Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Oneiric Adventures through Impossible Geography Part 1

In my readers' notes to Damian Murphy's sublime book The Academy Outside of Ingolstadt, I remarked: "The notion of a map constructed wholly from memory resonates with me. I often dream of places I've lived (and I've lived in a lot, being an Air Force brat) and visited again in dreams. My oneiric wanderings always take me to impossible nooks and crannies, skipping gulfs in a few steps, folding and unfolding interstices that were never there. I think I'm going to have to write a blogpost about my adventures." While I'm not fully prepared to go through all the peregrinations I'm hinting at (this might take a lifetime), I wanted to explore, very briefly, the dreamtime perception of space in regards to just one place I've lived, but that made a very strong impression on me, a place that I revisited (in a limited, nay, restricted capacity) in summer of 2019: RAF Chicksands, or what was RAF Chicksands, a US military base in the time that I lived there. 

I lived at "Chix" as it was sometimes called, from early May 1985 to November of 1987. My father was a lifelong veteran of the US Air Force, so I spent a fair amount of my childhood living overseas. Truth be told, if I could have lived at Chicksands the rest of my life, I might have been content to do so. Some of that has to do with the relative irresponsibility with which I was graced when I lived there. I was a bit of a ne'er do well, to say the least. In fact, it was my "troubles" that ultimately ended in my expulsion from the base as a sort of plea bargain in order to avoid a much more stringent punishment for a small handful of crimes. 

Perhaps it was the involuntary nature of my departure and the fact of my "banishment" (which is what the courts called it) that drew me and continues to draw me back to the base in my dreaming world. I visit there more than any other place (and again, I have lived in many places) and my feelings, upon awakening, are often powerful and full of longing and sadness, but sometimes pure joy that I could "return" even in my dreams. An inevitable part of almost every dream there is a search for long-lost friends. Since we're scattered all over the globe, I have only tentative long-term relationships with old friends, thanks to the internet. I've talked to a few friends on the phone here and there, but in my 33 years since my departure, I have yet to meet anyone in person who I knew there outside of my family. Now that my parents are dead and my only brother has all but broken contact with me, I can say that I am quite cut off (physically, at least) from the people I knew there. This happens to everyone, I suppose: we grow older, we change, we make new relationships, the old ones drop away. But my issue here is more deep seated than most. There is no "gathering point" for many of us Military Brats. I can't "go home" to be with old friends. There is no home. Not only was it a temporary stay, the place I lived and loved in is no longer the same entity that it was back then (the base being decommissioned in 1997, I believe), but since it is now under the auspice of British intelligence services, the best I can do (and what I did in 2019) is to visit what little parts of the base are less-restricted.

For me, there is no real "going back". That past is dead and gone.

And yet, I wander through the echoes of the past in my dreams.

There are a few memories that I can recall associated with specific people, places, and times. Some of them a joy to remember, some of them quite painful. Memory deteriorates with time, so I would be hard pressed to fully recall a memory of even a ten-minute stretch at a time. There are some episodes that, of course, took place over a longer time, but even those recollections are little islands of time: ten seconds here, a minute there, thirty seconds here, five minutes there, etc., all strung together in a sea of forgetting. 

Maybe this accounts for some of the episodic nature of my dreams associated with those years, just a function of the way memory operates. But the strange walks through Chicksands were always strange, even when I lived there. Dreams, as much as time, seem to alter the "real" landscape and render it in a landscape of the imagination. You've no doubt had a dream where you have travelled impossible distances in one step. Or there is the (in)famous dream that every child has of being chased by monsters and not being able to create any distance between the dreamer and the creature, no matter how fast the dreamer sensed he was running. Okay, maybe that dream is rarer than I think, but I know many others who have had a variation on the same theme. There is also the strange dream (is there any other kind, really?) of having to defend oneself from an attacker and swinging fists with all one's might, only to feel their arms nearly floating away, any hits that actually do land bouncing harmlessly off the opponent. There is a strong sense of futility in dreams, of the unattainable. 

And, yet, there are times where the dreamer seems to capture the impossible: you are reunited with the dead, the person you've had a crush on for years finally "sees" you and falls madly in love, you escape the monsters when your legs grow ten feet long and you simply walk over rooftops away from the impending threat.

But again, something smacks of desire, of longing, whether positive or negative, dreams have a pull on the dreamer, but that pull can never fully satisfy. In the end, we wake up to reality. Or those who remain mentally healthy do so (at least what mainstream society considers mentally healthy).

I've strayed far from my initial thoughts. Next, I shall try to construct a map of Chicksands from memory, without consulting photos or maps on the internet. Later, I will compare my map with photographed "reality," keeping in mind that some photos that I will be extrapolating data points from might have been from before or after my short time in residence there. I am confident, from my 2019 visit, that some things are different. Or perhaps, my memory (and dreams) are faulty. I'm curious to see how close I hew to archived verifiable data, but I'm more interested in what is omitted and why it was omitted in my map. Of course, I can't get too detailed in my map - there's just not enough time. But I will make the attempt in the next couple of weeks to begin to explore the dream space and maybe discover some of the whys and wherefores about inclusions and omissions. I am, of course, more curious than the rest of the world combined about what the results will be, but maybe you will find some entertainment here, if nothing else, or perhaps we might gain some insight beyond the merely trivial, who knows? Like my dreams as I fade off into sleep, I am going off into an unknown (and yet, previously known) country.

Oneiric Adventures through Impossible Geography Part 2


  1. I’ve been trying to recall who turned me on to Damian Murphy, and I believe my quest is at an end! Thank you :)

    I also have another book or two to add to my wish list....


    1. If I have turned anyone on to Damian Murphy's work, then: mission accomplished!

    2. Indeed! I'm reading the Star of Gnosia now. Does you know of a good complete bibliography of his works?---Amazon seems very incomplete in its listings....


    3. Goodreads is the best place to find a full bibliography of his work. He has a new book coming out soon, I know. Keep in mind that many of his works are in exquisite, limited editions (i.e., very expensive), most of them from Mount Abraxas press.