by Brooke Hardwick
There are some cities that have only ever come to me in dreams. I am not talking about Paris or Prague. The cities that come to me are not real. They only exist in the garnet depths of night when I sleep.
Last night a city came to me that has visited often. It’s from somewhere indistinct. Its buildings paint a mountainside white and pink. Its streets run silver. It hums with art and importance.
We have swapped places, this pink steampunk metropolis and I, for instead of travelling to it, it travels to me. I don’t have to pack a bag or book a flight. The only job for me to do is write it into existence.
But for that I need to become a dream-catcher.
I have always been a vivid dreamer. It has felt at times as though entire nights have been spent in other worlds -– as though I don’t sleep at all, I simply dream.
Surely, I’m only remembering what is close at either end of sleep. In contrast, the mind at midnight is flipped firmly in the recovery position and what happens then is probably completely lost to us.
Perhaps it needs to be.
Last night the dream visited me in the last moments of a ‘that’s right its Saturday I can sleep-in’ reboot nap in the hours of early morning.
It arrived at a good time to catch. Just as a fish flops compliant after it has been reeled from the deep, the time closest to the surface of consciousness is infinitely easier to get at than the abyss of REM.
I’m neither the first writer to think about dreams nor the first thinker to write about them but access is critical to creativity.
In the 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship Dali craves the same access.
“The most characteristic slumber, the one most appropriate to the exercise of the art of painting… is the slumber which I call the slumber with a key.”
But this writer isn’t Dali. Nowhere close. So when the pink city came to me again last night I quickly jotted it down in the neon glare of my abruptly-activated phone. Dilated with tech I awakened and anything left went back from where it had come.
There is a better way of doing it, this reaching, and it is to be found in harnessing hypnagogia.
Hypnagogia is the transitional stage between sleep and wakefulness. It’s a trippy threshold that with careful self-control can be manipulated to harvest our imagination.
Dali did it. As did Mary Shelley who claims she first had the idea for Frankenstein in the early morning hours “…with eyes shut, but acute mental vision.”
But of all the dream catchers perhaps Thomas Edison was the most adept at using the key that Dali speaks of.
Sitting upright in a chair, Edison would hold a metal ball in his hands. As he nodded off, the ball would drop, so to speak, and in the clamour he would awaken to alertly record what would have been lost.
Melting clocks and falling balls aside, I am deeply invested in my dreams. They have been with me since I can remember; tucked in crevices of consciousness and occasionally revealing themselves like morning glory with petals open to the sun.
Wherever they are and whenever they choose to show themselves I will treasure what dreams may come.