Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren
categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence
Comments Off on Lundgren’s Lounge: “Stop Here, This is the Place,” by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis
Words and images on the page have a variety of purposes: to instruct, to persuade, to ediify, to entertain, to evoke… and it is this last that comes to mind while reading and looking at Stop Here: This is the Place, A Year in Motherhood, a unique collaboration between photographer Winky Lewis and writer Susan Conley.
What this book exquisitely evokes is summertime childhood in Maine, a place where rock meets ocean. Co-creators Lewis and Conley are neighbors and one senses, sisters. Raising families next to one another, they wondered… what if we began starting each week with a photograph (Winky), to which author Susan would respond with a small narrative? They saw one another daily, often multiple times, as they ferried kids to school and sports and plays and events, all while trying to shoehorn in some room for their own lives. But throughout the yearlong process, they never spoke about their collaboration.
There are intriguing understories in this artistic partnership … the emotional tumult that accompanies coming of age while female in contemporary America, or the tensions that accompany a woman and her daughter as they negotiate the shoals of occupying physical and emotional space together. What the book most evoked for me was a sense of endless days outside, arriving after an arduous bike ride to the lagoons and backponds of the spring-fed Plover River…no matter that for me it was Wisconsin, not Maine; the effect of youth, unrestrained and let loose in the natural world is, I suspect, the same wherever it occurs. A sense of unfettered possibility and relationships: human to the world and human to human, that cannot be forged anywhere else.
As I read and looked, my initial skepticism that the work might be too insular, reflecting but a small corner of the world, were allayed. This is a resplendent work of art and in depicting that place where ocean meets land, Conley and Lewis have captured the universal wonders and mysteries of childhood and motherhood, regardless of where they happen.
This is a work deserving of our time and the inevitable appreciation that will follow.
[Bill Lundgren is a writer and blogger, also a friend of Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine (“A Fiercely Independent Community Bookstore”), where you can buy this book and about a million others, from booksellers who care. Bill keeps a bird named Ruby, a blind pug named Pearl, and a couple of fine bird dogs, and teaches at Southern Maine Community College. ]