In a room overlooking Spring Street in New York's colorful SoHo district, I am drumming to help twenty-four dreamers call up the right dream to play with - or play with them - on a wintry Saturday morning. Everyone has sketch paper and crayons, because the first thing we'll do is to turn the dream that comes up into an instant drawing. Adult kindergarten is great. It brings out the child in each of us who is a natural creator and knows the magic of making things up.
At the end of the drumming, I rough out my own picture. It shows a figure whose head and upper body are those of a giant salmon, and whose lower body is that of a woman. She is the Salmon Speaker. She has stepped through a holo-screen to lecture a council of world leaders on their responsibilities to Water, and all that lives in Water. She is a being from Dreamland, the future society of my deeper dreaming, in which dreamers speak for the planet.
Other pictures are bursting to life all around me. It's time for introductions. I ask people to introduce themselves briefly by stating their name, their intention in coming to the workshop ("Writing from Dreams") and the title - just the title - of their dream pictures. I spin the drumstick to show us where to begin, inviting the play of coincidence. When coincidence is in play, a woman in the circle said to me earlier, "you feel the fingers of the universe are on you."
Some of the dream titles are so juicy and inviting that I pause the introductions more than once to have people meditate on a phrase or simply write a few lines from it, jotting down the first things that it releases in their minds. One of those irresistible titles is, "The Child's Other World". We can't see the drawing the comes with it very clearly across the room, but we don't need to; the phrase transports all of us into places of memory and imagination, into an enchanted apple orchard or through a green door no one else can see.
In her child's other world, Margaret wrote, there is "the joy of touching, smelling, feeling, playing with, hiding in the sun-hot dark dirt between the strawberry plants of our big backyard, alone and breathing in the tangy grass."
In that other world, Yuliya found herself "floating on the clouds, very light, dissolving, feeling lifted into the sky."
Miki found herself stepping through a dream door: "exiting a spaceship onto a planet where it is night, there are trees and hills on the horizon but in front of me only a cleared space. To my left I can turn to a swingset, as yet motionless, and to my right is a stationary park bench. Everything is blue, including the light. I am confused but not unhappy in this solitary dilemma."
In the child's other world, Lori "played imaginary chess in the park and rolling bodies down the hill - it was a new world for the child opening up doors to new realities and possibilities."
For Lauraine, the other world of children "is seen through the kaleidoscope of their eyes. The patterns and colors transfix them to the magical possibilities of the coming day. Flights of fancy, rainbows and dreamscapes interweave seamlessly into the sidewalks, trees and buildings around them."
Suzanne's first glimpse of the child's other world flowered (in a later timed writing exercise) into a beautiful narrative, with the magic of true fairytales:
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN ONLY CHILD
by Suzanne Smith
I am hiding in my fort surrounded by forsythia, waiting for The Giant to come and get me. I hear his footsteps. The cars on the road are all getting out of town. Leaving as fast as they can, while I am left alone to fend for myself. I know his toenail is bigger than a boulder. He will crush me. I take a chance though and run as fast as I can to the fire bush in the front yard. He has seen me, I know it. I scrunch down underneath the bush and wait, but all I hear are cars speeding past. Maybe he is back at my fort waiting for me. I take another chance and run back.
He is ten times bigger than the spruce tree in the front yard. He isn’t coming though. I know he knows I’m there. Why doesn’t he come get me? Maybe he is nice and we are allies. I want to run though. I want someone to chase me.
I walk over to the stream and throw my orange plastic pail in it. I watch it get dragged along by the current. I stand still and then run at top speed to get it before it goes into the culvert. I run to the back yard, closer to the woods and look for green slimy frogs eggs on Daddy’s pool cover. Daddy says the pool cover is important because everything under the sun has drowned in the pool. He says that’s how he spent most of his afternoons, dragging dead things out of there , before we had the pool cover. One time a deer got in there but didn’t drown. My Daddy also says that if we ever have a big flood the safest place to be will be our pool because it doesn’t hold any water-it’s always leaking. The frogs eggs are so yucky but fascinating. Our parents let us play with them but they shouldn’t.
Uh-oh, the Giant is coming again. He is carrying his club and is causing earthquakes with each step. He is walking slow but one step is a fourth of a mile for him.
I run down the hill , get on my swing and call on the Pink Fairy for help. The higher I swing, the faster she comes. She wraps the special pink cotton candy around me for protection. She whispers in my ear to run to the pink tulips and lie face down in the grass for five minutes. I jump off the swing and run to Mommy’s circle of tulips-my circle of friends. I lie perfectly still but worry that I may have go to the bathroom. All sound stops as I breathe into the grass. I feel the ants on my hands and they feel like my brothers who are tickling me. I pray and my heartbeat shakes my body. I sprint back to my fort after five minutes is up.
The child's other world is a world within this one. Its cloudy skies are the sheets I have pulled over my head as I lie in bed. Grown-ups can't understand that the world inside the sheets is bigger than the one outside.
The Fairy Pool: The illustration is by British artist Steve Niner, and is available from him as a digital print. You can contact Steve at steveniner@ googlemail.com.