birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Writing Dreams Down

This is why I should write my dreams down. I've had anxiety dreams. Sometimes, I feel them more than I recall them. I wake up in the middle of the night, shaking and crying - pieces of the dream falling all around me in airy chunks, and I can't scoop them up fast enough to remember.

Sometimes, chasing my son through the streets, but he's too fast for me.

Once, I dreamed I opened up my very autobiographical novel at a reading that my relatives were attending, and a bomb went off.

(Even my dream I thought - cliche.)

I've had falling dreams and drowning dreams and no-teeth dreams...your usual fare.

The worst dreams are the ones where the kids are little, and I can't find them. I've misplaced them.

I do recall one dream right after I had given birth to my first child, a boy.

He was born at a birth center, and I loved the midwife with some irrational, crazy love. She represented all things good and strong and loving.

I didn't want to ever let her down.

So a few days after his birth, I dreamed I picked him up and his head rolled away. It was awful. I tried to reattach his head, but it kept rolling off just out of reach. I knew I would have to tell the midwife that the baby's head had rolled away, and that I was so sorry.

But the most peaceful dream I ever recall having was right after my grandmother died in 1999. Her son, my uncle Michael, had preceded her in death in 1979, twenty years earlier exactly. His death was a suicide, and he was only 22. I was 17, and his death changed my life forever, and I've written about him many times in fiction and nonfiction.

And in the dream, my grandmother, GrandMary, was sitting in the middle of a circle of all the 18 grandchildren. We were on a kind of stage in a theatre. She was wearing a sparkly white shirt with slacks, and she looked so hip and serene at the same time.

She was smiling at us, her gathered and listening grandchildren, and she said, "I want to show something. I want to you to see someone who has missed you so much."

And she pointed to the curtain, and Michael entered and he joined her. He looked so handsome and beautiful in an Irish sweater and jeans. I remember being amazed that he was whole and real. He radiated a kind of warmth and love toward us, the grandchildren. Both he and my grandmother were beaming, and there came this collective shout of joy from all of us.

And Michael said, "I can't be with you now, but one of the cousins will take care of all of you."

Then he said "Stand up, Joe" and my cousin, Joe, stood up.

And we all looked at Joe, who smiled at us, and then the dream was over.

But I woke up with such peace filling up the entire bedroom. The California sun bathed the room in a red morning glow, and I was awash in gratitude. My husband was sleeping next to me, and I reached out to him, and in his sleep, he pulled me in close.

Norah was a baby then. Flannery and Lucy were ten and eight. I don't know why Michael picked Cousin Joe to look out for us. It didn't matter. We didn't really need Cousin Joe, my younger cousin, a father of four, to look out for us.

I was only just so grateful to see GrandMary and Michael together in that space - wherever it was - so completely filled with peace and serenity.

Domino Effect