Spring Cleaning #2: Dusty dreams

A small one-week feature on what happens when we clean our houses. What bubbles to the surface. What reveals itself to be true. What our junk says about our current state and next steps. What the season does to us.

As I mentioned yesterday, in the box of palm-sized books that I’ve accumulated over the years, I stumbled upon my tiny book of the arrondissements of Paris. I bought this in Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon in 1995, two years before my move to Europe was even on the radar screen. It cost $7.50 and was missing several plates. In other words, it was utterly unsuitable as a “real” map.

I didn’t dream specifically of living in Paris, but I dreamed vaguely and achingly of living “more.” Of having some sort of experience that would give me license some day in the far-off future to lean back and say with my eyes closed in contentment, “Yes. Now I have lived, really lived!” Of course, that was folly. Contentment is an ebbing and flowing affair and has more to do with internal voyaging than external, I believe. But still, it was a dream. And there, in the heap of things that spring cleaning asks me to reconsider once a year, is the physical manifestation of it. And every year, I will see it, blow off the dust and save it again.

I was also drawn to this book, I know, because I love maps. I am one of those daft people that can entertain herself for a long, long time looking at a road map or an atlas. My mother is the same. Perhaps it’s an inherited trait. I’m interested in the real, raw physical information about a place, but I’m also drawn to the graphic laciness of maps. Either to the random intricacy which corresponds to a reality in a place I can’t see with my own eyes. Or to the studied geometry, radial or gridded, that inspires visions of people living with order, harmony and piped in Baroque music. But most of all, I love maps because I feel as if I can see the future in them. I have the idea that maps are actually “mapping” something else—”where to go” existentially speaking. I once drew a map: two lines making a perfect intersection. One was the road “Need,” and the other was the road “Desire.” I was hoping to stand where they crossed.

I think I must have seen my future, sort of, in these out-dated maps of Paris. If I bought the little book, if I owned it, maybe I would internalize where it was telling me to go. Some years later, in an antique store in Savannah, Georgia, I bought a handful of snapshots of Rome, taken in the 1950’s with a brownie camera. The work of a tourist with an adoring eye. They were—every one of them—beautiful tiny black and white images surrounded by those lacy edges photos used to have. They, too, were a sort of map for me. My spring cleaning this year hasn’t turned them up, but I need to find them. Who knows, maybe those photos and this map of Paris brought me to this life half in Italy, half in France, and punctuated by trips back home. Where need and desire don’t always intersect, but sometimes they do. And beautifully.

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7 Responses to Spring Cleaning #2: Dusty dreams

  1. Anna Harrison says:

    Hmmm… brings back all sorts of thoughts and memories.
    And you can see where I was born on plates 2 and 3: Neuilly-sur-Seine.

  2. Funny all of our criss-crossing…and intersecting. Hmmmm, indeed. So much to think about it and remember.

  3. bagnidilucca says:

    A very long time ago, when I was in primary school, we used to do geography. One of my favourite things was drawing maps. We had a special map book, which had blank pages, no lines, where we would draw maps of various countries. I still love opening up a book to a blank page – so many possibilities. I used to win prizes for my Map Book and the assignments we did on other countries. My fascination for travel obviously started there. Now, when we travel we have a GPS, but I like to have a map in front of me as well.

  4. Charlotte says:

    This is a lovely story…do you still have your map book?

  5. bagnidilucca says:

    No I don’t have my map book, but I think I may still have some of my project books. I also won the prize at school for my Mothercraft book. We used to learn mothercraft – how to look after a baby. Can you imagine that happening now? I had a serious advantage at the time as my mother had my youngest brother when I was 13, so I had a real baby to practise on. That baby is now almost 45.

  6. The “mothercraft” is funny…being American (and capitalist) my school offered an optional course that was very similar, but it was so we could make money baby sitting. The thing I remember most was the teacher telling us that a wet diaper smelled of ammonia.

  7. Pingback: Closed/Week in review | The Daily Cure

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