Practice

A Little Dream of Me

Waking Dreams are visions of personal empowerment, joy, peace, passion, creation, seduction and delight. They are idealized images of self, personal aspirations, flights of fancy, hidden desires made manifest, explorations of the taboo.

These are the Dreamers.
These are their Dreams.

– From Michele Serchuk’s “Waking Dreams” Project

I’m in a Waking Dream.

As I write this (well, as I wrote it in my moleskine and transcribed later) I can hear the slow lap of the tide coming in the San Francisco Bay. I am trying to fulfill the vision of a friend, the talented photographer Michele Serchuk.

When we talked on the phone, her question was simple: How do you dream of yourself?

At first the question took me by surprise. I didn’t feel that I had a “dream” of myself – I was always too busy being the self that I was. Then I realized the absurdity of that thought. The person I am is in constant motion towards the person that I aspire to be, and those aspirations are the waking dreams. All of us have them, the hopes and wishes and longing for that which we wish to become.

In my case, she was talking to me on the phone because we knew we’d both be in San Francisco at the same time, and we found that Monday evening – today – we would be able to meet up and work on her project. My job? Think of what I dreamed of being, of how to show that, and where (preferably some panoramic vista of some sort) where she could take some flash photography in the light of the sunset. The effect was going to be of a starkly lit me seemingly separate from the background of the landscape. My job was to embody that dream, using props, costume, action, and bring that idealized self into reality.

As I mentioned, at first it seemed an impossible idea. Did I even have an “idealized self”?

Minutes later, in an overwhelming rush, I realized: Hellz yeah.

The Writer

"This is awfully picturesque, Gray." - Michele
“This is awfully picturesque, Gray.” – Michele

Everything I’m doing now, in some way, is directed towards my growth into the writer I aspire to be. Not only this blog, not only fiction vignettes or clever tweets. I want to be a Writer with a capital B and that stands for Book, a book of Great Works and Staggering Genius (never mind that last, it’s been done).

And picturing that writer was easy as pie, because I’ve already got all the tools. I have the jacket that I’ve worn around the world. I have the pen that came from classes in New York, the moleskine full of notes from classes, from books, from conversations and occasionally even from my own mind. I have the cigar, cutter, and lighter that provides the contemplative space within which the words take root and grow. I have the boots which have carried me back and forth from workspaces and conventions and friends and lovers as my nomadic nature has drawn me thither and yon.

Marvelous phrase, “thither and yon.” You so rarely get an opportunity to use it in general conversation.

And I had the place: the Fort Mason Center, where I’d gone two years in a row to Open Space facilitator trainings. A place where I’d gone at first with trepidation, fearful that the work I was doing might not actually fit within the Open Space framework. But Lisa Heft had welcomed me with open arms, and had not only affirmed my work but also gave me the tools to keep going, to be better and make it bigger. This had happened at Fort Mason, and the memory of being there on the dock, looking out at the Golden Gate on my left and Alcatraz on my right made me realize – minutes into my conversation with Michele, and so we made the date to go there and work on her art.

A Life Like Art

…lifelike art makers’ principal dialogue is not with art but everything else, one event suggesting another.

Alan Kaprow, Performance Art Pioneer

Once we were there, it was a strange mix of practice and praxis. I was, in fact, writing this blog entry – or at least, notes that have become this entry – in my moleskine. I lit a cigar, and contemplated the smoke and the water and the bridge and the sunset. I also moved, facing this way, that way, following Michele’s direction as she chased the fading light of the sun and created amazing images with her lens and shutter. In my notebook I wrote and wrote, with more and more random happenings around me evoking memories.

That seagull, might it be Jonathan Livingston, who first showed me another way to fly? This water is connected to the same ocean that I sat and watched every weekend while a Marine, thinking of my wife and daughters. Now, as then, I have a home that I am excited about returning to, a family that I am eager to see again after my travels are done. I have money in my pocket from work that I am proud of doing, that I have been asked to travel and share with others. I am helping realize a great photographer’s vision by writing my own words about my own art of creating environments that foster the self-expression of other people’s art.

 For a while, the meta- and inter-connections of all the things around me was stunning. And in the end there was a revelation:

My Waking Dream is the sum of many, many dreams that have come before…and have come true.

It was an astonishing and wonderful thought. And it was followed by the incredulous question to myself: why haven’t I done this before?

Dream a Little Dream of You

That’s why this post is not, as it might seem, about Life. It’s about Practice. Specifically, it’s about the practice of remembering that Waking Dream of yourself, of the you that you long to become. It’s the practice of recognizing the things around you that you already have that are making that dream a reality, and way everything that you do is leading you, inexorably, towards the person you will become.

You had a dream today, and it came true. The same thing will happen tomorrow, and the day after. I think it’s worth it, once in a while, to wake up and remember them.

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

– W.B. Yeats

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