Sunday, July 24, 2011


When I logged onto our computer earlier this week, the above illustration had become my son's desktop wallpaper. This is a cropped version of it, a scene of the underwater city of Rapture from Irrational Games' BioShock, a video game. I was startled, then ensnared by the detail and what I could imagine as the backstory for this group of swells, looking out upon, or possibly too involved to notice, their underwater world. I noticed.

With infinite detail luring me in (I cannot resist an underwater world), I thought of fantasy realms, make-believe destinations and real places that seem so remote or unattainable they might as well be fictional. In the way that words or subjects have of arriving in clumps, I let my mind roam and thought of my artist mother, who was determined to visit Spain and see the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.

She not only endured but transcended a divorce after 28 years of marriage, began a cottage business with ceramics and those ceramics sent her first to Greece and the Greek islands, then later to Spain and her dream tour of the Gaudi sites. His Casa Batllo in Barcelona may illustrate why video game alternate reality could have called him and my mother's realized dream to mind.

Two days later, in the closet plunge, I found an envelope containing photocopies of all the local obituary notices of my father's passing, sent by my step-mother. In rereading them, I was reminded of his ties to the South Pacific, where he had served during World War II. His biography gave greater detail than I remembered about his assignments. But I always knew he wanted, above everything, to see the Fiji Islands again.

Places unknown give our expectations an aura of magic; places experienced call to us with the imperfection of memory. We expand and romanticize them, assign them virtues which perhaps stretch the truth, hope to return in the quest for intangibles we fear may have been lost forever. My father did return to Fiji, with my step-mother, on their honeymoon. He never spoke to me of that trip, nor did he write of it in any of his papers I've found. Perhaps even for a man of words, his reclaiming of that place, of those life and world-changing times, was beyond explanation.

While writing this, Leon Russell was singing in the background.

My journeys have become interior. I will never miss a chance to watch Venice or Paris on screen, still allow myself temporary residence when following Donald Sutherland and the red coat he pursues or riding in the 1950s-vintage Citroen of a French noir classic. Should the means and opportunity ever materialize, I would not say no to such an adventure. Yet I have gained more than I could have hoped by exploring the inner landscape.

When I stopped being resentful of circumstances which dictated a quiet, contemplative existence, I understood that I had been delivered to my true destination. One can, I'm sure, ponder as well at distant sites as at home, but my assignment seems to be about finding my own heart and translating that into a wider knowledge.

The shores are generally sunny, each day delivers its own, varied treks. Morning reveals new paths, provides new encounters. The food doesn't vary much, but I hold the cook responsible for that. Attire is casual and surprises never fail to appear. It is a crossroads at which home and away intersect. Boredom is never an issue and I get to sleep in my own bed. I may want to design some postcards, local highlights, but I suppose, in a way, I already have. You are reading of them now. No need to say, wish you were here.


Melissa Green said...

Oh, Marylinn, what an utterly fabulous post! An essay, on the art of travel, the longing to visit, the memroies of where one has met good fortune or love or friendship. the newness, the ancient--oh, you have travelled so far, Marylinn, and travel is everywhere in your future.

How wonderful that your mother got to experience her dream of seeing Gaudi=-OMG, wouldn't I love to do that well. And your father too got to return to his beloved Fiji. I suppose those trips to the past are bittersweet, and maybe he couldn't write about that, but how lucky he was to have a chance to return.

But you are sitting in the catbird seat--your imagination propelling you from galaxy to the bottom of sea, with stops at cities,immortal monuments, fabled cities, natural glories and invented worlds. How wonderfully you've gown into the enforced contemplative light and made it so much your own, so filled with the joy of simply being, having the privilege of seeing, learning to use all of your senses, being unable to help the growth of your mind which if given room and solitude and tender care, is limitless.

Oh, my. Now I feel I'm not only with the band. I'm definitely riding shotgun with a Sherpa of great fearlessness and grace, and I'm hanging on with glee for the ride of a lifetime.

Brava, Marylinn. Brava, and thank you. xo

Melissa Green said...

P. S. And how I love Leon Russell!! xo

Sultan said...

I love this post!

Hannah Stephenson said...

I love how you wander with this one---that image is so potent (and clearly resonated with you).

37paddington said...

I think you will have to publish a book of these posts dear Marylinn. They bear reading and contemplating again and again. You are a modern day philosopher and a writer of great gifts. And I want to join the band.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Thank you so much. I'm glad you've called the shotgun seat and hope you're wearing your seat belt. I had no idea how full and rich a contemplative existence could be, how there are not enough hours in the day for simply being, let alone tackling inspirations. So happy to have you aboard.

I miss the days when we could hear Leon Russell on the FM stations of the 1970s. But hooray for YouTube...the music lives on. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - Thank you...such kind words mean a lot. Not having to board a real plane makes travel so much more comfortable. One can enjoy the journey and the destination.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Hannah - The video game art which launched this musing is so much more when seen large. Thank you, for sometimes while my train of thought makes sense to me, I'm not always certain it will to readers. I've grown accustomed to these synaptical leaps.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - What kind thoughts, and I thank you for them. It is reassuring to know there is resonance and perhaps an enduring quality to these words. That is my hope. And, presto, you are now in the band. xo

T. said...

I shall carry this post with me all day today, tucked away in my consciousness, to pull to mind and ponder and practice gratefulness for everything that is right here, right now.

Perspective is everything. Thank you for reminding me of this.


Marylinn Kelly said...

T. - Thank you, I'm glad there was something here worth taking with you. Perspective IS everything, as is the gentle urging, from various sources, to be simply grateful, regardless. A narrow path keeps me out of trouble. xo

Robert the Skeptic said...

Interesting that you would find the scenery from "BioShock" such a captivating piece of art. I have played computer games for.. well for as long as they have been made. I am amazed by some the extremely creative and evocative images some of these games produce.

I wrote a review of the game "Far Cry II" which revolves around a mercenary in Africa. Though most of the reviews focused on the game play, I wrote about it from a filmmaker's perspective.

A computer game is like a "moving" art work, and this game in particular was remarkable. Wind caused waves of the grassy savannah, clouds draped and obscured mountain tops. The sky would cloud and the jungle lose visibility due to heavy rain.

The sound effects and particularly the voice acting was remarkable. I found myself often avoid the "action" and just strolling through the remarkably beautiful scenery.

I feel sad that much of this beautiful art work is significantly under-appreciated by the gamers who are focused on completing the "mission". There are some fine artists in this venue, I am glad you recognized one of them.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - Thank you letting me know about this; I've copied your comment for my son who is the, obviously, the resident video game expert. He works at an art college and has seen friends go to on to considerable success in the industry.

He will truly understand your looking at the games from a filmmaker's point of view. I think the fact that the (reported) average age of a gamer is 37 shows, one hopes, a wider range of appreciation for how rich and detailed the games have become. He said the BioShock illustration is one of the pieces of concept art associated with creating the game. I'm so glad I posted this

Antares Cryptos said...

Wait. That's Bioshock on...
Yes. I am definitely on the right blog.

Thought I'd share the opening cinematic (yes, video games are a new medium for artists and filmmakers) here:

When I first saw it a few years ago, I was amazed at the detail, the homage to steampunk, metropolis and the idea of an alternate history. Unfortunately, the game play in this beautiful backdrop was too disturbing for my taste.

Once again, you echo my thoughts on traveling to imaginary places through movies, games and our imaginations. Places that we'll never get to see and in the case of bioshock, wouldn't want to in RL.

Gaudi should be on every artist's journey of pilgrimage.

Another wonderful post.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares-Cryptos - I surprised myself with BioShock, but was so taken with the art, and the lifelong fascination for underwater cities or ruins...thank you for the video link, quite eerie, with "La Mer" playing to add a misleading note of business as usual.

Thank you...I always watch for bits of Gaudi's work in Spanish films and am drawn to his other-worldliness.

As Robert commented, the artistry of video games (I have just gotten to see some of FAR CRY II) is overlooked in the wider world. And one can wander through the worlds without engaging in the battles, but that could be costly.

Apropos of steampunk, have you seen CHRONOS, a newish - might be Criterion version - with Guillermo del Toro taking us on a tour of his "Bleak House" and his fascination for, among other things, gears, wheels, clock-works? From ComiCon, via Kelly Kilmer, was a report of, I think, a book being done on his collections. :D