A couple of nights ago I had a very strange, distinctive, detailed dream that has haunted me for the last couple of days. I often have bizarre dreams, but I can picture a scene from this particular dream so clearly that I’d like to try and get it on paper. My first attempts at sketching it were pretty dire, and I realised that I’m not really used to drawing whole scenes – I usually do simple portraits. So this is going to turn into a slower project, I think I’m going to break down each element of the scene and spend some time practicing and sketching to get it right, then start building up a ‘bigger picture’. So today I’ve started trying to roughly get down the people in the scene. This was my dream…
I’m walking up a street, it’s on a really steep hill. It’s in London, but not a part of London I know. It looks very similar to areas of West Yorkshire, with stone buildings and hilly landscapes. There’s a bridge at the bottom of the street that trains go over. The road is cobbled and looks kind of victorian but it’s definitely modern day. It’s a grey day.
Down the hill is coming a big funeral procession. There’s loads of people, but all men. It’s not just a funeral for one person, there are quite a lot of coffins…but in the dream this seems normal. The atmosphere isn’t sad or happy, this is just a tradition/ritual. It reminds me of a New Orleans jazz funeral in a way, but there’s no music. There are a series of wooden carts pulled by horses and all the men are either driving the carts or sat on the side of them or walking alongside of them. All the men are in distinctive outfits and I’m aware they are from a specific religious community because of what they are wearing. They look a lot like Hasidic Jewish men, or even like the Amish, but in my dream they are something else.
There are all these coffins, some of them are open and I can see the bodies, all men. There are no flowers or anything decorative. Some of the coffins are on the back of the carts but then there are some men sat on the side of the carts wearing big cushioned leather neck braces with their heads bent forward, and they are carrying coffins on their shoulders – one man to one coffin. And in the dream I started to think about a conversation I’d had in real life – a friend carried the coffin at a family member’s funeral and as they were walking into the church the weight of it snapped his collarbone, but he had to keep going. So I’m thinking about that and I know that the men can’t possibly carry a coffin on their shoulders, I know something is going to go wrong.
All along the street there are little piles of shoes abandoned like litter, and men from the procession are running ahead of the carts to move the black shoes from the piles because to pass them would be bad luck – in my dream I recognise this superstition. And then a coffin slips off the shoulders of a man and lands on the floor and the lid comes off. Then another coffin slides off the back of a cart, and suddenly loads of coffins are falling, but nobody seems panicked at all. And then I woke.