Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category


Not really reading

July 26, 2022

One of the ways in which I am utterly disappointing as a liberal-arts-college graduate, and as a voting citizen, is that, aside from the requirements of my job, I don’t read all that much.

If there’s a classic novel out there that you greatly admire, an absolute masterpiece of the genre, you can be certain that I not have read it. Ditto for non-fiction books. I don’t know why the caged bird sings, I don’t know how Stella got her groove back, and I don’t know for whom the bell tolls. I’m not at all proud of this; it’s just the way it has been for me for many years.

It was against this backdrop that I found myself waking up from a dream in which I had been profoundly moved by some sort of long-form reporting I had read on SlateSlate indeed being a main source of the online stuff that I do read (quickly, during breakfast and so forth).

The piece was called “The Source.” It was a meandering nonfictional account of rock-drilling technology and immigrant workers and a bunch of other stuff that wouldn’t have belonged together unless synthesized by a masterful writer, or, in this case, by a dream. I worked my way through it on a lunch break or something, reasonably interested, and then arrived at the final paragraph.

“In the hills of ______ County in Virginia,” the paragraph said (approximately), “there is a field of giant flat rocks. In the middle of one of the rocks is a hole, no more than a few millimeters in diameter. And through this tiny hole, every day, come millions upon millions of gallons of fresh, pure water, a godsend for all who live in the area, human and otherwise.” It had the vibe of a David Attenborough-style documentary, intending to highlight a particular example of the wonders of nature.

There were several other sentences too, perhaps tying this random tidbit to the rest of the piece. And there was an overhead photograph, which did indeed show an enormous rock with a tiny hole. For whatever reason, the hole was dry at the moment captured in the photo.

As I read this paragraph and stared at the photo, I found it incredibly profound and moving. I wept, then woke up, then marveled at how strongly I had been reacting just a moment ago.

Was I finally, reluctantly acknowledging the awesomeness of nature? (Such a tiny hole! So much water! So much life dependent on the water!) Was I crying out for the information and insights that I would surely gain if I would only make reading a priority in my life? Was I just feeling hot after a long summer day?



June 11, 2022

Tonight my three-year-old ran home from the lake

Over city streets known to me but new to him.

How he made it home I’ll never know;

The body finds a way.

He surprised me in the kitchen,

Looking almost casual, almost proud,

Torso naked, dark-blue shorts halfway down his legs.

When he reached his mama in the hallway,

He fell to the floor sobbing

And stayed there a good long while,

Safe at home, but broken from the journey.


My dream about Brett Kavanaugh

October 7, 2018

I just awoke from a dream that featured two surprises relating to Brett Kavanaugh, the just-confirmed Supreme Court justice.

The first surprise was that I got a letter from him in the mail — a form letter, but a letter nonetheless.

“Dear Greg,” it began (in the manner of form letters generated by programs smart enough to fill in the names of individual recipients).  “Every year, millions of Americans are victims of sexual assault or related offenses. If you have been a victim — either recently or not so recently — I want you to know that you are not alone, and I hope that the enclosed ‘survivor’s kit’ will provide helpful support as you move forward with your life.  If this kit is not relevant or useful to you, please consider passing it on to someone else. Sincerely, Brett M. Kavanaugh.”

The second surprise was that, within minutes of receiving this letter and opening it and reading it, I noticed Justice Kavanaugh, wearing his black judicial robes, emerging from a guest bathroom of my home. (In the dream, I was living in a one-story mansion with hardwood floors and featuring an enormous living room with a grand piano. It somewhat resembled the residence of my late Grandmother Jane.)

I walked across the enormous living room to greet him. “Hey, Judge,” I said. “I just received your letter.” He nodded.

“You know,” I continued, “I opposed your nomination to the Supreme Court. But I was moved by this letter, even though I myself have never been assaulted.”

“One of my big fears about you,” I said, “is that you aren’t necessarily looking out for people who lead lives less privileged than yours — people who’ve been marginalized and victimized by racism, sexism, and other toxic attitudes and institutional biases. But this letter gives me hope that these people are on your radar after all, and that you will use your power to ensure justice for ALL.”

He drew in a big breath, preparing to speak. And then I woke up.

NOTE: I am reporting this dream as I experienced it because I found it interesting. The dream should not be construed as an argument for or against Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, or as anything other than a flight of fancy. 


Weird Al and Weird Ed

October 3, 2013

Last night I watched some old “Weird Al” Yankovic music videos with my son, then fell asleep and had a dream involving math professor Ed Burger (who inspired Leila Z and the Terrible Triplets).

I hadn’t previously thought of the two as being connected, but my subconscious may be on to something.

Burger vs. Yankovic
Photos taken from and


Last night I had the strangest dream

August 9, 2012

I was in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, with my mother, where she was setting up a new research lab. This is notable in and of itself, as Mom is, in reality, a retired 1st-grade teacher with no special affinity for science.

Anyway, I was in the hallway of some research building when a woman in her 40s or 50s came by and asked me what I was doing here. When I told her, she said, “Oh! You should meet my daughter, Maj!” She squeezed the young woman standing next to her, then added perkily, “My husband named her after my magic breasts.”

I gave her my Jason Bateman face and then woke up.


Ultramarathon dreams

August 22, 2009

I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but every so often, a rumor surfaces that somebody is making a push to get an ultrarunning event into the Olympics, and whenever that happens, I feel an involuntary flicker of excitement. My marathon best of 2:22 doesn’t even get me into the U.S. Olympic Trials, much less the Olympics, so my only shot at the five-ring circus would come in a much longer race (if one were added before I got too old).

Regarding the 2012 and 2016 Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently announced the inclusion of certain sports and exclusion of others. Ultramarathoning was not even mentioned as being under consideration, so I guess we still have a long way to go.

While I may never make it to the Olympics, I do hope to complete a 100-mile race some day. I don’t have a particular event in mind, but I’d probably do best at a relatively flat one like Rocky Raccoon. The other night, I dreamed that I was indeed competing in a 100-miler: the upcoming Cascade Crest 100. This itself is kind of funny, since its terrain is anything but flat (as I found out firsthand in my first-ever ultra pacing experience eight years ago). However, the CC100 of my dream bore little resemblence to the CC100 of reality.

Parts of the dream race meandered through a rustic suburban environment that might have been part of a college campus. I specifically remember getting to mile 70 and being told to cross the street, enter a building (which resembled Schmitz Hall at UW except for being smaller and having a wooden exterior), climb the stairs to the 3rd floor, find Jackie the Registrar, sign her log, and then exit the building and move on to the next checkpoint.

I was leading the race, feeling strong, and elated to have only 30 miles to go. But hot on my heels were Tom Ederer (the actual winner of the 2008 CC100) and his pacer, Scott Jurek. I’ll never know whether I managed to hold Tom off, since I awoke minutes after exiting the Schmitz-like building.

Some ultra enthusiasts may take this dream as a sign that it’s time for me to tackle the CC100 or another similar event. For now, though, I think I’ll just keep dreaming.


Things that I find funny, even if nobody else does

July 19, 2007

1. In Michel Gondry’s movie The Science of Sleep, the protagonist Stephane spends many of his nights imagining himself as the host of something called “Stephane TV,” a sort of cable-access program about relationships, music, art, and everything else that interests Stephane. I had a similar dream last night except that, my imagination being inferior to Stephane’s, I was the host of a low-budget radio show. I said many things that seemed incredibly witty at the time, none of which I can recall except for this, delivered in my best public-radio voice: “If you’d like a transcript of today’s broadcast, here’s what to do: record it on a cassette tape or CD, then play it back later and type everything that you hear.”

2. You know those one-sentence summaries of movies that appear in TV listings? I love those. All films, no matter how thrilling or profound, sound equally prosaic. E.T.? “A group of Earth children help a stranded alien botanist return home.” The Godfather? “The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.” (Quotes courtesy of IMDB, the Internet Movie Database.) Imagine my delight, then, when I recently discovered that many of my son’s books come with their own one-sentence synopses. Madeline? “The smallest and naughtiest of the twelve little charges of Miss Clavel wakes up one night with an attack of appendicitis.” The Mitten? “Several animals sleep snugly in Nicki’s lost mitten until the bear sneezes.” Good stuff!

3. Aside from children’s books, the main thing I read these days is journal articles. Convention dictates that these articles be as flavorless as possible, so I had to smile today when I saw the following: “Orotidine monophosphate decarboxylase (ODCase, EC is among the most proficient enzymes known…. ODCase accomplishes the decarboxylation of OMP without the help of any cofactors and metal ions. This is a remarkable achievement in light of the fact that ODCase (from yeast) exhibits extraordinary rate enhancement of over 17 orders of magnitude compared to the uncatalyzed decarboxylation of orotidine monophosphate in water and at neutral pH, at 25 degrees C. ODCase is among those few special enzymes that have developed a very high level of sophistication in catalyzing decarboxylation….” (Reference: Poduch et al., Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 49: 4937-45, 2006.) If the epitaph on my tombstone is half as glowing as that, I’ll have lived well.


The stuff that dreams are made of

May 2, 2007

I have never gone surfing, nor do I want to. But this morning I dreamed that I was in a nameless coastal town, running down the sidewalk toward the ocean with a surfboard in my hands.

As I ran, I passed another man running in the same direction and carrying an inner tube.

It was Dean Karnazes.

He was shirtless, of course, but so was I. We were headed for the beach, after all.

I passed him without a word, but I soon grew weary and slowed to a walk, and Dean caught back up. Knowing him to be an accomplished surfer, I asked if he had any advice on how to carry the surfboard so that running with it would be more comfortable and less tiring. He certainly did, and gave me a few pointers in his usual friendly manner. Then we continued down the sidewalk toward the ocean. End of dream.

What’s most interesting to me about this little nocturnal episode is how, despite its apparent randomness, it tied together two things that happened just before I went to bed last night.

Thing #1: I went back to the lab for a late-night check on my bacteria, and I saw two kids skateboarding on the sidewalk by the building where I work.

Thing #2: I read Scott Dunlap’s blog entry about the Big Sur Marathon, which describes an unexpected encounter with Dean while racing along the California coastline.

A “board sport” I know nothing about, a sidewalk, a celebrity runner, and a nearby ocean — all perfectly normal items plucked from my mind to form a ridiculous, incoherent whole.

I don’t know what theories of dreaming are currently in vogue among sleep scientists, but my personal sense of the process is simply that the brain sorts through recent experiences and plays Mad Libs with them.


Two recent dreams

October 10, 2006

1. I’m looking in the mirror and notice that my close-cropped hair appears even shorter than usual. Actually, at the top of my forehead, it’s missing altogether. I’m going bald! I wake up relieved to find no evidence of clear-cutting in my follicular forest but still irritated at the reminder that I’m getting older. You see, I’m still sort of in denial of the whole mortality thing.

2. I’m at an unidentifiable high school in a small crowd of people gathered around Bruce Springsteen. This isn’t a concert, though; Bruce is the principal of the school. Apparently he has retired from rock stardom and now has a master’s degree in educational leadership or something, even though he’s physically indistinguishable from the youthful hunk who was dancing in the dark and working on the highway and so forth in 1984. Some of the students are here as well, and one of them starts mouthing off to Bruce, and he sends him to the principal’s office — his office. At this point, I launch into my carefully prepared question. “Boss,” I say, “your music does not generally extol the value of a formal education. In fact, you’ve penned lyrics such as, ‘Well we busted out of class / Had to get away from those fools / We learned more from a three-minute record, baby / Than we ever learned in school.’ How do you reconcile those words with your present-day work?” I wake up before he responds….

All of which leads me to the following conundrum. Why is it that, in my dreams, I’m getting older and balder, but Bruce Springsteen is not?


Outtakes from my life

August 28, 2006

None of the items below quite deserves its own entry, but they collectively indicate what I’ve been thinking about lately, sort of.

August 23rd: The International Astronomical Union votes to revoke Pluto’s status as a planet. Some educators lament the sudden obsoleteness of nine-planet mnemonics such as “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles.” My reaction is to lament the sudden obsoleteness of all those songs about the planets. Think I’m kidding? There’s Meet the Planets by Monty Harper, Planet Jive by Tickle Toon Typhoon, The Planets by the Animaniacs, Les Planetes by Chris Rawlings, Planet X by Christine Lavin, Nine Planets by AstroCappella, Nine Planets by Teacher and the Rockbots, and of course the Schoolhouse Rock classic Interplanet Janet, among others.

August 25th: I’m standing at a bus stop, and I notice that several teenagers there are carrying powder-blue duffel bags. I ask them about the bags, and they explain that they are being given away as part of a new government program encouraging people to stop smoking. The idea is that you get a free bag, you pack it with clothes that have been stained or smell bad as a result of cigarette use, you take the bag to Olympia, you heave it into a landfill there … and then you go forth and smoke no more. It sounds ridiculous, but the bag-wielding kids seem genuinely fired up about the program, bus trip to Olympia and all. Maybe the state is onto something, I think…. And then I wake up.

August 27th: I’m running around Lake Union with my shirt off when a vehicle approaches from behind. Not just any vehicle, but an amphibious Ride the Ducks vehicle full of tourists. And it’s blasting “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky — a musical joke clearly aimed at me. So do I play along? Yes I do. Without breaking stride, I raise my right fist to emphasize that my 7:00-per-mile pace is intimidating and heroic. Then I throw a few punches for no extra charge. The tourists cheer; the Duckmobile pulls away. Surreal, but not a dream.