Five Elvish Dreams
Dreamed 2005/6/12-6/19, by Dolores J. Nurss
These are the first five images from a set of twelve related dreams I am illustrating.
Background: I was going through a rough patch in my life, inordinately obsessing over a social disaster that should have blown over in a matter of days for me--it felt as though my psychic immune system had crashed so that the slightest blow nearly destroyed me. I went to bed thinking, "I always dream about Bilbo Baggins teaching me things, but what I really need is a healer--I could sure use a dream about Elrond right about now!"
My dreams featuring Bilbo and/or Elrond, including in this series, are usually lucid, even to the point where they discuss the fact that I am dreaming with me, or make references to this (although Bilbo once got indignant when I referred to waking life as "real life" and insisted, "It's all real!")
1: Time Loop at a Tea Party
I am in Elvenhome (the land that Frodo, Bilbo, Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf sail off to at the end of the Lord of the Rings.) I am in a gigantic flet (treehouse-like elvish dwelling) in the most ancient grove of mallorn trees, older than the sun and moon. The flet is shaped like the deck of a ship; the stern is roofed and walled, but the prow extends in a balcony like a vessel sailing on a sea of leaves--deep green, glossy leaves, with a few lingering golden blossoms among them, giving off a spicy-sweet perfume.
Elrond serves tea to me and Bilbo. We communicate through telepathic means. Rather than a conversation exploring overt subjects, we sort of bask in each other's thoughts. As I realize this I get nervous--my thoughts must be an unappetizing neurotic mess! Elrond reassures me that he actually finds my mind rather pleasant. He brings over a tray of cookies, which I look forward to, not being able to eat sweets in waking life. The almond-flavored biscotti covered in powdered sugar is particularly good. They're Bilbo's favorite, in fact; he pounces on one, chuckling greedily, and then gobbles it down, getting powdered sugar all over his dark waistcoat.
And then suddenly he has a clean waistcoat, and Elrond is bringing over the tray of cookies with the exact same smile as before, and Bilbo eats the cookie and gets powdered sugar all over himself, and then he's clean again, and Elrond brings the tray...this keeps happening over and over and over until I start screaming, panicked, that I'm trapped in a time loop! Nobody seems to hear me; they keep repeating the same actions over and over.
Sudden cold snaps me out of it. I feel elvish hands plunge me into a wooden tub of cold water with large, pinkish-lavender petals floating on it, in a dark room inside the trunk of the tree. They pull me out and put me back on my feet, and swiftly Elrond whisks a thick, white terrycloth robe around me before I have time to feel self-conscious about suddenly finding myself nude. He tries to explain what happened, but it keeps going over my head. I feel confused. I hear him say "overcerebral". I suddenly remember a split-off personality that had left my body during the ordeal and gave good advice to a little blonde girl and her baby brother in a hospital/clinic waiting room, though I cannot remember what the advice was. As I realize this a red light flashes lightning-fast in my head, with some sort of bulbous shape in the middle, and I wake up.
ON WAKING, I realized what Elrond was saying. "You are being overcerebral. You keep repeating things in your mind as you sleep so that you can remember them for your dream-journal. That is all very well in most dreams, but in my world you must be careful of what your mind does." Point of progress--the early stage, admitting that my obsessing, repeating things over and over, is a problem.
2: Merry Elrond
I am on the prow-like balcony of the same flet as before. The entire grove, I can see, is also an interlocking home and garden. There are rooms in the branches, rooms within the trunks, several stories of rooms carved into mallorn-framed cliffs, halls on the ground cleverly worked in among the roots, rooms behind the waterfall in the cliff, etc., all very intricately interwoven. This is Elrond's new home, recently completed after several years of work. Various features of the architecture honor his or Celebrian's ancestors. The ship-like balcony honors Earendil, his father. I am alone with Elrond.
I start to feel flickery, and I keep skipping back in time, just a little, but I'm scared that I'm going to slip into another time loop. This time, instead of tea, Elrond serves me some of Bilbo's notoriously intoxicating root beer, and has some himself, as well. "Go ahead," he tells me in spoken words. "You know you like it. It is not like drinking in the waking world." He goes on to insist that I am wound too tight, I don't even relax in my sleep, but the purpose of dreams is to balance me. We both get pretty tipsy together and he keeps urging me to relax. The flickering abates completely and I experience a normal flow of time. He points out that this is directly related to me finally relaxing.
He then communicates telepathically. (What follows is my waking memory of what he said, put in words as best I can.) He talks about his wife, Celebrian, and her need to be perceived as more than just a victim in a tragedy. She is a good cook, a good jeweler, and a good carpenter! She can do marvelous things with fallen branches and seasonally-shed antlers.
He talks about the completion of his new home, and how he plans to celebrate the fact on the Summer Solstice. This will also be a coming-out party for himself and Celebrian, after their time of solitude, getting reacquainted with each other after their long separation. Elrond says he has performed all of his duties, made his sacrifices, mourned his losses, and now it is time to rediscover joy. He has grown weary of his reputation for gravity! He used to throw the best parties before he lost Celebrian, and it was high time he reclaimed his reputation!
The party will last a week--the first day, being solar, will honor his human blood. The second, being lunar, will honor his elvish blood. Then comes a day to honor his maia blood. Then four days to honor each of the elvish races in Celebrian's lineage. This relates to his new home, because it contains architectural features to honor each of their ancestors. Everyone is invited!
ON WAKING, I partly understood this as a "Dream Party", and did invite my friends to incubate dreams on those nights, but nothing came of it for them. But I also understood this as a healing ritual for me, personally--a peculiar sort of prescription.
PROGRESS: Diagnosis (I am wound too tight) and a prescription of joy.
The "infamous root beer" reference is to a dark brown concoction that Bilbo makes in my dreams, flavored very much like root beer but extremely intoxicating. He will often admonish me not to fight its effects and once even said, "your mind just interprets what is happening as intoxication." Such dreams often include subsequent strange adventures or lessons. Sometimes I know I am going to dream of Bilbo when my mouth fills with the flavor hypnagogically while I get ready for bed (Tom's of Maine toothpaste does not taste at all like it!) I do experience hypnagogia while walking around because I am narcoleptic. That is also why my dreams are 'talkier' and often lucid.
3: Elrond's Apprentice
Elrond strives to reassure me of my value. But I get all tangled up in thinking that I am so hard to persuade of my value that it must be terribly annoying, which destroys any value that I might have.
Suddenly I find myself walking through an especially barren stretch of desert, possibly an alkali flat, with an underage male elf beside me, shorter than I am. He is Elrond's apprentice. Bilbo is tired of his body and wants to move on, so Elrond must train others in dream-travel.
PROGRESS: Starting the journey, beginning from an immature and desolate position--but at least I am on my way!
This dream coincided with a "moot"--a gathering of Tolkien fans--that I had managed to kick myself out of, thinking myself rejected, in the above-mentioned social mess.
Because of various clues from different people synchronously going together, I decided that Elrond's dream-party probably would extend from the three days before the summer solstice to the three days after, and incubated accordingly...
4: Voices of Drunken Elves
Dreamed 2005/6/18 (first night of the dream-party)
I was lying on my tummy high up in a flet (that still smelled of fresh-sawn wood) gazing down at all the lanterns in the branches of the trees below me.
Somewhere beneath all the foliage I heard a group of male elves passing on foot, singing loudly. I took mental note that drunken elves do not go off-key, but they do get kind of a rough edge to their voices from trying to sing and laugh at the same time, and that their songs become much simpler, no more of their famous complex harmonies, all singing on the same melody instead. In fact, that sounded like it might be a human ballad they were singing down there.
PROGRESS: Very early, still unclear on the concept. I put myself in a superior position even to elves, and critique their singing rather than appreciate their joy
Funny, rereading the dream after illustrating it (and even though I reread it before starting work) I see now that I specified "male elves" but in illustrating it I simply could not picture it without a female among them, though I didn't hear her voice; apparently she was laughing so hard at her friends that she could hardly stand, let alone sing.
There were actually about four or five elves, but that surpassed my artistic ability; we'll just say that the rest are outside the frame.
5: Dolphin in Distress
The dream was in a human apartment complex. I could hear an adolescent elvish maiden practicing a song for the party (very, very soberly.) I could practically feel her earnestness and stagefright through the walls. This was while I helped Grandma with something and engaged with her and others in some kind of sub rosa politics. Not feeling well, I retired to my room, where I found a pool occupying much of the floor, and a distressed dolphin in there, swimming about, quite ill, and complaining about finding herself trapped in a "dry air planet". I saw a sunken human aqualung down there, but I figured that would do her more harm than good. It occurred to me that since there couldn't really be a dolphin in my room, this had to be a dream, so perhaps I could ease the dolphin's suffering by some symbolic act. I dropped my pen into the water, as a symbol of my writing.
PROGRESS: Not so critical, but taking partying way too seriously! The elf maiden makes work of singing. I reach out to the dolphin--symbol of merriment--in distress.
Waking life residue is that I've been suffering an increase of asthma and respiratory illness lately, and went to bed early with a sensation of liquid in my lungs (aqualung?)
--Dolores J. Nurss
This sequence of lucid dreams shows that even fictional characters can be rolemodels and dreamguides--here, Bilbo and Elrond, from The Lord of the Rings. And their guiding is advanced; Nurss shows all the classic signs of a shamanic dreamer. Her dreams are vivid, including smell and taste; she acquires powerful spirit guides; she has persistent illness that keeps her at the margins of conventional society ('the shamanic illness', Mircea Eliade calls it); her narcolepsy pushes her to the margin of conventional sensory reality, too, indeed to the point where most of her dreams are lucid and her guides say the material and dream planes are equally real. In Dream 2, Elrond warns that repeating events in your head to improve waking recall is innocuous in normal dreams, but not in his realm--shamanic dreaming!
Note the structure of the accounts--careful titles and dates, and after the dream account, not just notes on possible sources of the dream, but also clarifying points for readers (something most dreamers forget, and to my mind another sign of a shamanic dreamer; she's aware that she may be dreaming for others, not just herself). And that PROGRESS line, evaluating actions take in the dream! My own dream-journal has a similar but not identical prompt: ACTION. Meaning action to take in the waking world based on the dream. Different emphases, but both encourage a dreamer not to be a mere spectator--in either world.
The art? FINE art often tries to show our world in a new light; COMMERCIAL art eschews originality, just wants to entertain. But DREAM art has a third goal, different from both. You're trying to evoke experiences that are inherently weird, hard to explain; cartoon simplicity, even crudity, often works. Nurss's drunken elves are drunken elves, her pretty but nervous singer is pretty but nervous, her stir-crazed porpoise, stir-crazed. She gets the job done.
My point? Quit whining that you can't draw! Technical skill is nice but not essential when you try to record things no one else sees, or has ever seen. You are the most qualified person on the planet for this particular job, since no one else can do it at all. Forget artsiness, just get the feeling right!
SOURCE: the International Association for the Study of Dreams (asdream.org) Psiber Art Gallery archive for 2005.
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