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Jonathan ClarkI wish I could take you to Ottawa, where I was born and spent my childhood years.
Ottawa, Illinois, 1967
You could go there yourself, of course, by driving a few hours west out of Chicago. You would find the town much as it was fifty years ago, stretched sleepily across the arms of two rivers, the pretty Fox and slow-flowing Illinois. I imagine the summer sun still blazes over the startling-green corn, and the moonlit winter snows gleam as mysteriously through frost-painted windows. These things and many more you would see—but that is not what I want to show you.
I say I imagine these things, because Ottawa exists for me now not as a place but as a memory whose geography resonates distantly, when I think of it at all. I have returned there, in later years, and recognized little, as a stranger puzzling out unfamiliar territory. Yet how can I deny the imprint of those low rolling hills, the distant horizons and languorous days stretching endlessly; the smell of the earth or the sight of a frog’s golden eye reflecting the infinite arc of the universe? How can I reveal that interior landscape, which even for me has faded into shadow?
I cannot take you there. I can only show you these photographs.
From the preface to the book "Ottawa, Illinois, 1967"