Updated: Dec 17, 2018
It might seem odd, growing up in Wisconsin and having rarely lived less than a few hours from the ocean that I should dream of waves, but there they are: a regular companion to my sleep. I actually had some recurring tsunami dreams when I was a young child, long before I had ever touched an ocean: the kind in which you find that the harder you try to run, the more it feels as though body is made of cold molasses. But I did learn from those dreams how to surrender to the waves, and relax in the washing-machine ride-a strange lesson for a 5-year old in Wisconsin to learn, but the waves were satisfied and let me be... for a time.
Years later, after I actually started to surf, the waves came back, and started to be visited by a different sort of dream. I often think of them as my “frustrated surfing dreams” as usually I find myself in front of some waves, but almost always something gets in the way of actually going out to surf: usually the lack of a board, or the waves disappear, or I get distracted as the dream takes me off in another direction. A psychologist would probably have a field day with the meaning of these dreams, but for me the more significant aspect is the waves and ocean themselves.
Often the sense of place is so vivid and charged that these places and waves exist as a tangible feeling in my body that I can recall days, weeks, even years later. And often the situations are surreal in unlikely ways: waves breaking in a narrow canal in a suburban neighborhood, down the cliffs of a large caldera, on top of a small set of bleachers in a field. A few weeks ago I found myself trying to surf inside a small living room filled with water. Usually, I never make it into the water, and if I do I rarely have a board, and if I do end up with a board it might end up being a floppy mess, or a rug, or piece of cardboard. I can count on one hand (missing a few fingers) the number of times I have actually found myself properly surfing in a dream... and those dreams lived up to the lightness and grace one would expect from surfing without a physical body.
Eventually I decided I needed to do something with these dreams. So, I took the advice of the old adage, if life gives you waves dreams, make wave art...