Lesson from the Stairs

IMG_3187I snapped this photograph last December when I was in Southern California. The colors swept me up; such a contrast from the gray Chicago I had left behind.

But when I uploaded it into my photo files, I saw something else in these colored ceramic tile stairs: Vertical/horizontal. Pattern/solid. Movement (the step) and stillness (the landing.) I saw structure; the suggestion of structure for a piece of writing. For an essay that begins on the ground, then  steps up to a bold pop of pattern, then moves into solidity, then into a new and different pattern and repeats.

The stairs made me think of Bernard Cooper’s perfection of a short, structured essay in seven paragraphs, “The Fine Art of Sighing.” You can read it here.  Graf by graf, step by step, it moves us from present (the solid) to memory (pattern) to imagination (new pattern) to history (another pattern) and finally, back again to the present (the landing). At the top landing, we stand differently than we stood on the ground because we’ve been given a richly textured, guided tour of the stairs.

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish