So, to recap, emotions, mood, feeling tones are important in dreams, but they are also easy to overlook, either because the implications are uncomfortable ones or just through jumping to conclusions. It was the latter that happened with this dream last year.
In the dream, I’m in a grocery store with my mother—probably at a younger age, though it isn’t clear—and looking at the foods there. They have all sorts of interesting and exotic things. Purple coconuts! Blue kiwi fruit! Spiny melons! I go looking for something to eat on the car ride back—something I could never get anywhere else— and happen across a bun wrapped in clear plastic. It appears to be of the Asian variety, though the label declares it to be a Chocolate Mustard Bio Bun (with bogus trading cards). Sure, why not? But I decide to pick out a drink as well, just in case it turns out to be really foul.
The first thing I might note about the dream is that there’s an obvious reason why I might have found myself in such a scenario that night: a couple days before the dream, I had caught the nasty stomach bug that had been making its way through the household, and I had eaten practically nothing since then. I hadn’t recovered enough to be hungry when the dream took place, but if the desire for food was there subconsciously, that would make it a classic case of dreaming as wish fulfillment.
I think many people would be inclined to find this a satisfactory explanation of the dream— but it’s just scratching the surface. There are many details where the explanation falls short—to start with, the fact that I dreamed about choosing food to eat rather than eating it, and that curiosity seems to be the driving motive rather than hunger. Being (subconsciously) hungry may have contributed to the form the dream took, but there’s more to it than that.
Let’s consider that food. I could summarize my culinary philosophy pretty well with “sure, why not?” I’ve eaten pastries labeled only in Korean on many occasions, and if I do get excited about something in a grocery store, it usually is some kind of weird fruit, as in the dream. This is all familiar territory—but why this dream, on this night? Does it have to do with something more significant that’s been on my mind, perhaps?
I noticed that, in the dream, I was concerned with making a choice among many options. And that observation alone was enough for me to draw a connection with my waking life at the time: I was deciding how I would spend the winter break. It was December 29—just a couple days before the new year, which was my deadline for making up my mind. It wasn’t exactly New Year’s resolutions, since I was planning to have everything done by the end of February, but it was the same basic idea.
In considering the dream, I wondered whether the decision my dream-self made was really a good one. Is choosing how I spend the break a decision I should be making so indiscriminately? In Germany, after all, mustard-filled doughnuts are a prank food—you’re supposed to trick your friends into eating them, not pick them out yourself. That they’re associated with New Year’s is another reason to think this fact is relevant. And then there are those trading cards, which are apparently “bogus”—that also casts doubt on the decision. In the dream, I was simply indifferent to them—but I could connect them to trying to “collect” information, which is something that I might easily spend the break doing. Untrammeled curiosity has its advantages, but it can easily turn into a way to avoid doing things that require real effort.
Is that really something I want? No, it isn’t. Time is precious, and the dream is showing that I’m not taking the decision of how to spend it seriously enough—or at least, that’s what I thought until the following night.
The following night, I dreamed that I was a part of a class in some sort of dojo-like situation. There was a new student there, a boy. But later in the dream, he went missing, and so I had to go out to search for him. I figured that it was probably a prank of some kind that the animals there had played—there were many of them there, of all different kinds, and they had been gathering together and acting strangely. Through questioning them, I began to suspect that a certain insect-eating bird was behind it. Two ponies went by, each carrying two large baskets on their sides, but I didn’t stop to search them: I knew the ponies were far too sensible for this sort of thing.
But later on, it turned out that one of them had been carrying the boy, asleep, in one of the baskets. I followed them with a boat along a small river until I reached the grove where they had brought him. It turned out that the boy was from Wales, and missed his home, and they were trying to help by taking him there. I thought that perhaps we could work things out so that he’d be happier here.
The dream left me wondering whether I had interpreted yesterday’s properly—one point in particular. In the dream analysis of the previous day, I had identified the chocolate mustard bio bun as a prank food; in this dream, I identified something as a prank but turned out to be wrong about it. Was I also wrong about the dream interpretation? It could be a coincidence, but coincidence is the sort of non-explanation that prevents you from ever reaching a real one, and so I’ve got to take a closer look at this dream too.
The setting here seems to be mostly the work of imagination—I can’t link it to a real place, although it is vaguely reminiscent of the wildlife hospital where I once worked. Certainly, it’s the only place I’ve lived where I was surrounded by such a wide variety of animals, though usually not running around freely, as in the dream.
Other than that, the associations to the animals don’t seem to lead me anywhere. But the ‘received wisdom’ on animals in dreams that is currently in circulation—I think it originated with Carl Jung—is that they tend to represent the ‘wilder’ parts of you—instincts, drives, strong emotions, that sort of thing. That would make for an interesting interpretation here. One of the most common nightmare-scenarios is being pursued by a wild animal of some kind—but there’s no question of threat with the animals in this dream. They’re free, but not out of control – I even seem to be able to communicate with them somehow. And when a problem occurs, my response is not to panic, but simply to round up the usual suspects—and, in the end, to admit that a couple of them knew better than I do. If this is what’s going on in the dream, it’s quite a positive snapshot of intrapsychic relations—I doubt it’s something you’d see without at least a few years of working with dreams.
Ponies do seem to be a particularly steady, trustworthy kind of animal—clever ones, too. I understand that some people probably have quite different associations with ponies—but mine mostly come from dealing with one pony in particular. This makes the task of interpreting much easier than it would be, say, for someone who spent their life working with horses, since I don’t have so many memories or facts to sort through. Possibly relevant to the dream, this particular pony was adept at untying his own tether, and those of other animals as well—which did lead to them running around loose on occasion.
There are lots of ponies in Wales, right? So there probably is a connection of some kind there. But actually, the reference is a little puzzling since I don’t know much about Wales. Not even its stereotypes. Yes, those are a type of association, and not being nice doesn’t keep them from showing up in dreams, especially when there aren’t any personal associations to draw on. In practice, the things we know almost nothing about are the easiest to interpret of all – again, because there’s not so much sorting to do. I sometimes suspect they’re more likely to show up in dreams because there’s none of the ambiguity that comes with actual experience. Oh, well. Let’s see what the English have to say—courtesy of Flanders and Swann.
The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.
The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We’ve left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You’ll find he’s a stinker, as likely as not.
(Skip ahead a bit.)
The Welshman’s dishonest and cheats when he can
And little and dark, more like monkey than man
He works underground with a lamp in his hat
And he sings far too loud, far too often, and flat!
Oh, right—music. The bardic tradition and such. Thank you, Flanders and Swann. I had somehow forgotten that. And actually, when I look at the excessively long list of things I’m considering spending my break doing, there’s something that I now notice isn’t there— music. This dream isn’t explicitly offering advice– but could it be calling attention to that?
That was about as far as I had got by that evening. I had made some headway with the dream, but I still hadn’t cleared up the matter of how it was connected to the first one, and so it was still on my mind.
We had a guest for dinner that night—a friend of my aunt’s and uncle’s I had met only once before. I was still not quite on good terms with food again, but was present anyway. My uncle, as usual, hogged the conversation, mostly talking about the home improvement shows he’d been watching while he’d been down with the stomach bug. Our guest was not familiar with any of them, she said, but she did watch cooking shows—there was one she liked in which two teams of contestants each received a basket full of food—
Basket? At that word, she had my undivided attention. I’ve seen some pretty odd things happen over the years, many of them in connection with my dreams, and it would not surprise me so much if something odd were happening right now.
– and they had to use everything in the basket to make a meal, which often resulted in dishes with bizarre combinations of ingredients.
And that’s the solution right there—that’s why the bun isn’t a prank. It’s about including everything – thus the mix of national influences as well as the mix of ingredients – just as the second dream is about including everyone. I should mix things together, combine them, even if it might have some rather strange results.
In retrospect, it was clear that there was something important I had failed to consider in the first dream: the mood of excitement that characterized it. It was not an unpleasant dream, and there was nothing in the dream itself that implied there was anything questionable about my attitude—other than the “bogus trading cards,” which I probably gave too much weight to. In the dream, I did not make them a factor in the decision at all, and that was actually a good response. But I did not take account of that when I was considering it later, and so ended up going in a wrong direction—whereas I might have been able to figure it out if I had gone back to consider the dream more globally.
This is quite a good solution, but it leaves me with an even bigger question: what the hell just happened? What are the chances of being handed the key to the problem like that from someone who couldn’t possibly have known they were doing it? There is a name for this kind of thing—synchronicity—but a name is not an explanation. I doubt I would have ever understood the second dream if it hadn’t happened; I rarely watch TV, I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to watch a cooking show, and I had never even heard of this one. It’s almost as if the dream were following associations that shouldn’t have been there yet—like day residue coming a day early.
But several months later, something finally occurred to me. There is the remote possibility that Katya, who does watch cooking shows, mentioned it at some point—once, I had even filmed her application as a contestant to one. That was between six to eight years ago, and while I couldn’t for the life of me say what the show’s name was now, I can’t think of many reasons why one would choose to make a soup out of jellyfish.
But I can guarantee that even if the knowledge of the show’s premise was already there, I would never have figured it out if the conversation hadn’t taken place that night. I only went to the trouble of dredging up the memories because something so unusual had happened, and it was only because it had happened that I knew what to look for. Otherwise, it would have just been another dream that remained a mystery.
-to be continued-