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The Cymbals

Dreamed August 1997 by SAO (Shawn Allen O'Neal).

I was very ill with the flu when I had this dream and the image dealt with here is a tiny part in the middle of a much longer dream.

I was walking outside and it was twilight, the sky very beautiful and pink. I was walking along beside a low building covered with Mimosa trees--the trees seeming to form part of the building. I found an open side door to the building and entered it, knowing that the building 'should be closed.'

The building was only lit by the pinkish light streaming in from the side door, which I left ajar, and a low long glass window in the front. Its interior was one large room with different levels and filled everywhere with linear rows of austere wooden cabinets, most shoulder high but some lower, containing every size and shape of drawers--these reminded me of the 'card catalogue' filing cabinets one sees in libraries except that the drawers were mostly quite wide and flat.

I remembered being here before and it seemed that I had come here a few times to retrieve some kind of art objects which had been made and stored here by several dead male ancestors. Simultaneously I had the feeling that even though I had been here before, I had never been aware of it, and the large room, even though fairly unremarkable, seemed completely amazing. It had a slight, dank smell of ancientness, like an old book, and dust motes swirled in the failing light.

I felt there were all kinds of really interesting objects embedded in these drawers and cabinets and that I was free to take anything I wanted, and I felt a little surreptitiously giddy. I felt that no one had been here in a long time.

I seemed to be drawn specifically to a certain place through the rows of cabinets. As I began to stroll through the space among the rows I noticed that a thick coat of dust covered everything. I began to see very clearly various disruptions in this dust on the surface of the drawers--fingerprints and other marks. Some drawers had obviously, from these disruptions, seen a lot of activity and been opened many times while others had been largely ignored. There was no real pattern to this activity, but as I walked on I could see that I was coming upon fresher disruptions, drawers that had been opened fairly recently. Now I seemed to be following a 'trail' along the right side of more and more recent activity.

Shelves and drawers; digital dream-illustration by SAO.

Finally, these disruptions stopped altogether and I had the strong impression that the drawers beyond this point had never been opened, it not occuring to me at all that this idea would be in a sense absurd. I was drawn instantly to a particular drawer a few vertical divisions beyond any tracks in the dust.

I simply opened it; it was slightly sticky at first and then slid smoothly open as if on rollers. The drawer and a couple I opened near it were full of brass cymbals, various shapes and sizes--from flat modern 'rock drum' cymbals, to more bowl shaped and crude, perhaps a bit like Balinese or Tibetan gongs, big and small. There were also pairs of various kinds of drumsticks and mallets.

Drawer full of cymbals; digital dream-illustration by SAO.

Like someone who had won a prize at a carnival--I somehow innately knew that I would only have time to open a few drawers--I sort of tried to convince myself that this was pleasing and that I had some use for these cymbals. I was inspecting them and noting they were all quite worn and deeply tarnished when some part of my consciousness which knew I was dreaming asked the question "what are these symbols of?"

I was absolutely delighted at this pun, and can only say now that at the time it made way more sense than it does now--it seemed not only a pun but a profound sort of cosmological principle that cymbals should be symbols, and vice versa.

SOURCE: the International Association for the Study of Dreams (asdreams.org) archive of the Psiber Art Gallery for 2002.



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