Peterson: Dreams help sort if they don't slip away

The other day I woke up with a ZIP code on my mind, left over from an early-morning dream.

It was 70726, and I repeated it to myself over and over until I could write it down because, as we all know, dreams have a way of vanishing into nothingness as soon as you wake up.

I dream, but I have a hard time remembering them, and I put a lot of stock into dreams. They give you ideas on what to do or not do because your mind is cleared from all the underbrush of living in the wide-awake world. Dreams give you a chance to sort things through in your mind, even if you don’t fully remember them.

My earliest recollection of a dream was a nightmare, one that has reappeared from time to time over the years. It was my youthful introduction to infinity. I was at the bottom of tremendous pile of sand, and I had a shovel. It was my job to get rid of that pile of sand. But no matter how much I shoveled, the sand kept replacing itself, and I was no further ahead than when I started. I shoveled and shoveled, but made no progress. That was infinity, and it scared me senseless.

Most of my dreams these days are pleasant, not the nightmares I used to have, and for that, I am thankful. Nightmares still come, but they are few and far between. I wish I could remember my dreams and learn from them, but they slip away too fast.

Years ago, I tried documenting dreams that would wake me up in the middle of the night. First, I tried writing them down in a journal, but my handwriting was completely unreadable. It was like I held the pen and ran squiggly lines across the page. Then I tried a tape recorder, but it was like my mouth was full of marbles and the words unintelligible. So much for that. 

Recently, I had a dream where I was in band class, and my instrument was the clarinet. While everyone was tuning up, I was trying to think of a way to play another instrument, having already mastered the clarinet. Then, I was playing the drums, followed by the trumpet, and I was pretty happy, but I still had my clarinet just in case. In dreams, you can handle more than one instrument at a time.

Somehow I was able to hang on to the clarinet while playing the other instruments. Dreams are that way; the impossible becomes the possible. The trouble is, I don’t play an instrument, and I was never in band.

Because anything is possible in dreams, in another dream I just had, I was three different people: The pastor, the parent and the child. The church had a large metal bowl full of coins, mostly quarters, and children could fill their boxes up with coins, with the instruction that the money was to go to a worthy cause. I, the child and the parent, had just given the last of the coins to someone who was poor.

We went back to the church for more coins, and I, the pastor, asked what I did with the money. I, the child, told myself, we had given it to a poor man. And I, the pastor, had a skeptical look on my face. But I, the child, ignored that, and filled my box again, feeling a little guilty but knowing I had done the right thing.

But 70726? What could that possibly mean? I did a quick search of the Incredible Internet and found that it was the ZIP code for Denham Springs, Louisiana, population 10,097.

I don’t recall being in Denham Springs in my dream, all remember is waking up with the numbers coming out of my mouth. And if I was repeating them after just waking up, they had to mean something, so I kept repeating them until I could write the numbers down because I knew how transitory dreams were. If I stopped repeating it, I would soon forget.

Denham Springs is a pretty unremarkable town, 85 miles northwest of New Orleans and 13 miles east of Baton Rouge in Livingston Parish. The temperature there this week is in the mid- to upper 80s with humidity anywhere from 88 percent to 94 percent. Ugh. You can almost wring the water out of the air it is so humid.

And there’s a squabble over the police chief who was fired over a domestic violence incident involving a member of the city council. And sheriff’s police are on the lookout for a woman who is stealing plants and trees from backyards, a novel approach at landscaping on a budget.

While dreaming about Denham Springs – it’s ZIP code, actually – should prompt me to take action, I have no desire to visit anytime soon. It’s almost 1,000 miles away directly south, and I couldn’t handle the humidity. It’s only a dream. If only. This time, there has to be some hidden meaning that eluding me.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at

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