“Cicely” contains the origin story for Northern Exposure’s backdrop Alaskan town, Cicely, and involves a hundred-year-old legend of ladies Roslyn and Cicely, partners, setting out to make a utopia for their dreams of freedom, art and self-expression. This delightful and convoluted story won Director’s and Peabody awards in its day, but one scene stood out to me.
After a hard winter, Cicely takes ill. Roslyn, her lover, distraught, begins blaming herself for risking Cicely's life for the sake of her own dreams of an art utopia in Alaska.
In a frontier bar with friends Franz and Mary, sour and woozy, Roslyn laments,
“If you were in a burning house, and there was a cat and a Rembrandt, what would you save? The cat. You would save the cat, because the cat is alive. Art is dead, it is just paint on a canvas, ink on a page. To live for art is to deny life. It destroys life.”
Franz: “She is right!”
Mary: “No. No Franz. Without art, the cat does not live. Without art we cannot speak of the cat. We cannot know the cat. We cannot see the cat. Without art, there is no cat.”
This exchange placed me directly on the knife’s edge of my beliefs. Do we pursue art through the world or the world through art? I guess I have done both, but at different times. Looking through the lens, which direction is real? Or, are they both real, or both not real? What is a cat but our thoughts make it so.
How about you? This seems like a conversation for late at night, but if you too are up late at night, I would love to hear your take.
Write if you see beauty,