Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Really Nice Dream

Opening of the Roman de la Rose, MS Douce 195, late 15th c.
I don't know if it's my impinging decrepitude or just too much of everything but I have been tired to the point of no longer working at night for about three weeks.  Where usually Mac and I settle down to work at around 9:30 p.m. and get a few good hours in, I'm in bed by 8 or 9!!!  It could be that grief changes sleep patterns (what one kind friend suggested), or I'm just getting older and can't do the night work anymore.  Two good things have emerged, though: one is that I get up on my own much earlier, around 4 or 5, and of course I'm finding those hours just as quiet as the night-time ones, but now with a much clearer head.  The other thing is that I'm remembering my dreams much more often. I haven't been able to remember a dream since the wild and crazy ones of the pregnancies (lush landscapes, impossible bodily feats, lots and lots of discussions with fictional characters).  But now I do. And two nights ago I dreamed of my dad for the first time.  And it was one of those dreams where the feeling stays with you all day long, and, in this instance, on into the next.  And the feeling was great, pure and mischievous joy. We (the wonderful amorphous "we" of dreams, a combination of familiars and welcome extras) were in a restaurant at the end of a long and wonderful meal. And my dad was there, laughing and smiling, standing behind some dinner guests to talk to them, lounging against a piece of furniture with his hands in his pockets, one ankle crossed over the other.  I was standing on the other side of the table, watching him in wonder and amazement, looking at his legs - so relaxed and strong; looking at him - so comfortable and happy, sharing his customary warmth, listening to the guests, delighting in them.  I was so incredibly happy, felt so deeply at home.  And then it hit me, in the logic of dreams: here we all are, loving my dad's company, but he's dead, and so, are the waiters just seeing us talk to an empty space in the room?  But he's here, he's really here, and the waiters are just going about their business clearing plates and bringing desserts.  And it did, the dream, have that tingly feeling of a shared secret: we were all there, and Dad was there, and reality was none the wiser.

I've been teaching the allegorical dream poem, the Roman de la Rose, for the past two weeks and it may slowly be having its effect on me.  This is my fourth time teaching it, and I think that I finally have a grip on how to teach the images in conjunction with the text, on the ethics of readership issues (how do you read misogyny? what do you do with the knowledge of bad/sad things?), and maybe even on at least how to outline problems of interpretation: must we mean what we say? the repercussions of straight or queer readings, of face value or satirical approaches.  The authorship of dreams is so mysterious - somewhere between Freud and Scipio (and Cicero and Macrobius) identities and desires flicker.  We want to know why we dream what we do; we'd love to know that we write the scripts.  But we also know that we are not in the realm of complete consciousness, that we have left our fulsome subjectivities.  And so what we wish for enters, sometimes feeling more real than the denial of the wish that reality itself insists upon. To see my father laughing and relaxed in body, to feel his delight in the midst of jovial company, to know him to be enveloped in warm welcome - it was more than a gift: it was abundant and glad, and (and I do love to continue to think this, and it does provide me with this lasting secret joy), reality was none the wiser.


  1. A Really Nice Dream, indeed! Many more such pleasant slumbers to you.

    And: welcome to my schedule!

  2. Wow! But then how do you remain standing to preside at wee hours of the morning conference proceedings? You are a wonder!!!