Monday, August 22, 2011

Birches--and your point is...


On Sunday I was in a schlock shop. Schlock, not kitsch. Kitsch is sentimental bric-a-brac.

Several on-line dictionaries define schlock as being shoddy. In my personal idiom, though, schlock might be quite tasteful, but meaningless. Shlock is bric-a-brac which has no emotional or historical connection with its owner--items which are just a means of ornamenting a space. An interior designer's dream. Someone else's late-Victorian nightmare.

There are schlock shops everywhere in the world, I think. The style of the merchandise differs, of course.

OK, so I was in a schlock shop in Luxor with a friend shopping for a wedding present. Which is not schlock, in the end, because the recipient is emotionally attached to it.

This schlock shop isn't for foreign visitors to Luxor. Not a pyramid or a bust of Nefertiti in sight. The merchandise on sale here is for Egyptians decorating their dwellings.

Waiting for my friend to select her present, I looked around at the various tchotchkes displayed on tables and elsewhere. Finally, my eyes wandered up to the walls. And I saw paintings.

There were a few abstract paintings toward the back. But most of the paintings for sale were scenes of green forest glades or leafy lanes between trees, with a gentle hint of sun filtering through.

It seemed bizarre to see these paintings in a shop in Luxor, Egypt. Even more bizarre to think of these paintings adorning the walls of homes here. Incongruous is a more exact term, I guess.

It seems that people living in rainless sun-soaked Luxor feel nostalgia for landscapes which most of them have never seen. Green deciduous forests dappled with indirect sunlight. There's a German word for the feeling. The word escapes me. Whatever it is, it seems I've been attacked by this Luxor malaise. And that's why I'm mesmerized by the photo of Robert Frost's farmstead in Derry, New Hampshire.

Oh, and I just remembered the German word. Sehnsucht. The longing to see something which you saw long ago, or have never seen, or will probably never see again.

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