Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Take your triumphs where you find them.


What fullness I'm pulling off these days. It's a luxury I'm finally starting to repay by getting some actual words typed into an actual document stored in the folder on my desktop marked "Book." Other young academics in the house will hear me on this one, I suspect: it feels as though this book has to happen RIGHT NOW. In fact, RIGHT NOW might not be fast enough. And so when I'm not working on it, it takes on mythic proportions. It grows gryphon wings and diamond-tipped talons, a beak of brass and breath of fire, and the last thing I want to do is go canoodle with it in my office. I'd rather be almost anywhere than in the presence of a project I feel should have been done years ago.

But when I gentle myself into it--when, for instance, I pretend that I'm just reading Henry James but then (oops!) discover that I actually need to write some things down and then (oops!) discover that I might want to write those things down in rough draft paragraphs--then the project seems both more manageable and of longer duration than it does in my fevered, driven visions of it. And so it has gone tonight. The only person of whom I can really ask this is myself, but: could someone please remind me to be patient and to trust that I know what I'm doing, after all this time?

Before getting somewhere with my work tonight, though, I got somewhere with another of my arts, first by making the acquaintance of fiber paper in the darkroom as I endeavored to get the print I wanted of my Lexingtonian friend's right arm. (Sweetie, there were seven copies of your right arm floating around by the time I was done.) Fiber paper requires considerably more care than the resin-coated (RC) paper I've been using up until now, and the instant gratification factor is lower. Plastic is easier, plain and simple. But I know fiber's merits: it's archival in a way that RC paper simply isn't. (Sweetie, this means that five copies of your arm will last far, far longer than either of us will.) My prints are now pressed between two of my heaviest photography books, which I'm hoping will keep the paper from curling too badly.

After the darkroom, I found myself reluctant to change gears and sit down at a desk to read. In my world, there's one solution to that kind of reluctance, if I'm hoping to stay in work mode: shoulder a camera and go for a walk. With our temperatures on the way back up and the sun out in blazes today, I decided to pay a visit to the now-burned prairie at the environmental center.


It is a changed landscape, to be sure, and I felt something like a pang to see my green grassed paths gone tawny, my whispering field gone dark and still. But it has its own astonishments to offer. (Is it the worst joke ever that I'm considering making my final photo project a study of grass blades, and calling it Leaves of Grass? What can one expect from a literary critic who's dabbling in the photographic arts?) Before too long, I found myself crawling around on the ground. As it gets even warmer, I may have to go back in truly grubby clothes; things get mighty interesting at ground level. Ethereal, even: the prairie ghosting itself.


I was a bit surprised that anything remained standing after last week's burn. But I was less surprised at what remains: thorn after thorn after thorn, over and above a sweep of char and huddles.


There's a beauty to it now that seizes me. It is an unforgiving kind of beauty, a sensory difficulty. Putting my hand to the ground to steady myself, I came away with carbon blackening my palm.


It does not need or want my love, this landscape: it's on its own program, spiders webbing their ways through the burnt-over stubble, new shoots spearing through already. There's no softness or pretense here, even where things are at their most delicate.


Somehow, it braces my heart.


1 Comments:

Blogger KYlitprof said...

I never would have thought my right arm worthy of such care! I am, as before, honored to be in the hands of an artist.

And yes, please be patient and trust that you know what you are doing, after all this time. (I may need the same reminder myself, soon, as I'm working to outline a book proposal myself. First, though, one more hour on the article and it goes out!)

12:47 PM, April 11, 2007  

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