Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Variations on yesterday, with found text.

I waited with bated breath all morning, barely able to contain myself, refusing to shower lest I should miss the FedEx truck a second day running. At 12:25, the truck pulled up. By 12:29, my camera was back together and I was taking this picture:


(and no, that's not dust on my plant--it's worse than dust, actually, a little web being made by the same kind of insect that killed my jade plants at the officehouse). And by 12:30, I was doing a welcome-home dance for my newly functional camera.

I have to say: if you own a Digital Rebel XTi and you've had trouble with underexposure, you should call Canon and get your camera fixed. You will be glad for the two-week investment; you will, I hope, have customer service as prompt and friendly as I received. This repair cost me $15 in postage; I probably could have argued that they should send me a postage-paid label, had I thought of it in time. And now I can actually use my light meter.

I spent the rest of the day in a slight fog, joy at the camera's return vying with sorrows held over from yesterday. But other things proceed apace. The weather warms. There's much to be found.

For one thing, chalkboard leavings:


(I don't think I've ever seen a stick-figure Christ before.)

For another, inexplicable blacktop sketches:


And for yet another, early signs of the growth that's coming:


I think that these are our lilies (you can see them back there behind the hostas).

I have more finding to do before I can sleep, though not images this time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What we cannot keep.


On April 26, 1976, when I was thirteen days old, The New Yorker published Elizabeth Bishop's villanelle "One Art." She'd played with other titles for the poem: "How to Lose Things /? The Gift of Losing Things?" reads the top of her first draft. In that draft, she makes a chattier approach toward her reader than in the final poem: "I really / want to introduce myself - / I am such a fantastically good at losing things / I think everyone shd. profit from my experiences." Today I am thinking about how fantastically good I can be at losing things. And in part I'm thinking that through Bishop's poem--the final version (there were sixteen drafts). So, tonight you get a multigenre show. Think of it as my own private explication, only not fully private, because you're reading. And it seems like just about time I learned this poem by heart: my loss my gain. (I can be resourceful that way.)
The art of losing isn't hard to master:
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
At 12:45 this afternoon, sitting in a booth at the coffee shop with my flaming-sworded friend, I reached to fiddle with my right earring and found my earlobe empty. This morning, standing at my dresser, I had begun putting on a pair of jade earrings that belonged to my mother when she was a teenager. With one in, I changed my mind: rather than those dangles, I wanted my grandmother's faceted hoops, the ones that catch and cast light better than anything else I own. My mother brought those earrings back from Detroit with her after my grandmother's sudden death and funeral in 1994. They have been among my favorite pieces of jewelry ever since.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I am not a person who loses things for good. I am, in fact, a person who generally finds things for other people. St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things, lends a hand. Even before my friend and I had finished searching the coffeeshop, I had said a prayer to him. The good news: I had only been out of the house for two hours, and I had walked a limited round--first to the officehouse for a meeting whose subject was the very reason I had decided to wear the earrings that hold the most strength in them, then to the coffeeshop for lunch. A limited round. An assignment in close looking, in walking with downcast eyes, in retracing steps. In keeping my mind off of other things. In having a task.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
For the past week, my mind has been opening up more and more to what is exquisite about the prospect of reentering a traveling life. I can feel myself starting to detach ties, little by little, a couple at a time. Some things that should probably bother me more than they do are starting not to bother me at all. This afternoon, I realized that I have now conceptualized a little mental box in which can go all the things that I don't have to think or worry about, because (d.v.) I'll only be here for a few more months before (d.v.) I leave for nearly a year. It's like the box I kept during my final dissertation months, except that what I put in that box were all kinds of worries about whether or not my life would be meaningful. I couldn't worry about those things while I was trying to finish my project; they gave me something that felt like vertigo. I also couldn't think about the fact that almost immediately after I finished my dissertation, I had to move away from a house and a town I loved, to relocate and live and work among strangers. My dream life wouldn't let me forget these things, though; I repeatedly had elaborate, bizarre dreams wherein I (in the process of trying to figure out what I was doing with my life) would end up walking strange hallways in stranger houses, dressed in someone else's evening gown, searching for someone I knew. In one of these dreams, I was hired to seduce a foreign diplomat because I was the only person at my spy agency who spoke ancient Greek.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
When my mother was seventeen, she reluctantly agreed to go on a blind date with my father, who was eighteen. It was July. She had ironed her red hair, but it had frizzed up in the wind. She was learning to drive, and her friends picked her up at the driving school. My father was in the back seat of the car. Months earlier, she had lost a button from her chartreuse leather jacket. (That's how my mom rolls.) When she got into the car that July night, my father introduced himself and handed her the missing button. "Where did you get this?" she said. "My people are everywhere," he replied. She still has that button. I've seen it. She still has my father, too. Together, they've left three loved (or at least loved-in) houses (not counting the first one, which they only rented).
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

The day after I moved all of my possessions to Rochester and left them, still boxed, piled in the dining room of the house I would rent for the year, my boyfriend (just back from a sociology conference) broke up with me. Sitting on his couch, having expected to stay with him for the next five days or so, I watched the floor of my old life in Ithaca falling out from under me. It was at that moment that I realized how much home is where you have a key with which you can open a lock and go in without warning. My Clintonian batgirl friend gave me her key the next morning, and then I could stop feeling homeless. Over the year, I hurtled myself back to Ithaca frequently. Sometimes, on visits, I would spend most of my time not visiting people much. Instead I walked around, just being somewhere where I knew everything's place. I could never really explain my need to be alone when I came home for visits, and I know it hurt some feelings.
--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident

the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Today's not the first time in recent memory that I've lost a silver hoop. I have one pair of earrings that I wear day in and day out, unless I'm dressing for a special occasion or need (like today's). Last winter, I was on the phone one evening and reached to fiddle with my right earring, only to find that it was gone, fallen out while I'd visited the house of someone about whom I had a wrong idea. It took me until March 1 to get the earring back. When it returned to me, it was in an envelope, with no note, addressed to my departmental mailbox. I came in for work one morning, and there was my earring, waiting for me in the officehouse. That was the last straw, really, in a situation that had gone wrong. I never again saw the person who had finally returned my earring, but this was no disaster. This did not even look like disaster. It was good practice: I lost him farther, faster. I had not grown to love his voice, his gestures. I had not come to know his footfall, his foibles. He had no real place in my life to lose.

This one I've lost today: this one has place and meaning. Searching for that fallen earring took up hours of the afternoon, hours in which I walked that same limited round again and again, eyes to the ground, sometimes with other people (like a colleague who kindly took an unusual degree of care with me, insisting on accompanying me on my third search, or the people who got down on all fours and crawled around looking under tables with me). Sometimes I passed off what I was doing as a joke. "The key to all literature is somewhere in this mud," I explained to one student who found us peering into the muck our paths have become this week. Sometimes I felt the beginnings of fear that I really won't find the earring, that its small matter may have vanished forever. Master, disaster, master, disaster, master, disaster, master, disaster. An oscillation just like the poem's.

Mostly I wasn't lying when I told people that I feel remarkably calm about what I may have lost for good.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ring around the moon.


I'm still feeling a little rocked by having read all of John Milton's Paradise Lost (1674) between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. yesterday. It's an extraordinary experience, making it possible to sense patterns and movements in a way that shorter sittings simply don't allow. But it makes a day go by, to be sure, to hear angels fall, demons revolt, the world get created, Adam and Eve get tempted, the future of the world get presented to them before they're expelled from Eden. I'll pipe up with more things to say tomorrow, I suspect. For now:

I think that this poem is gorgeous and somehow so, so sad.

After a lovely dinner with a student tonight, I walked outside and saw a half-sky-wide ring around the waxing moon. Oh, moon, I said to the moon as I crossed the street and picked my way through the thick mud, back to the officehouse. Oh, moon. We go way back, the moon and I. Some things, in their constant changing, never change at all. And some of us are tidal creatures to the core.

Goodnight noises everywhere.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

If there was a bullet, yo, we'll dodge it?

Is that the joke you meant?

Certainly not, though it seems (touch wood) to be what happened. Thank goodness I was up late, or I'd have missed the whole thing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

[Cue Vanilla Ice joke now.]


The three words "Ice Storm Warning" tell you all you need to know about how things are here right now. Falling ice is a strange thing, because one might almost think it rain--until discovering how it's making the world over again in its own image, building carapaces on everything that doesn't move. I was in the darkroom when it started. I emerged to the sound of drumming on the art barn's roof, slipped home through the slickening streets. I've told you before how fragile our power grid is. If we don't lose power overnight, I will be stunned (and grateful: early tomorrow morning, I join in my fourth marathon reading of Paradise Lost, and I'm determined to stick it out for the whole thing this time).

Shocked by my having forgotten to bring home any images for you, after all those hours of making pictures appear on paper, I stepped outside the house to see whether I could catch any of this storm. I'm now even more shocked. There was no time to set up these shots; the ice is falling too hard, and it's so cold out there. I'll tell you: I am not one to get hysterical about the weather (unless there's a tornado warning). But ice storms freak me out. Something about them seems just not right: rain that can't quite keep falling, snow that can't quite freeze up enough. It's a virulently sad kind of storm (says the relentless anthropomorphosist). It's like the kind of sadness that doesn't let up until its accumulated weight is suddenly so great that everything everywhere starts to collapse. (Or like anger. I thought anger first, but it seems too slow and self-terrified to be anger.)

I'm thinking of tonight's images as two views of impending disaster.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pangs.


Later, I will mark this week as when spring's thaws and heartbreaks began--all those ephemeralities, all those tiny swift-going graces, all those raised hopes, all those moments of waiting, of learning again the movements of warmth. After weeks of bonechill and snowthreat, after a week in particular of slow motion and stranding (and awe and carnival, to be sure), the weather this week lightened and seemed to love us, at least during the day. Nights, though, have remained treacherous, have revealed what keeps on lurking even when the sun makes every living thing around unhunch just a bit. On Tuesday, black ice slithered out from the snowbanks and across the roads in no predictable pattern; on Wednesday, that snow fog made its encore appearance. Last night, it was just cold again, bitter cold, though the moon and the stars were visible once more.

This morning, I discovered what all of these careenings, all these thermometric ups and downs, have done to our snow cover. For the first time (that I can remember, anyway) since 1994, the snow has frozen solid, strong enough to bear my weight. Of all the people I know who are bearing heavy things right now, I'm perhaps the lightest and most fleet, but it still came as something of a relief, in the morning's early hours, to step onto the snow expecting to sink and instead to find myself skimming over a solidity.

There are tricks involved in not breaking through this new crust of refrozen thaw.

One of the tricks is that the tricks don't always work. Even the most careful and confident stepping, the most steady forward motion, doesn't keep the foot from breaking through the ice occasionally, leaving craters and tiny upshot bergs across our strange sublunar world.

But you have your best chance if you keep moving. (As I wrote down on a scrap of paper that's now a bookmark in a book that gave me my day's greatest revelation today, "Once you're in motion you must stay in motion. / That's the trick. / That's one trick, anyway." Elementary physics, badly torqued and impossible to keep track of.) Swiftly, lightly, as evenly as possible. Not too heavy on the toe. Not too heavy on the heel. Flat, forward-looking, a nonstop going on.

As you proceed, your feet gone small though they carry you like snowshoes, you might find yourself wanting to turn back, to see if anyone hesitates on the edge of the yard's blank. You might want to discover anyone who might need your beckoning. Don't. Don't stop; don't look back. If they're still waiting, it's because they need time, or because they can't yet want this feeling of skating where there is no body of water, or of having no body where the changeful water has played all week under the sun and moon, melting and freezing and melting and freezing, growing surer and stronger each time. Slide forward over the brilliance in the day; slide forward under the blueness of the night. Those who are meant to be there when you've crossed that expanse will push off in the time of their own sweetnesses.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Word.


On my way to photography class, I pass this window that reads "WORD." Inside. As in: if I were inside, learning to throw pots and cups, getting them ready to rest on the sill, I would see the word WORD against the world. The world's overlay, and the woods' overlay, too. A stencilled word become its own stencil, its own template for seeing. The word the vessel, I keep refraining. These words: vessels, clay pots, small assemblage of tenacious fragilities. The word the vessel. What vessel, what. What. I see this window every time I pass to the art building, where I work largely without words, continuing to learn a language of filters and timing and light-tricks. On my way home through the rain (?!) the other afternoon, I finally stopped to take a picture of this window. This afternoon, carrying the 35mm, I climbed up and over and through the snow to get much closer; I haven't yet developed that film. I spent the afternoon making trees appear on paper, trees under what looks like water in the safelight, trees and fences and then weedy fields in snow. With only a second more here, or an extra channeling of light over there, new details reveal themselves. Each negative holds the world in miniature, each grain of silver another shard of possible revelation.

I start to think that this weekend will be a time for mucking out. I'm staggered by how quickly clutter and refuse build in and around me.

Tonight it was still light even at 6:30. Night shots are hard, but I did my best for you, through the dirty window. The colors were too gorgeous not to try.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Elemental days.


To my strange chagrin, it wasn't until I dropped in to see my poet friend today and found his forehead crossed in ash that I remembered today was Ash Wednesday. I have been thinking about Ash Wednesday this week, but my own struggling and sputtering, and then my own gathering with others in various cheeriness, blocked it once the day actually got started.

One might say that I have a difficult relationship with religion. I grew up Catholic, with a Catholic mother and a father imbued with Christian beliefs and non-ritual Christian practice (which is to say: he is the person from whom I learned to treat other people and the world with dignity and respect--in my daily life, not just in my words). I went through the sacraments one by one until I hit confirmation, at which point I broke off from the church's structures with no small degree of indignation. I resumed church-going for a couple of years in college. And then I trailed off again in graduate school, on principle again this time.

I am intensely skeptical of superficial performances of piety, though I have deep respect for genuine social/public performances of piety. Because I don't believe I can always tell the difference between these, I try to give people a wide berth with regards to their faith or lack thereof--not as a gesture of "tolerance," a word that gets too much play in our culture, but as a recognition that if I believe that I can't apprehend the right way, then I also can't believe that others' ways are necessarily wrong. I draw the line at practices that hurt and deform others. I am still shocked when people tell me they're atheists. But my own beliefs center around a series of questions that I keep asking, because I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to rest in answers without feeling overly prideful. That is: I keep my eyes open. I try to keep asking questions with humility. I honestly don't know how well I do. Since finishing graduate school and moving into zones of greater, deeper solitude--it's funny to me how that happened right after graduate school: that year in Rochester really changed the way I relate to people on a daily basis--I have spent an increasing amount of time running a conversation with whatever higher power is out there. Lately, I've been performing a litany of "why?"s. My other refrain right now is "I don't understand." And my third might be "Please." I've entered a particularly inchoate part of this running conversation, you see.

Seeing my friend's forehead this afternoon made me remember what moved me most at the penultimate Ash Wednesday mass I attended, back in 1995. That semester, I was studying medieval literature in an independent study with a professor whom I got to know quite well. He had a daughter who was, at that time, ten. When I stepped up to be told, "Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return," somehow his daughter was right beside me; there were two lines taking turns being marked by our celebrant. The thought of myself as dust returning to dust didn't haunt me; the thought of this ten-year-old girl, and her vibrant, brilliant father, as mortal sure did.

It's possible that remembering my dusty origin and telos--having been reminded viscerally by ash, though no thumb has traced my own forehead with this mortal sign in nine years--is in fact coming as one of the answers to my litany of questions and pleadings this week. When I'm offered a sign, as you may know by now, I respond in kind. I am officially in a season of change, of cycle and transition. Get on with it, comes the voice that sometimes talks back when I talk. You don't have all day. The one sure thing is that you're going back to the ground, and you don't know when, not at all, just not at all. So get on with it. Live your time.

Today, for the latest in several days' running, the trees trace a new dimension with their reflections in the snow puddles on the road. Today the puddles rippled in the breeze; at 2 p.m., the scene was monochrome. (This particular picture is from some days ago.)

Tonight, for the second night running, we have snow fog ("light freezing fog," the weather report calls it; last night, it became ribbons and sheets of black ice all over the walks and the roads between the officehouse and home, and I was lucky to have my department's lovely custodian here to make sure that I didn't go down the curvy blacktopped hill, the way of broken ankles or worse). The campus starts to blur the way the world blurs when I take off my glasses, or the way it blurred when I was eight and took off the first glasses I had, way back before I was nearly functionless without glasses. This kind of fog, with its cold, cold seep, makes me think of immateriality, of disappearance, of how, if I had my own personal fog, or if we lived in fog all the time, I would follow my loved ones at near distance, watching them, trying to watch over them, trying to imagine their thoughts. In the dissolution of foggy darkness, how invisibly, how unabashedly could I love.

How little would turn out to have changed at all.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cold, cold tiding.


I have always thought that the human heart is a little like the ocean, subject to tides, that joy rises in it in a steady flow, singing of waves, good fortune, and bliss; but afterward, when the high sea withdraws, it leaves an utter desolation in our sight. So it was with me that day.

-- Gabrielle Roy, "The Move"
The Road Past Altamont (1966)

***

My camera made it to Flushing, presumably safely. One step down.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Whitman's butterfly.


This piece, part of the Library of Congress's Walt Whitman collections, is the best thing I've found all day, hands down. You may recognize this butterfly from such productions as this photograph of Whitman


of which the Library of Congress's website notes:
[Alice] Birney said a famous 1880 photograph portrayed Whitman, with long gray beard and broad-brimmed hat, seated with a butterfly on an outstretched finger. Scholars concluded that the butterfly in the photo was in fact the cardboard model found among Whitman's papers after his death in 1892. Ever the self-promoter, Birney said, Whitman liked to convey an image of himself as one-with-nature.
(I know that there are those among you who will be delighted to learn of the fauxness of this natural pose.)

I live for this stuff. For next year, I want to find an archive where I can just say, "Bring me your coolness, and I shall write about it."


source for tonight's images: "Poet at Work: Walt Whitman Notebooks 1850s-1860s," at the Library of Congress's American Memory website.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A pause.


We are suffering a sorrow here, so I trust you will forgive my quiet for today. This student was not one of mine, was not even one I'd met, but some of my closest have been on the frontlines all weekend. In a place this small, each loss reaches a long way, and this one was so utterly random as to have shaken us all.


(I will say: if you haven't read Gabrielle Roy or Brigit Pegeen Kelly, I more than recommend them. I am deep into their grievings and their fiercenesses today, feeling my way through what has happened, asking that my own loved ones be kept safe from awful suddennesses, wanting some way to keep everyone safe, knowing that no such thing is allowed.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The promised story.


Back in December, on day two of the Academic Mayhem, I shouldered my new camera, left the interview suite where I'd been working all morning, and headed out to buy some lunch and take some pictures.

Longtime readers may recall my trip to Ottawa in April, when I wanted very badly to take pictures inspired by Ttractor but instead kept gravitating toward more of what I see in Gambier: lots of sky, lots of flowers, lots of still life nature stuff. That weekend yielded perhaps my first realization that I find and make pictures with a specific kind of visual sense--that even cities look different to me, because of what I look at all the time, than they do to her (and others). And: there's room for all of us in the world of picture-making! Sometimes I'm stunned to realize that these things that now seem so intuitive came in as such startles (small and great) over the course of last year.

I was so excited to keep trying out the new camera in Philadelphia, and I had a two-hour lunch in which to wander around seeing what I could see. Just down the street from the pho restaurant where I had lunch was a film development lab whose name translated to Pretty Photo. That seemed an auspicious sign (ha! haha!), so it was the first picture I tried to get after my colleague and I parted ways when lunch was over.

But when I put the camera to my eye, I had the same experience I'd had over and over already in the three weeks since I'd purchased it. My light meter told me that my settings were right on; my picture told me that I needed a vastly longer exposure. My pictures from that afternoon are full of missteps and do-overs. (With the graffitied wall on this writing, for instance, I needed more attempts than I'd like to talk about, just to get the veil of darkness off the picture. And with the Pretty Photo picture I posted yesterday, I never did get a properly lighted shot; yesterday's is so comic-book-colored because of the swift-moving job I did on the original image with Aperture last night. I love it, but it's a lot flatter and more garish than what I saw in Philadelphia.)

Now, normally, I'm a fast learner, and, as the daughter of a technophile father, I'm not someone who has difficulty figuring out how new pieces of technology operate. The whole point of getting the new camera was that I wanted to wean myself from the point-and-shoot's assistance: I wanted to compose my own images not just by framing them but also by determining their depth of field and lighting. But instead I found myself backsliding all over the place, and I assumed that it was all me and my incomplete understanding of things like how to meter light in order to get a proper exposure. (This is no small task, to be sure.) It was particularly frustrating because I'd bought the new camera in order to capitalize on and then push farther what I'd figured out how to see with the point-and-shoot. I didn't want to feel like a big dummy--who wants to feel like a big dummy?--but I did, repeatedly. One can change a digital photograph's exposure with a good imaging program, but I hadn't expected to leave behind the days of getting the picture I wanted as readily as I had been for months with the little camera.

If you've been reading for the past couple of months, you know that I've been struggling with no small degree of frustration and self-doubt over my photographic skills, almost all as a result of this exposure problem. Here's your little photographic lesson of the day, in case you don't know this stuff: there are a couple of ways to control exposure time, or the amount of light that gets through to your film (or, with a digital camera, the sensor that sends data to your memory card). One is to change the aperture of your lens; if you ever hold a camera lens in your hand without the camera attached and then change the f-stop, you'll see the aperture inside the lens getting smaller or bigger, much as your eye's pupil gets bigger or smaller to let in more or less light. The other way to change exposure time is to slow down the camera's shutter. In very bright light, or with very fast motion, you might want a camera to open its shutter for only 1/3200 of a second or something just about that infinitesimal. At about 1/60 of a second, you start increasing your chances that your body's own motion will blur what you're catching with the camera. My camera can, if I want it to, keep its shutter open for 30 seconds--or even longer, if I use the "bulb" setting and keep my finger on the shutter button. For anything even near a second, much less multiple seconds, you should have a tripod or monopod, unless you're going for some deliberately blurred effects.

Thus endeth your lesson.

In order to get a shot with anything like proper lighting, I've been shooting almost entirely on the camera's largest aperture (f 5.6 or even f 4) and slowing my shutter speeds down to 1/30 of a second or slower in most of our wintry light. These slowed-down shutter speeds have, in turn, meant that I've had an unnecessarily high amount of camera blur, simply because each slowdown has made it so much harder not to register the movement of my cold and shaky hands. And I haven't been able to use anything but the camera's manual mode, because the camera's own sense of proper lighting is so wrong that when I've let it participate at all, it's screwed everything up, effectively dropping a dark veil across my images.

Now, Thursday night, as part of another development (as it were), I was looking at something photography-related on the web and came across a discussion forum at which I'd looked briefly in December, just after getting the camera. On this forum, people had complained about having underexposure problems with their cameras--which were the same model as mine. I haven't thought to check that forum again since then, but on Thursday the top post was about how the camera's manufacturer had fixed someone's camera so that it no longer had an underexposure problem.

Suddenly the world grew just that little bit clearer.

I called the company yesterday, verified that I, too, have had this problem, and received prompt and polite instructions about how to pack the camera and send it to Flushing, NY, for repairs. From the discussion board, I've gathered that lots of these cameras require recalibration of their light sensors. And when they return from their repair centers, they work the way they're supposed to.

Despite the fact that the camera has been making me disappointed and (unnecessarily) angry at myself for months, as I wrapped it in its bubble wrap and packed it in its styrofoam peanuts yesterday afternoon, I found myself regretting having to part with one of my chief creative tools, a thing that has been my near-constant companion since early December. It was not unlike saying goodbye to the PowerBook after October's great coffee disaster. And when I picked up the point-and-shoot and took some pictures of the icicles outside my office, I felt as though I'd gone back to a pretty retro technology--so small a camera! so tiny a viewfinder! so little information anywhere! All of which are further lessons in how swiftly we acclimate to new things, I suppose. (Also in just how technologized my life is, something that is not really a surprise to the girl who's been at a computer keyboard, or in a pair of headphones, or behind a camera, for the last 24 years.)

When the camera comes back, you all will be among the first to know. You may just feel the jubilation radiating out from mid-Ohio. But you'll certainly see the pictures, too--if (deo volante) all goes well and the light sensor actually works upon its return. I'm so hopeful about being able to get pretty photos, and about no longer having to fight against the camera itself in order to achieve my images at all.

(In the meantime, that enigmatic wall wants you to make up a text for it. Can't you see that? Its impassive waiting is merely a front; it's secretly yearning for your words, whether they're narrative or not. A dear friend has suggested that the dead bird symbolizes the nihilistic onrush of the nouveau bourgeois. I'm not so sure; I tend to doubt symbolism, as a signifying practice.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yeah, yeah, I know.


Though it's not nearly enough, this will have to suffice for tonight. I'll tell you the story tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Have I told you lately...


... how much I want to be an artist when I grow up? How fiercely I want to earn that name? It's true. It might be the most true thing in my life right now.


Thank goodness for second-story windows (and good friends who don't mind your opening those windows for a closer look, even on a frigidifying evening), when the ice is this dashing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This question of hearts.


No one has ever been able to explain to me my heart's strange fidelities. It's almost shocking how predictable I am--how liable to yearn for the same person for years, actual years, on end. This pattern is more than twenty years old: I'm at nearly a quarter-century of landing myself on islands where I know I will remain alone, and then casting out meticulously, lovingly crafted missives to the one person (at any given time) whom I imagine might someday be enticed to join in on that solitude.

Rather than even try to imagine how I got myself into this state, I'll tell another story about snow days. This one is also a Valentine's story.

Later in fourth grade--as in, a couple of months after the winter party / tobogganing / kidney failure week about which I wrote yesterday--a heavy snowstorm set in over southern Indiana. "The weather is always worst around Valentine's day," my mother said as we watched the snow fall; my Polish great-grandmother, font of so much of my family's wisdom, had told my mother this in her youth. The next morning, school was cancelled. It would go on to be cancelled for a whole week.

This situation gave me all the time I could want to craft handmade valentines for everyone in my class.

Before the snow set in, my mother had brought home a pile of hot pink paper. It was better than construction paper: better raw materials, better texture, heavier stock. She had a pile of paper doilies that she didn't need anymore. I turned our round game table--the same table my brother is now trying to figure out where to put in his new home in Tennessee--into my valentine laboratory, cutting hot pink heart after hot pink heart. I cut only the very edges off of the paper doilies. I glued these edges to the edges of all the hot pink hearts. This process took me days and days. My brother would join me sometimes, watching the Nickelodeon shows he loved in the early afternoons, or watching "You Can't Do That on Television" and "Out of Control" with me while I took a break from my meticulousness. I suspect that sometimes he was just pursuing his favorite pastimes while I worked, running his Hot Wheels cars around on the other side of the table, or under it. We probably built Lincoln Logs cabins sometimes. I know that my mother quilted in the other room, or pieced new tops in the family room with us, most of this time.

The snow days piled up just as the snow had. We came to assume that we would not be back in school the next day. It's possible that the school corporation even called off the whole week at some point, rather than leave everyone in suspense. The problem for that school corporation--as for so many rural corporations--stemmed from the twinned facts that the county didn't have much snow removal equipment (or know-how about how to use it) but did have an inordinately large number of gravel and/or hilly and/or remote backroads, from which students could not be gotten by means of school bus if the weather were rough. For this same reason, two school-age children were able to stop by my house twenty minutes ago to ask whether I want my walk shoveled. School buses are not making their ways around our Knox County farm roads today. The weather is always worst around Valentine's day, see.

At some point in my valentine-making extravaganza, I decided to craft a particularly lovely heart for the neighbor with whom I had gone tobogganing two months earlier. Need I say that we had barely talked since then? Need I say that I had continued being hopeful that I would find the small gesture that would make him realize how fond I was of him and in turn how fond he was of me? Need I say how strange it is, even to me, to think back on the fact that I was doing all of this before I even turned nine? For I know I'm not projecting all of this emotion back onto my eight-year-old self. I can remember clearly the secrecy and shyness with which I worked on this person's card. I can remember trying out message after message, hoping to get the secret admirer schtick right. (What I don't remember is grasping how transparent my "secrecy" would be. But surely I must have known. Surely no secret admirer ever really wants to remain secret; it's the greatest open secret gig in the world, being the anonymous epistler.) Because she sews, and particularly because she had made my dolls exquisite clothes, my mother had troves of lace and lovely edgings; I chose a cloth lace that nearly matched the paper doily-edges I had been using for everyone else's more-pedestrian valentines. I glued it carefully to the edges of the larger, more voluptuously cut heart I had made for this person. When it was all finished, I tried to put it somewhere casual in the orange-and-brown shirtbox in which I was storing all of my valentines, awaiting the day we'd finally go back to school. But I was, of course, in no way casual about giving him the valentine.

I have no memory of what I wrote to him. I also, blissfully, have no memory of how I responded when he didn't acknowledge the card. It's possible that he didn't even give me a valentine.

Somehow, over the years, my feeling for this person faded, though it was by no means an immediate fading. I do imagine that the obscene and excruciatingly embarrassing song he sang on the school bus, on the day in fifth grade when we had our first girls-only/boys-only lessons in reproductive health and hygiene, probably helped cool whatever small ardor I had continued broadcasting in his direction, though I suspect that there really wasn't much left by that point.

Now, the morals of stories--the argument of the narrative arc or the lyric progression or the martialed evidence--are not my strong suit. An advisor of mine in graduate school once tried to explain this to me by means of a very convoluted version of the "can't see the forest for the trees" adage--only he got so wrapped up in elaborating on how wonderful I made the trees look that he himself couldn't really get to his main point. And so it is that I find myself not sure what to do with this story I've just told you--what to do with it for you, I mean.

I have some choices: I could play it for sympathy, ask you to feel bad for me and my possibly doomed heart once more. But I've made that request of you lots of times, and you've always obliged me with reassurance.

I could reach from it to some sort of understanding of the continuing strangeness of my affective life, and yet I haven't been feeling much as though I would want to do anything about that strangeness just yet, even if I did understand why I've nearly always been this way. What would it mean to leave behind one of my ways of being? I can't help but feel as though it would be much like trying to grow my hair long again. I used to do this every couple of years, and it would get longer and longer, but then it would just start getting bigger and bigger but not longer and longer anymore. The last time I cut it short, nearly seven years ago, I swore that I would never wear it long again: that's a kind of romance for which I'm just not equipped.

I'm sure I have other options, but I'm tiring myself by even listing them. So instead, I think I'll take this moment just to bow out of my narrative altogether and go start my Valentine's day. The sun is out here, and I can see how last night's freezing rain made snow mesas out of the accumulation on most surfaces in my backyard. The weather is meant to be excruciatingly cold again now, and while our winter storm warning has expired, we're now under a blowing/drifting snow advisory. I will, I think, have ashed goat cheese on toasted Italian boule for lunch, after I read some Tolstoy. I will sing myself a valentine through the whole day. One of its verses will be about you. I hope you know who you are, every one of you, and what gratitude I'll scatter through your lines.

Happy Valentine's Day, especially if your weather is worst today.

(And a postscript: if your weather is worst, in any physical or metaphorical sense of the term, laugh yourself silly here. But be forewarned: you might laugh so hard that you lose part, if not all, of your ass. Be careful.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What a density of quiet.


When I peeked out the bedroom window this morning, my first thought was, "It really happened!" Somehow--perhaps because I am a Hoosier by dint of longest residency, if not by birth--I always think that snowstorms are going to be less rough than they're predicted to be. I half expected the forecasts to turn out to be not much besides hysteria. But instead, there was the snow, swiftly and silently filling in all those gaps in my yard's old snow, vanishing the animal tracks, covering over my footsteps to the front door. By the time I left the house a couple of hours later, the world was a smoothed white once more. (For comparison's sake, I'm giving you the fire hydrant you saw on Sunday.)

Things (including my critique) started being cancelled by early afternoon. Sometime around mid-afternoon, the quiet of the snow's fall gave way to the steady hiss of falling ice. It was at about this time that I decided to walk to the post office and perhaps even take some pictures. In pursuit of this garage, I walked off the edge of the road, onto a college lawn, only to find--as I nearly fell into the snow--that the edge of the road wasn't where I thought it was and that the snow was far deeper than I thought. I remain thankful, as ever, for my yellow rainboots.


Making my way home through the snow, I thought about my favorite snow days. I don't remember school's having been cancelled because of snow when we lived in Buffalo. It may have been, but those occasions didn't stick with me. Not long after we moved to southern Indiana, though, my mother and I went down to the end of our long gravel driveway so that I could catch the school bus. We stood and waited and waited and waited. It had snowed two or three inches overnight; it didn't even cross our minds that such a snowfall could occasion a school closing. But then a woman pulled up in her car and asked whether we were waiting for the school bus. As indeed we were. She filled us in, and we headed back up to the house.

The single best thing about that house, in the winter, was its driveway, a quarter-mile stretch of gravel that curved up a hill. My brother and I became masters of our red plastic sled (the same sled I once lost for two weeks under a swift and sudden snowfall in Buffalo) on that hill. Our favorite trick was to lie on our stomachs--me on the sled, my brother on my back--and to sled head-first down the driveway. We always sledded in the ruts where our parents' cars had cleared out the gravel, since the friction was less extreme on the less graveled parts of the driveway. We knew how to steer around the curves, how to keep going down the entire driveway until we reached the level straightaway that stretched out for a small distance before meeting the road. We even knew just when to turn the sled aside if we wanted to hit the patch of grass that formed a mini-yard in front of our woods, down by the road. (As I write, that grassy space comes back to my mind, as do the streams that bordered it. That small lawn filled with violets in the spring. We scavenged for crayfish and minnows and fine stones in that stream, which had exceptionally good sand formations in the spring and summer.)

Most of our snow days in that town run together in my mind, but I recall one in fourth grade particularly well. Our neighbors across the street (which, given the lay of that rural landscape, meant our neighbors a half-mile away) had a son who sat near me in class. As is my way, I became smitten with him early in the year and, with absolutely no encouragement, remained so for most of the year. His parents had had a sledding party for their kids one night--and a fabulous party that was; they had a pond in their backyard, and it was frozen solid, so we spent the evening sledding down a small rise and sliding out onto the ice. The next day, we didn't have school. My classmate and I somehow decided to go out tobogganing together, along with my younger brother and another person from our class. And somehow our parents let us head off into the afternoon, we three eight-year-old children (and my five-year-old brother). We walked through neighborhood streets until we reached the elementary school, and we tobogganed there for hours before walking home. My mother packed a bag of those miniature Hershey's bars so that we'd have chocolate if we wanted a snack. By the time we reached home, we were mightily tired and probably not a little snow-wet. I imagine that my mother made us hot chocolate, as she generally did when we'd been out getting wet and cold.

The next day, my classmate (not the one who lived across the street; the other one) went into the hospital with kidney failure. To this day, I find myself wondering whether our sledding expedition contributed to his illness. He got better and, as far as I know, is still around somewhere, though I haven't seen him since junior high.


And then there was the snow day that wasn't one. I stayed in Ithaca for Christmas in 2002, because of the impending Academic Mayhem, which was in New York City that year. It had seemed like a silly idea to go further away from the Mayhem's location, only to fly back. (As it turned out, it didn't really matter that I was there, anyway.) And so I took the bus from Ithaca to Manhattan on December 27. Which left my first Christmas away from home.

By the opening of December 25, snow began to fall. By 2 a.m., it was falling hard. My dear Chicagoan friends stopped by the house on their way home from taking care of someone's pets, and we decided to get our Christmas morning meal from the 24-hour Shortstop Deli down the road. And so we did, stumbling out into the thickening snow and then stumbling back with our enormous subs. Sometime around 3 a.m., one of us said, "Look how adult we are." We started to talk about alternate families, the families we adopt along our ways through life. I did feel very familial and warm. I also missed my parents and brother more than I let on. By daybreak, the snow was still falling. By the time I strolled out (in my yellow rainboots) to some friends' house for a Christmas dinner of vegetable pie by candlelight, so much snow had fallen, and so few people were out and about, that it was far easier for me to walk down the middle of the street, bearing a plate of the brownies with raisins and walnuts I'd made with my new Kitchenaid stand mixer (a gift from my parents, who were also missing me and wanted me to know that they were thinking about how I usually make Christmas pancakes in their Kitchenaid mixer).

As I write this story, I find myself wondering how it is that I had the ingredients for brownies in the house. I hadn't known I was getting the mixer; there would have been no reason for me to have those ingredients lying around. I must have planned to make brownies at some earlier point that month (or that year) and just not have gotten around to it. I'm sure that I made the brownies that day, because I then carried many of them off to the Mayhem, feeding them to anyone who needed chocolate or just attention.


Others, others come to mind. You don't need to hear about them, and I suspect I'll write more about snow days tomorrow, since today brought back to my mind what my mother taught me about weather when I was little: it always gets worst right around Valentine's Day. For now, know how dense our snow is tonight, packed down by the sleet that fell for nearly seven hours. And how quiet the village.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Zum ablassen des gases.


A big storm is stalking my state. I had no idea until my flaming-sword-wielding friend e-mailed to ask whether she can stay in Gambier tomorrow night rather than forge home through the snow. The snow? The snow. I looked it up. There's a big streak of storm coming our way.

This morning, then, I had special reason to realize that I was running low on food again. I brewed myself a little pot of espresso and started making plans, and those plans grew and grew. The basics--bread, milk, and toilet paper--became an Italian boule with three kinds of European jam (blackcurrant and raspberry from Switzerland; cherry from France), two half-gallons of milk, a massive pack of toilet paper. Once I was on that roll, and once I discovered that the whole county had not yet flocked desperately to the store, the going was easy: bottles of pomegranate juice, cheese in ash, Italian fontina (the finest of fontinas, and newly available in my grocery, which I now hate much less because of the fontina's new presence), so many yogurts, a bottle of cabernet and a bottle of pinot noir, a baguette, new sponges for washing dishes, pizzas, energy bars, three kinds of tea. Instant coffee. Gourmet raviolis. Calciumized orange juice. Both kinds of Quils (day and ny) for the cold that afflicts me. So many, so so many boxes of Kleenex--real Kleenex--some with lotion for my sad nose. Ingredients for shrimp pasta. By the time I left the store I felt beatific.

This photography project, I tell you, is a major step for me: I can see how the dozen (or so) images I've printed could be improved; I can imagine the criticisms they might receive during my first critique tomorrow. But at some point last night, after everyone else had gone home, I hit a stride and realized that this project is meant to show what I've learned how to do. And look: twelve glossy images, each of which you longtime readers might recognize as one of mine, having come to know my visual style. There they all are, and they don't necessarily make a coherent narrative together--but neither do dreams (which, you may recall, we're meant to have explored through these first pictures).

I have a woman grasping a cardinal above her head, as though seizing it out of the air, and a net surprisingly drapes over her face like a veil. That's a detail I couldn't see until I came out of the darkroom at 4 a.m. I have a house that went all awry while my shutter was open in Cleveland yesterday (it's possible that we hit a pothole while I was taking the picture), and it needs to be dodged differently than I was able to manage last night before I lost patience. But it is the ghost of a house, its dormers crazily multiplied, and so I have put it into the project--simply because I love it. This is a thing I might not do if I were actually receiving a grade. It is a thing I might not have dared to do at 18 or 20. But at 30, I feel good, even better than good, about saying, "I just love this one. Look at how the roof shadowed itself."

I have a drive-by barn, which I took yesterday on my way to Cleveland with two lovely students who invited me to a dance concert and then took me there. As I took that one, I hit the window with the camera lens. I knew at that moment that I would love the picture, and I do, even though it has some weird, weird flaws.

I lay out the pictures and look over what I've made, what I now know how to do. I am so happy that I make new plans for the evening. Milky sugared tea. Two hot cookies. More Tolstoy.

There are towns in upstate New York with more than eight feet of snow on the ground. I thought 66" in one month was bad, the year I lived in Rochester--though even then I knew it wasn't as bad as it could be. I think it was that same year that Buffalo got eight feet in one day. Tomorrow, if things go as they're predicted to, we'll get about 10-12" over the day. A lot of it will fall during the afternoon, making me think of the time my Chicagoan friend and I went to two make-up seminars in a row on a December day in 1997 and emerged into a new near-foot of snow that had fallen in four hours. We'd seen it when we changed over from Smollett to Oliphant, but we'd had no idea how big things were getting. My neighbor made psychotic snow people and left them for me on the house's steps that night.

I might be too anticipatory to work at home tonight. I am in desperate need of a clock reset, a goad to sleep before dawn, after last night's printing binge.

In one of my many, many parallel lives, I am not only taking and printing pictures but am also showing them, and people are coming to see them and finding themselves stirred, changed. In that life, I have found my brilliant artist-partner. We take turns writing each other's wall captions, poems in verse of a sort no one has seen before.

Sometimes parallel lives become tangential ones. Or so I can hope.

I can barely believe that I haven't shown you this post's photograph yet. I've been loving it for two weeks now. By this time tomorrow, those branches will be gone.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brotherly wisdom.


When I told my brother that I would be taking a photography class this spring, he said, "You're going to go into the darkroom and never come out." Why don't I believe him when he says such sagacious things? I've just faked the timestamp on this day's post, having long since passed midnight while printing pictures for my first photo project. About which more, perhaps, later. Though there are many other things to talk about.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Better than buried treasure.


Of course I know what this flag actually means. But the beauty of signs lies in the way signifiers run away with themselves. And so I wonder:

If we were to dig under each of these orange flags--for there are many--what would we find? Could we create an archaeology of the telephone? Would we find the princesses gathered together, huddled like lost doves? Would the rotaries receive their own pride of place? Would there be bones of Celebrities and Coquettes, and would all those other models we do not remember lie as unmarked as our memories? Would the character phones be banished to some unhallowed grove?

Would all their ringing, chattering ghosts despise us forever?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Downpour cordiality.


Sometimes spam messages hit some proverbial nail right on the head, even if they are both dumb and unsolicited. For example: tonight's title comes from the subject line of an idiotic e-mail, but as a phrase it's strangely fetching.

It's been a questionable day here. The weather was so heartbreakingly beautiful, though still so, so cold, and I used the excellent light as best I could when I ventured into taking pictures of people, which is more difficult for me than I'd like it to be. My father likes to say that the reason my brother's photographs of people are so striking is that he relates so well to people, and when he photographs them, they're responding to the man behind the camera, not to the camera itself. Somehow, I fear that my difficulties with taking pictures of people are symptomatic of some more grave difficulties with dealing with people themselves. But I did my best with three subjects who were perfectly amiable about being moved about, in and out of sun and shadow, and being asked to do strange things for my art, while I fretted self-consciously the whole time. I'm afraid that I'm still not blurring motion in any of my images. Years of taking a particular kind of picture, I suppose. I suspect that my extra age means that I have more visual habits to unlearn than do my classmates. On the other hand, I probably have a more developed visual personality than a lot of them. Everything is a tradeoff.

Today's biggest tradeoff: going to our annual faculty and senior class February party, where I had to shout a lot in order to converse with my lovely former students while crazy loud music blared. Thus: the fun. But the moment my excellent friends and I left and I began speaking in my normal voice again, I realized how much damage I may have done to my throat, which was already on the way down with some kind of cold. Not as fun. I look forward to being everyone's favorite darkroom companion tomorrow.

At midday, I looked out an upstairs window and realized that across the sky lay a cloud like a feather, like a fishbone. "Like a feather! Like a fishbone!" I said to myself again and again, running to get my shoes on and to get the camera out. "Like a feather!" While I shot, an airplane streaked right across it. If you look carefully, you may be able to see the plane in this picture. It was so high. Someone I love but don't know yet is perhaps on a plane that high off the ground, some ground, somewhere, at this very moment.

It was that kind of day.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Shards and scraps.


All afternoon in the photo lab with scraps of birds, paper strips to test exposure time, adjustments for contrast and detail and clarity. Set up the image. Push the button to turn on the white light. Put the paper in the developer. Watch. Watch. A foot, a feather, a finger. A wing. An eye, a beak, a border. Stop the developing. Fix the image. And there, there: a print. A beautiful print, even. Here is the bird I caught from the bird that she caught. Here is her free hand holding the bird, and here her netted hand. Netted as one, caught together, those two.

There is indeed something viscerally different about a print made in a darkroom. I suppose that it has much to do with the papers' technologies: a digital print has inks layered over coated paper, while a print made in a darkroom involves a chemical reaction that changes the paper's coating itself. Perhaps it's also that I'm still printing my otherworldly images of captive birds.

After class, no small amount of photographic walking, just taking care of the day's necessaries. Finally, the new camera starts to feel like a piece of equipment I know how to use, more like an extension of my hands and eyes, more the way the old camera did. Finally, an image looks on the monitor the way it looked to my eye. So: a tree with the sun behind its trunk radiates its branches up and out and its late-afternoon shadow down and out. So: the sun's near-setting makes the snow roseate. So: the trees' silhouettes rail together the vertical world.

So my hands start to ache and burn with chill, so my eyes water while I shoot, so it slips my mind until much later that I can only process these images on my laptop, so I have to offer words but no pictures. So: birds with wings extended. So: sunsets over snowed hills. Tomorrow's pleasures. [And now, now there are pictures.]

And when I tell you I am ready, I mean: I am ready. For what? No: start again. Now it's less for what and more for what not. Waiting. Biding.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

That sound you hear.


That's a collective sigh of relief: the temperature went way up (into double digits!) today, and the sun was out. So out that I walked steadily and calmly all over the day; so out that everything glistened and shone, danced and settled just as I needed it to do.

And how can I confess that I want to keep a second-story office always, in part so that I can be near eye-level with icicles in the winter? Would anyone believe that? This evening, I was a maniac for icicles, taking pictures from every window. (From windows, yes: outside, it's very cold; outside, the icicles are very far away. )




Unfortunately, the officehouse hasn't had its windows washed in a long time, and this year's gutter-cleaning did a real number on my office windows, so most things I shoot from here look as though I'm gazing on them through streaks of mud. Because I am. But see the little dog-legged one, three from the right? I love that icicle. I know that I shouldn't love any of these icicles, because (if I remember correctly) they're signs of some kind of gutter failure and/or energy loss in my building. But I love them nonetheless, with a deep aesthetic pleasure. Can I crown myself the conoisseur of icicles? Would anyone deny me this coronation?

Mark this day as the beginning of the Year of Long Novels, with Tolstoy up first. We'll see where I am (d.v.) on February 7, 2008.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The sky falls into beauty.


Oh, love, wherever you are, if it was snowing by you tonight (as my grandmother might have said), then I hope the snow stopped you and made in you that litany of all the things everyone's said before but we get to say anew when the weather takes this turn:

Listen to the quieted streets. Do you hear how silent they've gotten? How we have all been muffled and hushed? Oh, look at the glitter, the air all filled with glister. What glimmers like this particular snow? Fish scales? Snowglobe glitter? Mica flakes? Fish food in a tank. Confetti for a parade. Salt into soup. Powdered sugar over anything and everything. White like that. But not powdered: flaked, spotted, refracting the lamplight every which way. Shavings of cheese. Shavings of soap, if soap were diaphanous. Move your eyes even a tiny bit and the ground twinkles into motion: the ground begins to shimmer, to wink tiny lights your way. Put that camera away: how are you going to catch those gleams when it's your own motion that makes them move? Watch your step--and not just so as not to slip. This layering ground, this falling sky: they're the best show you'll see all night. Keep looking. Don't make any sudden moves. Like sand through the hourglass, so falls the snow of our lives. In the morning the world will be different all over, blanked once more. If the wind picks back up, we'll be looking at the bottom of a sea again, all those ridges and hollows and hills, all that fragility of surface, all that unexpected malleability.

Those flakes in the lamplight: see them hang and wander, drift sideways and then fall. Laugh under your breath. Laugh to the low muffled voices that pass you in the night.

Slip away while you remember. Drowse, drowse. Fall to stillness and quiet, lighter than the bright snow, and safer, warmer, more lasting. Quiet, quiet. Rest in whatever lightness is by you.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Something hates my guts.


But fortunately, having hated, twisted guts was a late-breaking development in an otherwise lovely (though cold, cold, pit of hell cold) day.

If you haven't read it yet, take a look at Patrick Süskind's gorgeous Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (1986). It consumed my afternoon.

Now I must become the horizontal version of myself, in the hopes that this time tomorrow will find me more fit for these keys.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tread carefully.


If you startle the moonlit deer, they will hiss and skitter in the snow. These deer are nocturnal and prefer to sip at the dunes in silence. They will not accept your love, no matter how quietly you profess it, nor with what conciliatory gestures, what craven offerings. If you are fortunate, which is to say if the letters of your name and the hour of your birth align in the proper configuration, and you approach with palms out and eyes averted, they may let you stand apart and watch while their jaws work from side to side in the cold. But if you begin to whisper about domestic apocalypse, or the problems of irregular poetics, they might meet your gaze and all but ask you to change the station. They do not want your confessions. They do not want your witness. These deer have been tracking the yard for years. They know they do not need you. Pass on, in your animalskin coat and boots. Pass on, cold nostrils flaring. Pass on to your dreams of the horn and the hoof, of the touch of that sweet, sleek hide.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Frenzy's moment.


I am mostly going to let this picture speak for itself tonight; the ambiguities and dichotomies you see here are mine, too. Support or confine? aggression or comfort? beauty or horror? presence or absence? Yes. The answer is yes, all at once yes.

My thousand words (and then some) will be back tomorrow, deo volante. Tonight I've got a little more shaking out to do.

Friday, February 02, 2007

And the startle of heaviness.


Sometimes I neither know what to do with it nor expect its return in the first place. Developing two more rolls of film feels like a good plan, though.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ever so light.


The day got away with me. It was worth it.