Making of Wandering Still, A Video Exploring the Dreams of the Bereaved
by Kate Pourshariarti
What happened was this: I lost my family, best friend, and childhood all at
one time; I lost my mother.
First of all, there was the accident- a meeting of two cars on one plane, at
two speeds, in one dimension, by chance. Then there was the loss, and the
terrible darkness. Then there was a need to wallow, to lick wounds that
didnt seem able to close. There was also fear- the peculiar fear that day
by day, time was dividing us, as if I were on a plane flying away from her
in time, and the farther we flew apart, the less we had in common, the less
there was left of us.
And then came the dreams. At first the were vicious and viscous too, full of
rot and decomposition, some sort of reckoning of where the body goes, in
fast motion. My dreams revisited the trauma of seeing my mother as a person,
being turned into a thing, again and again. Then came the separation dreams-
the ones where she and I were in the same building, but divided by glass
walls. Perhaps worse than not being able to get to where she was, was seeing
the look of resignation and disaffection in her expression- as if she
wasnt really there anyway. I would awaken bereft.
Little by little, sprinkled in, came the magic dreams. In one, I found
myself hanging out with her, laughing and goofing as we always did, out on a
drive. We pulled up in front of our house and I got ready to shout out to
the neighbors, Hey guys- look whos here! It was all a mistake! Moms
back! But before a word leaves me, she says Shhh
you see, you are
the only one here who can see me. I am invisible to everyone else. Dont
tell them or they might think you are crazy. I hear her, and feel lucky,
but slowly feel the horrible pull back to consciousness. What she has said
begins to make me realize it is a dream, and so I begin to awaken, while
struggling to stay in that place where we are still together.
Well, who knows how it happened, in the end? Night by night, dream by dream,
my mother and I got back to our normal lives together. I started to notice
that we were doing very ordinary, almost banal things together, always
having a ball, catching up on things, just being happy together. Not only
that, but I learned to be happy for the dreams, instead of regretting their
end. I knew that another one would come, and we would be back together again
for a visit.
A metaphysical question had raised itself. I wondered at the metaphor
between dreaming and after-life. Could it be that dream times were an
opportunity for two worlds to interface? Perhaps in our rational waking
states, we closed a door firmly between here and there, but in
our sleep, the door swung open of its own accord. I wondered if dreams
such as mine were common amongst the bereaved. Then I thought, wow, that
might make a really interesting documentary. I wonder if anyone would want
to be in it?
I saw an ad in the City Paper, one of those free newspapers that most cities
have, that said that you could run a free ad for a non-profit project, and
so I ran an ad as follows: Have you had dreams about someone close to you
that has died? If so, do you want to be in a documentary about it? Call Kate
at . . .
Strangely enough, over 35 people responded to my ad just in the first
weekend. Thus began one of the most healing and exciting adventures of my
I decided to ask people to meet me in their favorite place, wearing their
favorite clothes. I only asked one or two questions to make sure that they
we were talking about the same thing- I had gotten a few calls from the ESP
crowd, and had to weed them out. I met an amazing cross section of people.
Almost right away, I felt like we were in the same family- we had both been
through the same horror, and dreams had somehow helped us get through. There
was the lady with the stillborn baby, who came to her in dreams as a bigger
kid, and showed her how it all worked out OK. There was a middle aged man
whose beloved housekeeper/nanny had died, and he saw that she had ended up
in her beloved Hawaii, which was her vision of paradise. There were also
some more gruesome dreams, like my earlier ones, where perhaps the dreamer
needed some more forceful way of separating from their person who died.
The one universal thing was, not only did the camera end up bringing us
closer together, but all of the people I interviewed told me that they felt
better, in fact felt relieved to be able to tell their story out loud. It
was also a balm to my soul, my grief slowly took on a different, more
bearable tone. I took my time working on the video project, not wanting it
to end. It was a thrill calling a complete stranger and becoming friends in
the course of working together for a few hours. I was overwhelmed by the
kindness shown to me, the generosity of people willing to meet up with me, a
total stranger, and share a deep part of themselves, without material
compensation. I felt like a tree that had reached out its branches to the
world, and been rewarded by meeting with sunshine.
Kate Pourshariati has a degree
in fine arts from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art,
and in filmmaking from the City College of New York . She lives in Philadelphia, where she teaches,
and creates radio and video productions. Kate and her family are planning
a trip to India where Kate will be researching a radio piece about traveling
in India with kids, as well as interviewing women pilots for another production, in the coming year.
Kate Pourshariatis video, Wandering Still, is available for $75.00. Please visit our store or send an e-mail request for the video to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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