This week’s collage is inspired by the joys of reading to my son at bedtime. I wanted to visually capture the experience we share of being swept away by the story, allowing the dim light of the room to blend the real and imagined. We pile into the bed with the cat and the stuffed animals, open the big book and begin our adventure. We have been reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, with its heroic deeds and enchanting illustrations. The tale of Jason and the Argonauts was one of our favorite stories. The great ship Argo, filled with heroes, sets sail on a quest for the Golden Fleece. As the sheets and blankets melt into a vast ocean, we find ourselves heading out to sea, charting a new course.
Detail, Bedtime Story
The sailing ship has been an ongoing motif in my work, a kind of avatar for the Self, forging ahead through rough waters, sailing out to the horizon in search of adventure, or returning home to be anchored in the safe harbor. My red boat has the capacity to explore many different ways of being in the world, navigating between solitude and community, surrender and ambition, safety and risk. In both making art and reading books, we allow for the opportunity to explore the world outside our own experience. The collage I made this week is a strange mix: it seeks to both replicate a very real, intimate experience in my every day life, while folding it into the fantastical unknown. I was intent on capturing the specific details of my son’s favorite toys, grounding the scene in reality, while at the same time juxtaposing these familiar characters with the romance of the book illustrations and the possibility of an imaginary adventure all our own. As a final addition, I collaged a tiny secret doorway in the upper right hand corner. Maybe it is simply the bedroom door, the door back to reality. Or maybe it is a door that leads to yet another imaginary world. I whisper to my son, “Be open to all possibilities.”
While I admit there are some evenings when our 8-year-old son and I fall into an exhausted sleep on the couch in front of the TV, most nights we prepare for our special ritual of Story Time. We “jammy up,” brush our teeth, and climb the ladder up into our boy’s cozy loft bed. Stuffed animals surround us on all sides, and Olivia, our cat, disappears among the audience of fury friends. We turn on the reading lamp, snuggle down into the waves of Pirate sheets or polar bear themed flannel, wrap ourselves up in the warm blankets, and settle in for Story Time. This ritual has been a part of our routine since my son was a baby. We worked our way through board books and picture books, from Elmer to Dr. Seuss. Then we moved on to beginning readers and chapter books, from The Magic Treehouse to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My husband also enthusiastically participates, having unearthed favorites from his own childhood, like the incredible Phantom Tollbooth. I am so grateful to have passed on the love of reading to my son, who now greedily devours a 350 page Percy Jackson book within a week or two. But even though he regularly reads novels silently to himself, there is still a wonderful enjoyment in sharing a story read aloud, preferably one with fantastic pictures.
We are currently making our way through D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I am particularly thrilled that my son has enjoyed this book so much since it was one of my dearest favorites from my own childhood. I didn’t own the book, but would check it out of the public library again and again. I love both the stories and the illustrations, which include detailed maps, dynamic adventure scenes, and family trees of the Greek Gods and Heroes. As we continue through the stories, I am remembering long forgotten favorite episodes, (“Spring comes when Persephone returns from Hades!”) while my son recognizes monsters from the contemporary Percy Jackson books (“I know this one! Percy fought the Calydonian Boar!”) We just finished the dramatic tale of Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. As the Sand Man creeps into the room and sleep overtakes us, I imagine boarding the great ship Argo with its magnificent sail and setting off on our own adventures…