Landscapes and Dreamscapes

City Wildlands

In the course of a “normal” day, I think I wear three or four hats: cook, writer, photographer, editor, dog walker, (some days) jeweler… Is that why stay-at-home moms have a hard time figuring out what to do when they decide they want to go back to work? They have experience at almost everything and don’t necessarily recognize all the skills they have acquired. This morning I got a frantic call from the bathroom in the seventh grade hallway asking if I could please bring Gillian the book that she had forgotten by 10 am so she didn’t get detention.I had intended to take the dogs for a walk soon, so we routed our walk up over Capitol Hill and dropped the book off to her. I had to take a bag, so I threw my camera in and we set off on our morning adventure. After delivering her from the potential of detention, the dogs and I wandered down the side streets toward the Arboretum.

The sidewalk ends at a certain point on the road that forms the bicycle route, where a long steep flight of stairs takes off up a hillside fro pedestrians not inclined to walk along the muddy shoulder. I’ve usually taken the road, but today I climbed the stairs just to see what was there. They lead to a woodland path with the little stream pictured above meandering through it. I stood there for a moment utterly charmed by the miniature wilderness in front of me and felt grateful to live in the middle of a city where one can wander off the main road and discover this kind of scene.

Editing my kids writing is one of my favorite parenting tasks. I love words. They love words. We all like to write and they respect what I have to offer. Its not all smooth sailing. Sometimes they curse and swear at me, but we laugh and they know I’ve got a point. They just want to be finished. I remember that feeling so well all the way through graduate school. You think the paper is finally finished and then you read it one more time and you find that you’ve left out a word, the punctuation in an other paragraph is goofy, and you can’t imagine how you missed seeing that the last time you read it. And if you missed all of that, what else didn’t you see. This can go on for hours and at some point you just quit and print it.

Tonight I had the pleasure of working with Robby a paper about “The Great Gatsby”. Its now almost midnight and the pages we were scribbling on a few moments ago are being printed as I type. I promised him I’d have one more look at it before he printed, but I guess he’s confident with it and I’m off the hook with four minutes to finish writing my blog!

“The Great Gatsby” was one of my favorite books. I’ve read it several times and it was fun to read his interpretations and conclusions. I have always had a fascination for the literature and art of the early part of the 20th century. When I wrote my master’s thesis, one of the things I explored was implications and impact of the expat English language writers in Paris on literature and how that fit in with the artistic movements of the time. My own work was about Samuel Beckett’s trilogy of novels. Samuel Beckett, an Irishman, living and writing in France, fell solidly into this lineage. I get a little bit excited when my kids are studying something that’s even tangentially related to my own intellectual interests. Its so much fun to be able to match wits with them on topics that when I bring them up most people think I’m nuts and look at me with crossed eyes. In talking about Gatsby tonight, we hit on surrealism and how the scenes and overall feel of the novel fit with that movement in its dreamscapes settings and shifting reality. We talked about the 20’s in Paris and the different artistic movements. I remember reading, at some point in time, that the name Gatsby was a play on the french verb to waste: Gaspiller. I told him that the verb gaspiller means “to waste”. He drew the conclusion that I was alluding to and was excited to use it in his paper.

A week ago I had just returned from New York where I had spent a couple of hours in a photography exhibition on Surrealism in Paris called “Twilight Visions”. Talking about Gatsby with my 17 year old in light is like taking a big bungee cord and wrapping it around my love affair with writing and literature, my educational background, my fascination with Surrealism and its outgrowths in culture, and then getting to include in that bundle my job as a parent as well as the pleasure of hanging out with my kids.

After finishing up with Robby, I ran up here to my desk and pulled out the notebook I’d had with me in the gallery in New York and reread the quotes that I had copied off the walls with regards to the Surrealist exhibition. It struck me that even this blog fits into the bungee wrapped bundle. I can just tuck it in with the Surrealists: “…photographs reveal the hidden secrets of commonplace things.” The surrealists were interested in “exposing the marvelous in the everyday”. The thought was, “as keen students of Freud, the Surrealists believed that even a mundane photographic detail might unexpectedly trigger a rush of imaginative associations in the viewers mind.” I love how in Photography the surrealistic effect is accomplished by the mind whereas in writing, its dependent on the writer’s ability to evoke a dream-scape image in the reader’s mind.


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