Talmud: An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter.
I returned from Cape Town this last Monday evening after attending the Franschoek Literary Festival for 3 nights and days. Franschoek is one of the most beautiful places on earth nestled as it is amongst imposing mountain ranges. It is about an hour drive from the Cape Town city centre. It is part of the garden route of the Cape and is famous for its wine-lands inter alia.
Before setting off for Franschoek on Thursday midday, I spent Wednesday night at my sister’s home in a suburb of Cape Town. I had taken down a pile of letters from our parents to me from a long time ago that I came across in tidying things up in preparation for our imminent move from our home to a new one here in Johannesburg. Included in this pile were a few letters from my sister to me. We each read them as if anew – they were from about 30 years ago. It was an extraordinary ‘something’ re-reading this old correspondence, hearing our long dead parents’ voices.
I spent Sunday night at her home before leaving Cape Town this last Monday to return to Johannesburg. On Monday morning, my sister told me of a dream that she had had the night before or in the early hours of the present day. It was the first dream that she recalled in a long, long time.
In her dream was a huge black dog terrorising her now dead (about a year ago) small black poodle, Pepi. The big black dog repeatedly flung Pepi into the air who would circumscribe a circle in the air, then when it got to the ground, the big black dog would catch it by its scruff and swing fling it into the air again and again and again. The big black dog was extremely cruel to the small black dog.
That Monday morning we walked for about an hour at a small dam nearby, picking up trash as is our wont in service to Mother Earth. I asked my sister if she recalled that Churchill was affected by the ‘black dog’ of depression. She did. We wondered about the dogs and about Cerebrus who in Greek and Roman mythology guarded the gates of the underworld, Hades. Sis wondered if the dog was two headed – I had forgotten this. It is often depicted as 3 headed, each head seeing the past, present and future. Other sources say the 3 headed Cerebrus represents birth, youth and old age. We talked about dogs and their domestication.
She would wander off to a part of the park where we were walking picking up trash and I would wander in another direction. We commented when we came together again, on how it is that when we traversed the same ground we had been on, coming back, we saw more trash that we hadn’t seen before. I saw the metaphor in this and said that this is how it often is in our psyches; we think that we have sorted all the trash but to our amazement there was more that we hadn’t noted before that needed attention.
The circle circumscribed by the small dog was interesting. Pepi, much loved by my sister, went round and round in never-ending circles. Round and round in circles … on top and then flung down to the bottom, again and again … the big black dog exhibiting cruelty in extremis, and enjoying it.
We came to a piece of plastic sacking, part of it sticking out of the ground. Sis said she had tried earlier to remove it but it was immovable. I yanked hard and out it came showering us with dust. She said she had stood at a particular angle when she tried. I stood in front of it and yanked. I said how interesting that was, that it is like that sometimes in real life. Sometimes we have to try different angles to get at the wound, or dig deeper and try harder.
I have no intention of joining any dots to make an analysis of my sister’s dream in this post and I did not do so with her. I am fairly certain that the re-reading of our parents’ letters and her own to me pricked something in her. I urged her to write down the dream and continue to ponder on it as an archeologist might, digging ever deeper in her search for more clues. I did say to her that she might consider what qualities of these dogs in her dream that she herself owns. And to consider the circle. And dog on top and other on bottom. One big, one small, black …to see beyond and to try to relate to the image that was speaking to her ….etc etc. I have her permission to relate this dream.