Monday, April 25, 2011
once in a meadow of blurry poppies
i had a dream one night, the kind of dream which gets stuck in your head for a long time.
it was one of those dreams, as vivid as a movie, presented in brilliant technicolor, with an orchestral soundtrack running along in the background. i had the dream more than once, in fact it recurred several times over a period of years. sometimes little things changed, and certainly i have forgotten parts of the dream and tidied up others in remembering and retelling it, but what i am about to write down is the basic core of a dream i dreamt while in my halcyon days as an undergraduate.
in the dream i was traveling in europe with some other students. i have no idea what country i was in. i stopped at a small store to buy cheese, bread and a bottle of red wine. i pulled a handful of bills (lire? marks? francs?) out of my bag to pay for my purchases and handed them to the clerk. for some strange reason i needed to pay the exact amount, but in my dream that didn't seem strange at all to me. the food simply needed to be paid for with the exact change.
i proceeded to dump the entire contents of my very large leather handbag onto the counter in an undramatic and unhysterical manner, as if it were commonplace for people to dump their possessions all over the place to search for change while shopping. the people in line behind me were not in the least disturbed by my behavior, but then after all this was my dream and they had to behave and follow my script.
let me tell you, there was really an incredible inventory in that bag, in addition to the normal items needed for traveling, such as a passport, wallet, gum, sunglasses, a bulging change purse, traveller's checks, camera, extra contact lenses, small umbrella, travel books, maps, notebook, pen and so on.
the other paraphernalia was indeed startling. the bag contained a lamp, a rug, a folding l. l. bean type of camp stool and a smallish watercolor painting (hmmm...large items a bit reminiscent of what mary poppins toted around with her in her large carpet bag?). also, there were several volumes of hardcover books and a soccer ball (for a quick impromptu scrimmage after i paid my bill?). and hidden in the depths of the bag was a tiny dog. (what breed? who knows. but it was a healthy and happy pooch. storing a dog in one's handbag was, again, perfectly normal behavior in my dream.)
dear reader, you may be wondering how on earth i can possibly remember these details after so many years. it is true many people forget their dreams immediately upon awakening. i certainly forget a lot of mine.
but not this dream.
to begin with, as i said, i had the dream several times, and i was fascinated by the fact that it repeated itself almost identically each time, so i made a point to go over it in my mind whenever i had the dream to keep it memorized. i have done that with a few of my more entertaining dreams. i think dreams are interesting places to go to and explore, to have a look around. but why i really remember this one is because it still gives me the shivers. it felt so real. it still does. i often wonder about that dream, its meaning, its significance, if any, to this day.
the dream's action continued as follows. at this point, remember, i needed change to pay for my groceries. i grabbed my bulging change purse off the counter and dumped that out on the counter, too. all silver coins, all from various places around the world, clinked out into a pile. i reached into the shiny mound to pay my bill and.......
....then, as dreams often do, the dreamscape changed. the light became brighter, more intense, and colors were vibrantly painted across my field of vision. i was in a green meadow filled with blurry poppies (pardon the interruption, but no, i was not on drugs) which bloomed in spots and splashes and streaks of red and orange, like brushstrokes in some kind of weird impressionist painting. my cousin was calling to me from across the field. she shouted, "when a pile of silver coins appears, someone you know will receive an important message." was this some sort of game? i called back to her, "what does that mean?" and she laughed her lovely laugh and ran away. infuriating. i thought why is she always running away and i need to get back to the store and pay what i owe.
* * *
ten years later i was married and had a child. my little daughter and i were sitting at the table and i was teaching her the value of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. the pile of coins made me remember the dream i had. i have never forgotten it, and i even teased my cousin shortly after i had the dream the first time by saying "but what were you trying to tell me in the dream?" after i told her the dream's story. she laughed almost like she did in that unreal world and said she wished she knew because, of course, she didn't have a clue. after all, it was only a dream.
my cousin flew from her home in california to maine one summer a couple years ago for an extended holiday with me in vacationland. after a day spent hiking up the leisurely morse mountain trails and then down along the ocean, we came home, took showers and went out for dinner. as we sipped glasses of wine she said, "you know that weird dream of yours with the silver coins? well i had a dream with silver coins in it, too." she proceeded to tell me her dream was not at all like the dream i had had, but there were two features which were strikingly similar: the pile of silver coins and the message.
she then told me a strange tale. two days after my cousin had the coin dream she did, in fact, get a message. a message was on her answering machine from a lawyer informing her that her grandmother had included her in her will. i knew her grandmother had died, but i didn't know the details. turns out, in her will she left my cousin a few nice pieces of antique furniture and a large, ornately carved wooden box filled with notes and letters which my cousin recalled had been in her grandmother's house for years. my cousin was touched that her grandmother had been so thoughtful to pass along to her this small legacy.
she put the furniture in her home and placed the lovely box in her bedroom. she had hardly looked at the letters at the time, thinking they were from her great-grandmother. she knew they were very old. the spidery handwriting was beautiful and lavish; lovely old-fashioned inky curls and loops decorated the fragile ivory pages. then for a time my cousin promptly forgot about the letters.
what she didn't know was these were rare letters indeed. when my cousin finally did take the time to sort through and read them she was astounded to find out they were mostly correspondence between a "molly m." and edith wharton. she had letters from molly addressed to edith and edith addressed to molly. the letters made it obvious that edith and molly were friends and they were dated around the beginning of the twentieth century. imagine that - letters to and from edith wharton! my cousin had the wharton letters authenticated; once wharton scholars find out about them all hell will break loose.
but who was molly m.? where did my cousin's grandmother get the letters? what connection did molly have to her grandmother? why did she specifically want my cousin to have the box of old letters? my cousin is still trying to figure all that out.
and you know, the day before yesterday i actually saw a pile of silver coins, not in a dream but right here in town. i was at the laundromat loading dog blankets into a washer when a lady dumped a bunch of coins on the counter and started counting them out - a flash of shiny silver metal piled high right in front of me. i watched with fascination as she pulled out the quarters and stacked them in neat columns, eight silvery quarters in each.....