Friday, May 29, 2020

Before, now, then wide open


These are my relics: wallet, backpack, sneakers, backpack, sunscreen. Squeezing into a party, my shoes left at the door, my back pressed up against a wall close to the air conditioner, talking closely, very closely. Rush hour that seemed to last all day, letting one, two subway trains go by, but being packed in anyway. The long Starbucks line where a man my age stares at me and I remember that while I am not everyone’s type some find my arrangement of features and my countenance much to their liking. A well attended memorial service.

You already know what happens next. The hand sanitizer, the homemade bleach solution. We’re all in this together, until we look more closely and realize, no we are not and never were. The science is there but it keeps revealing more and more. There are no good assumptions anymore. The only way to stay ahead of it is to stay inside.

I’m nothing special to this virus. It doesn’t care that I’ve already had unbearable loss. It doesn’t care that I love my husband and children. It is like I can see it. I’m not even stir crazy.

I clap and cheer and then I stop. My mother did me a great service by instituting rules around thank you notes. This got internalized rather than rejected. But even she would not ask you to send the same thank you note again and again.

People outside of my apartment are bored. I don’t understand.

Everything hands can touch is spic and span. I imagine the fragile lipid layer of the virus dissolving as I clean. I take stock at what foods have come into my home, much of it substitutions, whatever was available, or a surprise. Every morsel of it is precious.

I hold and console. I make space for the others to do their work. I ask for protection to do mine and it is granted.

There is one day that I realize that the only person I am not mad at is Andrew Cuomo. I get more sleep and better sleep and that resets me.

Ambulance sounds remind me that I’m lucky.

When other people are assholes I look for the helpers. When I am the asshole, several people decide that it’s better to be kind than to be right.

I had already engaged in a reinvention and now I’m called upon to reinvent the reinvention. I’m going to have to ask perfect to be quiet for a while.

People say, back to normal or new normal. Neither of these things are reasonable. There are times in life where there is an actual dividing line. This is one of them.

Vacations, trips out of town, restaurants, and plans of any kind are for other people. There is a magical space inside their heads that doesn’t need to know where the nearest hospital is. The sense that things are clearing up, getting better, or that the virus is going away is like believing in unicorns. Rainbows happen sometimes but not because we will them to.

I say goodbye to how things used to be. I don’t even know what will be useful or useless after this. When I think of what it could look like for me at some yet to be determined time it looks like a white canvas. A clean, large, brand new blank slate. Like the first day of school, only better.

From the archives:
The Book

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Secret Service


Until I trust you, I don’t trust you. This is my default and I come by it honestly.

When something bad happens I become watchful. That is exactly how I am right now, during this global pandemic.

Fellow citizens are usually good people but they are impulsive and unpredictable.

Before the global pandemic, I covered a lot of ground. I rode the subway everywhere. I took photographs all over NYC while waiting for traffic lights, running errands, going to appointments, and commuting to work.

Now I go out very rarely and when I do I need my full brainpower to navigate congested streets full of people. I do not want to catch COVID-19 from a fellow citizen, remain asymptomatic but contagious and spread it around my household and my building. I don’t want to be sedated and sucking air from a ventilator. I do not want to be with fellow citizens who are losing their damned minds because it is 65 degrees and sunny.

Even before lockdown I stopped taking photographs outside. I turned my attention to stuff I could photograph inside of my apartment. That way I don’t have to be aware of my surroundings or dodging fellow citizens.

Constraint can be good for art. It has been - most of the time. I post the good, the great and maybe in retrospect the mediocre to bad on Instagram daily. I like to share my practice.

One day I had an idea. For the first time, I longed for fresh air. I wanted to photograph outdoors. I also thought that this might be a good thing for Jeremy. He’s a photographer. too. We are on the same page with 
COVID-19.

The plan was to go outdoors together. We would walk single file on the sidewalks and into the park. We would be spotters for one another and that way we could concentrate on our photography rather than fellow citizens. It will be like having the Secret Service, I told him.

This is not our first rodeo. When you’ve cared for an immunocompromised toddler, a global pandemic is like riding a bike.

Jeremy was gifted a period of time. While he was photographing my only job was to watch from all angles to see if fellow citizens were headed our way. One time, as he bent to get a different angle on a subject, I told him we had to move along. When the spotter tells you to move, you’ve got to listen and act immediately.

In the park, my Secret Service detail involved scouting emptier parts of the park, away from vectors on bikes, the brazenly unmasked, and the coughers. When I was on duty I did not look at my phone or become distracted.

Then it was my turn to have a protector. All of the time spent photographing inside the bathroom and out the window had a way of informing this work. I could keep busy in a very small area. There are no trees or grass inside of my apartment. That was enough to keep me engaged.

We didn’t have free reign, but that was okay. Like I said before, constraint can be good for art.

As we walked home, we took a circuitous route in order to avoid fellow citizens clogging the sidewalks. We walked single file at my insistence. The breeze and air invited us to do this again. We will.


You can follow me on Instagram at to see my recent photographic series called Shelter in Place and Protected Photographs. I also have pre-pandemic imagery there too.

You might also enjoy:
Best Case Scenario 

I suffered for their art
These Are My Subjects

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Book


Somebody wrote something no one else did. It wasn’t easy to find.

Looking as hard as I did made me question the idea that there is a book for everything.  But I didn’t want to have an orphan for a problem. I didn’t want to think that no one wanted to write about this.

Then it arrives, not just being itself but the newest, latest, updated version of itself. This book makes me a student again.

All of the notetaking skills I perfected in 10th grade come back.

One day I ask myself, what is my truth? My answer is sure and clear. He wrote the book, but the book is nothing without a reader.

I get out my composition book. The first pages are neat, then things go to chicken scrawl. My writing edges out of the margins crawling along them.

If I want to know my truth I look at my notes.



From the archives:
Hard Fall
Careful Words

Hospital Corridor

Monday, April 27, 2020


Listen
I understand now
What will take you weeks to know
I implement now
What you will stumble and scramble to do
Someday hence
Tripping over everybody else
Grasping at empty
In thin, tired air
Worsted, wishing
You’d listened then

From the archives:
Rending
Take This Inspiration And Shove It

The sun it did rise again 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

These Things Bind Together


Something big is happening. You’re a major player, not somebody on the sidelines.

You’re feeling exclusively happy about it. You’re ready to shout from the rooftops. Or it’s quiet relief. A sense that things are working out exactly as they should. 

You don’t know this yet, but you need to acknowledge the sadness. Let it lap over you. Every blessed event, no matter how anticipated, has loss attached. If you don’t wade out to meet it, it will come for you later. Meet it halfway. 

Maybe instead, it’s a shit show. You’ve been singled out for a private hell that has your name written all over it. It hits you where you live. 

Eventually, that dark feeling is going to have to soften. If this rotten thing has something okay attached, however tenuous, give it a name and let it sit at the table. 

You’ve made a brand new friend in the waiting room or wherever you find yourself that you never wanted to be. Also, now you have the get out of jail free card for all the crappy stuff you never liked doing anyway. 

All of this insomnia means you saw this kick-ass sunrise. The fact that you’d hoped to never see the sunrise, because that’s a time when people living blessed lives are still sleeping, shouldn’t dampen that moment because that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Damn anyone who finds that silver lining before you. That isn’t their job.

Let it in on your time. 

If there is no nuance or gradation then you’re missing something. This is not meant to be sequestered or cordoned off. You hold them both together. 

If something big is happening and you’re feeling bittersweet and complicated, seeing some cracks in the foundation, seeing the foundation present in the cracks, then thank you for reading this, but honestly, you’re doing it already and you don’t need any help from me. 

From the archives:
These Are My Subjects
Shana Tova
Yes, Please

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mammalia


There’s a tingling in the space between me and not me.
I’m aware of being an animal.

Are you walking these streets?
The hairs on my arms stand up to reach you before the rest of me.

Is it the wind? Or your breath on the back of my neck?
Its useless to ask.
So I question nothing anymore.

Whatever it is.
You are that potent.
One of these things is true.
There is no wrong answer for this.


From the archives:
Testosterone

Time, As Few Of Us Know It
The very second you lost me

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Rending


I’m furious.

With it comes an energy.

Do something, it said.

I’m compassionate.  I helped. When I couldn’t help, I tried.

Do something else, it said.

My hands needed to be in on the action.

So this is what I did with that.





From the Archives:
Take This Inspiration And Shove It

The High Cost Of Being Me
Rations