Sometimes you have to go away

Sometimes you have to go away to learn something about yourself. You have to overhear a conversation between two strangers who are sitting behind you speaking English at dusk in an Italian town by the sea. You have to resist the urge to turn your head as the man asks the woman if she knows what the true definition of indecisive is. You have to take a bite of your gnocchi, pretending to be consumed by what is in front of you, and wait patiently until he answers his own question. You have to listen, even though you are trying to figure out what circumstances have prompted this conversation, when he says it’s fear of making a mistake. You have to listen over the clang of forks on plates when he says it’s ok to make a mistake. You have to listen as the world rearranges itself when he says make mistakes. You have to listen because you are not indecisive you are afraid of making a mistake.

 

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Bothness

Gone to Europe. And then back.

My father, a world traveler, said it’s so weird how a week after your trip you can sit where you are and think about where you were a week ago.

I get it from him. This fascination with bothness.

I am here but also swirling in me is there. Still so fresh.

Yesterday, a storm rolled in and a layer of ashen white clouds were curling and falling, like steam rising upside down, into the dark blue clouds below.

I can’t help but think how much that resembles our lives. The tiny, invisible swirling of the last book we read, the last person we encountered, the last feeling we had, with what came before it.

Amazing.

How flowing we are despite how settled we appear. Another kind of bothness.

Maybe the two pairs are bound together in some cosmic way. Before & after. Hidden & apparent. Do you think so?

On the beach in Sestri Levante I watched silhouettes of a boy with his mother throw rocks into the sea. I silently made wishes on the splashes. He would never know what he did. How he gifted a stranger a wish. How unknown we were to each other yet bound together by rocks at the bottom of the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Inspiration

Several years ago I watched In No Great Hurry, the documentary about the late photographer, Saul Leiter. It was one of the first things I remember being inspired by in my early adult years. At the time, I didn’t quite grasp what was happening, so I went about my late twenties and early thirties trying to get there. Like a cat chasing its tail I had to revisit the circle, always thinking I was just about there. I know now, it is not a body or a place. There is the roar of flow. Inspiration amidst the reminder that it is all happening. 

I was living in Milwaukee at the time. Miserable in my job. A stranger to myself, wondering why my motions – sitting in meetings, presenting my analyses, speaking words and shaking hands – felt mimicked. Like someone listening so intently that they mouth consonants or vowels back to the person speaking to them. Listening, like photography, is about choosing. What to keep in, what to keep out. Slowly, I learned to listen to inspiration. At a meeting once, as everyone around the table in their suits were talking about interest rates, I watched an invisible alchemist take my glass of water and the afternoon sunlight and turn it into the greatest show on earth.

“There are the things that are out in the open and then there are the things that are hidden, and life has more to do, the real world has more to do with what is hidden, maybe. You think?” Saul says In No Great Hurry. Yes, and his photography embodies this statement. His work is panoply. It’s wisps and blurs. It is the middle of something. No known beginning or end. It hovers. Scours at certainty, at anything that immediately comes to mind. It reminds you of it all, but mostly that we are perceivers. Which goes both ways. Perceivers and perceived.

The real world is also going to the doctor, and when she asks if anyone is trying to control or manipulate me, I say “my mother” half-jokingly and we both laugh. Because we would all be too lonely if it was only collages of colors and shapes and hidden faces. Perceived and perceiving, yes, but also making a way through the world everyday with a little less overcompensation. And to find each other, even for a brief moment, where it feels like nothing more needs to be said or done or thought, is also to scour at certainty. Because certainty is about you, not about connection. Certainty is saying I’ve arrived. Telling. Always telling. Never listening.

One of my favorite images of his is titled: Ana, New York, 1950’s. It’s a black and white portrait of a woman looking down, a shaft of light hitting the upper left side of her face. In this way, the light takes on a mask-like quality. Her left eye looks smaller, different than her right. The dark side of her face contains more details. You can’t really know from the image what she looks like. If you saw her somewhere else in full sun or deep shade or the hum of fluorescent lights, you would not know it was her. Same goes for many of the people in his photos. Faces are hidden, half-hidden, smudged by condensation, or reflected in a broken mirror. If there are visible expressions they usually are mysterious, searching. A consolation for those of us who don’t recognize ourselves at different angles, don’t recognize ourselves at all sometimes. Who search, and still feel fractured, uneven. A flicker of feeling understood, like laughing with a doctor you barely know, who for a split second gets it.

In this interview Saul often ends his sentences in questions. He verbally meanders. Stares off into space. Pauses, seemingly lost in his mind, leaving you teetering on a hope that the interviewer will check on him. But he comes back. Hands in the air. Red socks ablaze. Like the red umbrellas in his pictures. He is not caught up by interpretation. The why of his pictures. The layers of meaning others, like me, have imposed on his images. If he is certain and insistent about anything in this interview it’s that he wanted to get away from his father to follow what he liked. It’s this complicated purity that I’m drawn to and inspired by, like the blur of activity and colors in many of his photos, reduced to a level of abstraction. A question of how do you feel instead of what do you see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring

Is here!

Trees, with their moss green sheen. Wind, confusedly content with bringing cold pricks and subtle humidity. The viral energy of people outside.

From Perseus in the Wind by Freya Stark:

“Who does not feel pagan in the spring? That languor, when the first grass blade is folded so that it can hold a shadow; when lakes are soft, the color of mist and light; when the streams run transparent with liquid notes, their wavelets cold as snowdrops. Cats lie in the sun with the five toes of each paw stretched out, and sleep, like a slow serpent, moves up and down their spine. The notes of birds at evening drop like water falling in water; and the buds, especially beech, have a sharp and bitter smell. The earth is damp, sucking dead leaves down into the furnace of her year, working at growth in warmth and darkness. I hope old age will not deprive me of this repeated visitation of delight in which, with the whole of our planet, we turn ourselves in space towards the sun.”

 

sounds, weather, places, dreams

Awake to waves. Where am I?

In bed. Cars. Swishing. Not waves.

Time. What day is it?

April 15.

My trip is in two weeks.

I haven’t gone yet, despite my dream.

The second dream I’ve had about the trip.

Last night I was there, on my trip. Counting days.

Five nights left, I thought. More time. Please. More time.

The other dream, I can’t quite remember, except the sadness of thinking the trip was over. Too fast. Please. More time.

And now I have brewed coffee and am sitting on the couch. Awake, mostly.

A siren. Filaments of rain outside the window. Sip. Warmth. I think, these things all have their own time: sounds, weather, places, dreams.

This morning. Mourning. More.

Please. More time.