Hypnagogia. Odd word - neat phenomenon. The first time I encountered this term was in A. Huxley's "Brave New World: Revisited". In short, it's that state of mind when you're right on the verge of sleep, but retain conscious thought. Mr. Huxley (and many a powermonger in his time) posited incorrectly that minds in this state were more prone to maniputation and propaganda - or "receptive to suggestability" if you like such euphemisms... *creepy*.
One of the more common experiences during this all too brief period is dreamlike images, usually only when eyes are closed - although all sorts of sensory hallucinations, including synaesthesia can be experienced. For most, including me, the visualizations are quite odd - "trippy" covers it. And, they rarely string together in anything close to a coherent story or plot. In this sense they are more like proto-dreams.
In my brief research, I was comforted to find that many monumentally creative figures in history have referenced this state-of-mind; specifically for it's fertility of innovation and genius. Another reason to have the journal and pen at the ready at all times.
I mention all that because I had bird-oriented visualizations during hypnogogia just before a nap the other day. Can't remember the last time this has happened, but it must have. Last weekend I made my first birding trip to the lower Rio Grande Valley. It is one of the most accessible places in the U.S. to see birds more easily found in Mexico. It was late afternoon and I was in Hidalgo, Texas. I'd only gotten some 5 hours sleep (for the third night in a row) and had been birding since about 8:30 that morning. What tipped the scales from my being just "really tired" to "shear exhausted" was a 6 mile hike thrown in during the early afternoon. I am embarrassed at how unfit I am... but I digress.
It started with an image like an archery target - 5-6 wide, concentric, rings (all with same colors). Conforming to the curvature of each ring was a tiling (actually tessellations - a la M.C. Escher) comprised of light and dark birds. The birds appeared to be grackles - probably Boat or Great-tailed (Quiscalus major and " mexicanus respectively). Wicked awesome for sure; but on top of this each ring rotated opposite those adjacent to it.
From here things got down right bizarre, but no less creative. Cinematic scenes and static images went by dizzingly fast. After what seemed like minutes of this barrage, I began to feel frustrated. Much of what appeared was fascinating to my conscious mind. However, I don't yet have the skill to either remember or record these experiences in real time. A few things I do remember: two or three moving scenes of single, small birds perched and/or feeding (in near real-life detail!), one more tesselation (in free space, not confined to a geometric shape), and a few slideshow-esque close up images of birds.
It wouldn't be a product of my mind if there wasn't some irony in this. Throughout this day I had seen no fewer than eight lifebirds, a very exotic escapee, and several more species I have only seen one or two times before. And yet, all the hypnogogic images I can remember were of the commonest birds in the entire South and Southwest region (i.e. Grackles, Titmice, White-eyed Vireo, etc.). ???...