Sunday, September 07, 2008

Perspective and Pixie Dust

When I was little, young enough so that I had to stand on my tippy toes to look out the front door window, I can remember spending oodles of time in my front hall. It was a cavernous entryway, with a large wooden front door and the glass window had diamond shaped panes of glass that I later learned were called cottage windows. The floor was brown and white patterned ceramic tile, with two steps that led up to the entry of the front room, and there was an oil painted replica of Dali’s Christ of St. John Over the Water hanging perfectly at eye level with the door. I would sit on the top step, in the late afternoon, as the sun shone in streams through the panes of glass, and watch the dust dancing through the beams as if they were magic. I thought they were pixie dust – they were far too pretty to be every day dust, after all... and surely my mother would hate that I reiterated this here to you, if it was just her lax with the vacuum that filled my daydreams and not something far more magical.

Today, though we moved from my childhood house twenty years ago (oy, that sounds terrible... that I can say I did anything twenty years ago just sounds odd), but I know that room to be less than cavernous, probably a bare four feet from doorway to steps, and the arching door led straight into our front room... ah, my favorite part of Chicago homes, we have front room rather than living rooms or ‘Great Rooms’ or ‘Drawing Room’... what makes them great? Do you actually draw in them? Okay, well, I could probably get into that last one... but it’s one of the things that’s so a part of me, Chicago is low on its pretention, just the way I like it.

I went on a girls’ weekend this weekend, with two of my friends from high school... I may be posting more on that later – with pictures if I get their permission first, and have been waxing a bit philosophical about perspective, and the way things change with age. I don’t think dust is nearly as pretty these days and I kind of miss that mindset, that there’s something magical in dust – at my age it’s only another of life’s irritations you try to keep at bay, but can’t quite master.

I wonder if you guys can page back and remember what it felt like to look out at the world from tippy toes, to have to hop and pull yourself up to sit on your parents’ car trunk, to see snow about your head (though it’s only four feet)... I can remember that vividly. I remember the feel of bite on my cheeks that was so cold it felt hot and made my face glow a crimson candy apple red beneath my scarf and little red snow suit. I hear the laughter, loud vivacious guffaws, from the front porch where the adults sat while we ran under streetlights in the summer.

And I think, maybe that’s the allure of writing for children. That there are these things in my head that I still feel and see and understand... more keenly and more magical than any of my adult stories... maybe I’ll dive into those later, but those early days, the newness the heartbreak that you steel yourself against later – the things that lose their bite as your skin gets thicker... those are the things pulling me now, today...

How about you? Has your perspective changed in leaps and bounds? Can you still feel and see and smell things from other passages in your timeline? And do those things motivate you to write, or are there other things, pulling your fingers along the keyboard?


Erica Orloff said...

Great post.

In my YAs, I always writer about "outsider" kids who are very lonely and it was drawn on childhood, no doubt.

I also remember lots of summers with my grandparents in the woods--seemed SO scary--but I know now, it was nothing more than a dense thicket of trees. :-)


silken said...

I love the way you draw us back...great use of the senses too. my dad just gave me an original recipe Dr. Pepper (soda) this weekend. It reminded me of my great grandmother's house....

I have to admit, I don't think much about it and don't focus on those sensations. maybe that is the allure of the kind of writing you are doing. nice post here, thanks!

Colleen_Katana said...

Aww, I love the image of a kid watching dust in the sunlight thinking it's fairy dust. I'll never look at dust the same way!

And unfortunately, very little is motivating me to write these days! Blah....

Ello said...

How did I miss this post? Really nice. It got me thinking way back and how different I am to what I once was. I agree with you, writing has brought fantasy back into my life. I've missed it. Things are so different now, but not in a bad way. And going away for girls trips is an awesome way to get back some perspective!

Sun Singer said...

Nice post, a fine catalyst to magical nostalgia about the old days when the world seemed safe and marvelous, a fit place for adventures where everyone got a little bit scared but never hurt.


Zoe Winters said...

There is a certain type of soap, that EVERY time I smell it, I'm back in Kindergarten.

Anonymous said...

As the bright morning sun streamed through our miniblinds, I saw the "pixie dust" floating.

My son layed on the bed and giggled. I spoke not a word. I listened, smiled, and enjoyed watching him talk to it,
"you can dance...go ahead, go back up...they are aliens Mom."

He imagined it was tiny shimmering friends that left Mar's planetary dust during their Earthly visit.

He might not of thought Pixies, but he was seeing household dust in innocent bewonderment.

I didn't turn on the airpurifier or give a plain adult clarification. With tummies down and eyes absorbing happiness, we lived in the moment.

With a smirk and warm planted feeling, I chose not to irradicate my allergin. Maybe tomorrow.