Tuesday, 19 May 2009

In search of the dream klimat

What could be more boring than someone else's dreams? I shall try not to bore; in this post I intend to examine how I 'see' places in dreams.

Last night I dreamt I was in North West London, with the children (Moni is seven and Eddie is four. They are always this age in my dreams. And for years I've always been in my mid-30s. This is, in itself, interesting).

But it's the location that's significant; it's this aspect of dreams I want to explore in this post. While there were no distinctive landmarks featured in my dream, the look and feel of the environment was quite clearly North West London. Anywhere between Cricklewood and Edgware. This was neither West London, nor was it North London. London's suburbs have distinct characters. A native Londoner doesn't need to map to know which part of the capital he's in. A landscape of brick railway arches where the Underground runs above street level, rows of ethnic shops, plane trees, bus stops.

In this respect my dreams are like my flashbacks. The 'look and feel', the atmosphere, the sense of the place, the klimat, the zeitgeist and platzgeist - is all there, though the details may not match. Unlike flashbacks, which are static references to a time and place, dreams are dynamic and include narratives that will often yield curious plots or occurrences. In this one, we're in a small DIY shop. We notice some other customers talking Polish to one another. Then two people at the counter asked whether three rolls of wallpaper could be wrapped up and posted to Poland. The shop assistant answered in Polish. It then occurred to me that all eight people in this shop were in fact all from Poland. But really, this particular detail is neither here nor there, as this was but one fragment of a longer, rambling dream, all set in the same location. What matters is the spirit of place, the spirit of North West London.

Sometimes my dreams feel (while I'm dreaming them) to have an uncanny geographic precision; last week I dreamt of a newsagent's, on the Boston Road, Hanwell London W7. In my dream, it was situated on the corner, at the end of the row of shops just across the road and to the north of Boston Manor Underground station. In reality (courtesy of Google Maps Street View*) I can see that a) there's no street corner here - there's a row of flats, and b), it's not a newsagent's but a dry cleaner's. So my 'remote viewing' is close, but not accurate.

Often (and I wonder how many expats** also experience this), I have dreams set in both Poland and the UK at the same time; an anglicised Warsaw with London buses for example. The spirit of place gets fused.

My point being? My consciousness feels a strong affinity with place. Whether in such dreams, or in flashbacks to my childhood, or in those anomalous flashbacks I have described, the klimat of place is the feature that I'm most aware of. I wonder to what extent this is universal; whether others dream of places as I do - and what this signifies?

* Google's Street View is amazing. At the drop of a hat I can zoom into a place and pick up that klimat in seconds. Remote viewing made real.

** An article in this week's Economist suggests that expats are more creative than stay-at-home types.

This time last year:
Zakopane to Kraków at 25mph

This time two years ago:
"The year's most beautiful day" (Thomas Bewick)


Island1 said...

Fused places? Yes, all the time. My dream speciality is invented landscapes made up of bits from all over the place. I return to these again and again, and in a dream I know how to get from one to the other. Sometimes I don't go back to a particular landscape for years, but when I do I remember where everything is immediately.

Michael Dembinski said...

Thanks Jamie - this is exactly what I was angling for - looking for commonalities in the human dream experience.

There is a part of the brain (the hippocampus) that, according to neuroscience, is responsible for feelings of familiarity. That deja vu thing (big article in New Scientist a few weeks back).

With some people it's 'that event seems familiar' - in your case - and mine - it's 'that landscape seems familiar'.

Neighbour said...

> ** An article in this week's
> Economist suggests that expats are
> more creative than stay-at-home
> types.

I fully agree. First American colonists were all xepats ;-)

Have seen a heron while runing today on Trombity at 6.30. Also one above your house more or less, on Sunday a week ago. Don't you know where they nest? Must be close and they're not that common, probably one pair. worth investigation since you have wellingtons and a big słoik for your DSLR ;-)

All the best,

pinolona said...

I read that article too!

Hmm: I normally dream about people rather than places. Either people I know or imaginary people that I know in the dream. Maybe it's a female thing.

Michael Dembinski said...

Neighbour - I think the herons hang around the pond on ul. Pozytywki; I've seen them as far afield as Dawidy and Zamienie, and photographed them last summer over the reedbeds at the end of ul. Trombity. With a bigger lens, I hope to catch them there again this year!

Pinolona - Male-female? I think its cat-dog - my dreams indicate a "cat" which forms relationships with places rather than individuals, although a regular cast of characters occurs in my dreams (family members, old friends etc). The most interesting 'people' dreams an chronologically anomalous (1930s-50s)and unlike most dreams, confirm to the three unities - time, place and action.

Michael Dembinski said...

I've dreamt a past death (!); in a 1950s American hospital, a long, three storied modern white building. In a long, almost empty ward, a nurse is doing her rounds. It is around four am. I can see her at the foot of my bed. I'm hovering over my body, looking at the scene. She looks at her clipboard and 'thinks out loud': "Mr Martin, I'm afraid you'll not make it through to the morning". I'm thinking "how insensitive of her to think such a thing!

student SGH said...

my dreams were rather set in the future.

First one: Centre of Warsaw (pedestrian precinct along Centrum Department Stores. I walk slowly and all of the sudden feel the stabbing pain in my chest, somewhere around my heart, the pain knocks me down, I fall over, other passers-by also cringe, a moment later sky starts falling. My explanation - to much reading about the conspiracy theories of doomsday foretold on 21st December 2012 (the Mayan prophecy).

Second: I simply sit behind my desk in the office (I'm no longer a student), again I feel an unexpected pain in my chest, I slump forward on my desk, my co-workers scream something. Possible cause: premature death on heart attack?

Third: summer, sunny day, I mow the lawn in my garden, meanwhile chatting with my neighbour standing behind the fence. Suddenly it's getting totally dark - the bog blackout comes, either I'm blinded by something or the sun goes off - impression just like if somebody turned off the light. The engine of the grass mower stops. Neighbour and I still talk to each other trying to comment on the phenomenon. After ten seconds the pain starts penetrating my body, from feet goes up to the heart, then blows me up - I had the feeling of the bomb exploding inside me. Explanation that the blade of mower caught on the extension cord wire doesn't seem plausible(?)

Three dreams had one thing in common - after my the moment I died in my dream I woke up with the real pain in the chest, it eased off after one - two minutes.

Michael Dembinski said...

Aaah... In my opinion, this is a clear reference to your past life death! Worth reading the article about the nocebo effect in last week's New Scientist (link in post dated 15 May). The balance thing is to neither ignore nor obsess about the state of your heart.

student SGH said...

I totally ignored those dreams, but treated them as a curiosity, but were strikingly realistic, mostly in terms of the place. fortunately my heart is doing well and I don't feel like doing within the coming years - maybe that's indeed the past life, I wouldn't like it to concern my present incarnation...