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Happiness and the joy of undertaking a big project, part II

Happiness and the joy of undertaking a big project, part II

(continued from yesterday)

So I’d found this enthralling, one-of-a-kind book by J. M. Barrie, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island.* Now what?

I was incredibly fortunate to have a friend who was as enthralled as I was—who understood why the book is so extraordinary.

We were talking about it when we came up with our unbelievably exciting plan: we’d do our OWN Boy Castaways book, with photographs of our OWN children.

Over the past several months, we’ve been doing the preparation. She wrote a skeleton “story” like the one Barrie illustrated—about a royal family forced to flee and go in search of a magical bird. Like Barrie, we wouldn't write out a long story; we'd just use the story skeleton to provide captions for photographs of the children.

We went to Central Park to research possible sites for photos. We did a storyboard that matched photo locations with costumes with captions. She’s been scouring eBay for interesting things to buy for costumes—a miniature bugle, a wooden shield, a ruffled tuxedo shirt, a fez. (I know that she’s secretly thrilled to have a solid reason to buy all that fun stuff on eBay that you WANT to buy but can’t really justify.)

Yesterday we took our first photograph, the one illustrating the line: “The Princess performs a sacred dance.” The cherry trees are in blossom in Central Park, so we took the photo there. The Princess (the Little Girl) refused to do much dancing, but we coaxed her into various sacred-ritual-type poses.

I’m sure this project will turn out to have many unexpectedly fun aspects, but one aspect is that it allows us to take advantage of the tremendous beauties of Central Park. There are so many gorgeous places in which to set our scenes, and it’s a delight to feel like we’re able to make good use of the riches that the park offers. Like the flowering trees! So beautiful, so fleeting – and we’ve captured them in our project.

At an early stage, my friend was enthusiastically describing the project to her husband, who clearly was overwhelmed at the thought of the amount of time and effort that this was going to consume.

“I can’t believe you’re going to do this,” he said. Then he corrected himself. “No, actually, this is perfect for you two. You’re going to love doing it.”

One of my happiness-project resolutions is to "Make books." Some people like to go skiing, some people like to learn about wine, I like to make books. I only recently discovered that this was my hobby, because I'd never thought of it as a category of activity. But I've realized that YES, making books, in all ways, is what I love to do. Be Gretchen! I wouldn't have been able to handle this project alone—I'm just incredibly lucky that I have a friend who so perfectly shares this vision.

Onward. One major hurdle: we don’t have a title yet.


* Unfortunately, I can't put in a live link to the library's image site. To view The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island:
Go to the Beinecke Library site
Under “Finding Books, Images, and Manuscripts,” go to ORBIS, the online catalogue
Search by title for "boy castaways"
Hit the blue #2 entry that will come up
Hit the link to "View images from the Beinecke Library's Digital Images Online Database."
This is quick and easy, despite sounding complicated!

Along the same lines, about making projects, making books, unusual forms of creativity, etc., I was absolutely AWESTRUCK by the description on writer Sloane Crosley's website of the dioramas she made to illustrate essays in her new book, I Was Told There'd Be Cake. I've long been obsessed with Joseph Cornell and his boxes, and I've always wanted to make dioramas. Now I'm truly inspired. In fact, I'm reeling with the sense of possibility. My mother-in-law knows where to order boxes made of Lucite...

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