By Eilene Lyon
When you learn to draw, using a photo to sketch from, art teachers will suggest you turn the picture upside-down. That way, you focus on the shapes, rather than letting your mind tell you what you’re looking at (mountain, tree, bird, etc.).
It’s a way of changing your perspective. Turning the familiar into the unfamiliar. Erasing expectations and assumptions.
Go ahead – bend over and observe the world between your knees for a change! If nothing else, the blood flowing to your head will be good for a little rush, flush, blush.
The other day I laid my head down on the deck handrail to look at the world sideways. The horizon became vertical, rather than horizontal. (“verticaltal”?)
Perhaps sideways isn’t quite as effective as upside-down. The mind wants to correct your perspective, pretending everything is normal. But I looked around and made some observations:
The clouds were arranged in one of those puffy patterns, like a chenille bedspread. A pair of ducks flew by under the blanket.
I could see the bat house we attached to the deck rail stanchions when we remodeled the house – not visible while I’m standing upright.
We tore off the cedar siding, where a bat had lived for many years, and replaced it with stucco. I don’t think the darling critter has ever visited the little shelter we suggested as a replacement. Maybe we should take it down. Bat Conservation International doesn’t recommend sheltering bats near your house, anyway. I’m a big fan of bats: lovely, long-lived bug eradicators.
I noticed a couple odd stumps in the yard. I sort of knew one was there, the other had escaped my conscious attention before. The first has a little pile of English ivy growing on it. Why on earth would anyone plant English ivy in our yard, covered with piñon pine and juniper – a near-desert environment? That was before my time here. It’s never done well. Should I dig it up?
The yellow tips of the globe willow branches, still in winter’s state of undress, curled, oh so slightly, toward the sky (to the left? down? where?).
When it comes to historical or current events, maybe we should take a moment to turn them upside-down or sideways and do a little revisionist thinking as an exercise. Take time to erase the assumptions. Make the familiar unfamiliar.
Some people have speculated on things like “What would the world be like if the allies hadn’t defeated the Nazis?” or “What would America be like if the South had won the war?”
But skew your perspective a little further – what if there hadn’t been a Civil War at all? What can this imaginary scenario teach you about our cultural dynamics at the time? How do they apply to today’s issues?