Monday, November 2, 2009

Because some of you have asked...

People have asked me if the paintings and photos that appear on this blog are mine. The answer is yes. I will from time to time be using other people's images, but unless otherwise indicated they are mine. For decades photography and watercolors have been a part of my process as a writer and wanderer. I have found, and have encouraged my students to find as well, that the visual can be an important component to language and at times words just aren't enough.

Henry Miller was one of the writers from whom I drew, and still draw, inspiration. He wrote every morning and painted at the end of his day's work. It was an important part of Miller's process as well. These images of mine, such as the one below (entitled "Woman") have lain for decades in drawers and old portfolios. There was a brief moment when I contemplated being a photojournalist, but then something terrible happened.

A friend wanted to do an exhibit of my best photos and I put together a slide sheet that contained my favorite images from Tibet, Latin America, Siberia, and so on. My daughter was an infant and my life was chaotic and somehow, I still don't know and probably never will, that slide sheet (perhaps tucked into newspapers being recycled) was lost. I searched for them for years. I couldn't believe they were lost. In some sense I still keep thinking they will show up. Along the way I gave up the idea of sharing any of these images, especially black and whites from Mexico, with the world.

The heart went out of it for me. Writing seemed easier to hold on to. The visual felt more transitory. I could hold an indea in my head. But not a picture. Still I had the pictures and also had begun the drawings. I had no idea what to do with them. Then a year ago, during my sabbatical, that a friend suggested I find a way to preserve and combine the visual work I do with my writing. It was also around that time that I shared with my daughter some of my photos she had never seen from the late 70's. She also encouraged me to digitalize this work.

So for the past several months, I have been going to a copy shop and having various images that appear in this blog scanned. Then this past weekend my husband, who knew I had many things I left that I wanted to preserve, bought me a scanner and it has become a new toy. But more than that it has given me a way to archive, and remember, some of the work from decades ago. I spent a lot of time this weekend, going through portfolios of photographs, slides, drawings, some from thirty years ago.

It makes me remember my father. When he turned eighty, he called me, and said that he didn't know how he got to be so old. He told me that he'd had a dream the night before. He dreamt that he was a little boy and that it was the night before he moved with his family to Nashville where my grandfather took over a dry goods store which would, as with all my grandfather's other endeavors, fail.

In his dream he was sleeping between his very fat aunt and his very skinny uncle under a heavy cover. He told me how that whole night he was hot and couldn't breathe. And he thought the night would never end. Then in the morning his parents gathered them all together and they moved away. On the phone he began to cry. Then he said, "My whole life lives inside of me. I'm 80 years old and I remember everything."

Yesterday it seemed as if I was remembering everything too - all the journeys I've taken, the friends I've met, the stories I've heard. The people who have shared a part of themselves along the way. So I am sharing, and will be sharing more of them, here...

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