06 December, 2012

Reading: Team of Rivals by Kearns Goodwin; A Death in the Family by Agee (Both excellent!)

Gracious! What are you still doing here?
I'm talking a bit to the blog and a bit to those of you who keep checking in here no matter how long I'm away. I don't know who you are or how you ended up here, but welcome.

I've been putting my energies elsewhere and have been hesitant to put anything out there, but things are slowly shifting and I believe a change of some sort is coming.

At the moment, I am in my sweats (plain, grey sweats only being available now in the men's department for some reason), drinking PG Tips from a Ball jar, and bemoaning what feels to be my fate. It's early but already winter dark on a mildly cold night that feels worse thanks to a half-hearted rain.

I returned to the States wanting to be part of a community in the South, where I was born & raised, and work to make some sort of a difference. I don't feel I've succeeded at any of it so far. I suppose I am part of my community and I'm definitely out there, involved, doing, but it all feels very...I don't know. I still feel like a temp. And I haven't really done anything; haven't accomplished anything. Everything feels like it could disappear when I wake tomorrow with a discomfitingly slight "Poof." Still feeling like I don't know where I fit.

I also wanted to finally focus much of my life on the stillness practice to create through my writing and photography. That's proceeded unevenly, at best. Some of it is my characteristic inability to focus and some is, I suspect, the result of goal #1. It's easy to let the negative overwhelm and smother the things that truly give you meaning.

There's a scene in the film Basquiat where Jean-Michel tells art dealer & promoter Rene Ricard that he's going to take a break from painting for band practice with friends:

Fuck band practice... If you're gonna be a 
painter you're gonna have to break a few 
hearts – you don't wanna be like Tony 

Tony Bennett... What do you mean?

Singing on stage and painting in your 
spare time.

I didn't know Tony Bennett painted.

My point exactly.

And I think that's where I am. Again. Fish. Or cut bait. I'm not talking about judgements of good or bad work. I'm talking about hungering for the practice of something. My job pays the bills (because I make sure to have none) and will, hopefully, lead me to get out from under my fabulously useless graduate school debt eventually. It also provides health insurance and, because my paycheck is so low, they threw in housing on-site at the center. People ask where I live and then politely smile and make jokes about how great my commute must be when I tell them I literally live at work. I have to. I know I am luckier than many out there. Still, I do not fit here, that's been made clear to me on several counts, and honest pay and a secure space of my own would feel like winning the lottery at present. Many lessons learned in all of this though.

This isn't a play for sympathy. It's not about blame (but I am quite a bit about self-blame at the moment) or anything like that. I'm just thinking and writing, writing and thinking. And writing is one of the things I have at the moment that is truly mine. It's been one of my few constants forever and I've too often neglected it.

I'm tired of always feeling like I am courting those I meet. There feels a bit of a correlation between the social scene I've experienced with wealthy relatives and some of the circles I've floated in lately. And I'm quite a bit over it. I am tried of trying to find angles, ins. I am tired of not speaking my mind for not saying the "correct" thing. That your entire life feels like a job interview is a tedious thing. It would be great just to meet people as you are and they are, but it so rarely feels that way. Atop that, I am really tired of that sucking chest wound sensation, that dull, slow-motion heaviness, the occasional breathlessness of feeling trapped.  

I've been here before, too many times. It all feels just a bit different this time. I don't know quite how or why yet. Perhaps it's simply wishful, delusional thinking. I'd like to put down the burdens, sit a spell, stay awhile. But I don't think I can yet.

So as the year comes to a close and another one rolls in I'm going to pull back, way back, from a lot of things and re-assess. This is not the life I want. That life will not simply be bestowed. Questions for right now: What do you want? What's the vision? How do you create that life? How do you survive in that life? What's step one? 

That's the assignment. And there's no curve.
Time starts now.

07 May, 2012

Where I'm At

 Received this from a friend and it speaks so perfectly to where I am in my life:
“Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that.          The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing.           That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.”
                                                                                                                 Clarissa Pinkola Estes

23 April, 2012


Men and women,
thick and sinewy
in silver tones,
assemble the pieces:


The people,
like the automobiles they construct,
have a heft to them.
They fill their spaces solidly
as the image coalesces.

Photography started with ghosts.
Shadows caught in the long exposures
later begat certainties.
And amid the flood of images now,
ghosts of inconsequentiality.

You can believe
in these people,
in this image.
You know
they once stood this ground.
You know
their hands posses knowledge we lack.

How to build things?
Hands moving
as birds before winter.
or always known?

They do not stop for smiles,
strength and yet ease in their stance,
a natural testament
to something I can’t recognize
on this side of the century mark.

And then they vanish.
The spaces barren.
Even emptiness
cannot fully convey.

Their structures remain,
wounded and skeletal
Worn cadavers
Death is organic
and comes in stages.
Just as the worker is lost
without work
This place feels lost
without workers
The rag pickers
scour the battlefield
and leave the bloody corpses
to rot.

18 April, 2012

A Word from Harry

"I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me that makes photography more exciting."
- Harry Callahan

16 April, 2012

Finding & Losing Your Voice

Just finished: On Photography by Sontag
Reading: A Room of One's Own by Woolf
On Deck: Twilight by Gay (with 100% less vamps & werewolves than in similarly-titled novels)
Recent impulse buy: The Horse Latitudes by Muldoon in hardback for $6
New & good: Valdeon, a cheese from Spain & serious challenge to my love of Fourme d'Ambert
Listening to: John Cage (fits well during illness)

A woman is singing a rising gospel song down at the bus stop outside my window, oblivious to the rain, the manic traffic on Southside, or the rattle of the air compressor in the construction zone out front. And I suppose that's as good as anywhere to pick up the story. It's a dark Monday, but aren't they all? Except this time I'm enjoying things from my tiny bed thanks to some sort of Springtime sinus mess that's finally left me literally speechless after about 48 hours and hacking like a patient in a TB sanatorium. Not quite Mimi, but then, there's seems no Rodolfo to be found for me either.

I've been away from these parts for quite a while and I believe that's been a good thing.  I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing back here; maybe it's due to losing my audible voice and just wanting to be able to heard somehow. You don't realize how dependent you are on your voice, how much you really speak, until times like this. And you don't understand the power of silence within the crowd. By Saturday night my voice was shot, but I'd gone out with friends and done my best to persevere and be social, especially since I was blessed with meeting some new folks whose company and spirits I truly enjoyed. 

We ended up back at my friends' apartment building, a looming, ramshackle old home in the Highlands that, like so many, have been carved up for modern living and abandoned to the elements in favor of easy, cheap rents. People gathered around the fire pit in the small back yard, the group ebbing & flowing from hidden passages to neighboring properties, and settled in for a long, pleasant night. At this point, having introduced myself to newcomers and refreshed greetings with others, I went silent and enjoyed the warmth of the fire, the smell of the smoke, and listening to the leaves in the breeze and the new faces around me. 

After a few hours, one man from the big city who has deigned to spend the summer in our little town and who kept goading me into telling stories earlier in the evening because he liked the new sound of my voice finally was silent enough himself to notice the stillness in that moment. It didn't last: "Scratchy voice lady (the only way he referred to me all evening), you're not talking anymore. Why aren't you talking? I like the way your voice sounds. Are you not talking because it hurts? Say something! You know my sister's voice sounds just like yours but all the time(the fifth time he'd mentioned this), so I feel some sort of kinship with you." All the words tumbled forth towards me in rapid succession through the wood smoke. I responded with more silence and a facial expression of waning bemusement and slight weariness (though sometimes my attempts at such expressions fail and tip into general annoyance). 

"Does your throat hurt?" he asked again, squinting his eyes and tipping his head to one side at the question as if speaking to an uncomprehending child. "Why won't you talk? You're so quiet."

"Of course her throat hurts," said one of the other residents, a small, slight young woman who I had bonded with over a mutual preference for film over digital photography earlier in the evening. "And I say her presence alone is more than enough," she said, staring across the fire at the man while rubbing my shoulder reassuringly before returning to tend the fire.

So, today, I'm keeping myself home to try and finally kick whatever this is that's ailing me. And to avoid anyone else asking me "What?" when I try to speak. Sadly, they aren't kidding, just not thinking.

Paid work aside for the time being, I've been writing, but it's still a bit scatter shot as I continue to settle in and get try to sort my balance here. Really have to find a system to catalog and order all the ideas. I think moving out of the center (living at work is not simply a metaphor for me) and into my own space, despite my finite financial resources for the foreseeable future, is a big part of that balance & order. And I've been doing some of this. Some creative projects have been percolating in my brain. And I've been getting a start on being a creative & activ(ist) member of my broader community.

So, yes, I'm back, for better or worse. And I'll be plumbing depths of great and lesser fathom again. Thanks for bearing with me, even if all y'all insist on remaining silent. Your presence is sufficient.