In the spring of 2001, I lived in a small city on Puget Sound. One night, I dreamt I was walking along the waterfront when I heard a roaring overhead. I looked up just in time to see a plane smash into a tall building on the hillside above me. Fire rained down, people were screaming, and debris fell from the sky; for a moment I was terrified and started to run.
Then a powerful but gentle voice said, "Stop. Don't be afraid. Watch and remember." Somehow, I knew I could trust that voice, even though I couldn't see who was speaking, so I did as I was told.
During the course of the dream, four planes crashed into the sides of buildings above me. The details of the destruction were incredibly vivid. But as I watched, I realized that it was all happening somewhere else, not in my city. And as awful as it was, I was able to relax and stop being afraid because I knew that as horrible as that scene was, I was safe.
Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out come September 11 of that year.
I almost never have nightmares, or unpleasant dreams of any sort. But I've had a rash of anxious, urgent-feeling dreams lately, most of which I can't remember. But there's one I do remember clearly, from this past weekend:
I'm in a coffeehouse, sitting at a table near the front window with at least three other people (there may be a fourth). It's a very dark, rainy, windy day--so dark, it feels like night is falling, even though I know it's only about 3:00 in the afternoon. The wind is gusting hard, throwing sheets of water against the plate glass windows. This isn't the normal rain we get here in the Seattle area (gentle, drizzly); it's a deluge.
There are a few other patrons in the cafe, but it's very quiet. There's no music playing. I'm wearing a heavy sweater and a jacket, but I'm still chilly. On some tables, small tealight candles are burning in glass holders. There are only a couple of lights on in the place, and they are small LEDs, giving off a little bit of bluish-white light that somehow makes the day seem even darker and grayer. None of the other patrons are using laptops.
Sitting across from me is a brunette woman a few years older than me (in her early- to mid-50s, perhaps; I'm currently 44). Next to her is a still-vigorous man in his late 70s or early 80s with a kindly look about him. Next to me, on my right, is a very old lady (well into her 90s, if not over 100) with white hair pulled back in a bun. She doesn't talk, but I somehow know that she's still very sharp, despite her age, and doesn't miss a thing.
The woman across from me is crying. I don't know her well; this is the first time we've met. Her problem? She can't stand the rain anymore. It just keeps pouring, the wind keeps blowing, and it's driving her insane. "It never used to be like this," she says. "All I want it to do is go back to normal. I'll be okay, then." The old man nods sympathetically and pats her on the shoulder; the rain's been driving a lot of people crazy.
I reach out and put my hand on her forearm. I'm a bit frustrated with her, but I decide to keep my cool. "I don't think you understand," I tell her. "This IS normal. The weather has changed, and this is the new normal." The old man looks a bit rattled as I say this so bluntly, but says nothing. "It's not going back. The old weather patterns are gone. So you have a choice: you can keep wishing it was different, or you can adapt to the way things are now."
I suspect the other dreams I've had lately have been along the same lines as this one. Even when I don't remember the entire dream, however, certain motifs stand out and keep recurring: dark days, heavy rain, strong winds, shortages of food and other items, severely restricted energy consumption. I don't get a sense of constant danger or complete societal breakdown, but it's definitely a time of hard adjustment to new realities.