by Janice Coffing
“Do you dream in color?” Katy, a colleague, friend, and art teacher asked.
While we had been talking about dreams, I was taken aback by her question. I had to think before I answered. “I don’t really know,” I said. “I only know I dream in stories.”
We both felt we had discovered something interesting. Her dreams were vivid, colored images that often told a story or expressed a dominant emotion, but sometimes her dreams were just scenery. My dreams were stories in which the scenery was vague. My dreams had characters, action, and dialogue. Her dreams had beautiful or scary scenes, images. Her medium was paint, mine words.
I’m not sure how we left that conversation since it took place some time ago. But I do know that I began to notice how I learn, how I know things. Story is how I learn, how I remember, how I recall events, how I know people. It is the mode of which I am confident, certain. To me, a life is a story. While neither words nor paint can capture the essence of that life, we try because it is important to know who we are as humans.
Not so long ago, I recounted a dream to my brother about how I was trying to get home from work to our childhood residence. My bus wasn’t running; I started to walk but some stranger was chasing me; running away, I got lost. At every turn, there were obstacles. He said he had dreamed a very similar dream; only he was trying to get home from college. My brother and I are aging siblings who had both dreamed these dreams recurrently.
A psychologist might tell us our dreams meant that we were trying to recapture our innocence, our youth, a time of unconditional love and security. I think we were longing for a place, a time, a moment in our mutual history, a story that is past, a story that can’t be relived but can be told. I see those dreams as a warning not to forget. For me, it was a warning to write it down before the memories are gone. Interestingly, when the old homestead was demolished to make way for condos, our dreams about getting home stopped.
But I did forget to ask him: Do you dream in color?
Janice is a retired technical writer, trainer, and adjunct professor, who has time to read more, to write what she wants, and to reflect on a life and a time. Her passion is golf but she also loves living close to family, residing in Kentucky, owning Golden Retrievers, and cooking.