I think about “The Princess Bride” probably every day. I don’t especially care if that’s too much; it’s a pair of lungs to me now. So it was an unexpected loss of air to hear that its storyteller, William Goldman, recently passed away. I never knew this person, but his work was a joy that seeped into my own life.
My love for this movie (and the book that preceded it) is complete and all-encompassing. Its lines and ethos permeate all of my days – my need to rhyme with “peanut,” my knowledge to never get involved in a land war in Asia, my tendency to overuse the word “inconceivable” even in the most conceivable of situations. Buttercup and Westley gave me a love that’s as fun as it is deep. A sense of humor is key when dealing with the forces of evil. The Dread Pirate Roberts knows this.
I’m not sure of the precise moment “The Princess Bride” arrived in my life; like most lasting cultural touchstones, it seems to transcend origin and simply exist across planes of time. My existence has always been wrapped around a VHS tape that brought me this story. I know it came to my family’s house one Christmas, but I don’t remember its manger-like presence under the tree. My awareness came later. I’m not positive on when I first popped that tape into our tiny white TV unit, that moment of discovery. I do know I’ve never been the same.
It’s funny which things from the past are embedded there, like moths in amber, visible but immobile, and which things jump out and demand to be known again.
The spirit of this photograph is strong as ever. It is mysterious and commanding, with lightning strikes of memories. It houses an ectoplasm that keeps it moving through realms.
I fully believe this spirit is there. It breathes. When I look at this image, its motion captivates me. My grandpa Earl dashes forward, his arms wide, beguiling a jumping dog. Another dog leaps down from a tree split in half, the trunk bent and the blond wood exposed. It appears lightning-struck, a sudden change in form. The photo’s simple mysteries unfold in a long-forgotten summer day. Handwriting on the back indicates it’s July 1984, and the feeling of wonder from that day is preserved.
The dogs and Earl are in the backyard of my grandparents’ house in Atlantic, Iowa. The scene emanates the ghosts of a heated thunderstorm, the morning after a heavy rain and lightning fest ripped the night open. I’m not sure who took the photo – perhaps my aunt, as those are her dogs frolicking around the frame. The lens captures such a sweet ceremony, a joy that Earl bestowed on the things he loved. That joy streams through the decades, the love sustaining a family.
This image is a window I frequent – its energy is still strong, it depicts a realm I want to embody. The ectoplasm inhabits the photograph, manifesting a spirit I am always trying to conjure. I want to know how the lens came to freeze this particular moment, limbs and paws midair, the tree’s raw insides opened up. The person on the other side of the camera somehow knew.
The spirit dances inside this photo, just as Earl did that day in July. The storm’s energy is still in the air, and the dogs nip it up, reveling in Earl’s presence. Maybe I put as much voodoo in this image as I believe is there, but it still holds power.
How many people have written about watching Bob Ross paint? I don’t know why I’m asking that question because I don’t care about the answer. I’m joining up.
His dual-color brush move is a killer. One moment, you’re looking at his relaxed hand smoothing some beautiful forest green down a mountainside underneath some lavender-mauve clouds, and the next he flicks the brush in the other direction and a gorgeous emerald tone appears on the other side of the mountain. He is painting a dream with all the right colors, the ones you see in your mind but can never seem to recreate or even name to any satisfaction. But Bob knows how.
What I didn’t remember is that at the beginning of each episode, Bob runs the names of all the colors you’ll need for your own painting at the bottom of the screen. He thinks you can do this, too – that you can take these very same pigments and do what he does. But even a simple background – the basis for a cliffside, say – he’s made a shade of black that you will never recreate. There are many blended colors that make it a unique hue, and even with Bob spelling out its recipe, your cliffside black will not match his. But you can look at it all you want, and that is enough.