A Stone for Sascha
I could just write a single word in response to this story– awesome – but that wouldn’t help those who have yet to encounter Aaron Becker’s new wordless picture book. Nor would it do justice to his remarkable lyrical endeavour.
My initial reading called to mind two poems of T.S. Eliot, the first being the opening line of East Coker: ‘In my beginning is my end.’
In Becker’s beginning we see a girl collecting flowers and discover they’re an offering for her beloved dog, Sascha’s grave.
The family – mother father, daughter and son – then leave home for a seaside camping holiday.
As night begins to fall the girl heads to the water’s edge and we see her standing beneath a starry sky about to throw a smooth stone.
Thereafter, time shifts and what follows are spreads of a meteor hurtling earthwards to become embedded in the ocean floor and we witness the evolution of our planet as the stone works its way upwards and out, as life transitions from water to land, dinosaurs roam and then give way to early mammalian forms.
Having broken the surface as an enormous protrusion, the stone is quarried and transported to a huge ancient royal edifice where it’s carved into an obelisk.
Wars, looting, fragmentation and remodelling occur as the stone moves through history becoming part of first a religious monument, then a bridge; is fashioned into a fantastical dragon and placed in an ornate carved chest; taken to an island and installed in a chieftain’s dwelling, stolen,
lost at sea and eventually, having moved through eons of time, is polished smooth and carried by the waves to the shore where stands the girl who finds it.
Now, as she presses the stone to her cheek she appears to have made peace with the situation and perhaps, her loss and grief.
The stone’s final resting place – as far as this story goes – is atop Sascha’s gravestone.
(You can also trace the whole journey through the timeline maps that form the endpapers.)
Becker’s layered pastel spreads – digitally worked I think – have in the present time, a near photographic, quality. The scenes of bygone eras where the degree of sfumato intensifies are, in contrast imbued with a dreamlike quality, being as Leonardo da Vinci said of the technique he too employed, ‘ without lines or borders’.
This intensely moving, unforgettable, multi-layered, circular tale is open to countless interpretations and reinterpretations depending on what we bring to the book, at any particular time. Assuredly, it makes this reviewer think about our own place in the cosmos and our connection to past and future, for to return once more to T.S. Eliot:
‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past.’