“… [T]he prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East.” Alan Watts, The Book of Knowing Who You Really Are
Your first word was light.
It’s ironic that you grew up to wear such a dark costume. I guess it wasn’t a costume as much as it was a uniform. When you were home you wore a tee shirt and shorts with your flip-flops and your hair in a pony tail and you looked relaxed, friendly even. But when you went out you put on several layers of chains and your skull and cross bone ties, the all black button-down shirts, black pants, Fedora, knives in your pocket, and the face. You put on the face that said, “Don’t fuck with me.”
But I knew you.
It’s all about perspective. Isn’t it?
For instance, right now, I am awake, so I think that to be awake is the normal state of awareness. I believe other mind-states are not as important, but that’s only because I have limited vision and not because they are of lesser value or less connected within the spectrum.
What if dreams and altered states of consciousness are just bits of our reality scattered over space and time like a beam of light scattered over a stretch of atmosphere and are of equal validity?
What if, even before you are born, and after you die, you are a part of a cosmic dream, and you are scattered over a field of macro-dynamic uncertainty in which life and death are alternately particle and wave?
Uncertainty is your sky, the by and by your story unwinds in, your hopes and your worries spiral round in, down to the beginning where it all begins again until something causes a new event in your horizon.
I am just daydreaming now, because sometimes daydreaming pays off; we don’t always know how we know what we know; we just have to wait and be open to whatever comes to us.
One time I wanted to paint a candle flame representing divine light. I wanted to show the flame and the light around it.
I was sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for my scheduled visit, mesmerized by the idea of a single flame that I could only see in my mind’s eye. I like to doodle while I wait so I kept drawing the lines over and over, trying to get it right. All of a sudden, I realized that light attracts light like a magnet. I knew instantly, on a visceral level, that light would cling to itself.
It was such a strong intuition that I quickly got out my phone and did a Google search about light and electromagnetic energy and discovered that photons are indeed cohesive. I used other people’s information to back up what I intuited, but I learned about the cohesive properties of photons by drawing a candle flame and daydreaming about divine love!
Some people can train themselves to tap into the power of dreams to help solve everyday problems. I have a friend in Finland whose cat got lost in a snowstorm. He is a lucid dreamer. He went to bed with the question, “Where is my cat?” He dreamed that the cat was in an old pig barn not too far away, so when he woke up the next day, he went there to find the cat.
No luck at first.
But he started asking around that neighborhood, and someone said they had seen the cat in the pig barn.
He went back and searched again. This time he found the cat hiding in the rafters. She was thin and scared, but okay otherwise.
He found his cat because he dreamed where to look for her.
I want to dream about Nick. I want to find him; tell him I love him and miss him.
Maybe death is just a trick of the light.
When a beam of light hits the atmosphere all those molecules of gas and stuff break it up; they scatter it, and the short, blue waves are what you see hanging round in the sky, and that is why the sky appears blue. The other rays of the spectrum are not gone, you just don’t see them.
Maybe that is what happened when you died, Nick. You hit Death’s atmosphere and your light was scattered. I can’t see you but that does not mean you are not here.
I like patterns and rhythm. I make stuff up all the time just for the flow of sound, for the click and pound, for the sharp and round of the ups and downs. I like to talk to myself “just to hear my head rattle” as grandma always said, and because it helps me think. Maybe it drowns out some of the other noises I don’t like to hear as well, I don’t know.
I sense the world that already is as it is, or I build a world and it’s the real deal. Isn’t it?
You call that table green, so it is green. But it doesn’t look green to my husband, Tim. Everything green looks brown to him. So, we have a problem with reality, or perception, anyway.
It’s cold. It’s hot. It’s late. No, it’s not. You’re a flake. You’re deep. You make me sick. You make me think. It all makes sense if you get far enough away, or close enough, look through a microscope, dig deep, go to sleep. Ask Freud what he thinks. Or better yet, cause you still Jung, dream a little dream to meditate upon.
Someone asked why the sky is blue, and it reminded me of you. During your last two years on the planet we got to watch a comedian almost every night. You lived in apartment 9 and I lived in 11 so we were right next door to one another. Jane used to run from apartment to apartment. She learned how to ring my doorbell. She’d jump up, hit the buzzer and then wait patiently for me to open the door. The first few times it happened I thought it was a prankster because I didn’t see her sitting there. She is such a smart dog. And maybe she is a prankster too.
Anyway, there was a comedian we liked who did a bit about a kid asking why the sky is blue. And in my mind, I see Harland Williams onstage. He says this kid comes up to him, tugs on his sleeve, and says, “Hey Mister, why is the sky blue?” And Harland says, “Well kid, the sky is blue,’ but then you and jump in and go, “because of the scattering of light over macro-dynamic mighty molecules – because the molecules pick up the blue light, see, as light enters the atmosphere, the blue waves, like a bunch of college kids on spring break, are all over the place, just scattered all over, abundantly visible and they are fucking everywhere, all these short, wavy light packets, blue blue blue.” And Williams looks at you, dumbfounded while Quentin Tarantino snaps the black and white clapperboard shut and says, “That’s a wrap.” Still staring at you he says, “Oh, sorry dude.” Then you fade to black.
There is canned laughter and applause as music from Lost Highway starts to play and Woody Harrelson offers me a slice of white pizza from Sal’s on the corner of that place in Hainesport. I am beginning to realize this must be a dream. I look at the back of my hand. Old habit.
Scene changes. We are walking down the hall of the apartment building together and a neighbor says “Hello, Nick.” You swear he is making a rude statement—it was always like we were in two worlds because we could be in the same hallway, experiencing the same set of circumstances and I’d see it one way and you would see it another way altogether. You’d interpret the greeting “Hello, Nick.” to mean that the neighbor thought he was better than you and that he was disrespecting you –that he had to make some statement about the way you dress, had to say something about the hat you were wearing or the tattoos all over your body or the skulls on your person or whatever it was that you thought people were judging you harshly for.
Because of that dream I had before you were born, I knew it would be hard for you in this lifetime; You knew it too. We both knew what we were signing up for and we agreed it would be worth it. But we didn’t know we knew! I mean, I sure didn’t sit around thinking, “Oh wow, I’m going to have this kid and he’s going to have a really fucked up, hard ass life.” God, no! It was never like that! It was more like we knew it in that other dimension, in that spiritual dimension, where we go when we dream, or where you went right before you had seizures.
The deal we made in the prenatal dream was that we had to forget the details of the dream! Was it some kind of dream land Fight Club rule? The first rule of this new life together is that you don’t remember this little chat we had about this new life together.
I used to beg you to try to remember anyway when things were bad. Sometimes if I could wake you up as you were starting to seize it would stop the seizure.
I dreamed I was in the delivery room and a baby was lying on my belly, only he could talk like (a very wise) adult. We had a detailed conversation about how he could help me during this lifetime and how I could help him. It was exciting to think how we could work together and all the things we could learn. We also knew that our life together would be terribly difficult, but that every second of it was going to be worth it. We agreed that we would have to forget the conversation in order for the lessons to take hold. At the end of the dream we forgot all the details.
“WAKE UP! WAKE UP, NICK!” I shouted and shook you, desperate to come between you and a seizure. Whispering on another level, “Remember why you are here, Please, Nick.”
And you would say, “I’m trying, I’m trying.”
Sometimes you woke up, weak and trembling, not sure what had transpired, but ready for the day to begin.
Sometimes darkness took you, beat the hell out you, tried to kill you, choked you, turned your face blue, tore up your mouth, knocked out your teeth, cut your head, twisted your neck, bruised your back, and scraped your legs and ankles raw.
Anyway, in the hallway, I thought the neighbor just said hello. I thought he was being friendly. I wanted to offer him a cup of tea sometime and a little Reiki maybe. I always said there is more than one reality and you said, “No! There is only one reality!” It made you very angry to think of alternate scenarios for the way things were for us, even though you were highly imaginative and came up with all kinds of possible situations for characters in your art.
Einstein said we have to decide if the universe is a friendly place or unfriendly, and you believed it was neither, but that people were just assholes. I always argued that people were basically good; you said people were just out to take what they could.
Your seizures made you rage. The nurse at the children’s hospital in L.A. explained that intense rage was just part of the seizure itself, that after the petit mal or grand mal, a person might feel any number of things, and you happened to feel angry.
You were five when the doctors figured out that the staring spells and behavioral problems were seizures. Before that everyone thought you were just being rude. It makes me angry to think that you were sick, and everyone thought you were just a bad kid. And you couldn’t remember the seizures so you couldn’t figure out why people were upset. What a confusing world that must have been! One minute you were watching Scooby Doo or M TV and the next minute people were yelling at you for no reason apparent to you, anyway. Or later, they were putting you in in restraints. Or they were putting you in jail and spraying you with pepper spray.
But you were still young when you started hearing the noises at night. That was before we knew you were having seizures. You called me into your room. You were sitting in the bed calling me, “ I hear the noises.” you told me.
Scared the shit out of me! It was creepy as hell. I had to silently pray the Our Father while I walked into your room because I was so scared. It triggered memories of when I thought I was being possessed by demons as a little girl. When I saw you sitting there, staring into a corner of the room with that weird smile on your face, I have to tell you, Nick, I know where folks in the old days got the stupid idea that seizure disorders were caused by demonic possession. I am ashamed to admit that I was afraid, and I never wanted you to see my fear. I shiver to remember.
When you were five you went into status epilepticus which meant that you were seizing and not coming out of the seizure. They flew you and your teddy bear from Lancaster to Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. Tim and I were divorced by then. I was married to John. John and I drove in what seemed like cartoon style traffic to meet you there because they would not let us go in the helicopter. Someone, a nurse told me we were connected to you through our prayers. I guess it was nurse. Maybe it was an angel. They pinned wings on your teddy bear. You were still unconscious when we got to L.A.
I felt helpless to help you.
you were a baby, I could rock you and nurse you and protect you from
everything, but I didn’t know how to protect you from seizures and
not even the doctors knew what to do.
You kept going to the window, talking to someone out there. We were 6 stories up. Who were you talking to?
If someone asks me what I want, I have to tell them the truth.
I want to wake up under a tree like Siddhartha.
I want to fly like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
I want to be like St. Francis of Assisi who asked an almond tree to speak to him of God and watched it bloom in the dead of winter.
I know in my bones that the dreams of my heart are not impossible; I have already experienced enough everyday miracles to know that I would have missed them had I nothad the perception or receptivity to see them. That is why I love the idea of lucid dreaming and neuroplasticity.
Some people may think conscious control only goes so far, but I say, let’s see how far! And still, we ain’t seen nothin yet!
I heard something on Youtube the other day about Tibetan monks who practice lucid dreaming to attain enlightenment. They have been doing dream yoga for over 1000 years and draw fruits from their purposeful hypnagogia that scientists can measure with graphs and scales. I learned how to lucid dream when I was 18 by staring at the back of my hand while I fell asleep with the intention of remembering to look at my hand while dreaming. That was the first step toward conscious control of dreaming. Once I gained control, I had hoped to learn all kinds of things from cool people like yogis and saints; I wanted to do things I couldn’t normally do while awake.
Today my dream life is haphazard and I doubt if anyone would want to measure or chart anything about it. But it got to the point before that I was aware of falling asleep, of dreaming and then waking up. It was like walking into a valley and then walking out of the valley in the morning. But I was more interested in hooking up with Tim, your handsome, sax playing dad with the Dan Hicks record that I wanted. I started focusing more on him than on lucid dreaming, so I stopped training.
That doesn’t mean I stopped dreaming.
I have always been a dreamer and my dreams have always been vivid and memorable. Dreams are not something you work at; they are gifts; the dream of you was a gift that I cherish more than ever now.
I know it’s selfish, but I wish the lions were here now. There were two of the them in my dream.
I could share one of them with you. One for you and one for me.
Where does the stuff we dream up come from? I wouldn’t say these dreams come from myself because my first important dream, the Lion Dream, happened when I was 4 and there is no way I could have made up a dream as complex as the Lion dream at age 4. I couldn’t understand it all then, not enough to verbalize it or tell anyone about it. But I never forgot it.
It took me years to unpack it.
I dreamed it was the end of the world. I could tell it was the end of the world because the ocean had flooded the city and the sidewalks were bulked into little pyramids. All the houses were destroyed. The people and animals were gone. Everything was gray. Except for one house where I was hiding in the kitchen. The house belonged to a lady named Mary. She had skin the color of polished mahogany and she had a serious face with a soft smile. It was her house, her kitchen. There were two giant lions who padded through the house. I could hear the sound their paws made as they went through every room checking to make sure no one could see me. I had been split into many separate versions of myself and I was hidden in the different cabinets in Mary’s kitchen. The lions made sure none of my toes were sticking out
I guess I still feel that way. Even if I die, I am OK. Even if I die, if my body dies, there is a light inside of me that cannot be extinguished, and I know that because I have been so close to death I have had so many close calls. Woke up in ICU more times than I like to remember, angry about being there, but glad now, of course. It is so stupid to want to kill yourself. It is just like walking into the next room.
I had this dream the other day about being in the old house on North Abilene. In the dream, white means pure, garden means life, and terrycloth means hard work.
I was in the bathroom of the old house on North Abilene and I really had to pee! The room was just like I remembered it and I was a little apprehensive only because the cellar door was behind the bathtub and it always gave me the creeps.
I noticed water gushing out of the water faucet in the bathtub, so I got up and struggled a little to get it turned off. The water was clear and clean; it was very cold.
When the water was off, I noticed a lady in the bathtub. I didn’t recognize her and thought it was weird to have a stranger bathing in grandma’s tub. Her bathwater was all milky from having used so much soap.
I headed toward the door (at a casual pace which means I wasn’t scared) and she got out of the water and put on a clean, white, terry cloth bathrobe.
I turned and asked her, “Are you a ghost?”
She said. “But you are.”
Now this wasn’t a dream, but it has a ghost in it, so it counts.
One time when I was in Jr High, we had moved to Roswell. We moved a lot back then. I went to school and everyone looked at me like they’d seen a ghost. I was freaked out. Apparently, some rumor was going around that
A: I had been killed in a car accident.
B: I was killed in an empty swimming pool fiasco.
Either way, according to rumor, I was dead, and they were shocked to see me at school.
I was shocked to see how shocked they were to see me; I saw the ghost they saw. I walked over my own grave! Shiver.
When I was 12, people thought I was a witch because I was very observant, and I read a lot of weird books. My family was strange.
We had to move out of town. We moved to a house in the country. It was one of the worst times in our lives. But it holds some of the happiest memories as well.
Mom, who was too young to have four little children, was also very lovely. She’d gather wild sunflowers, dry them and winnow them on a blanket in the sun. Then she baked the tiny seeds into loaves of sourdough bread. She baked them in soup cans so that each of her four children could have their own loaf of bread. Sourdough, government cheese, tiny sunflower seeds, hot from the oven with fresh butter.
And we didn’t care when the truck loads of cowboys rode by shouting “Witch and Whore!” We just made signs in the air at them.
Mom made me so angry the other day I thought I was going to explode. But I moved back here because I love her, and I want to repair our relationship. There is enough hate in the world, enough turmoil. I want to do what I can to make peace. I wanted you to understand.
I remembered that day at the winnowing blanket. I made this chant and I have been singing it ever since. Not just for us, but for every mother and daughter, and really, for all of us all over the planet. Listen, I want you to hear it, Nick.
Your children honor you
We’ve all have troubles
that have burdened us
Let us gather, then
at the winnowing blanket
where we can separate
the good seeds from the chaff
and let the playful breeze
take away what we don’t need
and leave us something good
to feed our creativity
oh sunshine mother
let us be the peace that this whole world needs
oh sunshine mother let us be at peace, let us be at peace.
I love my mother with all my heart. She taught me to talk to grasshoppers and to see the world in a drop of water.
She almost killed me; we’ve had our problems.
It is complicated.
We are never finished learning.
I wish you could see that.
But DAMMIT Nick! Your last words to me were “If you have her in your life, I can’t have you in mine!” And then YOU DIED! That is so not fair! That is so not fair. How can you say that I can’t have my own mother? I love my mother. I need my mother. And I need my son! I need you BOTH. How could you say those words to me and then die?
I know. I know. Of course, you didn’t know when you said it that those would be your last words to me. If we could pick our last words, they would be different, right? We would pick funny last words. Let’s think, what would yours be? Oh, I know! You’d quote what’s his face—your favorite
comedian–Reggie Watts. You would, say, “Molecular structure ain’t nothin’ but a thing.” And I would probably say something from Bill Burr. Oh, yeah. I’d say, “But [Nick], I just want to look at ya.”
If only we could choose our last words.
One neurologist explained that there are four stages of sleep, and that when most people get to stage four, they dream. But when you get to stage four, you have seizures. That is a pretty fucked up deal if you ask me. I am really sorry, Nick. I don’t care if I have to take you to fifty thousand doctors, I will keep trying to find someone who can help you. I am sorry, but 20 seizures a day is unacceptable. I can’t believe that one doc said, “Well at least he doesn’t have to wear a helmet.” Fuck that shit!
I remember walking you to the bus on the first day of kindergarten. You had on a He Man tank top and Red shorts. You had a He Man lunch box. You were holding my hand. You said, “Mom, I don’t want to have seizures.”
When you were 7 we went for a ride in the country in New Mexico with your grandma and great grandmother. There was a small herd of buffalo beside the road and I said “Look, Nick! Buffalo! They were almost extinct at one time.” You said, “I know. I can smell ‘em from here.”
When we were waiting for your sister, Hailie to be born, your favorite book was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Dig the Panama Canal. Somehow you got things mixed up, probably because I was always talking about your sister being born and one day you told me that when you grew up you wanted to work in the birth canal.
You were dark. You wore your heavy metal, bloody gore and skulls and devils, your zombies and death themes; you defended darkness and when I asked you why, you waited to answer.
It was the end of a long day. You asked in a humble way, “Did you ever think that some of us had to choose the darker way so that the rest of you could shine? If there was no night, how would you see the stars?”
I was silent, for once in my loud life.
Your first cozy bedtime toy was a truck– not a soft truck. You had to have a Six Million Dollar Man truck tucked under your arm before you’d go to sleep.
You published a book of photography and a novel and you published three excellent cd’s.
You were talented and not enough people got to know your work.
You died alone in your apartment.Well, you were not completely alone. Jane was there.
But your last words to me were, “If you are going to have her in your life, I can’t have you in mine. She is poison. She will hurt you and I can’t stand by and watch it happen.”
You didn’t want me to move in with my mother, but I felt like it was the right thing to do.
I felt like you needed the space, like I was cramping your style being right next door.
You said you wouldn’t talk to me anymore, so when you didn’t pick up the phone, I thought you were just angry.
Days went by. Then a week and I was worried.
The police called.
Even now, a year later, the March wind stirs sand into miniature dust devils on the patio. It steals my breath; I gasp for air.
It is not fair. To love one person, to try to repair one relationship and lose another forever.
To never hear you laugh at something Bill Burr says, it just sucks.
But when I despair, I feel you kick me. You kicked me in the shins under the table at the La Paz that day, on your Breath Day.
No, really, I swear, you kicked me in the shins under the table at the restaurant.
I was talking to my friend about not knowing what to do without you and I felt you kick me in the shins! But it doesn’t hurt to get kicked by a beam of light, so it made me laugh.
You wanted me to know you are right here with me, just in a different way now.
I can still hear you play your guitar while you wait for the green flare at sunset.
You told me why you play your guitar while watching the sunset every day. You said there is an old myth that sailors tell that if you see a green flare in the rays of the setting sun you will see the face of you worst enemy. You were convinced it would be your own face you would see. But you kept watching.
You liked hearing my crazy dreams.
I can still see you shake your head and stare at the air when I’d tell you one.
You’d say, “You should write those down, someone might want to hear them someday.”
“Yeah, right, In your dreams.” I laughed.