I am now officially 80 years old, free to say anything, wear anything, do anything I want. Perhaps I was always free to do so, but I particularly value the invisibility and irrelevance that comes with my age. I love having reached this stage, and am very grateful for it.
I claim nothing but good fortune to have achieved this marker, very little of which was my own doing. I apparently have some reasonably sound genetic components, was born in a place and time, and am of a race and gender, that benefitted me. I fully own what I did or did not make of my opportunities, and the choices I made along the way. I had some excellent guides and advantages, and my life has not been difficult.
I know I am out of step with current culture now, and have probably “outlived my time” as my grandmother used to say. Nonetheless, I’m still curious about the human condition as it attempts to cope with endless chaos and change. It amazes me how creativity continuously manages to bubble up through the mundane to spark new evolutions. Ego, on the other hand, which is the product and life partner of personal imagination, seems to be a particularly complicated advisor, and gleefully misguides human development with depressing regularity.
Do I think that I am “wise” now because I am old? No, but I’m wiser than I was, mostly about my own life. I have my “wish I’d known” list, but I share the human condition that doesn’t seem to want to accept as wisdom anything that isn’t self-generated. I think that’s a tragic flaw, particularly when history has been generous enough to leave us so many useful guides. I love knowing of them, marking book margins for things I wish I’d remember, copying quotes that inspire. I deeply admire original thinking and convictions, but know I was not personally gifted with those talents or passions.
I have lived my life as an interested observer, and there has been a great deal see.
While contemplating the state of the world and my life during my chilly morning walks, I’ve been searching for an easy mantra I could remember to try to create some positive energy for the New Year. I think I’ve found it in the wonderful title of a book by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Even with more time to read, the result hasn’t been more books that I’ve loved. One of the primary challenges has been the library waiting list, and my dependence on fellow readers’ willingness to relinquish their favorites. I haven’t seen a new release in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean there’s been nothing available to read. I liked these.
Do you remember Eugene McCarthy? It’s been some time since his was a familiar name in American politics. He held a Senate seat for Minnesota from 1959-1971, and was a candidate for President several times, beginning with his run against the Vietnam War and Lyndon Johnson in 1968. His career continued through the 1980s, and he died in 2005.
In my on-going COVID closet clean-out exercises, I found this gem yesterday among political memorabilia, just as photographed below. I do not know which of his campaigns it came from; the attached button is a tiny one half inch wide.
I wasn’t sure what a zine was before signing up for another Santa Fe Workshop online photography program, although I probably should have. I’ve been putting together photo books following travel for years, and a zine is a small, soft cover magazine, shorter and much less expensive to do than a book. After the first class, I thought it would be a cinch to produce a zine. Not so fast. While one can include anything in it that contributes to the point of the project, one does need a point to begin with. I’d only done the “here I am in front of whatever” kind of travel diary book before; now I needed a subject, and photos that fit the focus. Hmmm.
I had no intention of creating anything for sale, so it seemed to me a “travel summary” zine would work. After sorting through hundreds of photos and quotes collected over time, I settled on stones as my focus, with help from William Shakespeare who mentioned “…sermons in stones…” in As You Like It. Stones show up in all kinds of human creations (the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru) and in God created settings too (like the Alps and Rocky Mountains). I thought I ought to be able to find some coherence in there somewhere.
The most interesting and difficult exercise for me in putting the zine together was sequencing. How do the photos fit together (color, shape, pattern, purpose?)Did I need to explain pairings or flow of pictures? Was moving from page to page confusing? Should the photos be large or small, stand alone or grouped? Did I want text? Did the text augment the story, or distract from the photos? Yikes.
I finished the project following a zillion revisions, and I’ll probably never do it again. However, I really liked the exercise of pairing photos, looking for commonalities in far flung expressions of stone. It was another eye opener, which is why one takes classes like these I think. Here are a few of my pairing choices, each from a different country (identified when hovering the cursor over a photo.)
I receive emails regularly from The Tricycle Community, an organization that focuses on Buddhist wisdom, and I was struck by their offering this week entitled “A Zen Teaching for Troubled Times.” Here it how it begins:
The 9th-century Zen master Linji Yixuan said, “There is a true person of no rank who is always coming and going from the portals of your face.”
I know; it takes thinking about.
What might it be like if we were able to extract the essence of ourselves from all that we have conjured to create the facades we present to the world, and could see and hear one another as true persons of no rank, in the knowledge that we live and share this planet only by divine grace, not of our own doing? Unimaginable, but I’d love to live there.
I had actively employed these two words during the preceding “stay at home” months to try to think about things other than derailed plans, and force myself off the sofa with exercise classes. When another on-line photo class popped up with class segments entitled Focus and Movement, led by well known and very creative nature photographer Eddie Soloway, (eddiesoloway.com), how could I not sign on?
My past photography experience has primarily been the luck of being in a beautiful place where the “point and shoot” approach can’t miss. Focus and movement work is entirely different, and much more challenging for me. How does one direct focus to something in a photo while minimizing other distractions in the frame? How does one stop motion, or show motion intentionally that doesn’t just look like a blurry mistake?How does one “make” movement if none exists in the subject? I really knew very little about “creating photos” rather than “taking pictures”, and I liked playing with the camera a lot. I was certainly helped during the “stop motion” exercises by a family of ducks who arrived to live in our pool for a few days just as I needed them.
The final assignment for the on-line photography course Homescapes: A New Paradigm, offered through Santa Fe Workshops, was to photograph our “sense of self” at home. We had already completed an earlier assignment to take portraits of people or animals living with us, and I had not enjoyed that task. This assignment did not make me happy either. I rarely photograph people when traveling and never take selfies. So I worked to define who I think I am at the moment and photograph those ideas. These were my conclusions: (1) I am a housekeeper, (2) I am hiding from society, (3) I am living in a disembodied state from any earlier life; yet despite current conditions I am (4) blessed beyond reason, and (5) able to do whatever I feel like doing, enjoying my hobby on line when I can’t travel. It was another useful exercise in clarifying life at home at present.
I also include a portrait of my home companion(s), who make life much more fun.