With Jeff Ford at the Fabulous Mountain

Saturday night, I had this strange dream. In it, I was somewhere in Ireland. I had come from the airport to meet Jeff Ford. Together, we walked around a cul-de-sac of maybe four or five houses, which were the only buildings around. At the center of the cul-de-sac was a traffic island thick with grass and short trees. There were other people walking on the sidewalk beside the road. I understood they lived in the houses. They gave Ford and me suspicious glances, but he ignored them. There was also a constable with a large black and gray dog who kept walking between us. I thought maybe the dog was trained to sniff out drugs, and the cop wanted to give him a chance to get a good whiff of us. We walked onto the island, I can’t recall exactly what we were talking about–it had something to do with being in Ireland. (Maybe Ford was teaching a workshop there?) The cop and his dog followed us onto the island and once more passed between us. We stepped out onto the street to return the way we’d come, and I saw a mountain in the distance ahead of us. The sight of it stopped me in my tracks. It was wide, its slopes steep, though not too much to hike up, and rose to a long flat top. Its summit was dusted in snow almost pink in the sunlight. Its sides were deep green and dark blue, traversed by winding streams, dotted with small lakes. It seemed to glow in the afternoon light. I was awestruck by the sight of it, overcome with this feeling of wonder that hasn’t left me yet. “This was behind us this whole time?” I said to Ford, who replied, yeah, and there were more beyond it. As he said this, I could see the edges of other mountains in the distance behind this one, dark purple masses. I think I saw water at or near their bases. Looking at all of it was like hearing the swell of an orchestra as it reaches the end of a song.

The next day, I relayed the dream to Fiona, my wife, as we were making dinner. Although I couldn’t figure out what it meant, it had stuck with me since I had awakened that morning. “What do you make of it?” I said when I had reached the end of it. I didn’t think she’d have an answer; I assumed she’d say something to the effect of, “Beats me.”

As is usually the case when I make assumptions about my wife, I was wrong. She said, “I think it’s about your creativity. You were feeling low after losing the Stoker award. So your mind brought you to someone you look up to and admire. From what you’ve said, Jeff Ford isn’t too concerned about awards. While you were with him, you saw this fabulous mountain, which is an emblem of your creativity. You were amazed, but Ford wasn’t, because that’s what he’s focusing on, already. Think of it as your brain’s way of reminding you of what’s important.”

“Wow,” I said. “That makes sense.”

“Great,” Fiona said. “That’ll be fifty bucks.”

Floating Next to the Whale: A Dream

Most of my dreams are confused, fragmentary affairs.  There are elements I recognize from dream to dream, mostly large, labyrinthine structures through which I wander, sometimes alone, generally in the company of a small group of people, but I don’t experience the kind of long narratives some of my family and friends have related to me.

In some ways, the dream I had the other night wasn’t much different from usual, but its effect on me was and continues to be profound.  In it, I was floating in the ocean; I think I was wearing a wetsuit (which I also think was orange and black).   I am, as a rule, made very nervous to the point of panicking by the thought of being in deep water, but I was oddly calm.  In the mid- to far distance, I could see the low, jagged spine of a mountainous island, which, in the weird way of dreams, I knew was tropical.  Directly to my left, maybe eight or ten feet away, there was a man in a kayak, also wearing a wetsuit (which I think was also orange and black), a life-vest, and a safety helmet; he was holding a paddle in one or both of his hands.  I don’t remember recognizing him, but we were familiar enough for him to warn me to be very careful.

The reason for his caution was the blue whale floating directly in front of me, no more than two or three feet away.  The top of its head was barely out of the water; what I could mostly see was one brown eye the size of a saucer, set in blue and gray skin traversed by deep grooves and lines.  I was aware of the immensity of the whale just underneath the water next to me, and of that great brown eye studying me as it slowly moved from left to right in front of me.  I had the sense the whale was female, though I can’t say how.  The man in the kayak was telling me how dangerous my position was, how you weren’t supposed to be this close to a whale, how if it decided to dive you could be sucked underwater.  I wasn’t afraid, which struck me even in the dream:  I knew I should be, next to so massive a creature in so perilous a location, but all I was aware of was a kind of emotion–I want to call it a subdued or muted gladness at the sheer size of the whale, at something like this existing.

And that was the dream, just floating beside this blue whale as she regarded me.  The next night, as we were preparing dinner, I told it to Fiona, my wife, who almost immediately had an interpretation for it.  “I think it was your imagination,” she said.  “I think you were meeting your imagination.  In a lot of Jungian psychology, the ocean is a symbol for the unconscious.  I think you were having a meeting with your imagination.”  Which is far cooler than anything I could have come up with.  I love the idea of a whale as the image for my imagination:  there’s a whale scene in my first novel, House of Windows, and then there’s The Fisherman, which started life as my riff on Moby Dick.  Funnily enough, the night I had the dream, I had just had a breakthrough about the long project I’m trying to get started on now.  So there you go.

Blue whales are the largest mammals, and possibly the largest animal of any kind to have lived on Earth. A long, whale has been seen, but most are smaller than this. Blue Whale Pictures, Sea Whale, What A Beautiful World, Beautiful Things, Deep Blue Sea, Tonne, Large Animals, Nature Reserve, Sea Creatures