findingexpression

awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice


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Synthetic

I walk across the wood parquet floor and notice warm spots and small warped puddles. This warm smoothness conjures a powerful memory of the sandy floor of the lake where the summer sun cast through water and waves to make little golden spotlights and floating sand shone like shimmering mystical fish scales. Sitting on the couch is bathwater, its grey cover resembling unreflected stillness when clouds and wind breathed in relief. The only sounds are the hush of light breezes from the window fan and the remarkably close twittering of urban birds. My eyes set on the card my mother sent about a year ago of bending red tulips still closed and lithe and floating in their white 3×5 vase.

There is nothing synthetic about these feelings. Indoors is outdoors, not just blending, but interchangeable. In South American homes with courtyards or the meandering ladders of roof patios in India the indoor and outdoor experiences merge. Courtyards become mazes of potted plants, kitchen gardens, and stone-base cooking stoves. Drying clothes are strung on wires and in the shelter of shade from a cuticle of cement overhang sleep babies and stray cats. In India beds (manji) are brought out, serve as hammocks for mid-day naps, dining tables, and royal thrones for guests. There are no beaches, no lakeshore, no ease at riverbanks, but the courtyards and roofs are cottage retreats nonetheless. So too is my aerie with fluttering curtains and spider’s webs in ceiling corners. Ticking clocks and refrigerator gurgles replace the metronome of ocean waves and the distant settling of seawater through ancient rock tunnels. I can feel the scratchy surface of barnacles on weathered stones and test slimy seaweed ledges with tender toes. I smell the salt in the air and the splash of humidity is spray from the waves crashing.

I am at the sea, the lake, the cottage, alone amongst thousands but immersed in the fullness of the heart. The timeless ageless echoes are in the present because imagination encircles the synthetic with memory in high-speed orbits to reveal only essence in a peaceful mind.


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Finding Expression

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I think there are people who take pictures because of the beauty of light, for excellence, to document history or to fancy themselves artistic or clever, to protest, to shock, for a slap in the face, a gritty statement or simply to delight. Then there are those that take pictures to see through life, as if the molecular level or truth itself could be revealed if we get it just right, suspend the breath and slowly breathe out, click. There are those that take pictures to touch the familiar through reflecting mirrors, a waltz with memory that is escaping our tendons and vessels and might hang on when grasped by a tiny aperture. Like a dancer’s hands on a man’s shoulders, bending every joint of hand and finger so tightly a million lines are engraved in them. If the lines are just right, from that tense alignment she can slice a thin sheet like lace or cloud and it forms a picture, a slide of memory that can be inserted between the neurons and disperse like ether in the mind.

The sculptor and the painter too make choices about how hard to press into the mold, stretch the resin, or to allow globs of paint to form miniature mountains of emotion or fan it out to shallow rivers, moss, or translucent skin. Even an athlete is finding expression in outbursts of electricity or meditating on repetitive motions. Writers, we have to work with the enunciation of vowels, curving consonants obscured in ink and paper or worse, their facsimiles flattened on screens. We can employ the cacophony of k’s, and ch’s and staccato st’s like birds in late spring trees flitting here and there, the raucous and the sweet all a crash. We can swoon and exhale loudly on commas, bend question marks, pursue with semi-colons and ellipsis. A writer can call upon ancestors, archaic definitions and make glamorous or ridiculous new creations with amalgamations, innovations, detonating bombs or precipitatations.

What tools we use, where we direct the mirrors, this is the play. What tiny portion of a world cracked open, seeping, bleeding, or sweetening honey drips from ink on paper? I write and photograph to remember, to discover, to reveal, most of all to see, to turn the mirror in every direction. I cannot capture the beauty and allure of twilight in a photograph, but if I can hold the letters in my hands, fingertips brushing on sounds and forms like it was a new language, then maybe I can not only find expression, but carry you, the reader, on my gentle river of words.


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All that comes to mind are titles

I have been reading some other blogs these days and people have captured wonderful quotes; inspiring, gritty, thoughtful. I admire those who can remember quotes or author’s names, whole poems, or stanzas at least. I used to think I had a good memory, photographic at times. I can still sometimes ‘see’ things to confirm my memory, but being able to ‘see’ the grocery list or someone’s phone number has limited use. My memory is mostly empathic; I remember the feeling about something. I am right now trying to remember what was so funny and interesting about what I wrote in my mind for this blog last night. I was too tired to get up and write it down. I am remembering only mountains and valleys of thoughts and something about narcissistic self-loathing being a genetic trait. But what was really on my mind, the unstoppable gears grinding on something I wanted to go away, like the tune from a bad pop song, were titles.

All that comes to mind are titles. Titles, titles, titles, as if we start from the beginning. There is no beginning, as much as we try to find it, as much as we want to restart from there. No, titles don’t take me far enough into it, they are just playthings, little balls we toss and toss or roll in our hands, squeezing them but they never pop, never land. Re-starting, landing, that’s what a friendless person of my age wants. The bitterness has not set in yet, there are still dreams, illusions, even a little hope of magic left, but we can’t seem to find enough of it.

Contemplating the iron blades of the just-too-high fence I dare not sit upon it to climb over into the well tended garden that does not belong to me, nor do I wish to look down at my sinking boots. I am looking for definitions, but I don’t want to be defined by this mud. I reach for the letters of others’ titles, holding onto the serif of an ‘s’ or a ‘t’, wanting to bring them into my own hand and let them grow new branches, branches that grow and grow and breath deeply the air and sunshine and make something entirely new. But I am just looking and blinded a little by the grey bright sunlight of late winter. The wind is so strong in the trees. The blowing snow is creating new topographies. So how is it that I am in the mud on this freezing day? This bright day. This blinding day that leads me only further into it….

I describe this place, the mud in front of the fence, because it is the place that belongs to me. I forever see the garden ahead of me but I can only spin around, making mud in the ground, never sinking, just turning against the wind when it stings my face.

So this is a beginning, always terrible, unscripted, too serious and disconnected. Am I supposed to think this out beforehand? Would it bring me to a different place, or just set me down for a while longer, thinking? No sustainability, no way of moving forward, no insight gained from looking back. The only teacher here is this mud, telling me something through its persistence.