It was Friday afternoon. The neighborhoods in this part of town were amazing. Well-kept lawns told of expensive lawnmowers and landscaping classes at Ivy League Universities; cool pastel colors in coats of fresh paint boasted of holiday bonuses and deceptively calm exterior lives; even the children’s toys scattered around the front yards seemed orderly and precisely placed. It was enough to make him wonder what the inside of the houses looked like, what these people’s lives really consisted of.
- from A Black and White Photograph
So begins a short story I wrote over ten years ago, about a day in the life of a taxi driver, five of his fares, and a ghost from his past. It’s called A Black and White Photograph, and was meant to show my six roommates (five girls and a guy) how I perceived them. Of course, none of them really got it. But it was a great story.
It was the summer of 2002 and we were renting a house in Seattle. I didn’t have a job, was only friends with one of them, and was not in a good place as far as my autism went, so it was not a summer I look back on with fondness. A few good things did come from that experience – this great little story, and the beginnings of my first novel A Guest In My Life, which has since morphed into Coming Home (a work still in progress I’m afraid) being among them.
Although the last time I actually read all of it was a few years ago (it's in my "to be revised" folder), I don't think I really spend any more of the story exploring the idea of what lies behind the calm, quiet exteriors of the suburbs, as that wasn't my purpose for writing it. And yet, when I drew this card for the first week six prompt, it immediately came to mind.
So, what’s really behind the white picket fences of a “typical American neighborhood”? Do they even exist anymore? Did they ever? It's become quite a cliche in our culture, especially after "Desperate Housewives" started. I suppose it depends on where you live. To me, our country is like a giant box of puzzle pieces that all look different and unconnected, then you put them together and see this amazing picture of unity in diversity, an irony that will never cease to intrigue and inspire me. I could write a whole blog just about the mosaic of America! Maybe I will. But not today, it's too long of a rabbit trail, we may never get back.
I also thought about one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost. It’s called “Mending Wall,” and I found a great commentary at Spark Notes that also includes the poem. I would definitely recommend reading it a few times (since we all have so much free time!) and the notes that follow. They discuss boundaries, both literal and figurative, and the many layers that are always found in the provocative writings of Mr. Frost.
I honestly have no idea how I will use “behind the fence” in my art journal this week, and I must say it’s kind of exciting. I’ll continue to “explore the possibilities” as I put it in the slow cooker of my subconscious and work on some other projects. Hopefully by Saturday I’ll have something to share, along with the second week six prompt. So far I’ve really enjoyed the combinations I’ve drawn from the decks and the pages they’ve inspired. Here’s to another great week!