I went home this weekend and visited the swimming pool in my neighborhood where all of us kids learned to swim in grade school. It was the subject of one of my paintings for Departures in 2013. I was so surprised to see that they had filled it in! now it's just a field with a strange green building next to it. walking on the sidewalk under the overhang of the roof still made that metallic echoing sound that I remember from the cold, early morning walk to get from the parking lot to the pool, freezing in just flip-flops, a swimsuit and a towel. You had to pass through from the side facing the street, take a quick shower and then continue past the swim instructor's office onto the pool deck, where you would hopefully find a open beach lounger to stash your towel. Even during the middle of summer I dreaded the water, because the sun hadn't yet warmed the day.
The pool had been closed for many years by the time I painted it in 2013, and I had to hop a fence to get in, and I squatted in puddles of old, leafy water to take photos for the painting. That time I visited on a grey day, and the melancholy mood of the sky reflected the forlorn, closed off pool which no longer received visitors. It also reminded me of the slight dread from going to swimming lessons as a child-- not so much dreading learning to swim, but having to be up so early that the day hadn't decided what it would be yet, and overcast mixed with daybreak. And then being ordered to hurl yourself into the chilly water before we were even fully awake was terrible indeed.
I was familiar with and prepared for this well preserved sort of abandonment, but a solid grassy field was the last thing I expected to see on this visit. They had even removed the fence, as there was no longer a need for it. I always knew that archiving history was a part of my work as a painter of buildings, but until that moment I hadn't been confronted with the reality that these paintings are a documentation of places as they are at a particular time in history, and all of it is going to change someday. This is the first time that my painting doesn't match with reality anymore, as the ground has quite literally shifted underneath the scene I captured.
When my parents moved into their house on Jasmine Avenue South in the summer of 1992, they told us that theirs was only the second house on the street, and the rest was just open fields. in the past few years, while I have been still based in Cottage Grove, but away living in Saint Peter, A Walmart has crept up and claimed the small field and wooded hill that remained at the end of our dead end street. It was a tiny section of wilderness that was always familiar when we were growing up, and well used as a place for sledding in the winter, and riding bikes in the summer. It reminded me that we lived kind of at the edge of the boondocks. Today, I had the chance to talk with a member of the Anderson Center staff who, it turns out grey up in Cottage Grove. He lived across Jamaica Avenue right by Armstrong Elementary, and informed me that when he was growing up where he lived was new, and everything on the other side of the street was undeveloped farmland-- the frontier that my parents would settle decades later.
As a young adult I see new developments planned and erected in places that I have only known as farmland, and I always think "What a shame that they are ruining this farmland to build new developments. So much is changing so quickly." I now realize what an arbitrary starting point I use to determine how much a place changes. What I know as Cottage Grove as it used to be is so much more recent and so different from the memories of anybody who has been here longer than me. I guess my takeaway from this long, self-indulgent list of memories and observations is that everything you know and love will cease to exist one day, and half the people you know have more reason to be upset about this than you do, and the other half don't know what you are talking about, so take a picture and write a story while it still matters.