"Most areas in the world may be placed in latitude and longitude, described chemically in their earth, sky and water, rooted and fuzzed over with identified flora and peopled with known fauna and there's an end to it. Then there are others where fable, myth, preconception, love, longing or prejudice step in and so distort a cool, clear appraisal that a kind of high-coloured magical confusion takes hold."
-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
Somewhere in the middle of Oregon, end of July 2014
film: ILFORD HP5 400
How does the nursery rhyme go? Little boys are made of snails?I can imagine it.The puppy dog tails wagging furiously within him.
Thom names Ives after animals, recognizing traits. It is the opposite of anthropomorphizing. When Ives accepts water out of an open mouthed bottle he is a baby goat. And because of his light tufts of hair he is a gosling. His hair is more air than hair, still it can matt. When he eats more than either of us, he is a brood parasite: a bird who's parents left an egg in another’s nest, our alien to nurture and rear. He is a tiger cub in our bed in the morning, pawing us, biting our ears, climbing over the backs of us. A jungle gym of legs. With his blocks he is a beaver, building walls, tiring not.
He has a watermelon seed stuck to his cheek with juice. A black tear.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
"Imagine this: some morning we awake to the cultural consensus that a family, however else defined, is a sort of compact of mutual loyalty, organized around the hope of giving rich, human meaning to the lives of its members. Toward this end they do what people do - play with their babies, comfort their sick, keep their holidays, commemorate their occasions, sing songs, tell jokes, fight and reconcile, teach and learn what they know about right and wrong, about what is beautiful and what is to be valued. They enjoy each other and make themselves enjoyable. They are kind and receive kindness, they are generous and sustained and enriched by others' generosity. The antidote to fear, distrust or weakness, or even disloyalty, is always loyalty."
-M. Robinson, from The Death of Adam
in other words
Love is not love /Which alters when alteration finds
Physical mail, the type that requires patience and includes humanity in its form – finger prints and sloppy handwriting and smears of jam – fuses the solitary with the social. We are lonely and strange with our ideas and our art. In conversation we react and respond, we touch and are touched. We read the other person to gauge their understanding. We repeat if we feel misunderstood. In a written letter we are without these tools, we are introverted. We write when we are strangers with the world – from train cars and travel destinations – with news that things have changed – we have given birth, become an atheist, fallen in love, learnt to bake sourdough. We write with our new address when we move. We write when things are quiet and our ideas are new. When we can hear the ocean, when our company has left, when night has fallen or day broken. With no potential for immediate response and time sitting in the way of communion, everything is at stake. We ask important questions. We have confidence in our awkward sentences and in the recipient for we do not control and cannot see how we are received. We stand by our words. They are gifts. They are freedom. They are surprise.
With letters, as with art, we are empowered in our solitariness – to withdraw, to seek personal inspiration, to set private goals – and in our relationships – to collaborate, to communicate, to make wild gestures of love. This material, this paper, this fabric, this dress, belongs to two solitudes, mine and yours. Physically speaking, we’ve made contact.
- A piece I wrote for STATE (the secret summer catalogue)
“the whole town does look like whatever hope becomes after it begins to weary a little, then weary a little more.” - Marilynne Robinson
The length of late winter took its toll. It rains now - grey and icy and earthy. We engage spring, awkward as baby colts, unsure of ourselves and mistrusting the thaw. One day we’re ecstatic, buoyed by the sun and melting drifts and sidewalk traffic, next we’re discouraged, wearing mitts again and fighting a north wind. The signs are there: the falcons nesting on top of Thom’s building, the visible shingles, shifting river ice, geese. Here spring isn’t green or pink or blooming. Here spring is brown and it aches. The river is loud. The people are tired. The city is dirty. Summer is birthed – the heaviness and weariness of winter doesn’t just fade or melt, it is laboured out of being. Summer is fought for and with tears, it comes.
He stands at the top of the stairs, his pajamas tucked into his socks. He grins brightly before turning to escape. Every move is a game, a teasing, an invitation to engage.
Sometimes he is wild. When he runs his strides don’t lengthen but speed up, so the sound is like heavy rain or tapping - staccato. In a race, his belly would cross the finish line before his feet and head. Instead of by a hair, he’d win by a belly.
There is a plant hanging over the bathtub. When I water it it sometimes sheds dark leaves. Later in the bath the leaves stick to him like leaches. He pulls at them and says “oh” and then, pausing, “wow.”