When I went down to the river on Monday evening to row with my husband, the earlier sunset made plain that autumn was coming, although the scorching days haven’t felt at all like it. I’d been outside in my backyard during the afternoon, setting up a soaker hose to water what little there is left of my poor bedraggled willows. Before climate change hit, I had a lovely willow hedge all along my back property line, but not much remains of it anymore.

On Tuesday morning I woke up after dreaming that I was walking alone in a clearcut forest. All the way to the horizon, I saw nothing but stumps and dry, dead weeds. The heat was intense, and I heard no sounds at all—not even crickets.

Clearcut forest

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I thought of it again later that day—but this time, I wasn’t alone in the unwelcoming scene. My satirical future self Kass was perched on a stump, wearing very short jogging shorts and a skimpy tank top with a built-in bra. The cap shading her face had a bright red logo proclaiming APOCALYPSE-R-US in bold letters.

“Yeah, right, Kass, you would think this was funny,” I grumbled.

Kass bounced up from the stump, with dead leaves crunching under her flip-flops. “Let’s go for a little stroll through the Forest of Collective Angst,” she suggested cheerfully.

Dust rose around our feet as we made our way through the desolate landscape. Other than the occasional small hill or dip, there was nothing to distinguish one place from another. After we had been walking for a few minutes, we crossed a dry gully full of pebbles and silt. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a skeleton or two, but I didn’t even see any dead insects. Everything looked totally lifeless.

“Okay, so was I supposed to have learned anything from this?”

Wiping sweat from her forehead, Kass replied, “Well, now, that’s up to you, isn’t it? I’m just a projection of your overactive imagination, after all. But, given that I am you in the 2040s, the fact that I’m alive and in reasonably good shape means that the world as we know it hasn’t collapsed. You haven’t perished of starvation in a howling wilderness. Right?”

I thought for a moment about disputing the point because, obviously, my imagination—however active—wasn’t in charge of what might happen to the world in real life. However, I didn’t really feel like arguing about my chances of dying in a hellish future, so I kept quiet as we slowly trudged up another little hill and started down the other side.

“So—what does the world look like in your time?” I finally asked.

We took a few more steps and went around a particularly large stump before Kass stopped to glance down at a scraggly dandelion that had sprouted in its shade. One stalk held a seed ball. Plucking it, Kass held it to her lips and blew, her eyes closing as if to make a wish. The tiny bits of fluff drifted away on an almost imperceptible breeze.

“We’re still reseeding,” she answered quietly.

August 10, 2021 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve had some dreams recently about moving on with life. On Monday morning, I dreamed that I had moved out of a house and that the new owners changed everything around, so that it became almost unrecognizable. They planted ivy that grew to cover the walls.

Photo of house with ivy on the front walls.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Then I had the “first day in a new school” dream this morning. You know, the one where you’re walking through a big crowded hall just before the first class starts, and feeling like you’ll never find your way to the classroom and will be doomed to wander around forever like a ghost.

Dreams like that always have to do with getting used to change. We’ve all had to contend with far too many disorienting events over the past year, and there is no magic wand to put things back to normal. Instead, like a student at a new school or a homeowner who has moved to a different house, we just have to learn what we can, in the place where we are—however strange it feels.

December 8, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Over the weekend, I had a dream that didn’t make much sense to me at first. I was in a supermarket with a cart full of groceries, but instead of going through the checkout line normally, I was standing at a small counter off to the side. My cart was somewhere behind me, and I was holding a pack of three steaks and arguing with an employee who said I couldn’t buy them. I got angry, threw the steaks down on the counter, and told the employee she could put all the groceries in my cart back on the shelf because I just wanted to leave. Then she said, in an apologetic tone, that she didn’t want me to feel I had to leave with nothing.

No incident like that ever happened to me in real life. Although the supermarkets were limiting their meat sales earlier this year because of the pandemic, my husband was doing almost all of the grocery shopping at that time, and he is enough of a carnivore to make sure we always had meat for dinner. And even if I had been caught trying to buy too much meat when supermarkets were rationing it, which did not happen, I certainly wouldn’t have been obnoxious enough to yell at an employee who was just doing her job by enforcing the rules.

So, I interpreted the steaks in the dream not as actual groceries, but as a symbol of keeping my family well fed and cared for (the steaks were in a family pack). But who, or what, was trying to interfere? I pondered that for some time and finally decided that the employee and the groceries represented this year’s disruptions. If my subconscious mind just wanted to put 2020 back on the shelf, I wouldn’t be the only person with such feelings! Sometimes it felt like an endless walk downward on steps leading nowhere.

Steps leading down through a foggy brown forest.

(Image credit: Philip A. Benyola, Jr.)

But as I understand the dream’s ending, it had a more straightforward, literal meaning—that I shouldn’t feel I was leaving this year with nothing. This has been a year in which I’ve gained more appreciation for the simple comforts of home and family. Also, I feel much better grounded. Last year’s worries have mostly faded to insignificance. As the year comes to an end, I have many reasons to feel blessed.

Early this morning, while it was still dark, I woke up with the Carly Simon song “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” in my head. That song is almost 50 years old, but I’d heard it recently on XM radio when I went to get my hair done. The lyrics are about married couples who do not live happily ever after.


Usually songs don’t get to me that much, but it seemed like I was lying awake for over an hour, feeling profoundly saddened by the lines “Their children hate them for the things they’re not. They hate themselves for what they are…”

According to my Fitbit, which I regularly wear at night to track my sleep, I was dreaming most of that time and wasn’t in fact awake for more than a few minutes. But, however long I was really awake before morning (another dark and chilly almost-November day) arrived, the song left me brooding about how harshly our culture teaches us to judge both others and ourselves.

Maybe it’s the political situation right now that has my thoughts running along such paths. When so many people feel that they are always being judged and falling short of expectations, no matter how much effort they put into doing what they “should,” then it’s no wonder they feel angry about life being unfair.

I am not going to judge anyone for being angry, as doing so only compounds the problem. Still—from my own perspective on the way things should be—I’d like to believe that most of us, both when voting and more generally, can set aside that anger and instead look toward what’s needed to heal.

September 17, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

For the past few weeks I’ve been saying an “infinite possibilities” mantra while working out on my rowing machine with video of a river or lake quietly going by. Also, I usually display peaceful landscapes on the digital art display in my dining room, like this image from Hausjärvi, Finland.

Lake in Finland

(Photo credit: Tero Laakso)

But I might have overdone it, just a bit, with all those possibilities. I dreamed that I had three boyfriends, all at the same time! Because this was a dream, they all knew about each other, had no problem with it, and treated me wonderfully.

In real life, figuring out how to deal with one husband always has been quite sufficient. I can say with assurance that I definitely have no secret longing for extra guys! So I’m interpreting the dream as a creative exercise by my subconscious in pushing the boundaries of possibility. The message (to the extent there is one) probably has to do with the world being full of abundance.

August 26, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I had a dream on Tuesday that I found somewhat disturbing, so I decided to write it down and try to make some sense of it. In this dream, my husband and I were wealthy, and we lived on an estate with a lovely view and many large, majestic evergreen trees.

Tall conifers overlooking a valley.

Some of the trees had grown so large that they were starting to encroach on a concrete parking area for visitors. I said something to my husband about needing to get that taken care of, and then I left for the day. When I returned, two trees nearest the parking area had been totally cut to the ground. There was nothing left of them but logs waiting to be hauled away. I was furious that my husband had decided to have the trees cut down, without even discussing it with me, when I only wanted to hire someone to trim a few branches. Then I woke up, still feeling angry.

In real life, we don’t have any large trees in our yard, and my husband doesn’t do much landscaping beyond mowing the lawn. He hasn’t gotten rid of anything around the house that I wanted to keep, either. So I am interpreting the trees not as referring to actual trees or things, but more generally as symbols of stability, being grounded, having strong roots, and so forth.

Apparently, there are some worries lurking in my subconscious mind that if I am not constantly on my guard, I’ll be undercut, and whatever I rely on to be grounded and rooted in my life might suddenly be taken away. The villain of the story wouldn’t necessarily be my husband or anyone in particular; I’m guessing that this dream was mainly a reaction to all the instability in the world this year. Perhaps being wealthy in the dream was a reminder that we still have many reasons to be thankful.

August 12, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When my daughter and her husband come to visit, sometimes we cook out on our backyard grill. This summer, as people are traveling less, they haven’t visited recently. Maybe that had something to do with why I dreamed we had another young couple visiting our home for a backyard picnic. They weren’t real people, just dream characters. The most memorable part of the dream was that they had a pet miniature pig that was well trained and walked on a leash.

Miniature pig on a leash.

(Photo credit: Alan Levine)

While we sat in lounge chairs on the grass, the pig enjoyed exploring the backyard. It behaved very much like a dog, coming over to its owners and wanting to be petted and played with.

I don’t actually know anyone in real life who has a miniature pig, but I’m guessing that the reason I dreamed about a pet pig is because everyone’s social lives got so disrupted this year. Pets, in general, represent companionship and fun. My subconscious mind probably was telling me that it is okay to have different social experiences. We’ll get back to normal sometime.

July 30, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Res judicata is a Latin phrase that means “a thing adjudicated.” It refers to the legal doctrine that after the final judgment in a case, the parties are bound by that judgment and are not allowed to keep on arguing the same issue against the same opponent by filing a new case. If they try, the judge will promptly dismiss the new case on the opponent’s request.

I work in legal publishing, and although I don’t often dream about my work, last night I dreamed that I was using legal terminology to write about my personal life. The only thing I remember about what I wrote in that dream was “No res judicata.” While still in the dream, I took a moment to reflect on that observation about my life, and then—just before waking up—I said to myself “Hey, this is really good!” And I woke up feeling remarkably cheerful.

The meaning of that dream seemed plain enough—I am not bound by the past. No matter what problems might have stressed me before, today’s issues are different enough that it’s not the same case. I am free to grow and flourish in new and better circumstances.

My backyard willow hedge, bright and green in summer.

The photo illustrating this post isn’t new; it shows my backyard willow hedge five years ago, and it was posted on this blog then. I reposted it because the hedge started dying back the year after the photo was taken, stressed by hot and dry summers after two unusually cold winters. A casualty of climate change, perhaps. It had more dead branches this year, and I finally decided to cut off all the old growth and let the willows grow back from the base, giving the hedge a fresh start without the burden of its past stress. I am hopeful that in another five years, the hedge will be tall and healthy again. No res judicata.

April 28, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

In the “definitely going stir crazy by now” category: Last night, I was looking online for good photos to put on my digital art display. I particularly liked this one, showing Beaver Creek, Alaska, which was posted by the United States Bureau of Land Management.


But I probably shouldn’t have been on the computer so soon before going to bed. Apparently as a result of seeing the photo, I had a wacky dream in which my family played a game of touch football in our backyard—against a team of giant beavers.

Their coach was using hand signals to tell them what plays to run, and they were pretty good at the game. In fact, the beavers were winning. I was getting pretty frustrated when I woke up and was thankfully restored to sanity—such as it is nowadays.

January 16, 2020 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve been feeling pretty good since Monday morning, as if old subconscious tension lifted away overnight. When I went to bed Sunday night, I was asking myself what I should do to bring more energy into my life. Sometimes I get interesting answers in my dreams when I go to sleep with a question in mind.

The dream that I had Monday morning wasn’t what anyone would call realistic. I saw myself going back to college to change careers, and I was on the rowing team. In effect, I became a teenager all over again—except that I was never a college athlete in real life.

College women rowing a four.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Then I woke up and bounced out of bed, feeling healthy and full of energy like a teenager. Some amount of physical tightness and stiffness, which seemed to reflect adult worries and expectations, had gone away.

I don’t foresee myself literally starting all over again as a college student, and of course there are some benefits to having a broader adult perspective. Even so, that dream certainly was telling me that the way to get more energy is by learning and doing new things. Maybe, sometime this year, I’ll discover an interesting opportunity that feels like a fresh start in life. I’m going to stay on the lookout for it!