That memory took me to such a deep, beginning place as a child.

“Enchantment: Remembering Back into Maxfield Parrish”

On a rainy January afternoon, I had nothing but a mind-numbing vista of meetings spread out over my afternoon. The day was gray; I was blue. I decided that in the hour I had available that I would drive up to Skinner’s Butte, one of Eugene, Oregon’s few local high-ish places. The view from there is down Willamette Street through Eugene, across the valley floor to Spencer’s Butte.

Spencer’s Butte, looking across the City of Eugene in the valley below. Post-processed with Perfectly Clear, XNView, and Distressed FX.

I took a variety of photographs using my Panasonic Lumix 5 because the act of looking through the lens gathers my scattered thoughts, brings me back to center, anchors me in the present moment where I belong.

The little park on top of the Butte was built in 1914. I don’t know when the cement viewing platform was built, but it features two large, elegant, ball – topped cement pillars about four feet tall. I placed one on the left side of the camera frame with Spencer’s Butte in the background.

That evening, as a reward for having survived the meetings, I played with the few images I had taken, moving them in and out of photo apps on my iPad. As I played with the pillar and mountain image in an app called Distressed FX, I found a combination of golden glow and deep blue that I found suddenly very compelling.

I paused and ask myself why, and I realized I was forcibly reminded of the Maxfield Parrish paintings in my childhood edition of Arabian Nights. That memory took me to such a deep, beginning place as a child. I used pour over each richly colored plates, wondering especially about what I would now call architectural details – giant urns that a child could – and did in one of Scheherazade’s stories – hide in; open-air colonnades with huge pillars framing a wilderness scene of craggy mountains and free tumbling waterfalls.


“Enchantment” By Maxfield Parrish. Initial title: Cinderella. Originally painted for Hearst’s Magazine, instead used as a cover for Harper’s Bazaar, March 1914. Later retitled Enchantment for the 1926 General Electric Mazda Lamp Calendar. Available under Creative Commons.

I loved this painting as a child; so much so that five decades later somehow I remembered the ball-topped pillar in the upper right on the staircase. When I photographed a similar pillar in indigo and gold (photograph, below), my soul flowered with pleasure.

This is what I call Source Imagery, a personal lexicon of signs, symbols, memories, dreams, reflections that bubble like spring water underground only to emerge in surprising and soul-nurturing ways.

As a child of the Pacific Northwest, I understood the wilderness scenes, but I went back again and again to wonder about how broad stairs, shrines, gazebos, fountains and urns got out there in the mountains. The figures, which I now see as romanticized, were just other children to me, children from the Arabian Nights stories that informed the images.

Maxfield Parrish is famous for his rich blues – a certain shade was even named after him, “Parrish blue.” His contrasting color was gold, and in between he painted with a saturated palette of violets, deep indigo, and gold, gold, and more gold. I understood this palette, too, as not romantic, but as a reflection of the mountainous, sun-drenched world I knew.

My most passionate images spring from the source waters of my childhood. A spring moves underground among gravel bars and root complexes gathering minerals and scents so subtle and wild that the human nose can’t detect them.

At unexpected folds of the landscape, the springs emerge such as those at Indigo Springs that form the headwaters of my home river, the Willamette.

Source imagery, that is, images that call to me, that evoke my passion or wonder, that transfix me with luminous unspoken power–like spring water have moved under my conscious mind tangling together the memories of what is called the family romance, the wild places, the secret places I knew so well, the story books I read – the stories I revisited again and again, the illustrations that pulled me into exotic landscapes.

I understand that I have a Romantic with a capital R imagination. I understand that in my visual art, I am always unconsciously striving to reveal the luminous traces of the Mystery behind all things.

The further I move away from childhood, the more something in me longs to loop back and reinhabit part of who I was then; a longing to complete the circle of time that is unique to me.

“Daybreak” by Maxfield Parrish 1922. Available by Creative Commons.


Sandy Brown Jensen

I am a retired writing instructor and faculty tech specialist from Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I still teach and am also a photographer, poet, blogger and digital storyteller (short videos).

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  • Ah, yes Sandy: You are so creative I think because your childhood wonder — and that of subsequent ages — is still so available to you. Parrish blue: I think Gaia and I saw 2 sculptures of his, intensely brightly blue in one of the museums; I think it was Reina Sofia in Madrid. She commented on how blue it was, and nothing else.

  • Yes, that Parrish light is here, at sunset and sunrise. That particular ancient quality of light reborn daily. You are so right, that light and shapes and aromas may call us back to our childlike selves in the moment, in an instant.

  • Sandy, I am sitting at my keyboard with a mind overflowing with all the thoughts and feelings this “Mind On Fire” has triggered in me. As my thoughts are sorting themselves out, I look up at your photo that is hung on the wall over my head. You have your hand behind your right ear and a smile that says, go ahead Put it into words” In fact it brought all of your childhood and what it was filled with. It was mostly magic!! Of course it had some of what you write about in today,s offering. Sadness! Part of all Magic!!! What surprised me was how it turned a spot light on my own childhood and how very very different that was!!! your Father and I were able to offer to you four children something totally different than what I lived. I think Warren brought magic into my life for the first time in a really HUGH and Real way. So i experienced it along with you children. In a big and real way. For that I am so grateful for you, Cheryl, Lisle, and Toren. So much more to this story but for today I am cooking Cornned beef and cabbage for supper. To say that I love and honor you is to fall short of full expression, but for nor I Love you, Mickey/Mom

Sandy Brown Jensen

I am a retired writing instructor and faculty tech specialist from Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I still teach and am also a photographer, poet, blogger and digital storyteller (short videos).

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