Day 289 4/11/14: At the Edge of the Dream Lagoon

UnknownMaybe it was all that wine at dinner, but something pierced the veil.

I had my first shark dream in a very long time.

I was standing at the edge of a lagoon. The old feeling returned: I have dreamed this place before.

Although I saw no people, I somehow knew that everyone who lived in the green mountains surrounding the water worshipped  Megalodon, the biggest prehistoric shark that ever lived.

While in the waking world their brethren were hooked and hauled, finned and shot, here the dream sharks ruled the water.

I couldn’t tell the waves from the frantic gray chips that broke the surface then sank again.

Is it true that the most important thing about a dream is how you felt about it upon waking?

I felt elated. Happy to be dreaming again. Happy that the sharks had come back.

Beneath that dazed ecstasy, I also felt the tug of one small mystery–the contrast between the teeming lagoon of small fins and the looming ghost of the disappeared Megalodon.

Maybe in this world there were no people. Maybe the sharks themselves were the acolytes, the worshippers of  Megalodon.

And I had been privy to their sacred world, which wasn’t so much about worship or ritual but a place of pure aliveness, of pure being.

Day 286 4/8/14: Shark Gods & The Drought of Dreams

“I’ve kept a diary, writing in it virtually every day, since 1976; beginning on November 30, 2012, I started keeping instead a series of ‘Trance Notebooks,’ as a way to transform my journal into a higher pitch of ceremony, an occasion for intensified, unmoored consciousness. Now I’m distilling the results into a sequence of assemblages….”

–Wayne Koestenbaum

I love Wayne Koestenbaum, and I love the idea of transforming the records one has kept of one’s life into something larger, stranger, full of new possibilities, a way to lead multiple existences.

I have piles and piles of journals I have kept since 1980, and I want to do something inventive with them. I had an idea that I would pick a representative sentence or two from each year and then throw all the journals away. I don’t think I have summoned the courage to do this yet, although I like the idea of only a few words like gossamer threads connecting me to the blurred past.

This morning, I began sorting through this random pile of thrift store ledgers, Barnes & Noble blank books, etc.

The volumes in which I recorded my dreams are even more difficult to part with than the books that contain transcriptions of my waking life.

Here’s a shark dream from 1999:

Walking down a crowded private beach in Malibu with a guy I didn’t really know, I spotted a dead whale in the shallow water.

Though the size of a sperm whale, the flesh was black and white like an Orca.

I pointed and announced the obvious.

“Oh, look! A beached whale.”

We waded out into the shallows to take a closer look. Up close, we discovered that although the body of the whale was real, the insides had been hollowed out and converted into a research station.

“Why doesn’t it smell?” I asked.

My friend ran his hand over the whale. “It appears to be covered in some kind of shellac.”

The whale rocked a little. “A great white is feeding on the underside,” he said.

No sooner had he made this observation, than the great white shark rose from the shallows and turned into a man.

At that moment in the dream, I recalled another dream I’d had in high school in which a dolphin sped from the open sea into the tidal break where he turned into a gorgeous Greek God type—sleek and chiseled.

However, this shark-man was no Adonis, but a grinning, buck-toothed flower child with long hair, a headband with a daisy stuck in it, and a frock over his pants—basically a hippie from central casting.

We became friends.

I wondered if his sudden transformation was a kind of omen, if it meant that other sharks might come.

Sometimes sitting next to him in the research station inside the whale’s body, I’d notice from the corner of my eye that his head had turned back into a shark’s head with grinning, crooked teeth.

Eventually, my companion and I had to leave the beach, return to our inland lives, and my hippie changeling slipped back into the water and returned to his shark form as my dolphin-man had done so many years ago.

But my nameless companion and I never forgot the shark-man. In the company of friends, in the post-dinner warmth of a kitchen, as one of us dried the dishes the other might tell the story. There was always laughter, always disbelief, but we’d quietly assert the reality of what we’d seen.

“No,” we’d say. “He was real. Right out of the water. A shark, then a man, then a shark again.”

There is probably an ancient story somewhere that explains the pull of original form, the inability of the animal spirit to stay in the human body for a prolonged period of time. And that’s why I love dreaming. We get to participate in stories beyond the bounds of our memory, stories that are somehow also our birthright, our very nature. We know them without understanding them. We filter myths through weird pop culture images.

Is it any wonder during this prolonged drought of dreams, that I feel somehow less human, less animal, less alive?




Day 53: 8/17/13: Ruminations on the Dive Manual

The good news is Sharksavers has responded to initial inquiries from concerned activists confirming that they don’t have any plans to collaborate with OCEARCH. I have my letters at the ready just in case.

When I am paranoid about learning something, I tend to over study. I am reading my diving manual like some gripping but arcane novel, whose premise pulls me in but whose language is at times elusive and complex forcing me to backtrack. I tend to remember the morbid facts: that a tight-fitting dive hood can cause a person to faint, or the symptoms that indicate that my lungs have expanded beyond their human capacity.

My lessons start a week from today and my mind is a tumult of childish anxieties: Will I ever look as ecstatic as the toothy, neon-suited dive friends high-fiving each other on the cover of the book? What if my “buddy” hates me?

As I said in a previous post, what I like about diving is the emphasis on breathing–which is what I like about meditation. An activity that keeps me in the moment.  Many people have assured me that the initial anxiety of diving in the ocean for the first time is soon eclipsed by the beauty of the water, the kelp forests.

It’s extraordinary that I am even considering doing this. Kayaking in New Zealand several years ago freaked me out so much that my legs shook and banged inside their plastic prison and I could barely navigate the little lagoon. Everyone laughed at my shark paranoia, but the next morning the cover of the newspaper featured a picture of a giant fin following  a man in a kayak. The picture had been snapped just up the coast from where our group had leisurely paddled.

I loved the ocean as a kid back in the 70s, even in the shadow of “Jaws,” but my paranoia grew as my shark dreams increased. Yet now I see those dreams in a different light–as assertions of kinship, not foreshadowings of my grisly demise.

(BTW: That last sentence would make a bittersweet and ironic addition to my obituary or any news article following my untimely death by shark attack).