Old Houses, New Rooms


Most mornings, I would come downstairs and sit down on the coveted radiator cover by the window in the kitchen. I’d tell my parents every dream I could remember – usually several. They laugh about this now – my recall powers, how they couldn’t follow the details but were smitten by my eagerness to share.

Saturday morning, feet pajamas down around her ankles, Aviva told us about the hot lava and the midnight dogs she’d contended with in her dreams. The sign of a good mood, all that chatter. I smiled inwardly as I listened to her, seeing myself.

The naturopathic vet who ultimately shepherded Juke from this world asked us about his dream life. In the seven and a half years we knew him, Juke never slept without dreaming. The whites of his eyes would roll back, showing a ghoulish red; his legs would twitch like mad; he’d bark and yelp and whine. We would make up stories about what he could possibly be dreaming about, muse about whether our assumption that he was chasing imaginary squirrels was a gross underestimation of his subconscious terrain.

What surprised us was learning from the vet that it’s usual for a dog to dream – actively, visibly like this – a few times a week. It turned out that Juke’s unusual dream profile fit into a whole scheme of symptoms that predisposed him to the kidney failure that would end his too-short life.

Now that I think of it, I always kind of identified with Juke’s dream life. I rarely sleep without dreaming, and rarely wake without remembering at least some images, if not whole passages, of dreams. It makes me wonder what my body knows, what propensities it has, what future is sealed, that perhaps my dream life indicates.

I’ve woken up crying and I’ve woken up laughing. I’ve woken up and immediately picked up the phone to make sure it was only a dream. I’ve woken disoriented, panicked, tense, amused.

And then there’s the recurring dream, the one where I discover a whole extra room in my house. The house is a strange, often sprawling, version of a real-life house; could be our first house in Burlington, an 1850’s duplex on a busy downtown street, or my early childhood home in a Buffalo neighborhood, or the house in Amherst I still think of in some ways as home. I always know exactly where I am.

Except for this, the defining feature of the dream: I come upon a room, or sometimes even a series of rooms, that I didn’t know existed. There’s a kaleidoscopic quality to the discovery, a sense of potential. Wow, all this extra space! They say that no matter how much money you have, you always need a little more. Is the same true for rooms?

In the dream, there’s some confusion as I try to figure out a use for the surprise room. Next time, I think I’ll just leave it be. Having an empty dream room to re-discover for the rest of my days sounds pretty damn good.

As I walk among the various rooms, I reflect: ‘now I ought to find out more about this house in its entirety.’

Carl Jung, Memoirs, Dreams and Reflections (1961)

Painting credit: Marlene Bulas

7 thoughts on “Old Houses, New Rooms

  1. Karen says:

    The house is always you, the extra room your potential. Sometimes the space triggers panic in me, my small self, the fear of encountering my infiniteness, and losing all my cozy boundaries.

    One mind wakes; one mind dreams; but no mind sleeps.

    Like

  2. Meg Casey says:

    What a fascinating dream–not unlike one I often have. I so often dream of houses–my heart that is my home. Thanks for sharing Jena–
    xo
    M

    Like

  3. Mika says:

    I also have the extra room dreams!! Also in different houses. I am so happy in those dreams, I love finding the extra space. Room for my clutter I guess that dream is self-explanatory, but I never knew anyone but my mother who has had that dream…

    xo m

    Like

  4. bella says:

    loved this.
    been sick the last couple of days, with crazy fever dreams.
    re-discovering empty rooms, new rooms, hidden rooms, surprise rooms, I want some of this.
    love to you.

    Like

  5. Jena Strong says:

    Karen – cozy boundaries seem to be what my body’s calling out for this week…

    Meg – your heart is your home. Beautiful image.

    Mike – Magical.

    Bella – You go it.

    Love to you all.

    xo Jena

    Like

  6. Jena Strong says:

    Karen – cozy boundaries seem to be what my body’s calling out for this week…

    Meg – your heart is your home. Beautiful image.

    Mike – Magical.

    Bella – You go it.

    Love to you all.

    xo Jena

    Like

  7. Shelli says:

    I have always been fascinated by dreams. I don’t remember them too often. I don’t try anymore. But I have one dream in my past that I revisit in my imagination – it was that fantastic.

    Like

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