Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dreams & Dream-houses

Dreamy Sausalito

"A direct experience of place can be equally profound, and whether it is an abrupt and ecstatic experience, or a slowly developed, gently grown involvement, what is important is the sense that this place is uniquely and privately your own because your experience of it is intensely personal. Albert Camus wrote of his experience of the view from the Boboli Gardens at Florence: "Millions of eyes, I knew, had looked upon this landscape and it was still, for me, the first smile of the sky. It put me outside myself in the most profound sense of the word..'  Place and Placelessness, E. Relph  

I went to San Francisco and LA to research place-based life writing. I'm working on a memoir about my favourite formative influences. I don't like to call it nostalgia because it still feels very alive and relevant to me. I think the past is definitely a place, and teenage is also a place - and this is what I want to write about (also maps, connections, symbols, history.) My time away was brief but illuminating. I stayed on a dreamy Sausalito ferryboat, and a converted garage near the bubbling La Brea Tar pits. (One of these things is not like the other.)  

The highlights:

 - writing a lot - and turning corners and having discoveries - all the things I love about writing in the first place
-  drifting around second-hand bookshops. Finding treasures and weird zines.
- SF MOMA: Diane Arbus portraits, Joseph Cornell boxes, a Jess collage
- eating outrageously healthy food (cashew yoghurt anyone?) 
- lingering at the Wallace Berman retrospective  (so good)
-  seeing Schindler House
- talking children's literature and feminism, art and ambition
- catching up with old friends and making new friends

but without a doubt the most wonderful thing was a pilgrimage to the Sandpiper House. M and I were hosted by Mary Olsen, a lovely journalist from Northern California. She gave us muffins and directions. We got a bit lost in the forest but finally found it. You can love a place you only ever dreamed about. You can love the idea of a place. The Welsh word Hiraeth means: "a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was"  - a feeling I think applies to other people's houses, imaginary homes and dream houses. The concept of Home is complicated for me and is something that obsesses me and maybe this is something to do with my slippery writer self, a feeling that being settled is a kind of death. One of Mary's friends lived for fifteen years in the forest (and unlike Thoreau did not take her washing home to her Mum). She built a little cob house as a meditation space - it was truly special and a little bit eerie to step into it.  
p.s: While we were checking the house out we looked up to find a beautiful deer with massive antlers checking us out.

Here's Mary's article about how she first discovered Laura's cabin: 

And here is Richard Burton checking it out:

Little cob house with abalone shell candle holders
Laura's cabin
Sausalito marsh

Schindler House - N Kings Rd, West Hollywood

Little zine about Tales of the City and share-house dreams

I travelled to the US as a recipient of the UNESCO Melbourne City of Literature Travel Fund, and was hosted in San Francisco by the VAR program.

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