Across the field the only thing we could see from our home were woods and the roof of a white house. I was told that an old man lived in the house and that the flock of pigeons on its roof belonged to him. I don’t remember meeting him, and he and his house seemed wondrously mysterious to me. Simply seeing its green roof among the trees made me feel like I was living near a fairy-tale place.
One day the pigeons disappeared. The man had died. A large, unruly family moved into the house. No matter how long and hard I peered at that roof, its surface unbroken by white dots flying in and out and bobbing about, I could not bring the magic back. I always thought it had died with the old man, but now I know I had grown up too much to be able to perceive it anymore. It was gone forever. Now it was just a house among trees, inhabited by a dysfunctional family that didn’t love it or much else.
In my dream, I was looking toward the house and the trees that had sheltered it. Most of them were gone, and it had become a vista of concrete monuments. (I attribute this to having seen a photo the day before of the John F. Kennedy memorial in Dallas, a soulless monstrosity designed by Philip Johnson.)
When I went to the town board to protest the ruthless destruction of the trees and house (and the symbolic destruction of my childhood and its magic), I remembered I had also seen concrete Olmec heads along this new skyline. Olmec heads are fabulous, but why had trees been butchered for an ugly, tasteless representation of something that didn’t belong there? Much as I hated what I had seen, something about this point seemed wrong to me, and I struggled to justify it even to myself.