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Bright Niches in the Castle Wall

A series of dreams, May-August 2003, painted by Jenny Badger Sultan

'Bright Niches in the Castle Wall', a dream painting by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge.
Detail of a dream-painting by Jenny Badger Sultan: a manic boy in ragged clothing.

Here are some of the dreams that became part of the painting:

The Scruffy, Active Little Boy
May 24, 2003

I am watching, taking care of, a little boy. He comes out of a small, kind of hidden door in a wall. He is about 4 or 5, with scruffy blond hair that sticks out; his shirt and pants are made of animal hair--varicolored with tufts sticking out--a bit mangy-looking. He goes out to the street where there are lots of children passing by--a large group. He shows off by turning cartwheels.

His mother comes. I indicate to her what he's doing. She says something like "Well, it's O.K. if he sleeps in, he needs lots of sleep."

I tell her "He has not slept in; he's been up since really early."
Detail of a dream-painting by Jenny Badger Sultan: two couples making love. Detail of a dream-painting by Jenny Badger Sultan: a gardenia plant growing from stone wall.
Two Couples
June 22, 2003

Two couples are making love. Physically they are each relating only to their own partner, and yet somehow their bodies are all together, interwoven into a larger whole.

The Gardenia
June 27, 2003

In a woman's house. I see a large plant that is open, with spaced out leaves--really lovely. I say to someone "I think it is a gardenia" and "I wonder how the owner has been able to keep it growing so wonderfully?"
The Old Woman and the Notions Store
July 10, 2003

I need a large spool of red thread. I go to a neighborhood area where I remember there was a notions store. Instead of the small, dark, very full store that I remember, there is a very light, white-painted store with display cases and few, rather strangely selected items. I recall a case on the wall with different kinds of white elastic. The woman behind the counter is pleasant and has a European accent. I have a little difficulty letting her know what I want. She brings out something from under the counter that is made of red and white electrical wire. I tell her "No, this is not what I want, I want a spool of red thread." Detail of a dream-painting by Jenny Badger Sultan: an old woman in her notions shop

Then I ask her or someone else in the neighborhood, "what happened to the old notions store?" The person confirms my fear that this store has taken its place, is in the same space. The old store was dark, a little dingy, had drawers and drawers of all kinds of notions--buttons, thread, on and on. You could find whatever you needed. It was run by an old, little stooped woman with a white cloud of hair and some gaps in her teeth. (Somehow this figure of the old woman seems like somebody real from my life, but when I try to picture who, the closest I can get is the Nonna from my Italian family. This old woman in my dream is American, however.)

I ask "What happened?" though I have a feeling I already had heard something about it. The person tells me "People broke into her store and robbed it and trashed it." A well-known neighborhood figure was the one who did the main damage (Wavy Gravy comes to mind, but that's not quite right).

I am appalled by this. "Did she have no recourse?" I ask. "Couldn't she call the police? Get restitution?"

"Not after being seen half nude," the person tells me. "She ran into the store in alarm when the damage was done. She was partly naked and the shame of it was too much for her."

Then some neighborhood women talk about her: "She knew everyone and talked to everyone about their lives and was a real helping presence." I think "I could never be that way."

I also think it is a terrible thing that has happened.

Notes on the Dream

Notions were an important part of my life growing up--sewing with my mother, dealing with thread, pins, zippers, buttons--the notions that you need when mending or making a garment. The old woman’s store had all of that, while the new, sterile store had nothing useful to me. Have we thrown out the old and cluttered richness, the personal impressions or whims (“notions”) to see them replaced by the shiny, the new? Detail of a dream-painting by Jenny Badger Sultan: a woman admires a newborn baby.

Shame as a theme may relate to aging--both my own personal aging and how older people in our culture are often discounted, ignored, and, heaven forbid we should see their naked bodies!

Wavy Gravy is a figure well-known for charity activities here in the San Francisco Bay Area; the image of him robbing an old woman and trashing her store is bizarre.

An Unexpected Birth
August 8, 2003

I am at home. I have just given birth to a baby girl. She is so beautiful! She reminds me in flashes of my two other babies. It was unexpected--a very short labor and easy birth. I think there is a midwife. I think Gail is there, and a younger woman.

I carry the baby around--she is naked, maybe only with some little underpants on. She is very happy--awake, alert, no crying. I don't have anything ready--don't know where diapers are, don't think I have any diaper pins. I think she may get cold--I should find a receiving blanket to wrap her in. I just feel so happy carrying her around, feel so together with her. She is so dear. I feel so much joy carrying and cuddling her.

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