"Escher's Drawing Room" is based on the work of artist and mathemagician, M. C. Escher. For story illustrations, follow the links throughout. (Links will take you to images at M. C. Escher's official Website.)
ESCHER'S DRAWING ROOM
By Linda Eve Diamond
I’m not sure where the story begins, but somewhere in this middle loop, I find myself at the home of Maurits Cornelis Escher. As this story has no real beginning, I suppose we can enter anywhere. Let’s start at this moment, as he has invited me up to his drawing room. We descend the long staircase, which he says, with a giddy chuckle, will lead us upstairs.
“Who are these people?” I ask.
“They're all travelers on an endless quest to arrive at a place of meaning, distinction or grace—searching for a sacred doorway or, at least, some sense of arrival.”
Can’t they see, I wonder, that they’re all moving in circles and that there’s no top, no bottom, and no place that could be called, “arriving”? I think about the virtue and meaning they must invest in this quest as they fill their lives with a journey that has all the meaning of a cat’s great tail chase. I ask a man with a blank face where he’s headed.
“Are you walking up or down, my friend?” He says he hopes to know in the end.
“Are you happy?” I ask another.
“Some days I feel down and spiral ever-lower, then other days I feel as though I’m coming close to heaven.”
“I think I’d go mad,” I reply, unable to conceal the pity in my eyes.
He stares (blankly, of course) and asks, “Is your life really so different from mine?” The stark truth chills my spine.
I turn to my host, whose expression seems vague in the thoroughly precise way of a man who actually spent his day drawing castles in the air. He opens a door I hadn’t even seen. We’ve arrived, somehow, at the drawing room. As we enter, I feel a little dizzy still from the staircase, unable to fathom how we found our way here—or anywhere at all. I go to the open window for air and lean on the sill. It feels good to be still, though perhaps I’m too still. I see a young man in a museum looking at a ship that passes between us then realize I am nothing more than an image on a page—as are the ship and the sea, and then the young man glances at me. I faintly hear him say that he almost hadn’t seen me. “Come,” says Maurits, drawing me away from the scene. “Let’s watch the birds for a while.”
I turn to see a geometry of birds in flight. (As three or more geese are a gaggle, crows are a murder and bats are a cloud, it seems fitting to call three or more Escher birds a geometry.) As we watch these blackbirds flying Westward, I see I’m also watching white birds heading East. Is the white space white or black? Does it matter? My need for stark, defining lines falls and shatters. Who cares if the space is white or black, neither or both? So many possibilities unfold beyond first impressions and quick perceptions—reminding me of how defining lines so often blur, move and even vanish as the larger picture refines over time.
As I sense our visit drawing to a close, I think about how sometimes chaos is in order—and other times order is in chaos. (Turn those thoughts inside-out and take them any way you like.) I think of my poetry—the unfinished pieces that never came together, the ones that strived to be more but couldn’t—and realize they might be upside-down. Am I as free as I think I am, or am I trapped on an Escher-like staircase in my thinking mind? If I open the latch of a word at the center of a poem and look through it, what will I see? Spark of the future? Ash from the past? A wish that fell unseen from a dream? Reflection of a reader I’ve never seen? Both window and mirror, the page shows and reflects more than I’ll ever hope to know.
I turn to thank him, but he’s gone. Or I am. The whole scene seems sketchy now. Was the experience nothing—a lucid dream, elusive? Or was it everything or nothing—or something in between? I might now think to try of something new, turn a poem upside-down or inside-out, or cut a hole in the center and peek through. Now the hours have passed into years and there’s so much to tell, so much to write, though I’ve forgotten more than I recall. I’d like to take some time to write, but tonight I find myself on a long, winding staircase with a blank look on my face. I’m not sure where this story begins, but somewhere in this middle loop, I find myself at the home of Maurits Cornelis Escher...