I want to write about and share the weird topographies that I experience in dreams, which I think are recurring for me, and see if other people experience something similar.
On the ILX Inception thread a couple of years ago (and more) I wrote the following about how the topographies in the film reflected those in my own dreams:
[Nolan] didn’t try to make the representation of dreams here too weird and far-out; I know that my dreams inhabit weird emotional territory, have weird physics, etcetera, but the settings are pretty mundane, very much secondary in importance to the emotional territory that the dream is creating or inhabiting, and I think Nolan goes for that here to an extent too by not making the dream environments too Burton or Del Toro weird (much as I adore Del Toro).
The shared dream logic and dream design resonated very much with me, especially the limbo level of Di Caprio and Cotillard’s subconscious romance; the receding rows of buildings, the familiar houses behind fences and moved into strange new positions, all seemed like experiences from my own dreams. I tend to fly, or be being chased, or be in familiar but not quite right situations in my own dreams, rather than have outrageous fantastical stuff happen. This captured the dream state for me as well as anything else, and is up with Waking Life as far as that goes (much as I love Waking Life, a lot of it does not remind me of my own dreams, but feels much more like a cinematic representation of what we think of dreams of being, at least visually; narrative or lack thereof is perhaps closer to real dreaming, but the it’s a film just about dreaming as opposed to a plot within a shared dream).
Last night I dreamt that Em and I had a baby (I think we adopted it in the dream: I think it probably represented my irl new nephew, as it was about the same age and was a boy) and we’d left the baby with my parents in the town where I used to live for a couple of days. When we came back and fetched him he could walk and stuff, which was freaky. Anyway, we were driving what was recognisably our car around what was recognisably but not quite the small town I grew up in – there was a flat area of carpark where there isn’t irl, and roads up the hills and forest behind my parents’ house that follow the actual irl roads relatively closely but not quite the same: one of the dream roads is actually where a dirt track I used to ride my bike down as a kid is irl, near as damnit. I feel like these almost-the-same-roads often appear in my dreams, but I’m not sure if this is because they felt familiar last night because they were so close to irl, or because I actually have dreamt them before.
I used to have a couple of recurring topographical dreams as a kid and young teenager: in one I was in what I can only describe as a big junkyard, with a flat passage / causeway / alley through the middle and loads of junk on either side (the junk was always indeterminate / unidentifiable, like it was toys and cars and furniture covered in junkyard-landscape-patterned blankets). I used to walk through the middle and the landscape would move around me. Sometimes it would be disconcerting and sometimes it would be quite comforting: I think it got more comforting the more I had the dream and started to realise that it was OK, I was in a dream, and almost gained some kind of lucid control over the topography.
The other recurring dream topography was the estate I grew up on, which was modelled after Clovelly in North Devon – lots of white house and cobbled bits and pedestrian areas and hidden garage / parking areas tucked away behind houses and flower beds and little patches of grass with trees on. It won awards when it was designed I think. It’s basically a massive retirement home without any staff now though. But I used to dream bits of the estate that didn’t exist, and there were specific houses and walkways that would feature in dreams over and over again. I knew they weren’t real, and this recognition of unrealness would allow me to also recognise I was in a dream, after I’d had dreams in this topography a few times.
These weird dream topographies are almost weirder for not being that weird: my dreams (the ones I remember, anyway) are almost like the anti-Gilliam or anti-Gondry, they don’t telegraph the fact that they’re dreams by being wacky or outlandish. Maybe this is evidence that I’m not very imaginitive!
Interestingly I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt fake topographies of the city I live in now, only ever the town I grew up in. I guess the landscapes of childhood get writ large in the subconscious.
Tell me about your weird dream topographies.