Monday, January 14, 2008

The Spiral Staircase

I just had the weirdest dream.

Since Lisa and I separated, I've been taking it easy for the first time in years. I've had difficulty sleeping for a long time and I thought I'd take the opportunity while she's away to catch up on it; so, I've been spending a fair amount of time in bed. Because I've been unable to sleep well, it's also been a while since I've had vivid dreams; lately, I've been having quite a few. Strangely, a lot of them have been about working on botched home renovations with Mike Holmes.

I think I've been having a lot of dreams about working with Mike because, watching Holmes on Homes and reading his book Make It Right (Lisa got me that for Christmas :)), I've learned a lot, not only about building, but about why today's homes are often not nearly as well built as homes built when I was little. Even before I knew what I know now, I noticed that modern homes just aren't as solid as older homes. I've always wondered why; now I know.

Anyway, that's how this dream started out; I was working on a site with Mike. It was this huge room with a concrete floor and a high ceiling, at least 12'. The ceiling was unfinished even when we first came in and the finishing that was there was pretty slipshod. I remember noting that the seams in the drywall were uneven and weren't taped. Mike and his crew were busily tearing down the drywall and Mike was complaining about how flimsy the structure was.

At one point, Mike calls me over to a wall he’s been pulling the drywall down from. The studs seem to have a layer of plywood on the cold (exterior) side and there's no vapor barrier. Mike is upset because, in addition to all that, there’s this huge gap in the wall around what looks like what used to be a door with a window above; there’s a huge draft coming in. He calls me over to check it out; I can feel the cold draft coming down. "That's not even insulated," I comment.

"I know," Mike replies. "That's why I wanted you to see this." He walks off, grumbling.

I turn to follow him. I wanted to ask him why he thinks someone would put up an exterior wall like that with no insulation whatsoever. As I'm walking, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. I turn back and the entire section of wall we were just working on is falling in right towards me. I put up my hands to shield myself and hopefully catch the wall before it beans me. I brace myself.

I barely even feel it when it hits. It turns out to be made, not of plywood as we first thought, but of thin, low-grade paneling, not even 1/8" thick. The whole thing is as light as a feather, and even flexes a bit when I catch it. Mike asks if I'm OK. "I'm fine," I say. "This wall's all paneling." So I set it down and Mike and I both turn to look at the hole left in the wall.

It wasn't an exterior wall at all, as we had thought. Through the hole was another, long room, maybe 24' across and 8' deep. We could see some kind of concrete pillar in the center, and the walls were made of concrete. We went in to investigate. On closer inspection, however, we realized the room wasn’t made of concrete at all; the gray substance was a thick layer of dust. What we thought was a concrete pillar was actually some kind of wooden spiral staircase.

I slowly started up the stairs; Mike followed me. I commented that it looked like the room had been sealed for like 70 years, like something right out of The Changeling. I didn’t know what to expect to find, but I had a weird feeling we were going to find a body up there. However, when we got to the top of the stairs, suddenly there was absolutely no dust. Everything was completely clean. It was like a complete little apartment.

As soon as I saw the clean apartment, my first thought was there must be some other entrance to this place than the stairway. I started to look around for one; Mike waited at the top of the stairs, looking around from his vantage point.

The stairs opened onto some kind of little living room. The structure of the room was unusual. The spiral railing of the staircase dominated the center of the room and the doors formed a circle around the staircase so you could look into them all right there from the top of the stairs The rooms and hallways beyond were conventionally shaped, but this room was round. The walls actually curved with doors to each room all around you.

There was a small TV, 1960s/70s style (looked a bit like this one but smaller, maybe 12"), turned on to some news program on a little stand against the wall at the top of the stairs. One door opened onto a tiny hall behind me. The first room on the left in that hall was a door opening onto a bedroom. There were children’s toys scattered about the room. I looked down the hall. Doors opened onto a couple of other rooms but there was no other entrance there.

So I turned right. More rooms. I couldn’t see into all of them well, but they all had light coming in as if from windows and the size of the rooms and the light suggested that they couldn’t have doors going anywhere, either. Even if they did, this stairway we’d just came up was wide open with this hard to miss spiral railing in the middle of the living room. Why didn’t whoever lives up here use them?

Then I looked into a bedroom just around the corner from the stairway. There was a man laying on the bed, maybe in his 40s or early 50s, balding. Something about the look on his face as he slept made him look child-like. I had the impression he was mentally handicapped. He was sound asleep so I thought, well this is apparently his place; I don’t want to disturb him. So, quietly, I tiptoed back down the stairs, Mike ahead of me.

When we got to the bottom, we both looked up the stairs. Like the apartment, they were suddenly clean. More than clean, they were beautiful, dark brown, stained, polished wood.

I started to turn to Mike to ask him if he was seeing what I was seeing when, as we watched, the dust slowly started to re-appear. Over about 10 seconds, we watched in amazement as the room around us went from clean and new to covered in dust, just as we found it except, in the dust on the stairs, Mike and I could see our footprints on the stairs and hand prints on the banister where we rubbed off the dust on our way up...

The last thing I remember is looking up the dusty stairs again, wondering if what we just saw was an image from the past, before the room was sealed. I started to think there might really be someone’s body up there, perhaps of the man we saw, but before I could suggest going back up there again to take a look, I woke up.

Strangely, I wasn't really scared when I woke up; I was more curious. I kept wondering what it all meant. Who was the man we found? Why was his room sealed up? The flimsy wall suggested it wasn't a contractor that put that wall up; it had the feel of something slapped together by the homeowner to hide... what? I wished the dream could have continued so Mike and I could've investigated the situation further.

Suddenly, I sat bolt upright in my bed, then ran out here, fired up the computer, launched AppleWorks and immediately pounded this dream into the keys while the memory was still fresh. That's one nice thing about Lisa not being here; in situations like this, I sometimes have to kick her off the computer quickly to get memories of a dream down before I lose them (I can't hand write them; my handwriting is often illegible even to me *BLUSH*).

Anyway, I'd really like to get some comments from people on this. What do you think it means? It was quite vivid; I figure it must mean something; dreams often do.


  1. Anonymous6:12 PM

    Hi John,

    having a Freudian background in my psychology studies, I am convinced that dreams (not necessarily all, but vivid dreams like this one) reflect what our Unconscius is longing to express, but we hardly allow it to.

    Your dream was extraordinarily reach in symbols and meanings, and a proper interpretation can only be made by somebody with solid knowledge in psychoanalisis. Unfortunately, I am not (yet) such an expert:(

    In general, however, I would say that the whole dream has to do with your recent separation from Lisa and all the big changes you've been through lately. I would guess that you've had very ambivalent feelings: on one side you feel sad and scared (the wall coming down on you, the dusty room), and on the other side you feel now liberated: finally, you can fall asleep safe and sound like the man with the childlike face (going further, I would say that man symbolizes the way you feel: a grown-up man longing for pampering and care, just like a child).

    The unstable walls and the ever-changing rooms would also simbolize the anxiety you feel by not knowing what's coming next, since everything is changing. What will happen if I open that door? What may I find on the other side? Why is the room dusty, then clean, then dusty again? Is the future looking bright for me, or is it going to be a mess? Will I be capable to handle the situation.

    Just the fact that you dreamed about a HOUSE, now that you are trying to decide where are you moving next, should give you a hint about what's concerning you most these days.

    Mike Holmes would symbolize your need of protection by somebody you consider capable to 'manage' a difficult situation: a professional on his environment telling you what to do. But since the Mike in your dream is not the real Mike, but ANOTHER part of your Unconscius, the dream-Mike won't give you the answers you're looking for.

    I would say that the spiral staircase, the concrete pillar, the high ceiling and other stuff are symbols of a more sexual nature, but I won't discuss that in a blog ;-) Besides, I think the esential aspect of your dream is this mixture of feelings you're having right now: sadness but with a sense of freedom; fear for an uncertain future, but also excitement, since what is coming next might be great.

    Ok, I must stop because I'm at the office and I have to... work :)) Please keep in mind that everything I have written by no means reflect a professional opinion.

    I will try to answer the e-mail you sent yesterday this week, but as usual, I can't promise anything :)

    Lourdes :)

  2. I'm hardly a Freudian, or a trained counselor, but I do have a background in related matters. I do know that our dreams incorporate symbols and metaphors -- sometimes meaningful, sometimes merely playful. The fact that you feel that there is meaning here, however, is a pretty good sign that your dream had at least some elements where you were saying something to yourself.

    The problem with symbols and metaphors, though, is that they are often intensely personal. What a hippopotamus, for example, symbolizes to you, me, and Lourdes may well be three totally different things. But I have no doubt that Lourdes was on the right track as far as the house is concerned. The dream almost definitely concerns your separation, the restructuring of your "home," including the examination of what flaws may have existed, what deeper matters may have been behind the separation and what may lie ahead.

    As for giving precise meanings, nobody can do that except you. The symbols are YOUR symbols. The metaphors are YOUR metaphors. The most anybody else can do is help you ask the questions that might in turn help you listen to yourself.

    But as you do that, remember, the message of a dream imay be a playing out of hopes or fears or the investigation of pure speculation. It is not necessarily "Truth." It is, however, often worth examination.

    Good luck!


  3. Anonymous6:53 PM

    You are one wacky dude, entertaining as hell, but WACKY! Like Chris Elliott meets Ignatius Riley.


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