It happens every year. While on vacation, I have a dream that’s incredibly charged and equally vivid—so much so that the uneasiness it stirs lingers long after I wake. And it usually happens a few days before we leave for home. Here’s my write-up on the dream I had last year.
We return home in two days. Last night I dreamt I was lying in the middle of what I first thought was a massive pit—something like a rock quarry—with tiered walls that stair-stepped from its base to its top. I had trouble seeing. There was very little color. Everything was cast in various shades of gray. I was on my back on the ground, face to a smoky sky of swiftly moving clouds. There was an undefinable rumble all around, and yet it seemed as though it could have been coming up from below me. Its sound was so deep, so bellowing, that I could feel it not only in the hollow of my chest, but in the denseness of my arms and legs.
I remember my limbs feeling tired and heavy, but eventually I managed to get to my feet. My eyesight started to return, and as I turned in circles, it was then that I realized my location. It wasn’t a pit. It wasn’t a rock quarry. It was a gladiatorial arena, and all of its seats were filled to the maximum with people waving and shouting and stomping.
I was in the center of the ruckus, and as I spun faster and faster in an attempt to scan the horizon, I frantically plotted the scene. I felt the urge to look for weapons while at the same time trying to discern if I was the only one in the arena.
I was. But not for long.
On one side of the stadium, at the edge of the arena’s floor nearest to the first rows of seating, there was no light, but only a shadow cast by the walls from a sun I couldn’t view. I could see something moving in the darkness of the shadow, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I could hear that it was chained. I could hear a voice nearby shouting to set it free. I could see clouds of chalky dust billowing out into the open from where it was shackled. There were grunts and pawing and clanks of its chain.
I looked for a way of escape, but in that same moment, the mixture of sand and gravel that made the floor beneath me began to get soft. I was sinking, and as I did, I could feel it grasping my feet with a moist suction. I was able to get free, but only for a few paces toward a Mjölnir-like hammer hanging by a leather strap from a hook on a nearby wooden post. With each step I took toward the hammer, the ground’s grip became stronger and stronger, until finally I was trapped in a position that kept my back to the shadows where someone was readying to set something loose.
Even as the crowd got louder and louder, I heard a singular voice shout out from behind me, “She’s free!” I then heard the thick clattering of a chain feeding rapidly through a metal ring, like an anchor being dropped into the ocean from the deck of a freighter. I heard the gallop of paws and the rhythmic gusts of panting. I leaned as far forward toward the post as my body would stretch, and then throwing my arms around it, pulled my feet from the earth and my shoulder to its base. And then I reached up for the hammer. But it wasn’t there.
I’d pulled myself to the wrong post in the wrong direction.
And then I woke up.
I don’t know what dreams like this mean, but I’d be willing to bet it has something to do with my insides turning a little as I get ready to return to what often feels like an overwhelming life. Still, even though the dream had a rather terrifying edge to it, there remained a sense that with or without the hammer, I was going to fight whatever it was on approach with everything in me. I wasn’t going to die in a dusty wash of cheers from vicious spectators, but rather I was going to lean into my foe’s arrival in the same way I leaned into my attempt to fetch the hammer. I was going to give 100 percent—even 150 if necessary—and I was going to kill the monster, or whatever it was, with my bare hands. Then I was going to take the hammer and clear anyone and everything from my way to the exit.
And right after that, most definitely on this side of the dreamscape, I’d be sure to pour myself a warm and sedative dram of the J.P. Wiser’s One Fifty and give thanks to the Lord for His provisions against the monsters that exist in the real world. Then I’d go back to sleep.
Notice that I called the One Fifty “sedative.” That’s because like other warming whiskies I’ve sipped at three o’clock in the morning when I couldn’t sleep (such as the Aberlour a’bunadh or The Macallan 12-year-old Double Cask), it is. After a dream like the one I had, the nose of this dram delivers an assemblage of wood spice and buttered rye that helps settle a startled heart. And a sip is as equally reassuring, pouring into a troubled soul a sweet discrimination of butterscotch while adding to its profile a loving kindness of black pepper and little more of the buttered rye.
Without water, the finish is a sturdy but sweet rye, and it lasts long enough for you to close your eyes and find your way into a much easier, a much quieter rest.
I know we’ll be back in Michigan in a few days, and with that, our vacation will have come to its end. Still, I’m well-rested and feeling resilient enough to face off with the charging grind—hammer or no hammer.