..”.Minstrel John & the Squirrels” and set it in the Medieval times. You can read it on my blog http://www.ritaroberts.wordpress.com

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 02, 2016 @ 12:47:15

      That’s a wonderful illustration on how dreams can spark creativity.:) I love hearing backstories to works of art like this! Thanks so much for sharing this, and I will look forward to reading your story!

      Reply

  6. laurelwolfelives
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 13:22:35

    What an interesting dream. I would look up the different symbols. It sounds to me like it was representative of some sort of loss of control in your life, maybe or at least the fear of that loss. 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 02, 2016 @ 12:45:10

      That’s a great point! And I think maybe it represents the art of letting go during the creative process. I love the creative process, and love the art of discovery, but admittedly, trusting the process, and letting go of control during the process, are not easy to do!

      Reply

  7. evelyneholingue
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 13:27:31

    I believe in the power of dreams. Like you I rarely remember mine, sometimes just a fleeting sensation. But I think you’re right to pay attention. For creative people they are the gates to something. Not always clear but definitely worth pausing. Neil Gaiman writes often about the importance of his dreams and how they influence his writing. Also childhood memories. Dreaming when we are children is so much more vivid than we are adults. Remembering both is a gift for a writer.
    And swimming with the current when we write is probably the only way to go. It’s quite messy sometimes and certainly annoying to have to modify the clean, precise outline we had in mine, but so much more exciting too.
    I would be totally finished with my novel if I hadn’t allow myself to swim toward the end. But I think it would have been a mistake. Time will tell…
    In any case, enjoy your writing journey and the lovely New England spring, so brief but so special.

    Reply

  8. John W. Howell
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 14:32:07

    Well told. All my dreams are usually without details just circumstances that are bizarre. I think your creative mind is a gift.

    Reply

  9. stockdalewolfe
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 17:15:19

    Sometimes it is such a relief to wake up.

    Reply

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  13. UByDesign
    May 04, 2016 @ 12:34:08

    You must have been really impressed by something and it turned into your unconsciousness.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 07, 2016 @ 01:34:27

      Very true! I just wish I knew what that something was.:) Sometimes it seems our dreams know more about us than we do ourselves, and they are trying to communicate something vital to us . . .

      Reply

  14. penneyvanderbilt
    May 05, 2016 @ 10:42:24

    Reblogged this on Crazy Pasta Child.

    Reply

  15. imaginenewdesigns12
    May 15, 2016 @ 05:31:00

    Thank you for liking “Sunset Reflections.” Finding some meaning from being lost is something that happened to me too. When I was a little girl, my family and I got lost driving down an unfamiliar road. I think we were looking for some place to turn around too just like you were in your dream. We ended up backing up into the entrance of a cemetery in the middle of nowhere! Although it lasted only a few minutes, I never forgot that incident. I think it haunted me because it was such a glaring reminder of how death can come into your life unexpectedly. I even wrote a poem about this incident years later. After reading about how your car sank in the water in your dream, I am now thankful my family and I did not get stranded at that cemetery. That would have been a waking nightmare. 😀

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 16, 2016 @ 18:45:35

      Wow–that is quite an experience! I’d guess you’ve likely had a few dreams inspired by that in the years since. I may even dream about it myself! Always great hearing from you!

      Reply

      • imaginenewdesigns12
        May 18, 2016 @ 08:27:26

        Yes, I agree. Over the years, I have had a few dreams of being inside a cemetery instead of in front of it. Usually I was there to attend a funeral. Shortly after my mother died, I had a dream about being in a land between life and death.

        I hope what happened to me does not ruin your dreams or sleep.

        I am glad to hear from you again too, Mike. 🙂

  16. itsjennythewren
    May 18, 2016 @ 08:54:17

    I love it when I can remember dreams then look up the meanings- thankyou for sharing was nicely written x

    Reply

  17. Stephanae V. McCoy
    May 23, 2016 @ 16:48:00

    That was some dream, it had me panic stricken. I like how you tied the creative process to control and your conclusion that taking the leap isn’t something to be feared as when we let go of control the creativity will come.

    Reply

  18. Marje @ Kyrosmagica
    Jun 05, 2016 @ 09:59:09

    Dreams are fascinating… I haven’t had an exciting one for a while… about due I reckon! I wrote about one of my dreams too on my blog ages ago, it was a very colourful dream that I had after eating a curry!

    Reply

  19. reocochran
    Jun 08, 2016 @ 02:32:32

    I enjoyed how you took us on a ride. I felt it was a real experience until the water reached 1000 feet, Mike. Boy, did you have my “full attention!” I feel nervous thinking of writing as jumping off an abyss. If this is what works for you, Mike~ Go for it!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 09, 2016 @ 19:12:51

      Hi Robin! I’m glad you enjoyed this post.:) Indeed, sometimes writing feels like jumping into an abyss for all the wrong reasons, too.:( But the creative process never ceases to amaze me, and I always need to remind myself to trust the process, even though it’s not an easy thing to do!

      Reply

  20. Lisa Meister
    Jul 17, 2016 @ 18:22:03

    Have you used your dream in a story yet? It is perfect.

    Reply

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