Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Surfeit of Source Material

Guess who had a lucid dream?! Well, not me, but my father did! Since he’s a very nice father, he has lately been reading a lot about this subject on a certain website, despite it probably being not of much inherent interest.

He sent me a wonderful description of what sounded like a very vivid and detailed dream, wherein so many impossible things happened that it finally became obvious that he was dreaming. I also have a new lucid dream correspondent (a really, really good one), and am greatly enjoying sharing thoughts about this most fascinating of subjects.

I had to have a little spot of surgery today. My doctor, who gets rave reviews on Yelp, said that since I’ve had this surgery (twice) before, she didn’t think I needed to go to the hospital for a pre-surgery appointment, but I did end up having to do that. I found this out when I got a message on my answering machine saying they’d scheduled me a 7:30 appointment, and that I should arrive at 7:00 (meaning 7:00 in the morning, for a person who can barely get to work by 9:00).

That meant getting up at 4:20 a.m., due to my extensive morning routine, and that was skipping more than half of the things I usually do. I still got seven and a half hours sleep, but I felt unbelievably terrible, anyway; I think my eyes just having to see the digits “4:20,” glowing red in the dark was too much.

I’d thought of taking a cab to the hospital, but decided riding my bike across town would be more invigorating, and it was. I rode to the hospital, then to work, then to see my doctor toward the end of the workday, and then to Walgreens to fill a prescription for one measly little pill, and then home.

Despite feeling haggard, all that bike riding made me very cheerful. I also like to be extremely upbeat around anyone who is going to be near me with a knife while I’m unconscious. I don’t think my doctor would make a superfluous hole in me for complaining about having to go to Walgreens, but why be reckless?

Yesterday evening I thought I might try to find some references in my journal to one of my restored-by-Facebook friends; I thought he might get a kick out of reading what I had to say about him 30 years ago, but I had to give up on this project. I found a couple of mentions, including one extremely flattering one, and there may be more, but in that era, I either typed my journal—single spaced: what was wrong with me?—on whatever piece of paper came my way, such as on the back of a piece of scrap paper, or I wrote it in a spiral notebook, page after page of relentless cursive, what now looks like block after solid block of scribbling (using both sides of the paper, of course).

Further, it appears I didn’t believe in paragraphs yet—I would have thought I was born believing in paragraphs—and I also insisted on doing much of the handwriting with my left hand: In the event that I should suffer a stroke—I was 16 and had not a moment to lose when it came to stroke preparedness—I wanted to be able to write with my remaining hand.

Which is to say there is much, much data, but not much information. It would probably take me as long to reread all that stuff as it did to live it in the first place. (And what a bacchanal it was; my goodness. A couple of weeks of that would probably finish me off if I tried it now.)

So, anyway, I was due at the hospital for surgery at 6:00 a.m. (“odarkhundred,” as a friend said), which meant getting up at 3:20 a.m. the very day after I’d gotten up at 4:20 a.m. This time I took a cab.

I put on a gown and lay in bed and read an interesting article about nightmares in a recent New Yorker, and started on a very funny piece about an Egyptian Egyptologist with a pugnacious style of relating and TV-friendly architectural methods that worry some of his academic peers.

Then the anesthesiologist came in and said something very exciting: “I guess we’ll be taking out some organs today!”

“No,” I said. “No. We are not taking out any organs. Do not take out any organs.”

My doctor came in just then and confirmed no organs would be removed—something had been written down wrong somewhere—and she said my hair looked great. I told you she was a good doctor.

Then another lady said, “Don’t forget your party hat,” and put on my hair net for me and off we rolled, and then I was looking up at Dr. M. in the operating room, and she probably patted my arm, and then I was awake again, in the recovery room, groaning with every out-breath—I wasn’t in pain in the slightest; it was some involuntary thing—and then this that and the other, and I was transported home. Oh, Dr. M. showed me photographs of what she’d done to my internal self. It looked very nice (from an artistic standpoint).

I was home by 11:30 a.m. and felt perfectly, absolutely well. “Good to see you in such fine fettle!” exclaimed Lisa M. when she came to visit later; we had a delightful chat. Hammett ran into the bathroom when she came in and stayed behind the sink until she left.

The Big J. and Dave C., and the Cloud

I always thought “the cloud” was figurative, but look; there it is.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Olive Clump Bread

Now that Daylight Savings Time has ended, it’s kind of dark when I leave work and pitch black soon thereafter. I wondered if I’d have to go back to riding my bike home on Market St.—it was so dark passing behind the ballpark—but after trying Market St. again one time, I decided just to use more lights and stick with my nice route by the water. The next time I passed the ballpark, the lights were on, so this will be fine.

On Thursday I had dinner at Ananda Fuara and then my peer group of five meditators met at the Zen Center. Our class ends in December, but we’ve decided to continue to meet after that on our own, every two weeks. I’ve become very fond of this little bunch of folks.

Prior to our meeting, I had a “practice discussion” with one of the teachers there, D., wherein I confessed how much I fidget when I meditate. I even pick up Hammett for a few minutes if he really, really wants to be picked up, rationalizing that I’m doing “love meditation.”

Hearing from vipassana teachers, I have picked up the idea, rightly or wrongly, that mindfulness is all that counts. I think that is ultimately so, but Zen puts much more emphasis on forms, including posture, as a way to support mindfulness. D. reminded me that moments of being utterly still are rare and precious, and encouraged me to have a bit more resolve. She noted that sitting alone is admittedly difficult. In the zendo, if nothing else, a sense of decorum quells floundering about.

The next day I sat down intending not to move (and certainly not to pick up the cat). The instructions I gave myself were to keep my body still, and to keep my mind with my body. Within about two breaths, I felt like I was suffocating and became intensely claustrophobic—trapped in my own flesh. No wonder I don’t do this very often. I made it through that, and later some definite quiet and peace set in, though by then I noticed I was leaning to one side, curved over like a banana.

I emailed D. to see if, in that case, I should just remain contorted, or if it would be better to make small adjustments as I go along (meaning there might be several movements) or wait until one big adjustment is needed (just one movement, but larger).

She wrote back that it’s OK to regain one’s upright posture, preferably with small, gentle movements, and preferably without getting into movements that aren’t really necessary under the guise of “adjusting.” But she also asked how I had ended up like a banana without noticing it: good question. Since then I’ve been paying attention to that and it hasn’t happened again so far.

My company has just made Veteran’s Day into a paid holiday, so for the first time in many years, I had that day off and utterly squandered it on Facebook, not a week after piously explaining to Lisa M. why I would never become a Facebook user.

In retrospect, it was a bit overwhelming to have elementary school, junior high AND high school come flooding back all at once, but it was really nice to see all of those old names and learn a bit about what people are up to, and some particularly great things happened, too. I reconnected with someone I was very fond of whom I had Googled in vain many, many times. I got back in touch with my best friend in eighth grade, Mark. I found two or three lucid dreamers, including one of my closest friends when I was seven! I am back in touch with a fellow I had a crush on when I was 16; at the time, he seemed like a glamorous older man, so I was surprised to find out he’s actually only two years older than I am.

Almost nothing I’d planned to do that day got done. I spent hours and hours on Facebook, and got to bed a bit late. I routinely write down six or seven or eight dreams each morning, but the day after Facebook day, I remembered precisely zero dreams. It had fried my brain and/or my unconscious was ticked off about something.

The next day, Saturday, I remembered one very brief dream and two snippets. I went to see B. at the hospice. She dozed for the first hour, and then we chatted for another hour or so. I told her my mother was a marine architect by education and her eyes grew big as golf balls. She said, “That is so exciting!” Somewhere along in there, I realized I was absolutely happy, just sitting there with B. There was nowhere else I could have enjoyed being more.

It was a splendid crisp fall day, sunny and beautiful. Tom (my tall handsome ex-boyfriend) and I used a City CarShare car, for the first time, to get to a birthday party for him, Jim and Dan in Sacramento.

“I brought along a selection of CDs,” I said. It had occurred to me that Tom’s musical education had a lacuna in the area of Megadeth.

“So did I,” countered Tom. The battle was on!

“I brought Megadeth.”

“Good. Did you remember to bring your headphones?”

I like to drive with the window wide open at all times, which Tom indulges until it gets to be cold and dark; even then, I’d really prefer the window down. There is nothing like a frigid wind to make one feel positively refreshed.

So I was a little worried Tom might not be able to hear Dave over the noise of the wind as we traversed I-80, despite the stereo being turned way, way up. “Can you hear that OK?”

“Um, YES!!”

“But are you picking up all the nuances?”

“There’s nuances?”

The party was wonderful, as always, although some of us ate way too many cheddar biscuits during the appetizers phase and ended considerably too full (and remembered few dreams once again the next morning).

Here’s who was there: Paul, Eva, Steve, Julie, Sarah, Josh, Dave C., Christine, Dan, Jim, Melinda, Abbie, Tom and me.

On Sunday I was hoping to see Mark and Doug, but I never heard from them, so I went to Rainbow and made brown basmati rice with Portobello ragu and two loaves of olive bread. I used King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour and could not believe how much and how fast the dough rose. I’m a convert.

As for getting the olives into the bread, I didn’t precisely follow the instructions—how hard could it be?—and ended up with these giant loaves where the three slices on each end have no olives at all, and all the slices in between have a big clump of olives right in the center. I won’t be able to put this bread in the toaster because all of the olives will fall out, so I’ll have to use the oven for reheating, and next time I will study the instructions more closely. The flavor and texture of this bread, clumped-up olives notwithstanding, is excellent.

I felt extremely calm yesterday while I was cooking—I think partly due to applying more discipline when sitting the past few days—so much so that I didn’t listen to KQED or any music, and this morning I remembered eight dreams, three of which were fairly long, and one of which was about lucid dreaming per se, a good sign.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tree & Trees

A Close Shave

My latest lucid dreaming innovation is to make notes during the night with my eyes closed. I experimented with a pen with a light in the tip, and with just turning on a small LED light and sort of trying to wedge it between my chin and my chest while writing, but Patricia Garfield convinced me that keeping one’s eyes closed is best.

She has some method of writing on 5 x 8” pieces of paper while keeping her lines readably straight. Maybe I’ll get the hang of that later, but for now, I’m writing on 3 x 5” pads. I have one under each of my two pillows, and one on the nightstand, with a Pentel P205 pencil clipped to each.

I pick up the pad with my left hand and hold it from behind with my thumb on the left side and other fingers on the right side, up near the top, and write two or three words on the top line. Then I move my thumb down a tad, tap my thumb with the tip of the pencil so I can feel where the line should start, write a few words, and so forth.

When I’m done, I peek at the clock and then, with my eyes closed again, write the time on the back of each piece of paper before dropping it on the floor. In the morning, there is a little snowstorm of notes on the floor, including things I had already forgotten.

I’m also putting a bit more effort into considering the messages my dreams might have for me, mainly by thinking about what associations I have with the main elements. On a night I was thinking about changing jobs, for instance, I dreamed of coming to a fork in the road and realizing there weren’t just two choices; there were three, four, five, and the most forbidding turned out to be perfectly workable.

I went to the hospice this past Saturday, and while I was there, a harried-seeming person arrived, possibly a doctor, who requested that the doors on either side of an elevator lobby be closed.

A short while later, my person sent me on an errand, and as I opened the door to the elevator lobby, I saw the doctor, if such he was, wheeling out a corpse. It was small, and wrapped in a blue blanket.

I had just come out of the kitchen and the door was still open behind me. I suddenly realized the people in the kitchen, patients and their visitors, might also be able to see the dead body, so I closed the door quickly, and then was in the tiny space with the doctor and the gurney and the dead person. In fact, the doctor backed into me. “Sorry!” I said.

I left the place soon after and happened to see the slight bundle being loaded into an unmarked van the doctor had pulled up on the sidewalk. I walked over to the Tibet Shop and bought a raw silk scarf in a gorgeous deep purple, made in Nepal. It seemed like a good moment for something beautiful. I told the shop owner what I’d just seen, and he murmured, “Impermanence.”

The bike parking in my building at work has been nearly at maximum capacity lately, so I went to see the building manager to tell her about an idea I’d had. We have a rack, a cage enclosing a rack, and another rack. It seems to me that if the cage itself were removed, we could fit a lot more racks in that general area; all of this is in a spot not accessible to the public.

The building manager is extraordinarily warm and friendly. She has the clearest skin and eyes I’ve ever seen, and she kept patting my arm. She studied the cage and said, “This thing is a waste of space, isn’t it? You know, I think this thing is a waste of space! I’m going to call my bike rack man.”

She said she’s working on a lot of green improvements in the building—instructions from the company she works for—and asked if I’d be interested in helping with a commuter survey, to find out how people are traveling to work. I said I’d love to do that. Part of her mandate is to support environmentally friendly ways of getting around.

As a gentlewoman of 47, I have lately had to give some thought to facial fuzz—that wasn’t there before, was it? I’m pretty sure not—and decided that smooth skin was preferable even if interspersed with periods of what one would have to call stubble, so, not long ago, I was shaving away in my cube at work when the guy who sits across from me passed right by without a word—after all, what exactly would he say? “I see you’re shaving”?

A few days later, I was recalling that the last hair artiste to attempt an improvement in my coiffure had said there’s a hole in the back that she didn’t put there (in my hair, not my actual skull, presumably), and it occurred to me to try to get a look at this using two mirrors. I had my head stuck into the shelf over my desk, where one mirror is, and was using a small hand mirror to try to see the spot in question when—yep—the same guy passed by again. He didn't say anything that time, either.

Of the first, my mother said, “My mother never told me not to shave my chin where other people could see me, probably because it never occurred to her that it needed saying.

In the end, I decided to rebrand “perimenopausal facial hair” as “beautiful gleaming angel down” and to pretend I live, say, where Frida Kahlo lived; i.e., where someone with smooth skin is seen as lacking something essential.

Note to All Three of My Loyal Readers

Clicking on the September 2009 link will yield another new post or two. I will try to post something weekly from now on!