Here’s a wonderful candid portrait of my daughter Philomena holding my award-winning book surrounded by her friends in the famous 1158 train car that is parked in Lamy, New Mexico.
The Edward Curtis photographic print that hangs above our claw foot tub always manages to cast an inspirational spell over me every time I gaze at it. It's one of his most iconic images: a young Native American woman holding an oar in her right hand as she's standing along side her high walled canoe looking out at a body of water. That's the literal description anyway. For me, this historic photograph is a touchstone for the female lead character in my book, "The Imagination Warriors". I like to imbue the woman in the picture with a steely sense of courage and determination as she peers confidently into her future. She is on the precipice of a profound peregrination. The sense of adventure in the image is almost palpable to me. I want to pan Curtis's giant, heavy wooden camera to the left to see what the young woman is seeing. Is it an ocean or a lake? The vessel at her side will be her companion on her journey, just as she is a human vessel holding her precious wisdom, energy, youth and stamina.
I like beginnings. There is a fragile and excitable beauty in the newness of things. I envision Philomena, my nine year old girl character in my book, looking through the eyes of this young warrior woman, surveying the world of newness that awaits, pushing off into the vastness of the unknown.
The Mysterious Time Traveling Mr. Temporani.
My brother,David Romanelli's initial pencil sketch for the cover.
The original Philomena posing in Lamy, NM at age 11.
This is the original Daisy May circa 2003.
“In Romanelli’s debut children’s novel, a young New Yorker and a talking feline go on a spiritual adventure.
Daisy May is a special cat. Not only can she talk, but she also has the gift of precognition. But although she leads a comfortable life in New York City, she feels unfulfilled. When her owner’s
9-year-old granddaughter, Philomena, invites her to come to Lamy, New Mexico, to investigate a mystery, the cat decides to put her psychic powers to good use. Philomena is an adventurous, independent child whose paleontologist father is often away from home. She’s been keeping watch on a painting of a Native American man that hangs in a Lamy saloon, whose details—such as the number of teepees in the background—have been changing. She takes Daisy May to meet her artist friend, Noshi, whose latest work, an image of a Native American princess, has been similarly mutable. Daisy May, Philomena, and Noshi declare themselves to be “Imagination Warriors,” and they find that they’re able to use the power of thought to enter Noshi’s painting; inside, they find conduits to other pictures and paths to other places and times. But will they ever figure out what’s going on with the pictures, and make their way home? Romanelli portrays a world full of wonder and plays up the characters’ embrace of imagination. Daisy May and Philomena are full of inquisitiveness, not skepticism, which will appeal to a middle-grade audience. Romanelli effectively portrays imagination as a means for dealing with problems, such as loneliness or the feeling of being tied down by circumstance. By switching the narrative’s perspective to secondary characters—including Rama, a talking llama—the author shows how imagination can spread like ripples on a pond. The dialogue’s tone is formal, rather than naturalistic, but the story moves quickly as characters investigate the mystery, which is only partially resolved. Indeed, the book turns dark and ends rather chaotically, setting up a potential sequel. Even so, young readers will likely be happy to tag along. Sawyer’s (The Cupcake Book , 2014, etc.) full-color illustrations are suitably hazy and fantastical.
A curious, free-wheeling read for inquiring young minds.”
My 4 year old son just said this to me and it reminded me that I really need to write this stuff down before life's frenetic pace overwhelms everything truly important. "You Have to See With Goodly Eyes, Daddy", he said. I was struck by the absolute purity of it. Yes, of course you need "goodly eyes". Now having goodly eyes in a China classroom might get to sent to the head of school for a flagrant violation of school policy. You see, in some Chinese elementary schools that have been equipped with AI enabled surveillance, cameras are observing students expressions and if your face is doing something other than buried in the book da jour or some other accepted activity you're on notice to stop your antisocial behavior. Imagine if you are a 9 year old Chinese student and for a short period of time...and this doesn't take long, your mind wanders and contemplates something more that either the mandatory book you must read or the electro-luminescent tablet hard-wired to your brain and you get that , "goodly eyes" look on your face.
This student may be having an extraordinary epiphany. This student may be having a transcendent experience that is beyond the boundaries of sheep school under the all watching AI surveillance. China will eclipse the United States in rapid, breathless fashion, but they will kill something of essential, crucial importance. Keep those "goodly eyes" trained on the prize...and damn those AI surveillance cameras that don't have a clue about what's truly important.
I've begun to write Book Two of "The Imagination Warriors" and yet again the process is the "gift".
What do I mean? I started writing about a Japanese grandfather named Soichiro (I've taken the name of the esteemed founder of the Honda Motor Company, now deceased). In Book Two, he and his granddaughter Ayami are traveling a winding and foggy mountain road outside of Hiroshima, Japan.
I felt that I needed an element...some kind of entity that would move the story in strange and unexpected ways right there on that foggy damp mountain road I'd envisioned them driving on. I stayed open and receptive to my immediate surroundings and eventually the answer came. I know this sounds rather pseudo spiritual and maybe disingenuous, but seriously, two beautiful, elegant and ghostly deer wandered quietly into our large gravel parking lot at sunrise. I had my element. I stayed open to the world as it gifted me with an elegant solution. Sometimes I feel that there are "talismans" everywhere pointing the way for us and we are just to damn dense to see them and then acknowledge them for what they really are. Let's call it, "Receptive Creativity." I know it sounds a little precious, but that's really what it is: an ability to be receptive creatively to your world and what enters it. If indeed we are all organic hard drives of the highest order, with the quantum ability to move beyond predictable 1's and 0's, why can't we assimilate non-linear data...or as I like to call it, simply "Imagination."
The ghostly deer stood statue still in the middle of the fog bound mountain road and did not move at all as Ayami approached it. It seemed to disappear in and out of the fog. The deer speaks to the young Japanese girl about what is to come on their journey into the Bamboo Forest. The arrival of the deer propelled my story, which is still being formed, in magical ways.
Here's to Receptive Creativity.
I've been fortunate to have traveled to some far flung locations in the pursuit of my photography. Having read quite a number of Robert Heinlein's science fiction books, I've come to know and love the feeling of being a "Stranger in a Strange Land," Heinlein's seminal book about the first born human on Mars who returns to Earth and creates his own religion based on "water sharing." The specific feeling that I craved when I traveled was to feel as though I was an astronaut, awestruck in witness of an exceptionally foreign and exotic landscape that necessarily reordered your sense of scale and personal perspective. One of the places that fired that feeling for me in real life was The Pinnacles of Western Australia outside of Perth. These stark limestone spires randomly thrust out of the desert sands, so close to the Indian Ocean, like alien sentinels awaiting human contact. The combination of the arid desert, the kangaroos bounding about, and those silent and craggy monolithic spires created a theatrical sense of place for me that inspired me visually but also inspired my time-released interest in the artfully written word and its descriptive power. Another such place that affected me deeply was Uluru or as it was once known as, Ayer's Rock in the Red Center of The Australian Outback. A towering mountain of red rock that glows fire engine red at sunset, but at other times during the day would change chameleon-like with the prevailing meteorologic conditions. I stood spellbound by the image of clouds racing across its massive corrugated surface. I had the opportunity both times I visited this hunk of sacred rock to climb it to the top. I was a much younger man on both occasions and the climbs seemed relatively easy. Although it may not now be possible, I think I would value even more fully a climb to the top now at age 62 with all it's bittersweet implications. The sensation remembered then was that of being on a giant sailing ship overseeing an ocean of desert 1500 hundred feet below. These experiences have informed me and are signposts and touchstones that show the way to other extraordinary life experiences. They have also informed my writing.
We are rapidly entering an accelerated period of AI (Artificial Intelligence) research and roll out of new autonomous thinking devices such as self driving cars, etc. As we all know, this is only the beginning of this "Brave New World." The world's economies must come to terms with these emerging disruptive and intrusive technologies.
The process by which I wrote this book of imagination has been illuminating in so many ways for me. I was once told, "If you want steady employment anywhere in the world...become an engineer." I am not an engineer. I realize that this was sound advice, however. I have spent over 40 years framing life through a camera lens. I've been quite fortunate to have had an active and passionate interaction with the world through the medium of photography. I firmly believe that it's how I made sense of the world, carefully framing what I chose to see and discarding what was of less interest visually. This is a very ordered way of interpreting the world. I saw the world as a series of visual acquisitions to be assimilated and captured...And then I wrote a children's book. The ability to travel anywhere real or imagined and do anything I wanted with my characters, was intoxicating to me. I knew I was riding an undisciplined horse (this is my first attempt at writing a full length book) that could take me anywhere I wanted to imagine. Which brings me back to the I.D.D......Imagination Deficit Disorder. An active imagination is Freedom. An active imagination is the healthiest alternative to the fire hose spigot of digital media cramming "content" into your brain. Take some time. Take some time to dream. Allow thoughts and images to come to you...you may be amazed at the result. There would be no Avengers, Ironman, Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman, HAL 9000, Winnie the Pooh and Captain Hook et al. without someone imagining them. Go ahead and become an engineer if you choose but, I suspect AI will invade this profession of orderly and reasoned thought. Tell stories to your children....make them up on the spot while driving them to school. Make children's toys come alive with simply your imagination. I have enriched my life with my imagination. I have traveled through a " Continuum" of spectral bridges made of fine filaments that resemble spiderwebs. I've traveled through a "Soulscape" of illuminated symbols of immense size that represented long departed and influential human souls. I've jumped through paintings and time traveled with a psychic cat and a Renaissance artist who is 500 years old. I've created a painting of a young princess that has "animated" into a flesh and blood being.
Your imagination is vastly superior to the latest Photoshop software program. Your imagination sets you free to dream without borders and restrictions. I fear we are entering a time where, particularly children's imagination will wither in the face of the digital onslaught of convenient "content" readily available across so many entertainment platforms. Elon Musk may be a complicated man, but he dreams big. His imagination seems boundless and it's his engineers who are entrusted with his vision of the future as he wills it to be. Dream. Imagine. Great things can start with just one idea. Carve out some time to think, dream and imagine, knowing that it requires discipline just to be still. Don't judge yourself...just be with it and see what happens!
AI is here to stay and it will morph in predictable and unpredictable ways...not all benevolent.
Take the time to create your own Personal Intelligence...your Imagination Intelligence.