Slices of Migraine Pie..and weird dreams

The neighbors fighting; doors slamming; cursing at 1:00 a.m.

“Meoowwl” The cat howling way across the room for no apparent reason at 2:38 a.m. (Note to self: yelling at the cat to shut up does not make him shut up.)

“Fwap, fwap, fwap” The sound of a car with a flat tire driving down the street at 4:56 a.m.

The grinding and banging of the garbage truck at 5:35 a.m.

Its urgent mission now over, the distinctive engine sound of a fire truck returning to its station a few minutes later.

If you’ve been awake during the night, willingly or unwillingly, these might be some of the sounds intruding upon you. When you’ve got a migraine, and you’re waiting for the medication to take effect, they can be heightened to mere annoyances preventing your mind…your brain…from relaxing, or to the point of severe pain. Migraine sufferers will know what I’m talking about. Others will think “but it’s just a headache.”

It’s not just a headache. Migraines can be debilitating, interfering with your ability to live a normal life. But they can also be oddly…revealing. As your brain navigates its way through the twists and turns it feels like it’s doing, your thoughts alight – usually briefly – on the ordinary problems of the day or, if you’re a writer like me, upon ideas and story plots. Or maybe the pain (or is it the meds?) sends your mind twirling around in a bizarre series of dream images that will become mere flickers of memory the next day.

Do you remember your dreams? I usually don’t, but every so often one or the other will be so vivid, or repeat a theme dreamt before, that it outlasts the pain, the medication, or a much appreciated good night’s sleep.

About a week ago in the middle of a migraine came such an image. It was brief. I think. I don’t remember the details, but I do know that I was in a house. Again. It was my house, yet not my house.

It’s a recurring theme in my dreams (although not usually during migraines): The House. Or so I like to call it. I can’t say how many times this theme has cropped up, nor is it a regular – predictable – event, but it’s happened several times over the years, starting quite some time ago. Out of curiosity, I have searched online on some of those dream interpretation websites, for a meaning behind this dream, but of course, those sites are contradictory and not entirely useful.

All I really know is that I find myself in The House (sometimes it starts out as an apartment) and that The House continually expands. I discover new doors, new rooms. Sometimes it’s rooms off the kitchen, sometimes it’s extra bedrooms. And sometimes, like the last time I can most vividly remember this dream (maybe a couple years ago?) it’s hidden rooms off the basement.

I’m never afraid in the dream. It’s more like a journey of discovery and I’m thrilled to step into a new room I didn’t know I had. It’s sometimes exciting, sometimes wondrous. And, gee, I didn’t know I owned so many books! Yes, the last House included – down in that ever-expanding basement – a huge library. The kind of library you might see in fantasy movies where the library shelves climb the walls so high it’s dizzying to look up at all those tomes. I don’t know the names of any of the books on my library shelves. I recall not stepping that far into the room – only sensing how deep it was. Instead, my attention was drawn onward and outward.

The House finally did end (the first time I can remember an actual ending to The House in any of the dreams). But I guess it didn’t really end. In the last room was an open rear wall…and a beach. Yes, my basement opened onto a beach. It was a pale sand beach, kind of foggy. I could hear waves crashing onto shore somewhere close by.

I don’t remember stepping out onto the beach. I just remember thinking “wow!” And that’s all. The dream ended there.

Some days I still wonder what those dreams mean. But maybe it’s not important. Or maybe it’s just really simple. Suddenly I have this urge to go to Hawaii, or Tahiti, or Key West, or the Maldives….


Adventures in Time with Witches, Lions, Horses, and Mr. Toad on board the Titanic in the South Seas

At the end of my last post, I wondered who it was that “infected me with the writing bug.”  How was it that I decided to create fictitious people and write stories about them?  I remember approximately when: I was 11 (maybe 12) and I was sitting on the brown sofa in our suburban living room. I pronounced that when I grew up, I was “going to be an author.”  My older sister, on her way up the stairs, paused…and laughed.

What made me say that? What book had I read which so inspired me? Or what author had I discovered?  One of my friends suggested Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series. I thought about that, and decided, no, that wasn’t it. Yes, I loved those books, just as I loved Beverly Cleary’s books about Henry Huggins, Ramona, Beezus, and Ralph the Mouse. And there were always the classics like “The Wind in the Willows,” “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” “Misty of Chincoteague,” “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” “A Wrinkle in Time” – probably the first science-fiction book I ever read – and Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” – the true story of the 1912 Titanic disaster – my first non-fiction book. (I still have the well-worn, cracked, and faded paperback copy I received in the fifth grade.)

But then there’s a series of books written by a man named Willard Price, following the adventures of teenage brothers, Hal and Roger Hunt, as they travel the world. I had a grade school teacher who read one chapter of the first book (“Amazon Adventure”) aloud to class every morning. (Wow! There’s a concept!  A teacher who engenders a love of books by reading to her students!) I eagerly devoured each of the subsequent books, those I could find, and recall reading some of them, like “South Sea Adventure” many times.

And then there’s a book whose name I cannot remember. I could’ve sworn it was a Henry Huggins tale, or maybe a Danny Dunn tale. (Remember “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine” anybody?) The book followed a teenage boy, who met up with a friend & her family in San Francisco, and then took a cross-country trip, getting into all sorts of mischief: accidentally starting a new Gold Rush, pretending to fall into the Grand Canyon, etc.

Fiery neurons lit up in my brain. I created my own teenage girl version of Roger (Rodricka) Hunt, and sent her and her family off on a cross-country mis-adventure. I had spiral notebooks filled with the scribbled tales of Rodricka, and her multitude of siblings and cousins. Juvenile, insipid tales, so horrendous you will never see them. But it was a start, and every writer must start somewhere in their journey to discover his or her voice.

It’s been a long road, from teenage travails, to science-fiction, to fantasy, to horror, to blogging, to short stories, to novels, to screenplays…. But it has been a journey I have much enjoyed, despite the frustration and disappointment, and I eagerly look forward to continuing. As I write these words, I am surprised (well, maybe not too surprised) to realize that most of the books which attracted me during my youth were those involving travel. It is said that all fiction centers around a journey of some sort – but that can be emotional or metaphorical. That kind never seemed to interest me. I yearned for characters who left home and had grand adventures. Perhaps it was an early foreshadowing that I would follow in their footsteps.