I See Ghosts

In this place of crossing over, of remembering and forgetting, of waking and sleep. Where we cram the shadows like post-it notes into our pockets before we travel: “I will half-remember this wherever I go.”

On this side of the looking glass, where we register the fluid world in oversimplified, stop-motion bits, we collect them in our pockets, too, before we return to sleep.

Sleep: where everything bleeds into everything else, where molecules let go and reconfigure in a continual game of ear-to-ear, of geese-to-geese.

And in the in-between, the hypnagogic state, I see ghosts. Most clearly when I’m depressed, when both worlds are grainy and grey. The veil now is thin, as they say.

I’ve often said (and written about) how when I lie in bed at night, I lie back, sinking into the dreams of the night before. Like submerging myself in the same bath. Colder. Somewhat stale. But real. The same/different river, as they say. And with the same/different voices filling my skull.

I lie back in the bath, rocking my head from side to side, feeling the pull of the water on my long hair. My ears filled with water – vibrating against the tiny drums. The squeak and the thuds of a body against porcelain.

A memory-of-sorts. A heartbeat. A rush of blood like a river against my spine. A mother’s voice that is unfettered by consonants and fricatives. All vowels.

Today I am fettered and tethered, and exposed. The details are exhausting.

Yesterday I taught movement class and was introducing the students to Laban’s method for describing movement dynamics. You break down an action: “kick”, “snap” etc. I asked them to pick a verb that we could deconstruct into Laban’s categories fast/slow, strong/weak, etc. One student was trying to be difficult and said: “Mmmm”. No problem. We can break down a word that is not a verb, that is not a word. Because sound/utterances also have dynamics.

I had a banal little breakthrough about the link between movement and sound. Nothing original or earthshattering, but one of those beautiful moments where experience precedes acquired knowledge. Like catching a fish bare-handed from a dark stream.

This morning I read about the Tetris effect: where we experience the movements we have executed during the day as we are falling asleep. And there is the imagined speech of our inner monologues, which I know can slide out of linguistic grooves, shaking the consonants and fricatives that give it context, but keep its truth.

It seems scientists focus on what we take from this realm into sleep. And don’t acknowledge what is indigenous to sleep, and whose shadows we cram into our pockets: what little gods’ humming fills the spaces between the stop motion bits of our days. A color – or a shade of grey.

They don’t acknowledge what gods and ghosts welcome us back at night, putting a warm hand on our forehead, pushing us under the surface.

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  1. That last para gave me the shivers. Sleep is a mystery. Ghosts are a mystery. Part of me believes dreams are real, and just a different life we lead. Which can be a discomfiting thought. Which can be a comforting thought. I would often like to escape to there.

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