Called home


I’ve had a lot of vivid dreams lately. Almost all of them involve travel in one way or another: airplanes, buses, trains.

And my mother is in almost all of them, and so is my sister Susan, both of whom are long dead.

What’s going on here?

I miss them both. Mom was angry and difficult, but I loved her, and I know I’m very like her. Susan was probably very much like Mom (to be honest), and we fought terribly when we were young, but by the time we were adults we were good friends.

So it’s very natural that I dream of them.

Mom died in 1999; Susan died in 1995. Susan told me, a few months before she died, that she looked forward to seeing our father in heaven when she got there. “But,” she said ominously, “you know who won’t be there.”

I knew whom she meant. “Susan,” I said, “I know. But I’m just as bad as Mom. I’m going where she’s going. Look for me there.”

“Okay,” she said.

I only hear from Mom and Susan through my dreams nowadays.  Susan is very loving, and always hugs me (she’s still a little plump, even in heaven). Mom often looks and acts cranky when I encounter her in Dreamland.

I used to see them in my dreams once in a while. Now I see them all the time. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen them almost every night.

Are Mom and Susan trying to tell me something? Are they calling me home?

I wonder.

If this blog suddenly stops, you’ll know that something has happened.

Tunis and Dream-Tunis



I lived in Tunis for two years. It was (and, I’m sure, still is) a beautiful city.  I lived in a house not far from the shoe market and the gold market and the perfume market, down the street from the coppersmiths’ district, within shouting distance of the az-Zeytouna Mosque. My walk to work took me through the busiest part of the tourist / merchant area, past the rug merchants and the spice merchants and the olive-wood merchants, past the British Council library, out through the Bab Bhar, down Avenue Habib Bourguiba, past the French-built Cathedral of Saint Vincent de Paul, past the statue of the fourteenth-century Tunisian historian Ibn Khaldoun holding his book against his chest.



It was a sunlit city, warm, funny, full of unique and wonderful neighborhoods.



I dream of it all the time.  Dream-Tunis is not quite the same as the real Tunis in which I lived.  Dream-Tunis is full of dramatic landscapes and vistas.  In Dream-Tunis I’ll walk down a boulevard and see the entire city from a height, or realize that there’s a whole stretch of seacoast I never visited.  Or a mosque, or a whole stretch of old buildings.



I think it’s because the real Tunis was (to me, in the mid-1980s) just as dreamlike.  I remember, one Saturday, deciding to walk north (an unfamiliar direction) through the medina, to see what I’d find.  I found residential areas, and more markets, and roofed streets, and unroofed streets.  I found a housewares market, like an open-air Walmart.  I found another shoe market.  I found quiet neighborhoods full of palm trees growing between the houses. 



I didn’t want to go home.  I wanted to keep going forever. 



I think that’s why I still dream about it.  Tunis was a labyrinth, but all of its secrets and revelations were beautiful.  I always wonder: what would have happened if I’d turned left instead of right?  What doorway would I have found?  Another spice market?  Another thousand-year-old mosque?  Another Turkish palace?



My friend Nejib (who now directs a large technology operation in the city) keeps inviting me back to see “the new Tunisia.” 



Maybe I will someday. 



I hope it’s still as intricate and beautiful as I remember.



The other side of the hill


When I was growing up in Washington state, I was always surrounded with heavily-wooded hills and mountains.  I have a distinct childhood memory of sitting in a supermarket parking lot and looking into the corner of a small but impenetrable-looking forest that seemed to roll forever up the side of a hill.  I knew this was impossible, because we weren’t really far from Portland/Vancouver.  But it seemed that way.



My fantasy was (and is) always this: to walk into those trees, up that hill, and come to the summit, and see what’s on the other side.  I bet it’s lovely.  I bet there’s a river in the valley below, under a perpetual ruddy sunset.  I bet there’s a town, or maybe just a general store, where you can buy supplies for the journey onward.



I treasure this fantasy. I will never let go of it.



Rhode Island is very flat. Jerimoth Hill, the highest spot in the state, is barely over eight hundred feet high.  There are hills – Providence used to brag of its seven hills (College, Constitition, Federal, Smith, Tockwotten, Weybosset, and Christian) – but they’re anthills really; some have been dismantled completely.  You can look out from Prospect Terrace over downtown and see all the way to – what? – Johnston, maybe. 



It’s lovely, but not very inspiring.



So I still dream of those lovely Northwest horizons, with mountains and mysterious treelines and hills disappearing into the blue distance, into –



Into something.  I don’t know.



But it’s something wonderful.




In dreams

I write my dreams down, when I remember them. I’m not sure why, except that I have a sense (as do we all, probably) that I’m a completely fascinating person, and everything about me is wonderful.



And maybe I will learn secrets from my inner self.



So far, however, not much valuable info has come to light.



I don’t have many bad dreams. Once in a while I have an anxiety dream – losing my wallet, missing a airline connection – but I usually wake up relieved to find it wasn’t real. Sometimes I think that’s the point: my mind is trying to tell me to worry less. Things could be worse.



And actually my dreams are very pleasant, most of the time.



I spend a lot of my dream time in the big house I grew up in, back in rural Washington state. Everything is just the way it was in 1968. My late parents are still alive in my dreams, and are usually both in pretty good moods. Both of my sisters are still alive too, and make regular appearances. I’m often traveling somewhere, by train or bus or airplane. Sometimes I’m back in North Africa, walking down long sunlit boulevards in Tunis or Casablanca, looking down toward the ocean.



I confess I don’t really believe in heaven. It’d be lovely if it were true, but I’m not pinning my hopes on it. But, if there’s a heaven, it would be nice if it were like my dreams: big cloudy landscapes, one place blending into the next, always places to go and people to see, and all my dead family and friends still popping up to say hello.



Here’s hoping.


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