"I was eaten by T-Rex." Brian, aged seven, was rocking in his seat with excitement, but his voice was very soft. The fifteen kids in the circle, plus parents and grandparents, leaned forward to hear him.
"Did T-Rex swallow you in one gulp?" Brian's grandmother asked, making her Adam's apple bobble as she mimicked something very big taking a big gulp. "Or did he kind of munch on you?"
"It was a big gulp." Brian's eyes shone. "Then I was falling down, down into T-Rex's belly. I found two eggs. I cut them open and there were two baby T-Rexes inside. They came out and they killed the big T-Rex and I was fine."
"How did you feel?" I asked.
You don't analyze a dream like this, whatever the age of the dreamer - at least not until you do something to grab the vital energy of the dream and embody it and bring it through. This wasn't a hard study with Brian's dream. We had a room full of excited kids and kids are naturals for dream theatre.
"Hey Brian, would you like to play-act your dream?"-
He couldn't wait. He chose the two youngest children in the group, an angelic four-year old named Abby who had just created a picture with crayons and sketch paper from one of her own dreams - a picture of a wild thing she had given her own name - and a toddler who had proved a virtuouso with maracas and other noisemakers from our communal music box.-
"Aunt" Carol, our host at the retreat center and a gifted counselor and dream teacher, was picked to play the snapping head of T-Rex, a tricky role since she couldn't stop beaming and laughing. There were plenty of dreamers, kids of all ages, to make up the body and tail of the beast. Soon we had the monster roaring and thumping around the room. Brian, playing himself, darted around the room, trying to hide behind the furniture, bis fate was preordained. He was swallowed by T-Rex, rolling over and over until, way down in the belly of the beast, he found the eggs and freed the baby monsters that saved him.
This was wild and happy and just-so, and everybody wanted more.-
We play-acted other kids' dreams that reflected other strategies for dealing with deam monsters. A ten-year old girl dreamed that she was at school, on the way to lunch, when a "short monster" appeared that was "slimy and hairy" and started eating all of her classmates. "He couldn't eat me because I kicked him in the face." Play-acting that one produced a miniature stampede, as a very small boy, delighted to play the monster, rushed after the girl's classmates until he was hurled to the ground by a mimed kick in the face. Everyone laughed as the girl dabbed at the slime that was left on her foot.
A thirteen-year old girl in the group was pursued in her dream by people behaving like monsters. She put on bat wings and flew off to a special place. Here the adults weren't menacing but they were strangely frozen, as if they had been encased in blocks of ice. Thee was wild ocean in the scene, and when she slipped into it she became a killer whale and swam, with delight, with another orca that came to join her. When she returned to human form, the grown-ups were no longer threatening, as if she had brought power back from that special place of the killer whales.
These are scenes from my Sunday afternoon, from a playshop titled "Dreaming with Kids and Families". We had started out right, by drumming and making cheerful music to call up the dreams that wanted to play with us. Then everyone grabbed art supplies from the center of a the circle to make a drawing of a dream. -
Also at the center of the room, we had placed a huge toy box, full of stuffed animals and puppets and plastic lizards. I invited the kids to grab any animal they liked. Then, since we were on traditional Mohawk Indian land, I had them join hands and voices in singing a simple Mohawk song that calls in the Bear - and with it, all of the animals - as helpers and protectors.
We discussed how, if you have a scary dream, it's good to know you have a friend who can help you out and take care of you. Little Abby came over to me and whispered confidentially, "I have a Bear. And I have lots of dream friends."
We broke every half hour for snacks of orange slices and chocolate chip cookies. -
Towards the end, I opened my dream journal to a page where I had drawn a picture of Champie - the cousin of the Loch Ness monster who reputedly lives in Lake Champlain - swimming in the East River in front of the island of Manhattan, with delighted kids riding on his back. This was an image that had come to me, spontaneously, in a recent drumming circle.-
"A journal like this where you draw your dreams and wite down your stories is a treasure book. I hope everyone here will now start keeping a treasure book. Ask the grown-ups who brought you to help you find the right ones. They can help you write down the words if you like. But there's one thng about a dream journal everyone should know. It's your special book, and if you don't want Mommy or Daddy to read it, you should tell them, 'This is my secret book' and they must respect that."
I asked it there were any questions.
Hands went up all around the room.
"Can we do this again?"
"Can we do it every month?"
"Can we do it every WEEK?"
"Hey," I responded, "You can do it every DAY now you and your families know how much fun it is."