A reader asked me recently if I dream in color, and I had to ponder the question a bit. I knew that I sometimes have had dreams that included color, and my dreams as a whole are keenly visual, yet though I often recall images in dreams and might even know in a rational way what colors things are (that “grass is green”) I won’t specifically remember a color perception — and yet, and this is the really puzzling aspect — the dreams are certainly not monochrome either.
I was reminded of this just two days ago when I had a sort of dream that is very rare for me — I dreamt about art. In particular I dreamt about a very large landscape painting I had made (no such landscape actually exists) and I was looking at it with someone and commenting that the right side of the painting might need repainting because the scenery on that side was flattened out in comparison with the middle where trees and shrubs and foliage were rounded and dimensional and engulfed in atmosphere. But looking at the right side, I also noted that it was beautifully realized — very flat and subtly painted, with lots of visual incident and beautiful colors — there were various shades of pale rose, and blue and violet. (I can brag all day about it because it was my dream painting, eh?)
So, yes! That was clearly a dreaming “in color” but what did the rest of the dream look like … that was not quite “in color” but was not “black and white” either?
Colors are sensations, but they are — oddly enough — also ideas. And in dreams we can have ideas come to us abstractly, in possession of only some of their specific, life qualities while amazingly lacking other essential features, yet we can find that we nevertheless fully accept as somehow just “normal” the dream form of half-rememberance ….
When I woke something of what might be the dream’s meaning came to me. I was thinking in my “waking up” mind about how lovely the “flawed” part of that painting was, and while my dream self was prepared to repaint it as necessary to fix the errors, my waking-up mind was thinking that perhaps it was best to leave well enough alone. It’s hard to achieve beauty in art, and sometimes when it happens — even if it is not perfect — sometimes it’s wiser to be glad for what is there and to simply accept beauty’s appearance when it comes.
[Above, a landscape in progress]