When my twelve-year-old twins had a band concert, I was excited for them. One of them plays the clarinet, and the other plays the tuba. I’d heard them practice together, and they played well, harmonizing between the two instruments. I couldn’t wait to hear them play with the entire band. I think though, on a subconscious level, I must have been more nervous about the event than they were. It was their first big performance, and I hoped it would be a good experience for them.
The night before the concert, I dreamed I was the one set to perform. I realized I’d forgotten to practice any of the songs. I couldn’t read the sheet music. I couldn’t even figure out how to put my clarinet together. (In my defense, I haven’t played clarinet since middle school, and I’m a little rusty reading notes.) I woke up in a panic.
I’ve had different versions of this dream. Sometimes it’s a math final I forgot to study for; other times it’s a science class I forgot I was taking until the end of the term. I completed my doctoral degree over a decade ago, but in these dreams I’m back in high school. I guess I must have a fear of failing, or perhaps have some residual anxiety from high school. (Okay, honestly—who doesn’t?) Or there’s probably some other Freudian interpretation.
I think Freud might have trouble interpreting some of my other dreams though, the kind that seem prophetic because of the synchroncities that follow. Allow me to share an example.
When our boys were four, my husband and I hoped to get them into a wonderful pre-school. Second Street was a special place—the teachers were incredible, the kids ran around barefoot and fed the school chickens, and there was an amazing treehouse with a slide. The school seemed like a magical place. It was also difficult to get into because there was a long waiting list of kids hoping to be accepted.
We sent in our applications to the school, complete with an essay about why we wanted our boys to attend. I had heard it helped to call the school’s director over the summer to remind her of our interest and demonstrate that we were the kind of parents who would be involved in our kids’ education and volunteer for the school.
I hadn’t called yet, but then I had a dream I was talking to the director. She was standing in the school yard. All around her were deep holes dug in the dirt. Black, snaking pipes protruded from the holes.
I didn’t know what the dream was about, but I decided to take this as a sign I should at least call the director, reminding her we were still interested. I made the call, and spoke with the director, exchanging pleasantries.
Then, out of nowhere, she mentioned she was having an issue with the school’s irrigation system. She asked if I knew someone who might be able to fix it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Even so, about two weeks later, we got our acceptance letters to the school. I don’t know if the dream was mere coincidence or a true synchronicity, but I do think making that call helped us get into the school. And I know the experience of attending had a tremendous impact on my children’s lives, helping them get a great start on their education.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
Synchronicity is the idea that there are meaningful patterns of coincidences that occur in life. Some people see coincidence as a purely psychological phenomenon with no deeper meaning. When your attention has been drawn to something, you start noticing it more often. Say you were interested in buying a yellow car. You might not ordinarily notice yellow cars, but once you were in the market for one, you’d begin seeing them everywhere.
You could say the same for signs and symbols—we encounter random stimuli and generate meaning from that. Except, sometimes what we encounter does not seem so random. Sometimes it seems like a message meant just for us from a higher power in the universe. When I’ve encountered synchronicities, there’s often a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean.
I recently wrote a young adult novel called Sunset Empire. There are a few themes in the book, among them elephants, Thailand, and a creature from Scandinavian folklore called the huldra. I don’t yet know what will happen with this book—when it will be published—but encountering related synchronicities has been magical.
Last October, I was headed to my local library for a meeting with my writing group. Later in the month I would be presenting at the library on some of the mythical creatures featured in Sunset Empire. As I pulled up to the curb to park, a car passed me. The vehicle had a vanity plate that read huldra. While I live in an area with a significant Scandinavian influence, the word is still fairly obscure to most people, so it was surprising to see the license plate. What’s more, the odds of me arriving at that spot and looking up at that exact moment to see the passing car were slim. Had I pulled up to the curb a moment earlier or a moment later, I would have missed seeing it entirely. The experience felt like a nudge from the universe, one that made me smile.
One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a beautiful bracelet with a dragonfly motif from Thailand. Elyse Pthan, the main character in my book, is Thai-American, a tribute to my sister-in-law and her family. I’m fairly certain the giver of the bracelet was unaware of my connection to Thailand, which makes the bracelet even more special to me. Dragonflies are symbolic of change, and I hope 2016 will be a big year for forward movement with this book and my writing career. We shall see.
Then there are the elephants. Elyse wears a necklace with a small gold elephant. It’s amazing how many elephants are out there once you start looking. I see them everywhere now—on clothing, on a throw pillow in a magazine, and even on the beach. The tides on the Oregon coast have been higher than usual over the past month because of winter storms, and this has washed up all manner of debris. While beach combing with my family this December, we found bits of plastic with Japanese writing and a wooden board from vessel with a home port in the Bahamas. We also found a toy elephant with its trunk raised high, a symbol of good fortune. It’s a tiny plastic toy, less than two inches long. What are the odds we would find this on a beach that stretches for miles? What are the chances this little grey elephant, which would easily blend in among mounds of driftwood and kelp, would catch our eye? Perhaps this find was a coincidence. Maybe it means nothing. Or maybe it’s another one of those nudges from the universe, a sign I shouldn’t give up, that I should keep searching for a publishing home for this story. I hope so. I want to believe something good is headed my way.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015