The Meaning of Dreams and Ship Building


A Dream Within a Dream (excerpt)
by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream…

Last Saturday night, I dreamed that I had a baby — a beautiful baby boy, much like the one I had in real life nearly thirty years ago. But there were these people, there must have been five or six faceless beings, shadowed in dark hoods. They snatched my baby out of my arms and threw me out the door. No matter how I pleaded, they wouldn’t let me back in. I stood outside the building and could hear my baby crying. If they were going to keep me away from him, they could at least pick him up and comfort him, I thought. I pounded on the door but no one answered. I circled around the building, looking for a window I could push open, a door left unlocked. I spent days there, trying to find a way in. And still my baby cried. When I finally found a way inside the building on a day when the hooded guards left and forgot to lock the door, I ran up the stairs to my baby’s crib and lifted him up into my arms. I was so happy, but I soon realized from the confused look on his face that he had forgotten who I was.

Since dreams are more symbolic than literal, I wondered whether the baby could be my book or even my writing in general. Who knows? It could have even been me, lost to myself for too long. Forgetting…

If only the dream had given me an answer. Perhaps it did. Through persistence, I did eventually find my way to the baby.


I read an interview with artist Rebecca Rebouché this week in an online magazine called The Great Discontent. One of the questions Tina Essmaker asked during the interview was “What advice would you give to a young person who is starting out?” I loved Rebecca’s two part answer:

“First, bold delusion… You have to believe in yourself in an almost crazy way… to think that your ideas are valuable, which is, of course, not delusional at all.”

“Second: You have to build the ship to sail on. In other words, you can’t tell people about the ship you are thinking about building and expect them to buy tickets for the first ride. Instead you must first put in the work.”

Even though I’m not a young person just starting out and I already knew the truth of this in my head, the way Rebecca put this wisdom into words turned a key in the lock that all my “knowing” had merely managed to fumble with. Thoughts and beliefs in the head have to be recognized by the heart before they click.


Busyness-wise, I feel stretched to the point that you could bounce a quarter off of me. I don’t know how I can manage to put in more time on writing than I’m already doing. Maybe eat frozen dinners rather than cooking from scratch. Quit cleaning house. Eat on paper plates or from the plastic containers that frozen meals come in to cut down on dish washing. Not go bike riding so much. Quit taking so many photos. Take my laundry in to have someone else wash it.

I mean, there are things that take time that I could cut out. Except…

I don’t like frozen, convenience food. I especially don’t like all the packaging that ends up in the garbage. Cooking, biking, hanging laundry outside — they are all grounding activities for me. They help me transition from whoever I had to be at work that day and whatever happened ——- to home.

Not yet finding a daily extra hour of writing time doesn’t mean that I won’t find that elusive hour. I believe I will.

I’m boldly delusional that way.


Balancing a life can be even harder than doing jumps and cartwheels down a balance beam. I envy the people who manage this well. There are such people, aren’t there?

In the meantime, life goes on. The weather has taken a cold and windy turn, but there’s still been beautiful outdoor moments. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss them!

bicycle next to cannon

So if like me,  you could use a bit of soothing balm for your soul, I suggest you listen to John O’Donohue read his poem “Beannacht” (Gaellic for blessing). It is a beautiful poem and even more lovely read by his lilting voice, which unfortunately only exists on this earth in recordings now.

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  1. Once again your writing has inspired me to think differently about my writing. I, too, loved the quotes from the interview…such a wonderful reminder of the importance of doing your work. Now, if only I could find the time….

  2. I’m so glad that you won’t stop taking photos, especially of your handsome pets, and I do believe you have a handle on this writing stuff. Keep up all the great work.

  3. Maery, what a dream. It’s interesting how complete it is… and it surely holds some answers. You might be right in either of your guesses, they both sound sensible.

    I think that sometimes we really must pay more attention to something we want to achieve and sacrifice other things or activities to accomplish that. If we are not willing to make that, well, then we must accept that the progress is slower or may even stop. You must decide on what’s more important to you – the progress of your writing or the other grounding activities, as you say. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong answer, just the need to decide what matters most.

    The captures of your dogs are impressive!

    1. Agreed, it’s the decided that is taking some time since all of it is important to me. I may have to decide to give up some things for now with the intention of getting back to them later or as you say, just accept that completing my book will take longer than I had hoped.

  4. What a beautiful poem! Thank you for sharing his work and introducing me to the onbeing website.

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