This is the next excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:
“Dreamed I went shopping and bought a ‘wine-rose’ dress. It was a shade somewhere between the rich ruby of a stained glass window and a rose wine. In accordance with the acceptable illogic of dreams, it seemed perfectly plausible that although the linen-like material was opaque, the color itself was somehow transparent.
While I was waiting for the salesgirl to wrap it up, I began to wonder what had possessed me to buy that dress because apparently I’d had some other color in mind. I looked at the racks of dresses and saw that most of them were that shade. It was obviously the fashionable color.
I began to feel a little resentful that my choice of what I should wear had been determined by the arbitrary decision of the dress designers. Why should they, and interior decorators too, decree what colors should be in vogue at any given season? And why should the public accept their decrees? The more I thought about it, the more unreasonable it seemed. By what law, I asked myself in the dream, should wine-rose be imposed upon the world at this time? The answer flashed into my mind: ‘The world today needs wine-rose.’
Then I woke up and wished I had someone to tell the dream to, because it amused me. I used to keep quiet about what I dreamed because when my generation was growing up, we were given to interpreting dreams according to Freud, not only our own but one another’s – particularly one another’s – accompanied usually by a smirk that conveyed: ‘If you only knew what you’ve revealed about yourself.’
I no longer take the experts, let alone the amateurs, so seriously. I’ve lived long enough to see how theories held as profound and incontrovertible truth – in arts, science, religion, child-rearing and just about every field of thought – change. In the past few years I’ve noticed that even some of Freud’s theories are being rejected or modified by his professional followers. In any case I no longer have any hesitation about revealing my dreams although I do not doubt for a moment that they have meaning, and often one that may easily be interpreted as ‘Freudian,’ meaning usually, sexually.
For instance, over the years I have had a recurring dream that I am trying to identify a bird which I have only glimpsed. I pursue the bird trying to get a clear view. It always just eludes me. I catch a flick of color but am not sure whether it was on a wing or tail; the head emerges clearly from the top of a shrub but by the time I get my binoculars focused, it flies off to a farther tree; I follow after but just as I come within the good viewing range, it drops down out of sight in the tall grass.
Now it is conceivable that this dream shows that I am an unconscious voyeur – or is there a word ‘voyeuse’ for the female? However, when I try to attach that appellation to a sweet, old-fashioned neighbor we once had here, who was still eagerly bird-watching at ninety-four, the theory strikes me as delightfully droll.
Not that I question the sexual symbolism of many dreams. I wonder, though, that the more thought is given to the overtly sexual dream as – at least in some instances – a symbol for something else, much as many of the mystics used the language of passionate love to symbolize their union with God.
Be that as it may, I have gradually developed my own dream vocabulary, limited to be sure, but rooted in actual experience. I have discovered that my bird dream occurs only at times when I am trying to catch hold of and clarify an idea hovering at the back of my mind. In other words, to me a bird represents an idea. (The correlation shows up in language: we speak of a ‘flight of ideas’ or ‘winged thoughts.’) I have also discovered that in my dreams kitten, for instance, usually stand for feelings of affection and tenderness; big cats like lions and tigers represent savagery, wrath or violent emotion of some kind; butterflies, playful or carefree moods.
I think, however, one should tread cautiously in the field of symbols. There is too much tendency to look at something only as a symbol and lose sight of its inherent reality. IT was become a cliche, for instance, to say that a landscape, the ‘good earth,’ is a mother symbol. I’ve no doubt it is. What irritates me mildly is the implication that it is nothing else, and that the desire to live in the country is therefore a ‘regression,’ an unconscious longing for the infantile state of being cosseted by the warm, loving, nourishing, protective mother. If this be so, it then follows that all mature persons prefer to live in a city, having successfully broken their childish ties to ‘Mother.’
One can easily carry this symbolism to the point of travesty. For example, any drilling or ploughing up of the earth is presumably motivated by an unconscious tendency toward incestuous rape.
To get back to last night’s dream. I don’t know where I got the word ‘wine-rose’ or what the word or the color connotes. But as I’ve said before, since I’ve been here I’ve discovered the fun of letting my mind shake loose and play with absurd notions. Therefore, I’ve decided that perhaps the dream meant just what it said: ‘The world today needs wine-rose’ – not only as a symbol (the phrase ‘color of joy’ went through my head as I wrote that) but wine-rose per se. It may be that it, and every other color, has some cryptic significance, like birdsong, in the cosmic scheme of things, which our limited human minds can’t comprehend. It may be that designers and decorators are unknowing channels for these colors to flow through, and when the public goes along with them, we may be conforming not just to fashion but to a natural (or supernatural) law.”