Following the Trail of Dreams

 

INTERPRETING DREAMS

Have you ever set an intention to record dreams, and then upon waking, had an inkling that told you, this dream is significant…so you sleepily try to jot down the important elements, knowing there are things missing but nonetheless. You tell yourself you will look at it, your dream, again later, for analysis and perhaps, enlightenment.

I believe dreams affect our choices and have the potential to give profound insight…but it seems so hard to pin them down.

As an artist, I have developed a deep fascination with the landscape of dreaming. Many of my paintings are images that have emerged from trying to make sense of their mysterious content. I have found over the years that, like building a muscle, my ability to remember my dreams becomes more reliable the more I set the intention to recall them and write them down. The biggest challenge, however, is in the interpretation of them. It’s like there is no boundaries in our dreaming world, so there are often symbols and scenarios that are weird and nonsensical. Thankfully, any research I commit to this endeavour has proven to be fruitful; from writing a dialogue with characters to consulting online dream dictionaries (based on the understanding that some signs and symbols are universal).

Lately I have made a determined decision to honour my intuition as I analyse my dreams, and after recording the dream itself, I have been adding a paragraph or two entitled ‘Interpretation’. I use thumbnail sketches when words are not sufficient to describe events or feelings. I also record them in the same voice I would use to write a story.

After my son Jordan died, my reason for remembering dreams changed and intensified. I feel like we are living in a matrix-like world where he is living on the other side and I can’t quite get to him. I associate his energy with owls, so when an owl shows up in my dream I really take notice. There have also been wonderful moments, where he has showed up in my dream all fresh-faced and happy- these dreams are so vivid that I wake having that sad realisation…’Oh, that was a dream’. But many of you reading this may think: ‘It’s not, he’s showing you he is alive and well’, and that’s what I believe on my good days.

The other day I heard a wonderful teacher and blogger talk about dreams and mentioned that it is easier for Spirit to connect with us in our dreams because our busy minds are at rest. We are not living by ‘what’s next’ or trying to assimilate the multitudes of data that assault our senses while we are awake, distracting us. In this sense, our minds are yielding and open. This is my hope, that by following the trail of my dreams , I will gain a deeper understanding of the realm of the Spirit.

WATER

I wanted to talk about the specific dream element of water because it has been recurring for me and I know it is such a common dream symbol. Water dreams often symbolise the world of the subconscience, spiritual realms and deep emotions. This is not surprising, since we are made up of about 70% water, and as a substance water behaves much like emotions. It ebbs, flows, can be calm or tumultuous. In yogic tradition, water is connected to the moon, hence, it often has a mysterious and dark quality. Here’s a recent dream I had, and my brief interpretation:

I was surrounded by deep, overcast, oceanic water, where the wind and the waves were building steadily and I had a sense of foreboding as if I would be easily overcome by them. I was on a very flimsy floating mat, and I lifted up into the dark turbulent sky for a few moments.

My interpretation:

Because the water was dark and waves were building, I am thinking that there are deep emotions I am perhaps still unaware of. Being lifted off the surface indicates to me an encouragement to trust in God; it is akin to the story of Jesus walking on the water in the New Testament.  The vessel I was in was very fragile. A vessel of any description can represent the physical body -I have been feeling really run down so it makes sense the vessel in my dream was ‘fragile’.

There are so many forms and associations for water, here are just a few to ponder:

Did you dream, like I did, that you were on a boat or other floating device? Boats are considered my many traditions to symbolise the spiritual journey, or the notion of being carried and held by God or  a higher power. Some important considerations would be if you or someone else was sailing the boat, if it was drifting, the type of boat, etc. Depending on the context it can indicate safety and/or mastery over your emotions.

Did you go underwater? Being underwater in a situation like snorkelling can indicate a contemplative phase or a time where you are examining your emotions and life journey in order to grow. Conversely, if you dream of drowning, it can indicate being overwhelmed with ‘drowned’ (or unacknowledged) emotions, or something significant coming to an end or death.

If the water is dark, dirty or cloudy it can represent confusion, or frustration at not being able to see to the end or the bottom of something. If it is clear, it has the opposite meaning; truth and clarity are guiding you.

Here’s to acknowledging the ethereal, mysterious and potent messages that come through for us in our dreams….and hoping you all have a blissful slumber

Peace

 

 

Catching Stardust

This painting was created using a lot of texture, from paper to fabric from Jordan’s old board shorts….it’s been interesting using his clothes in such a way, for me it has carried a lot of meaning….creating using something of his, I feel I am sharing with him in the whole process of painting. Jordan has always been involved with my art; from being the subject of Portraiture, to being a model for Jesus for a mural I did once in Bruce Rock….not sure if this one is quite finished, I may add some stardust in the angel’s hand. The angel in this piece has popped up in a couple of paintings now… it always fascinates me when this happens!

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A detail of the Angel’s face
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Another recent painting using Jordan’s boardies for texture. 

My son, my muse

I’m feeling my pain a lot more sharply these days. It makes me sad that I can no longer communicate with my boy on an earthly level. I feel his presence with me sometimes, and I’ve taken to collecting heart shaped stones found at the beach, a relic when I go on my short, exhausted walks on the beach, usually feeling lost and disconnected with reality.

Yesterday I posted some ‘works in progress’, something unusual for me- I’m a bit shy about showing my artistic ‘process’ because to me it’s pretty klunky. All this productivity, this new sense of purpose I’m finding in creating is overwhelming. Jordan’s telling me I need to “thaw out”, like I’ve been frozen in time. I feel him there, working alongside me, and I’m painting his heart. He helps me, reassures me. I know this must sound strange to some. I have no answers. I know little of the spirit world. All I know is what I feel, and what I’ve observed.

I wish I could recall the name of a poet I stumbled across- also a grieving mother; her purpose now is to create poems that comfort other parents dealing with the loss of a child. She feels her son is helping her too. A partnership of creative energy and love. This is exactly how I feel about Jordan.

He’s shown me moths, butterflies, hearts, angels, beaches and waves…to see meaning in everyday things.

I just miss him so much.

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hearts from the beach
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‘To Remember a Dream’

One of my oldest friends also lost her son in a car crash, just around the corner from where my own boy drew his last breath. She shared a dream she had, describing how her boy showed her how he is watching over her life, and how this is true for all heartbroken mothers. She said “they love us, they really know us, they are proud of us”. What a comfort when other grieving mothers share their hearts.

I find myself looking for Jordan everywhere, so I guess this painting is making my friend’s dream ‘real’ for me. I’m reminded of a quote by one of my favourite painters, Marc Chagall. He said,”If you can’t see angels you should paint them”. I will never see my boy again on this earth, hear his voice, touch him or breathe his scent, so this is my way of bringing him close. He is like an angel to me now, in a way. But it’s hard to imagine what he is really like; I believe when we die all of the parts of us that are flawed and broken are healed. Is he still Jordan, but more ‘himself’ than ever? I feel like a child trying to understand things that are beyond me.

I wish I could remember my dreams in more detail. My boy showed up in my dream last night, we talked about lots of things (actually I talked the most, he was just with me, his presence, listening)….but I asked him at the end, “is heaven beautiful?” He paused, face looking really fresh and calm, “Yes, heaven is beautiful”.

I miss you my son.

Remembering Jordan

Creating art has changed for me in many ways. My eldest son, Jordan died in a car accident in March this year. He would have turned 26 on the 18th of March. For a few numbing months, lost in the shock of it I thought I would never paint seriously again. I remember in those first few weeks I took to watercolours, but in my mind they were just doodles. I felt I’d lost my mojo. I was and often still am overwhelmed by the grief that can be so intense words alone cannot describe it.

I’m back painting again. I only have a very short attention span nowadays, preferring to numb out emotion through whatever means easily accessible (food, alcohol, Netflix. Anything mindless) . But I’ve come to realise that through creating artworks ‘about’ Jordan, I’m also creating new memories ‘with’ him. This is an important distinction for me, and I suppose it is based on the belief that he is still ‘alive’ in the truest sense.

After a death you are still in a relationship with the person, however, now because of the chasm of death, that relationship is connected through pain. That’s why many grieving parents say they will never ‘get over’ the loss of a child, and they don’t want to either. That child is a part of you. A deep and indelible part. A parent-child relationship is an unconditional one where the parents’ role as nurturer causes such a strong psychic connection that their concern is always centred around the child’s safety and thriving.

We are accustomed to, as parents, to worry about our kids. We can be heartbroken and concerned for them. We suffer with their sufferings and rejoice in their triumphs. This doesn’t change after death. Through my artwork in some ways I’m saying, “are you ok Jordan?” “You are loved” “you are remembered” “You are amazing” , and a wonderful quote from one of his friends, “heaven adores you”. I suppose art has given me a way of nurturing him, including him and yes of course, remembering him and his time on planet Earth. I want him to be forever remembered by everyone who knew him. And if you know me I want you to know him, too.

When I studied art therapy I learnt about how art can facilitate these ‘altered states’ It’s not as mystical as it sounds. Altered states are just below the surface of our everyday pragmatic existence. You experience them when you are deeply involved in something. It’s a chance for your subconscious self, to come to the foreground of your awareness. This always happens when we dream, because we have no filter and our minds are not preoccupied with the mundane. When Jordan left us I realised how often I straddle these two states. I long to become aware of the spiritual, to learn how to notice little things he may be saying to me. Yet I am so deeply aware of how difficult this is. It’s frustrating, when we are alive we are truly bent away from seeing anything spiritual. So seldom do we scratch the surface of our existence. The times he has sent me a message, and I have been ‘awake’ enough to receive it, are held very deeply in my heart.

Because being creative helps us access this ‘altered state’ or dreamlike state of awareness, it has helped me understand my own pain, just a little bit. I’m someone who will feel something deeply then minimise things once I’m past the pointy end of my pain. A painting holds up a mirror in this way. When you are very emotional anyway, you develop tools to numb things over, so validating an experience is important. On another level, there’s the things we don’t know about the ocean that is our psyche, and engaging in art can be surprising. It can reveal things previously outside of our awareness.

So many people who have lost their precious children have also lost purpose. What’s the point? What’s the point in doing anything? Everything is meaningless. Life is about surviving until we can be with them again when we die. It’s only been nine months for me. So I have no answers and I feel like this often too. All I know, really on a very basic level, is I’m grateful for my art. I don’t even care what others think about it now. At the end of the day, it’s a comfort. It’s a comfort because of the tangible link it has to the Spirit. Music is the same, as is writing.

I will always remember Jordan saying-not that long ago- “oh cool mums getting her paints out. I love it when mum paints!”