Of Dreams and Snowflakes

xkcd: Every Damn Morning

Dreams are certainly odd things. My mother believes they can foretell the future, and indeed when I was young, I was certain she was magic, because things would happen, and she would say she had seen them in a dream. Later I wondered more about cause and effect, and I learned from my own experience that dreams aren't the only odd thing, memories can be strange as well. They warp, they change over time. Things remembered often become more real, more rational. Other memories drift away in the dust on the edge of our road.

It could well be that dreams are nothing more than nighttime sensations which our mind interprets as memories. They have no form until the brain shapes them into something which we can recognize. We've all felt some pieces of a dream fade as we seek to remember, while others, even if they seem less important, become more concrete just because they are more like real life.

In the end, like all stories, it is not the truth of the tale which really matters—it is what the story means to us. Whether dreams are a gift of the gods, the voice of our unconscious, or a mental rorschach test given form by the constraints of our imagination; they can help us realize what things are important to us.

Last night, I had a dream.

My father and I are traveling through Europe, supporting ourselves by working odd jobs. We are in the hall of a large building where my father has a job offer to work on the roof. He is putting on the special pants, boots and gloves that he has to wear for the job, but his numb fingers and legs are making it hard, so he lies on his back, with his feet up against the wall, and slowly fastens the clasps.  Finished, he goes to the window, where he needs to step out onto the fire-escape and go meet the foreman. He is worried about the height, the slippery grates, but I reassure him and he leaves.

Now we are in another hall. My father is talking to the hiring manager. The manager says that he can't give my father the job. Other people, in better shape than my father, have complained that the packs they carry are too heavy. They are big; clear, hard plastic packs with room for tools, water, and a place for the trash they will be picking up. My father, with his unsteadiness from heart problems, numb legs, and growing dementia, cannot handle the job. My father argues half-heartedly, but it is of no use.

We are back again in the first hall. My father is taking off the work clothes. I am taking pictures of him with my phone, and no matter how quickly I snap it, or how unsteady I hold the phone, each picture comes out as a beautiful, glowing memory of my father.

Now a friend calls me on the phone, and I step aside to take it. He is asking if I can do the job he sent me mail about. What job? I ask him. The one he sent me several weeks ago? I'm not qualified. I feel the panic of maybe having missed something in the jumble and confusion of my inbox. No, he says, this is something he sent yesterday. Haven't I seen it? I look again on my laptop, and there it is. I don't know, I say. I will look and get back to you. Throughout the conversation I am embarrassed, hiding it from my father. He is trying to find work, no matter how inappropriate. And I am not.

Last night, my mind had a speck of dust.

It floated through my sleep, gathering ice crystals as it went. It grew larger and larger, and as it did, my mind gave it shape. It emerged as I awoke, a unique snowflake of memory, and as it emerged, it began to melt.

I want to thank @SensualStories for mentioning her dream this morning on Twitter, because it reminded me that I should capture a picture of that snowflake, before it had completely disappeared in a puddle of forgotten memories.