Anniversary Thoughts

A week goes by, and the anniversary is “done.”  The day was remembered for a week or so of media cycles, then we returned to the economy, the political races, and Willow the Wandering Cat.

I was engaged in distracting activity for the last several years, then the 10th tapped me on the shoulder.  I really have to go back into it and look.  Wouldn’t it be better if instead of a week of media-savvy remembrance, the country engaged in a year of remembrance, reflection, and introspection?  This is contemplative practice not seen in this culture now…perhaps the series of Darwin events last year is a close example.

I am intrigued by the idea though, so I am going to try to do this myself, on my little part – spend a year revisiting all that I experienced around that event.  There is a lot to go back into – at the time, I was Studio Manager for the photographer Joel Meyerowitz, whose work in “Aftermath” is a selection of over 8,000 images he was able to make of the 9-month recovery as the only photographer with access to the site.  I was an emerging writer and like Joel, talked my way into the site so I could record for radio the stories of the construction workers who were sifting through the pile for remains.    It was the most exhausting year of my life ten years ago, but I and the people around me were driven to see our projects through, lest the details be lost to what came after.

I’m not sure what form this year of remembrance and reflection will take, but for now, an idea is each week to post one very specific memory of that time.    Starting with: “House of Leaves.”

Mark Danielewski’s book “House of Leaves” came out in 2000.  Reviews raved about the remarkable lengths to which the publisher and author went to craft this very unusual and disturbing book. The story is about…among other things, a house that a couple moves into and soon discovers is odd…it seems to have more interior rooms than the outer frame of the house could possibly hold.  Also, there seems to be sounds coming from deep inside the house.  The guy in the couple begins a journey into the mysterious spaces through a door that appears one day and eventually becomes lost in a never-ending and ever-changing maze of dark creepy spaces that seem to be endless and have the menace of pointless dreams and nightmares. The story is told by a troubled third person narrator who devolves toward insanity while telling the story.  The prose is itself an excavation project, as the narrator’s comments are partly drawn from papers he possesses but did not author, and the text within a text within a text is mimicked by the printed book, with elaborate footnotes, type that goes up and around the edges of pages and does not follow normal paragraph forms, but often seems to reflect the experience being described in how it appears on the page. The book is much more complex than it sounds here – I am writing all this from memory having not touched it since the last week of September 2001.   The process of reading it began on September 10th…and continued in earnest two days later.  It stirred all in me that dislikes horror films, yet was so preferable to the mental replay of planes plowing into towers, towers collapsing, and all that accompanied that grim day. 

Willow: Photo copyright Bebeta Matthews/Associated Press, in NY Times 9/15/11