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Dreaming in Color

Dillard, Kathryn. 2022, Dreaming in Color. Acrylic on Canvas.
An open spine guides me into ancient cities--
silhouettes made crisp with tides, 
boardwalks warm with forgotten lives--
lost in summer orchards

Bluebirds dance behind shuttered doors--
infusing wings with twilight
breaking free of wilting drought--
calling you out of slumber

His phosphorescent smile appears--
smoke shimmers from unseen pyres,
the sun drowning you in its sticky sweet--
is it safe to follow the animals?

A phase, your sister might say--
nobody dreams in color.
Still pages unfurl at your touch--
the moon marking 

your descent
into the dark,
following the vellum 
wherever it might take you

Relationships 101: Understanding couples archetypes in your dreamscape

Have you ever had a dream about a couple and wondered what they represent?

If so, you might find this online resource helpful in understanding why they have shown up in your dreamscape. The Relationship Coaching Institute outlines the different types of coupling patterns commonly encountered in relationships. I don’t think it’s exhaustive, and there are likely hybrids and variations depending on your unique relationship dynamics and background. However, I think it can be a helpful heuristic in assessing your relationship goals and applied to dream analysis.

We can take my dream as an example of one of the relationship archetypes, the intellectual, new age couple. Using the archetypes as a map, we can determine who the couple is based on close observation of the dream at hand.

  • To facilitate retention of the dream, I encourage you to write down exactly what occurred in present tense. Identify any images, feelings, sensations, and events from the dream in chronological order.

For example, for my dream, I recorded the following few lines to summarize the event:

I am in the shower in B’s apartment. B is an ex from late adolescence. I get out of the shower and wrap myself in a white towel. I notice an oversized pair of black, crocheted, and sparkly mules sitting outside the stall. They are not my shoes. They belong to B’s stepmom, who is outside the shower. She has just arrived with B’s dad. I feel embarrassed that I am taking a shower in B’s apartment, so I flee with the towel wrapped around me. B’s stepmom was a painter. I am intrigued by her shoes. They look comfortable, but they look too big for me to wear.

As you can see, I have summarized what happened, writing in present tense. I have objectively described the dream, but I also have included my subjective experience of the dream. You will also notice that I haven’t analyzed anything. It’s really important not to overthink anything in a dream. Usually, the dream has its own language that you can follow if you are willing to just write down what happened first without analysis. If drawings help, go ahead and sketch out the dream. I have found this very helpful when animals appear or there is a singular image without any action occurring.

  • Next, take some time to think about associations you have with people, places and things in the dream. Also, highlight any cliches or word play that might be related to events or images. In my example, I took about ten minutes to recall B’s apartment, my relationship with B’s parents, and any unresolved issues from that period in my life. It looked like this:

I looked up to B’s parents. His stepmom was a painter and art professor, and his dad was an English professor. B was a slacker and not as accomplished as his parents. I think I dated him just with the dream of maybe being closer to his parents in some way. Marriage? In-laws? Kinda, but more like they were my ideal old, married couple. I fantasized about being like them when I was older. I wanted to be like them one day because of their occupations and also, I was attracted to their shared intellectual, creative and spiritual occupations. B’s parents practiced transcendental meditation. B’s mom had beautiful paintings and B’s dad had a wall full of books in his office. I felt safe and enlivened any time I visited their home.

  • You then go through each image of the dream, or event, and jot down any associations. Here are some of mine:

The shoes seemed like they were too big for me to fill. I felt inferior or incapable of donning the artist’s shoes. At the same time, I was taking a shower, “coming clean” in B’s space about my true desires. I want to be the artist, but I am afraid. I feel naked and vulnerable when faced with the shoes, so I run away when the old, creative, spiritual and intellectual couple comes to visit.

  • Over time, as you record your dreams, some images and events will become amplified. In Jungian analysis, this simply means they speak more clearly and loudly. As we pay attention to the dreamscape, it becomes more familiar, and we develop an ease in navigating and understanding its language.

Just as I was writing about this dream, I remembered a dream I had back in 2010 that had a similar theme of fear of commitment to creative union. There was a rockstar who merged with me, but then he ran away. His tears fell like crystals and reminded me of Cinderella losing her slippers as she fled the ball. I see that I entertain men who are emotionally unavailable, but I should recognize that I am a queen and deserve better. Cinderella just isn’t aware of his true value, but that isn’t something I have control over.

As we pay attention to our dreamscape, patterns, nuances and images will become more salient. Just as we maintain a relationship with a loved one by investing time and attention, we do the same by listening to and honoring what our dreams communicate to us. As we process information at night, it’s important to develop a habit of interacting with the dreamscape that is manageable for you. Jungian analysis is one means of increasing your understanding.

This is why I believe that the dreamscape is an altered state of consciousness and represents a type of non-ordinary reality. It has its own distinct phenomenology which is co-created with the dreamer.

  • At the same time, resolving the issue brought up in the dream requires an action plan and reflection:

I already have recently had dreams about B’s place in the past month. I saw his place in a state of decay. To me, this signifies that it is not a safe place to inhabit, as Jung sees homes in dreams as a microcosm of the psyche itself. It’s clear that as I shift away from pursuing unhealthy relationships and valuing myself, I can take on the shoes presented to me in the dream. I can fill the artist’s shoes and pursue relationships that align with my greater creative goals. One feasible goal is painting once a week and recommitting to morning pages, an automatic writing process prescribed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way.

I hope this has been helpful. Remember that you are a co-creator of your dreamscape. Your dreams can become reality. As you invest in them, they can provide a safe space to clarify what types of relationships you’d like to foster going forward in your life.

Next time, we will look at the twelve individual archetypes, focusing on the shadow and incorporating enneagram types to better understand why we gravitate toward certain romantic partners. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave any comments, questions or resources below.

Sugared gold

Breathe In. Daniel Taylor.

Fill my bones with sugared gold

Hollow me out until I am yours

So when I feel beaten down

I can lean on your core

so I do not explode

Fill my heart with fluorite leaves

Plant your jungle inside of me

So when I feel depleted

I can breathe in your spirit

so I do not die

And when you speak to me in stars

let me let allow you to devour me

as a snake swallows its prey

so I no longer feel the void

of being a tiny woman

pushing on my pores

Broken Language

I learned about Thich Nhat Hanh's death as I sat in the dark, listening to rain
recorded in another part of the world by Relaxed Guy 
because we haven't heard rain for a decade.
I have a copy of You are Here on top of the tank, 
as if I can escape to the cool blue recess of the bath
when my son demands TV with his breakfast, the blue, not the green, spoon!

My anger rises. It comes out as shut up, words borrowed from my father,
same inflection as my ex, parroted by me. Shut up, as if that command
is humanly possible. The words lie. The words do not belong to me.
I do not hear my voice. I hear a broken stone asking to be mended.
Air erodes stone. Rain smooths my edges. 
Over time, his voice, no matter how lovely, eats away at me.

I send him to his room, not as punishment,
but to find the breath which is choking on my broken promise:
to learn a new language, to speak a whole word in a world of broken ones.
This is my promise: to speak only what is true. 
To leave the broken words to mend themselves.

I place You are Here on the table. I open it at random, 
let my finger fall where it may. Impermanent.
So I am, but words? The scrape the air, even as they disappear once screamed.
I try again, desperate for the answer. Verb.

I write down shut up. I place it in a tin with Buddha holding flowers to his chest.
Give me a flower in exchange for this broken word. 
Give me a word that feels whole even as it comes from tiny vocal cords. 
Impermanent, my raspy voice replies.

May my words be flowers one can drink from. 
May my words be boats surviving tempests.
May my words no longer leave me feeling breathless and immortal.
May I say nothing when he rattles my ribs, seeking my heart's answers.
May I be silent as I search for the truth, and until I find it, 
may I be satisfied with silence.
May I no longer shut down, surrendering to broken language.
May I rise up as a bird from my fatigue and sadness 
into a world full of children crying, 
learning limits in a world that desperately needs them 
but won't abide by them.
May we be examples.

Soon he will be laughing again. 
Soon he will be asking me how we grow old. 
Soon we will grow old. Soon we will pass
from one stage to another, impermanent.
Impermanent, these broken stones I cleave to 
as if they are my own.

I let them go. I touch the page. I touch non-self. 
I touch my heart. I feel a pulse. I wait for an answer.


All is Vanity. Charles Allan Gilbert. 1892
The culture hurts my stomach,
an open portal to the unknown path

of not responding to messages
when I am too busy running to the toilet 

every time I drink fluids
as the doctor ordered.

Rest up. What does this mean?
People waiting
in the everlasting queue.

Covid testing lines
Grocery store lines
Bill collector lines
heart lines

pouring into me
as I drum for the need

to create something
out of this illness

is an illness
killing us

I have seen people
praised for working
while suffering from Covid

I have heard people
turn down coverage
for a meeting
saying they can dose up
on meds instead

I have seen this act
praised, as if suffering illness
yet continuing to work
is a sort of worthy quality
even if it will make you
sicker as you do it

but when asked
to work when off sick
I do it even though
I feel like screaming
I feel like crap
can't I just be sick?
Even if you are sick
yet keep working?
Must I conform
when I don't agree?

I have seen women
in their twenties
get covid
remain pallid
days after the illness
has passed
from their bodies

so I leave
for a day

I become
a polar
through snow

I hear it






is one
of them


the same

it leaves

I rifle
for my
last pair
of lounge pants

I see a sundress
with a garden 

but today
is not the day
to wear it

I see my ex
sprawled out
on the floor
watching TV
while a man
with a stiff back
cooks food
for him

I see how
it can be

to do for others
what they can do
for themselves

When my son
demands food,
I let him get it
out of the microwave

He takes out
the entire

For a second
I freak
but then
let go

It is only a plate
after all.
I am here
to teach him

the difference
dinner plates
turn plates



breaking, yes
but also





Dear Freddy Krueger

I could dote on your ugly sweater
weep for your burn wounds

wonder who hurt you
when you were a baby.

I could be a saint
shedding light on your disorder--

revealing children 
locked up in your ribcage,

repeating the dream
where you kill me 

until I become the miracle
who survives finger knives,

but not tonight, Freddy.
I turn on the light.

I pack my things and go.
I do not care if you follow.

I have my wits about me,
no matter how dark it may be

outside of this house
we used to call home.
This painting encapsulates what it can be like to endure domestic violence.

Spirit Houses

Figure 1. Kathryn Dillard. Spirit Houses. 2016.
Spirt house float in cloud pools.
Beyond the iron gate,
a shrine, singing back
silently surrendered prayers.

Windows emerge in the riverbanks.
Estuaries ferry us from one plane to another.
Our branches washed clean by autumn rain.

In my heart, marshlands.
Miry bones teeming with songs.
Purple bluffs overlook spirit yurts.

Fog encircles the red roofs,
drawing us into its arms.
Heaven surrounds us.

Yellowed puffs of clouds tattoo the horizon
Our bodies hover in the mist--
no doors, only windows here.

Correction: no doors except for one,
and that is me, that is you

Only 3

What three seeds do I plant today?
What will grow strong as I enter the shade?

What will nurture me 
in winters' ash white blues?

A steady rain washes
me free of my senses

A snake dots the sky
waiting to be connected

days old bones.

Clackity clack
clop its hooves

down the road.

dusty mirrors.

a tune
we drift

off with the loons.

Sea of angels,
sea of sleep.

Spiders dancing
wherever I dig.

Sea of starships,
sea of leaves.

What 3 things
are worthy
of me?

The familiar wound

How easy I forget myself
as I tumble down the hole

falling into the wound again
that never seems to be whole

You know the kind I am talking about
it stabs and festers at your spine

The kind that never heals itself
because we pick at it until we die

I remember the night you sewed it up
with golden threads of light

How you shoved all the hurtful people inside
then used your needles to sew it tight

You smeared a purple salve on top
and said, "Now it is healed."

But there is always work to do
for any wound to properly seal.

"Here is what you need to do
 so you don't go spelunking in that hole.

First, your honor crazy
by painting a lot at home.

Then you let your son lead you,
helping him build new worlds.

Write a bunch of poetry.
Send it out into the world.

No matter what you overhear,
do your best work with your head up."

I see my body fill with light, 
I lose myself in an expanding pinkish glow

I see myself as a globe of love
I see myself as I am really known:

the fruits of my labor crack my heart
into a sea of sparkling stars.

"Keep repeating yourself daily
until these actions become routine.

Close your eyes and listen well,
for I am your familiar in everything.

Close your eyes and listen,
pay their neglect no mind.

Go ahead and be yourself,
even if they don't need your kind."

In this place

Laughter can be heard for miles. 
Jaws unhinge. Jaws unhinge,
stalk us down, snipe us dead.
Heckle until hackles hit heaven.
Berate us to bruises, leech blood
from stone, oasis, body, no difference.
Feast our eyes on the seamless sky 
until the sun's sleep drives shadows into sand.
Shrill notes steal away from open gullets.
Acacias murmur stories. Sparrows take notes.
Throw us a bone. Marrow glistens ruby red.
We rise as ancestors rose to greet the tides,
leaving the murk to its mindless mirth.
RUN. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
RUN. Become dizzying kaleidoscopes.