I awoke last from the loveliest dream. In it, I was in the middle of a vineyard somewhere, at dusk. I think it was in Napa, but since I’ve never been there, I don’t really know. The dream was extremely sensory…my feet covered with the dust of sandy soil, the sky a long expanse of bruised lavendar, the air balmy, the perfect kind of temperature where you aren’t too warm and you aren’t too cold and you, just are. An old boyfriend, a former artist, actually, was with me in this vineyard, and in this dream he owned it, had become the runner of a winery. He walked me up and down his vineyards, showing me the different grapes for ice wine, for shiraz, for cabernet, and at one point we stopped and he picked off some grapes and fed them to me and in the dream the juice burst in my mouth and surprised me with its extraordinary sweetness.
Really, an odd dream for me to have – I’m one of those dreamers who has never even committed infidelity in my dreams. Oh, I’ve come close, in my dreams. I’ve wanted to. But always, at some crucial moment where the decision must be made, I suddenly remember I am married, married to S. and even if up until that moment in the dream I am single, S.’s presence always comes crashing down on me and I somehow stop the dream and awake with a start, check to make sure S. is still breathing steadily beside me, roll over onto my back and practice yogic breaths, relieved I hadn’t totally screwed up my marriage. In this dream, though, I wasn’t married but nor was I particularly interested in this old boyfriend of mine…I was just happy walking down the long winery paths with him, eating grapes. It’s the kind of dream that’s so lovely that after you wake up you try desperately to sink back into it, to continue the walk with your friend, but of course, that’s never possible.
I like when old friends visit in dreams. I know it’s ridiculous, but for years I’ve believed if you dream about someone they must simultaneously be dreaming about you, and it’s a way for you to connect across the worlds we live in now. Fanciful, but I’ve never been able to let go of the idea.
By the end of the last work week, I realized my mind was cluttered with too much junk. I wasn’t reading much. I wasn’t writing. I felt overwhelmed by thousands of thoughts. Do I eat less cheese to lower my cholesterol, or buy fat-free, instead? How will everyone get to the family reunion next week? What if the conditions are horrible, what if it rains? Should I start Anna Karenina or East of Eden next? Should I buy organic cleaning supplies from now on? How can I be a good wife, worker, family member, friend, environmentalist, how can I contribute more to my community, what if I never publish anything, ever, then I’ll never get that tattoo I promised myself and I do want that tattoo even though S. doesn’t want me to get it. How can we avoid bringing up politics at the reunion? Oh god, we must avoid Israel and Lebanon discussion, S. passionately supports Israel, my dad passionately supports Lebanon -they can’t sit near one another – am I going to hell for running my air-conditioner? I might be melting the polar ice caps. How come no one will see An Inconvenient Truth with me? Oh, there’s a new mole…okay, don’t need to call the dermatologist this second…it can wait until Monday…
and so yesterday I cleaned my house. From top to bottom, from side to side. I dusted, I mopped, I cleaned the blinds and let fresh air in, I went to the grocery store and bought fresh fruit and vegetables and my favorite wine, I paid all of our bills and organized more and moved some money into savings, I plucked my eyebrows and trimmed the plants and when it was all said and done, well, I felt so much better. An old friend of mine, N., used to say that when everything else feels out of control, a thorough cleaning works wonders for the soul because it’s tangible progress in an intangible world…you can see the results of your hard work immediately and it offers up a sense of control that is difficult to obtain through other activities. And I have to say, I think I wrote more yesterday, in my head, than I have all month. Something about a series of tasks set my mind free to wonder around. Often, I wanted to blog something I thought about, but I forced myself to wait, to let the essays and short stories and novel chapters play around in my mind instead of putting them down on paper, and I think all this cleaning house, both metaphorical and literal, freed up something in me to dream about an old artist running a winery and feeding me sweet grapes, so that for the first time in weeks I woke with a sense of comfort instead of a sense of panic, a sense of being loved instead of worrying I’m not loving those around me enough.
I’ve been letting too much clutter up my mind – I think that’s extremely dangerous for writers. Probably for other artists, as well. I’ve been watching too much television, partaking in too many negative conversations at work, worrying too much about my brother and my husband and family, spending too much time working on my figure and not enough time on my mental health. And so, after all the cleaning and all the thinking, I’ve turned off the news, turned down the music, sorted through my books and my writing projects, and returned to the world I know best – where it’s me, some books, a lot of writing, and the kind of dreams that embrace you instead of frighten you – allowing visits from old artist boys who might just, maybe, be walking down an old winery road with you, tasting the same grapes, happy, under the same dark lavendar sky.