Tuesday, November 6, 2018

You With The Camera


Your photography is evolving from here to there to somewhere else. This is familiar. But maybe it’s happening much faster than usual.

Let it.

You could ask it to slow down, but it can’t and it won’t.

The picture you take today renders everything you did yesterday obsolete.

Those who stop growing die.

And those who don’t die have another set of problems.

Making the new photographs means letting the old ones go, even if they’re kicking and screaming while you do.

Say goodbye. Be firm. But go ahead and cry if you want.

Keep moving. You were never meant to just stand there.



From the archives:
Picture Edit

I walked to the end of the driveway
The Photography Rules I Had Last Winter

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Satchel


I’m competent.

Until something happens. Which did. Happen.

I feel bad. I’m staring at a blank wall, but only realize it after the fact.

I scroll through a bunch of adjectives in my mind. I cross out all of them. Finally, I find my words. This is despair.

Now what?

I’m in one hour at a time mode. One thing I like about me is how easy I slip in and out of that.

I’m not at full throttle. Really what I want to do is to continue staring.

I review what I planned to do today. I’m overdue for a winter coat. My state of mind is not conducive to walking over to the River Plaza and shopping for fashionable, practical bargains.

The thing that crushed my soul hasn’t gone anywhere. But winter isn’t going anywhere either. Last year’s coat, which served me for many seasons has already gone to fabric recycling.

I have just enough bandwidth to anticipate how I will feel out in the elements underdressed. It won’t be pretty. I’ll be freezing and also angry. Frangry.

So I go. I tell myself that despair and grief are portable. I don’t have to deny them. I can take them with me.

They are pretty easy to manage on the walk to the River Plaza. As companions they’re almost quiet at Marshall’s. They allow me me choose a greenish, shimmery, warm as can be winter parka with fake fur around the hood and collar. I also get a dusty rose hat with a giant pompom that has just enough bling to be fun.

I wait on a long line that moves quickly. I am able to negotiate with myself in the usual fashion. Yes this line is long. Would I rather pay retail? Which would be no, so I go on Facebook and chill out while inching along.

I then take my despair to Target, where it’s mostly okay until such a time when it does make itself a major nuisance. I sit on the edge of a shelf in a slow part of the store that nobody cares about.

It lifts enough for me to shop quickly, get in line and go home, model my new outerwear and do some other stuff that can accommodate what is a burden but is mostly behaving itself.

Until such a time that I’ve had it for that day. I watch the movie Joy for the millionth time, which is what I do when there’s nothing else to be done.

I go to sleep and in the morning I evaluate the situation, carry what I can, heavy or not, to what I can do and where I can go alongside it. I leave the rest for another day when I have a lighter load or a bigger suitcase.

From the archives:
I walked to the end of the driveway 

The very second you lost me
My Future Crappy Work

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Take This Inspiration And Shove It


Somebody said people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

And my response is this.

Fuck the reason. Fuck the season. Yes to the lifetime.

If I care about you, I really want you to stay. If I love you, I demand it.

The reason and season, do not inspire quietude, deep thought, peace, or introspection. They do not evoke acceptance. When I hear about them I’m stinking mad.

If you like it, I’m happy for you. And also, fuck you!

The entity responsible for the reason and the season is an asshole.

I’m saturated with carrying people in my heart, eliciting memories, making memories because you know that time is limited, and you know that you’re doing that. I’ve found enough meaning in loss to last a lifetime, and now I’m done.

Making the best of it? No can do.

Stop dying! Stop retiring! Stop leaving!

People come into your life for a lifetime. How about that? Is that too much to ask?



From the archives:
I answered my own question
All of the roads, they did lead here
The High Cost Of Being Me

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Industry Amidst The Ruins


The prettiest words are the greedy ones. They alight. Then they pollinate.

Because you have things to do.
Upright and important
You squirrel them away - somewhere.
Until they are a damned nuisance.

Then give it all a smidge of time.
Stingy and cheap but better than nothing.
It’s not enough. It’s never enough.

When you’re  about to burst you give them some room.
So what if it’s the rocky soil? The tamped down, head between hands.
The between of, not the desk, or even a nook.

The words, they comprehend.
For them it doesn’t matter.
They see no craggy impediment.
Any accommodation will do.

You are wildflowers.
A furnace, a factory.
The early 20th century.
A virile stag. Aloft.

You are trite but you don’t care.


From the archives:
Plainfolk
Suffer The Words

To mend

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Hydration


It’s a heat wave. I’ve done this before. I’m pretty good at it.

This is not something to be messed with. I exchange texts with my husband. I ask him to remember to pack water for his commute home. He agrees. Now I’ll worry less. Worry is what I do. I’m good at that too.

I’m already drinking water because that is how I roll.

I think about people in my social circle and wonder about how they are faring. My mind rests on one person in particular.

I think about texting him. It would be succinct. It would simply say drink water.

I don’t send the text. I reign it in. It’s a long story.

I send the drink water message telepathically. Was this a kind of prayer? Who knows?

I use what I have because worry is creeping around the edges of things. I still worry about him. This is freaking annoying. But I know better than to argue with it.

I can hear you now. He’s not a child. He can be trusted to take care of himself. This is not always true. Sometimes very smart people fail to drink water.

Anne Lamott, a favorite writer of mine wrote something that initially came as a bit of a shock. She said, “Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

Lately her words have settled in more. The words and I are not exactly on a first name basis yet. You could say I’m slowly becoming acquainted with them. Which is fine.

But for this particular situation, Anne Lamott’s exact words do not quite fit. So I went ahead and adapted them.

Tell your stories. If people wanted you to stop worrying about them, then they shouldn’t have told you about the time they went sightseeing alone in a foreign country, fainted at the entrance of the hotel, created a hubbub, refused an ambulance, requested a bottle of water, drank it and realized they really should have hydrated sooner.


From the archives:
Yes, Please

Chicken Scratch
Check Back With Me Later

Monday, September 10, 2018

Shana Tova


The kids have two days off from school. You don't think about the why as much as the when. The time off is convenient. It makes for a tidy four-day weekend. You fill it up neatly.

Then you remember why the kids have time off. It's for Rosh Hashanah. You email a couple of Jewish friends. You wish these folks a happy new year.

You were raised Catholic. You're not religious. Your husband is Jewish but not particularly observant.

The customary new year for people like you is on January first. You're not crazy about New Year's Eve, and New Years Day is no better. It's random. Too much noise. Too many expectations. Like most holidays, they make you feel small and insignificant.

You're in the midst of the long weekend. You're removed from your usual life. You and hotels don't always get along but this one is brand new and spanking clean with a cushy bed and warm lighting.

The days leading up to this hotel stay were a shit show. Your feelings got trampled on by somebody. Without intent, you hurt their feelings, too.

You've been wronged - no misunderstood - but being in a different place, away from your comfortable home you see the humanity of the person who hurt you. Their words cut, but they are essentially good.

You feel like crap, but you're a good person too.

As you send out one more happy new year email to one more person identifying as more Jewish than your husband, you seize on something about yourself. When a door opens for you, you walk through it. Not everybody knows how to do that.

By accident or by design somebody else's new year just fell in your lap.

You don't know how to celebrate the Jewish new year. Like most of what you do, you'll adapt to it and adapt it to you.

Just thinking about the previously ignored new year gives you good ideas about the problems you created and the ones brought about by others. Not everything is your fault.

You need this fresh start, cool and crisp, nobody foisting and nobody expecting. It's a construct. But like many traditions, it's useful.

You remember something about apples and honey. Your teenager requested an apple. Maybe she's feeling it too.

You announce your plans to observe Rosh Hashanah. Your daughter is happy to make matzo balls. You'll make vegetable soup because she's a vegetarian. Your husband is befuddled and a bit put out by your request to make challah bread but agrees to do it. After the challah bread is baked, fragrant and delectable, he denies ever being taken aback.

Because you customize, because you have maverick features, because you do whatever the hell you please, you decide to borrow the day of atonement from the Jews and jump the gun by observing it a week early. You're going all out.

You craft a heartfelt email to the person who stirred the pot with you. It’s better to be kind than right. You can’t control how the communication will be received but you feel a lift anyway.

Some people find truth at temple. Others at church. Yours found you at the Best Western. That's who you are. And you're starting to like that person again.

From the archives:
The sun it did rise again
Picture Edit 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Lucky


Its 1981. I’ve just been dropped off at college. I’d been insufferable at my high school for half the year because I couldn’t wait to get there.

Now that I’ve clearly arrived at my first-choice college and only viable option for myself, I’m starting to get uneasy. I don’t know anybody here, but then I remember that nobody knows anybody here.

There’s only one way through the uneasy feeling. I plan to go up and down the hall of the dorm. I’ll knock on everybody’s door and introduce myself. I am not going make any friends sitting in my room, especially since the college may been conducting a bizarre sociology experiment by making the three of us individuals roommates.

I knock on everyone’s door and visit the guys’ suite at the end of the hall, methodically saying hi. I am met with a friendly reception from all involved.

The room across the hall holds a family of dark-haired people. I don’t know it at the time but I’m saying hello to my future husband and in-laws.

I’ve been on campus for under three hours.

But before I can marry that guy I’ll make my way bravely to a keg party the welcome committee thoughtfully set up on the lawn. I’ll finally take a whole bunch of art classes all day, every day. I’ll vow to never take any mathematics again, and keep my word.

I’ll use the door-to-door skills honed during orientation to collect one dollar from everybody in the dorms for the parties we’d throw on Friday nights. I’ll briefly sing show tunes, skipping arm in arm across campus with one male friend and one female friend.

My future husband eventually transfers to the college. That last part is really serendipitous. One thing leads to another.

Nothing is ever a straight line. There are some notable twists and turns on the way to the altar, or in our case, a whitewashed, light-filled loft in the photo district.

For some people life unfolds slowly and incrementally. For others, it moves fast and you see your future all at once, although you almost never recognize it at the time.


From the archives:
The Water Table

Time, As Few Of Us Know It
So Long

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Go ahead and say it


I could ask you to be more careful. I could ask you to choose lovelier words. Take a pause. More poetry, less logic. See me in three dimensions. See me, period.

I'm not going to do that.

Say what you want.

You said some words. I wanted to brush them off, but unfortunately they stuck, like lint.

Here's what happened next.

Every color on the street looked brighter. The skies opened up and I captured what I could, me as photographer, me as artist, leaving the rest for next time. There will be a next time.

The sadder I got about what you said, and I did get sadder and sadder, the better the palette, the bare, brave branches, the hero plants in the cracked sidewalk. This went on for a while.

I rode the subway and nobody's talking to me and we sat together in convivial silence, the strangers and me. It was glorious.

I borrowed the words of Henry David Thoreau to help my child, via text and I will save that exchange forever.

Then I employed my own imperfect, true words, crafting them this way and that, writing prose and poetry, waking up in the middle of the night to get it down, then deleting it and writing something better in the morning.

There was quite the prolific 24 hours that followed. It might not be over yet. I didn't plan it that way, but that's what happened.

It's as though something inside me needed to prove you wrong.

But alas, something else happened. You were right after all. I wish it were different, but wishing doesn't make it so.

And really, what does it mean that there were crystalline moments inside this brain of mine? It means when something bad happens I make good art. That's it.

Say what you want. Most of what you say is kind. Nobody listens better than you. Is there room for improvement? I don't know. I don't need you to be a saint.

When you say something that sounds like air being let out of a balloon or falls with a thud, know this.

It's okay. It will work out. After a time, I'll want to talk with you again. If you hadn't said what you did, I would have never written this. It wouldn't exist without you and your crappy words.


From the archives:
Yes, Please

Radio Silence
The other than 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The sun it did rise again


Like when you make new friends but keep the old and the cream always rising to the top, things have their way of sorting themselves  out.

But at two o’clock in the morning, when one door closes and another one hasn’t opened yet, you’re thinking that when one door closes it stays closed and another one closes and another one closes.

What if what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger but kills you just not all at once but a little at a time? And then once you’re good and awake you realize that what doesn’t kill you does makes you stronger and it will still kill you a little bit at a time because that is what life is and we all have an expiration date.

And then you manage to fall asleep but damned if you can remember the transition or what worked and what didn’t. The alarm goes off the next day and you’re tired from time spent awake last night but you have rested and slept some of the time and there’s some magic in that. And wouldn’t you know the very start of some burgeoning sorting is evident and you know that sleep, a little or a lot, is a sweet elixir. What life has taught you, namely to take  what you get even if it’s one step forward, two steps back is doing its thing and lifting you, if not to seize the day, at least to meet it where it is.


From the archives:
These Books Carry Me

Chicken Scratch
No Trophies

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I answered my own question


I’m still in shock. I thought I was more of a badass than this. It feels visceral.

Comes a time when I ask a familiar question. I keep it to myself.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Nothing. Not a damn thing.

I’m agile with some things. Not so much with others.

It’s an open and shut case. I have nothing to explain. I have nothing to apologize for either.


From the archives:
Five Minutes

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Rabbit Hole Day


A day without intention.

No need to stay on task. There are no tasks on Rabbit Hole Day.

Everything that needs reining in gets free range today.

Tomorrow is for responsible use of the internet. Tomorrow is for headsets, lists and schedules. Tomorrow is for focus on what is important. Tomorrow is for strategies.

Today is for wasting large swaths of time.

Google your symptoms but stop before it gets scary. Google what’s wrong with other people. Diagnose them in your heart and mind but keep it to yourself.

Read what you won’t to admit to reading. Do what you’d like to hide. Watch what nobody would believe you watch.

Mope. When that stops being fun, preferably before the crying starts, go on social media and dick around there for a while.

Read something cool online. Follow all of the links. Follow those links. Follow the rest. And so on.

Clickbait is perfectly fine. Nick Nolte Then And Now. Go ahead.

When the alarm goes off tomorrow it’s will be highbrow responsible time. You’ll be rocking goals. Winning at life. Maybe not winning, but giving it the old college try. Tomorrow will be the bronze medal of life.

But today is Rabbit Hole Day.

Stare off into space as long as you want.

Fantasize. Don’t snap out of it.


You might also enjoy:
Rations
Yes, Please

If You Care

Thursday, March 8, 2018

These Books Carry Me


I have concerns. I’ve exhausted reputable online resources. I’ve exhausted less than reputable online resources.

Talking to people who know more than me helps. But it’s not what you think. Nobody knows everything. People don’t learn things just for the hell of it. You educate yourself on what you need. These people don’t know the answers because they haven’t needed to know the answers.

Talking with other people tells me something. They don’t know what I need to know.

Once again, it’s time for me to be the expert.

When the going gets tough, the tough get reading.

There’s history there.

Long ago, a phone call threatens to floor me. Except that being floored isn’t an option. Time doesn’t stand still because I’d like a mental health day.

There’s a book I know about but hope I will never need to read. I recognize when the jig is up. I need the book now. I needed it yesterday.

It’s a Friday. I make my way to kid number one’s school. The afternoon lays itself out expansively and I get to the neighborhood early.

I know the locations of every New York Public Library in every area I frequent. This East Side branch is a good one. I feel a mixture of hope and trepidation.

The book I need is on the shelf. Someone, somewhere is looking out for me. The universe is kind today. I hold this book in my hands with reverence. I sign it out.

I read the book while waiting for kid number one. I read the book on the bus, the subway, and while waiting for kid number two. The kids go to different schools so waiting time is important.

I read it on the subway ride home. I take breaks to talk with my children and ask about their days. I make myself available for questions and hand holding. But I still get a lot of reading done.

I read myself to sleep. I carve out time from my weekend to read the book. Having read - consumed - this book, it is now part of me. I reread the sections I like the most.

The book propels me and a cascade of activity follows. I hit the ground running on Monday.

I hold onto the book for dear life.

Some books stay for a short time. Some for longer. A few, forever. They all leave their indelible mark. The ship that passed in the night. The dog eared one still on my shelf.

By the time I’ve renewed the book twice, things are in a different place. The book helped bring me there and I brought other people along for the ride. I no longer have to have it on my person.

There have been other books. It’s time for the next one.

Not all concerns are emergencies. I have a little lead time on this. I get to do some clever matchmaking between myself and a book.

My initial Amazon search leads to ample results addressing my concern. I do a bit of sorting and get the number of possibilities down to 25.

I then go through, one by one, reading bits of chapters, looking at indexes, skimming reviews.

I need the book to tell me things I don’t already know. It needs to understand me. It should tell me it’s going to be okay.

Since my concern is already effortful, it needs to be a page turner. Most importantly, the book shouldn’t be a downer. It shouldn’t have a strident voice. It shouldn’t assume I’m an idiot either.

It’s a tall order, but when I see it I know. I’ve found my book.

I download it on the Kindle app. I start reading. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s more than the sum of its parts.

Dr. Spock said that you know more than you think you know.

I say a silent thanks to all of the books that have come before. I thank the books still to be written. The books I will read that I don’t yet know I will need. I will be able to find a book when something new comes up.

I thank the book I’m holding now. The book that is holding me.

You might also enjoy:
All of the roads, they did lead here

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I Stand In Judgement



A train pulls into the station. I'm standing on the platform. I take stock of the cars closest to me. Crowded.

I step aside. I watch as Type A people get on. I wait while impulsive people, aggressive people and tardy people with poor time management skills shove their way on to the subway car.

People who hate their jobs push onto the train. There's laundry to do and dinner to fix at home so it won't be any picnic there. They're not thinking about that now. Get me out of here. Take this job and shove it. Except I need the job so I'll be back here tomorrow doing the same thing over again.

I watch entitled people and people without proper boundaries get on the train. I watch people who cannot delay gratification get on the train.

The icing on the cake is when a morbidly obese, sweaty man runs down the stairs and pushes himself forcibly on the train. For the love of god! He's literally throwing his weight around!

Step aside to let the people off the train the announcement says. All of these people ignore it. In their defense, the people exiting the train could step livelier.

Almost everyone gets on the train.

A small crowd assembles to catch the next train. An express train stops and people join me on the local side. More people come down the stairs and wait. The crowd swells. People crane their necks. Some lean ever so slightly over the platform to see if the train is coming.

The train pulls in. Acceptable. The air conditioner is going full throttle.

I won't get a seat for another two stops but this train is much more civilized than the last one. The last one was so full of desperate people that the folks standing in the doorway kept brushing against the closing doors which would cause the doors to open and close again and again. Sad.

One of our cohort from the platform gets a seat right away. There's not actually room for her in the seat because they are designed only for tiny people. So she does that thing that women do when it's seat but not really a seat. She sits at the very edge of the seat.

The ride is uneventful. Everybody gets along. Nobody smells bad. Nobody asks for money.  Nobody does Show Time. Nobody plays Mariachi.

A few minutes later I get a seat that the lady sitting at the very end of the seat, like a sparrow on a branch only much larger, could have gotten if only she'd waited. There's two slim people flanking me, so we all sit In relative comfort, our backs upright against the seat, our butts where they should be. As God himself intended.

From the archives:
Radio Silence

Chicken Scratch
This Shit Got Real

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Five Minutes


This is the worst thing that's ever going to happen to me. I sit with that knowledge for a while.

I'm 36 years old and this is my one cross to bear. Everybody gets a tragedy.

If I survive this, I will not be waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is no other shoe.

I feel a measure of what seems a little like comfort. I hold on. I can just about do this. This is what passes for okay news now.

Except that it takes me almost no time to realize that the floor underneath me is fake.

There is no one in charge here. There is no one doling out trouble, one per person, one at a time, only what that person can handle.

There is no universe that owes me a damn thing. Shit is random. Nobody is organizing it. Nobody is making sure anything is fair.

Years later, this is still my greatest tragedy but I'm no stranger to bad news. I'm that person who walks into eyes of hurricanes. I don't look away. I'd do that for you. You wouldn't even have to ask.

Not everything is bad. Some people died. Others survived. The survivors are here with me now. They turn up at the most opportune times. They say wise things. The kindness of other people!

I laugh so hard I almost forget to breathe. I see beauty in rubbish and sidewalk cracks.

With everything bitter there is some sweet. I still don't know what's going to happen, though.

Bring it on, I say to all of it.


From the archives:
Hospital Corridor 

All of the roads they did lead here
The very second you lost me

Friday, February 2, 2018

Overcast




I wake up miserable. It has no home. It just is. 
I don’t want to feel this way. I try negotiating. It stays put.

A while later I say okay, remember this. Part of life is being able to tolerate these emotions. I forgot this for a little while. I’ve been working on it but it isn’t second nature yet.

I feel better. But I also feel tired from all this work.

Then a third possibility emerges. I’m on the subway when that happens. If it weren’t for iPads I’d have a notebook and pen to write it all down.

Stay open. All emotions ebb and flow whether I work with them or just sit there doing nothing. Let the rest of whatever the day has in store lift me. 

Yes, there’s a chance it could put me lower. It’s possible that the misery is a premonition. Or that random bad things happen. But I can still have an eye toward the horizon. An unexpected kindness, an exchange.

Be a satellite. Let the day do its thing. It could end very differently than it began.


You might also enjoy:
Suffer The Words
The High Cost Of Being Me
No Trophies

Monday, January 22, 2018

Picture Edit


It’s good. I can see that.

The lines are there. So are the composition, saturated palette and light. The filmy Christmas lights hung on the awning add a bit of whimsy - I could go as far as to say light irony - to the photograph. This keeps it from being too precious, too conventional, too full of itself. The rest of it is just the right kind of majestic.

Everything that years of working, failing, then trying again and succeeding are there.

This could be a welcome addition to my series.

I don’t feel the way I should about it. There’s no quickened heartbeat, crack of the bat against the ball and powerful arc signaling a home run. There’s no thrill in having captured it.

Like everybody, I spend my days in compromise. Maybe I cut a corner here, stay longer than I want, say yes when I mean no, exert willpower. My life is good. None of it is over my head. Not really.

But with photography, I’ve got to be all the way in. It gets to have my whole heart. If there is exactitude with love then here is where that is.

With this I get to have the orchestra, the breathlessness, the purity.

So I go ahead and delete it. I don’t regret it. Soon after, I don’t think about this image anymore. It’s stunning how quickly that happens.

You might also enjoy:
I walked to the end of the driveway

Chicken Scratch
My Future Crappy Work

Monday, January 15, 2018

Rations


I ask you a question.

Your reply is short. You smile politely. It is clear you consider this query answered. It’s a curt sentence, but a sentence nonetheless. I have to admit that.

The air is thin in here now.

Dismissive, I say to myself.

I watch you thinking. Then you decide to elaborate.

You say some more. You become animated. It’s like you went from black and white to color. I feel my own color returning.

Not dismissive, I say to myself.


From the archives:
Yes, Please

The High Cost Of Being Me
The Best Thing Someone Never Said to Me