Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reflected Details

When I was ten, my favorite place to read was the carpeted landing where the staircase in my house made a sharp left turn. I’d press my back flush against the wall behind me, stretch my legs out across the landing to the next riser and lose myself in a book like “Harriet the Spy.” Sometimes, I'd put the book down and tilt my head to look obliquely into the full-length mirror on the wall beside me. My eyes would climb and descend the stairs in that parallel house, my mind wondering what rooms and people might be beyond sight there.

As an adult, I bought a copper-colored gazing ball and set it on a table on my patio. Its sphere reflected miniature images in astonishingly crisp focus--curving, elongating and accentuating the shapes like caricature. I noticed an open space in the ball’s reflection of our maple-tree leaf canopy. And within that space, something else: a window. I glanced up, eyes sweeping the actual canopy for the open space. There! And through it, a neighbor's attic window I'd never noticed. Or, probably, had noticed a hundred times and come to ignore. Returning my gaze to the ball, I imagined what might be going on behind a window like that. What characters might be there.

Inside my house, I wondered what else might be seen differently in relief than in reality. First, I looked directly into the dining room. Nothing very interesting, I decided, but then frowned. Nothing except the chair that stood away from the table--stood where my husband persistently left it after breakfast. I shook off my irritation and opened the hall-closet door just enough for its full-length mirror to reflect the dining room.

In the mirror, before anything else, I saw the chair. The reflection emphasized its emptiness, its distance from the table: a riderless horse. I regretted my irritation. Then I stared deeply into the mirror image of the room I saw every day. I tilted my head and imagined what else might be happening in there, what kind of people might live there.

A gazing ball, a mirror--even the back of a spoon during a restaurant meal. Why not try a reflection to get a new look at something familiar?