Wednesday, July 14, 2010

the menagerie


I live in a house full of pictures. My walls are covered with memories and moments. There I am sitting at the base of Annapurna in Nepal, holding my Tibetan flag. There is my husband sitting on a rock in the Mediterranean Sea, looking like a pirate winking his eye. There is my grandmother, young and beautiful standing in front of what I think may be a real Model T. There are my children catching grasshoppers in the Alps, buried in Caribbean sand, traipsing through their years from apple-faced babies to lithe, fetching young men, big dimples and smiles, towering over their mother. There are pictures of places, of Venice in the rain, all gray and melancholy, the way I love to see Venice. There is my favorite Alpine lake that shines like an unreal emerald, the Croatian islands popping up from the blue sea like anthills, the glorious Colorado mountains traced by the tracks from our skis. There are romantic paintings by my grandmother, fleshy roses losing their petals. There is my own booming canvas of Etna with lava flowing down the rocks. There are my favorite images by Leonardo da Vinci, my great passion, the unfinished leaves and flowers from one of his sketchbooks, reminding me of the thousands of unfinished drawings haunting my own sketchbooks. There is a black and white photo of my dog on a winter's day perched atop a snowdrift as big as a skyscraper.

When I came home from my month away in Italy, my month returning to a place I had filled with so many pictures for so many years, I walked in my house and found all my pictures crooked on the walls. It was as if a tremor had passed through my home, upsetting the maze of my life I had hung on my walls with it. As I righted one picture and moved on to the next, the picture behind me would somehow wind up askew once again. Crooked. Cattywampus. I couldn't get it right. My life in pictures had become a menagerie with a mind of its own. It would not do my bidding.

I have been back from my month away for a while now. I gave up trying to set the pictures straight. I gave up trying to see my life through the eyes of an American or an Italian. I gave up wondering where on earth I will be in five years. The menagerie has calmed, and the horizons in the pictures are once again beginning to straighten. The Vitruvian Man is no longer standing on his head and the clouds are rolling across the sky the way I remember them. A sunset is never truly beautiful without clouds. Without many unpredictable, volatile, bursting clouds.

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