Cockatoo Dreaming: The Inspiration for Chloé

In his Timaeus and Theaetetus dialogues, Plato explores a conflation between dreaming and consciousness, and the notion that dreams may be a form of storytelling. It is easy to find examples of authors who have drawn inspiration from dreams, including Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the wonderful West Australian author Joan London, who, during a paralysing fallow period when she started to fear her writing career was over, dreamt she would write a new novel and her ‘dream had a title ‘Gilgamesh’ (Culture and the Arts WA, n.d.). Margaret Atwood has also written about the dream vision she experienced while bird-watching in Australia, a vision which she claims inspired her novel Oryx and Crake (2003).

Here is the visionary dream that inspired me to write my historical novel manuscript Chloé:

I was seated in a comfortable chair, reading an antiquarian novel; an elegant, rather hefty volume, replete with full cloth binding and gold lettering on the spine and cover. The book was titled “Chloé‘s Child” and I was curious about the novel’s title. Who was the eponymous “Chloé” and why had I written her story? Before I could solve the puzzle, a white cockatoo alighted on the book and a tangled forest sprang up around me.

The dream left me with a sense of unfinished business, and two words continued to puzzle me – Chloé and cockatoo. There were no women in my life named Chloé, but the white cockatoo that disrupted my dream, and its Antipodean symbolism, seemed to imply she may be Australian. Then memories began to resurface about Chloé, the iconic nude painting at Young and Jackson Hotel in Melbourne.

The seed of inspiration had been sown and was spreading its roots in my imagination.

I will be forever grateful to that dream and the creativity its symbolism led to. And I hope, one day soon, that my reimagining of Chloé ’s model, and her volatile and largely untold history, will be read and enjoyed by more than this cockatoo-dreaming writer.