Welcome. I keep forgetting how I know things. With so much of life transpiring through screens — Zoom calls, group texts, long articles saved to read later, Netflix series half-paid-attention-to while scrolling through Instagram — I’ll find myself recalling a fact or a story, unable to identify the source of the information. Did this dimly recollected tale of, say, getting stranded in a blizzard come from a friend or colleague? Did I hear about it on a podcast? Is it a vignette from a movie I watched part of and then abandoned? How do I know what I know? What is fact and what is fiction?
This soupifying of information is not unlike dreaming. When we dream, our minds draw from a great vault of images and feelings, experiences both real and imagined, with little (if any) distinction between details’ provenances. Our dreaming minds mind our information stores, making meaning or connections that our waking minds don’t.
I first asked you about your dreams in October 2020 — a different moment in the pandemic, when the appearance of a mask in a dream was novel, when we were first getting used to references to the virus popping up in our sleeping brains. (Here are some readers’ dreams that my colleagues in Opinion assembled in 2020.) I asked again about your dreams last week, wondering if any new motifs or themes had emerged as we approach two years of pandemic life. Here’s what some of you said. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“Recently I have been remembering more of my dreams than usual, and many of them have included meaningful interactions with large mammals. The first I can remember was just me swimming peacefully in the most beautiful clear blue ocean amid whales. I’ve always been afraid of swimming in the ocean, but this dream had me ready to hop on a plane to Australia and jump in. Most recently, I dreamed I was feeding avocados to elephants. I don’t know if elephants like avocados, but now I want to find out.” —Stephanie Kane, Brooklyn
“In every dream, I’m driving a shiny car to someplace new. Sometimes I’m just traveling in the dream, but often I’m moving. My day-to-day life is largely unaffected by the pandemic, but travel plans and big hopes of moving have been hampered. These days, dreaming gives me a little taste of freedom.” —Kayla Merrell, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
“My recurring nightmare used to be realizing I am still enrolled in a college course that I thought I had dropped and panicking because I had missed months of lectures. Since 2021, my new nightmare has become being out in public and realizing I have no mask on. When I go to reach for it, it’s not there. What do I do now?” —Aviva Moster, Jersey City, N.J.
“I go to bed around 11:30 p.m. At 3 a.m. I wake up and have a hard time getting back to sleep. That’s when the dreams start. It is not uncommon that my mother, father, sister and brother, who all have passed, show up. It’s nice to see them. An old boyfriend of mine shows up, too. He died of Covid this past April. I had not seen him in 26 years, but in the months before he died we spoke often, sometimes daily, on the phone. He wanted to take me to Europe this past summer. I love when he visits.” —Aimee A. Kudlak, Portland, Maine
“Some of the most powerful dreams I’ve had over the last two years were ones where I was stranded, against my will, away from the society that I knew. One time it was a plane crash on some northern island; another time I was held in a sterile institution for years. One was, predictably, a zombie apocalypse. But despite these circumstances, my dreams were pervaded by an almost overwhelming sense of peace. I could see myself looking back at the tangled web that was my life with a sense of melancholy but also acceptance. My family might have always been searching for me (which was always the worst part), but, at the same time, I was free.” —Emily Prechtl, Pristina, Kosovo
How are you leading a full and cultured life, at home and away? Write and tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your full name and location and we might include your contribution in an upcoming newsletter. We’re At Home and Away. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for passing the time appear below. I’ll be back on Friday.