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Entries in beauty (5)


Orange Sky


The sky out my driver's side window was washed in such a fierce orange glow that I wondered for a moment if I had missed the headline about a new forest fire.  I was racing against myself to get to the cabin where old friends awaited our arrival.  I fumbled blindly for my iPhone so I could try to freeze the sky's furious drama without having to slow down.

My big camera spends a lot of time in my camera bag these days, silently rebuking me - transmitting signals that only I receive about how I'm not worthy or that the view in front of me is too simple or too obvious.  My iPhone happily shoots whatever banal scene I point it at, without judgement.

Over me the ominus virga of mountain rainclouds started dropping intermittent sprinkles and the road unfurled past the reservoir in a slick black ribbon.  I slowed down a little, mindful of my tires worn down by endless repetitions of this drive.  With one eye on the iPhone screen scanning past my driver's-side window and one eye on the rain-slicked road ahead of me, it hit me.

Look to the right.

I gasped when I turned.

The foot of a thousand-watt rainbow, perfectly framed in the passenger window, thisclose.  I moved the iPhone to my right hand and snapped.  Thank god for the iPhone, which doesn't sniff at cliches or make me second guess anodyne beauty.  

Then a directive rose from deep in my gut: pull over.  

Pull.  Over.

I didn't want to, but the directive pointed out that if you are thisclose to the brightest rainbow you've ever seen in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and you have a big camera in the back and you can't make yourself stop because it's too pretty, you're probably an asshole.  Or if you have the next four days with nothing time-sensitive to do, but you're in too much of a rush to pull over?  Again, asshole.  Not, you know, politician-level asshole or Wall Street banker-level asshole, but still.  Just stop the car.  Appreciate what's in front of you.

I may be self-absorbed and stuck in my head.  I may think too much, about the wrong things.  I may try too hard and have too little to show for it.  I may be the queen of white girl problems.  

But I'd like to think I'm not an asshole.

I pulled over, got out the big camera, snapped on the wide angle lens and gave myself permission to stop thinking and for once, just shoot.


Truth vs. Beauty: The Cage Fight In My Head

I was tagged by Cherish Bryck last week in a bloggie interview game, and I had every intention of playing along.  But, as tends to happen lately, life got filled up with a whole lot of other work/art/out-of-town guests/distraction and that intention got away from me.

She did ask a question that has been rattling around in the back of my brain since then, even in the midst of all the mayhem: If you had to pick, would you rather photograph truth or beauty?

And here I am, with Spring popping all around me, back in my annual internal battle about whether taking pictures of flowers is worth anything at all.  I set these tulips in a puddle of window light yesterday afternoon.  The dialogue between me and my camera went something like:


Yeah, so what?


Oooooh, pretty.


Right, but what does it do?

I am a storyteller at heart.  I value beauty (I bought the tulips after all), but I find myself wondering if it has meaning.  At no time of year is this a more challenging conundrum to me than Spring.  I hear Keats and wonder if he was right:

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

It has a certain roundness that I like, these two ideals containing each other.  And, it could be argued in my tortured head, that it gives me permission to shoot the damn tulips already.  But the cynic in me thinks Keats was an overly-romantic 24-year-old and I was 24 once and, well, I didn't know much of anything then.  Though I was ardent.

So I poked around to see what other people made of this dilemma and, naturally, Gandhi weighed in on it. 

I see and find Beauty in Truth or through Truth. All Truths, not merely true ideas, but truthful faces, truthful pictures or songs are highly beautiful. People generally fail to see Beauty in Truth, the ordinary man runs away from it and becomes blind to the beauty in it. Whenever men begin to see Beauty in Truth, then true Art will arise.

It seems that Gandhi puts truth at the birthplace of beauty and art, and I think I do too.  I'm not sure what this means for me and still-life, but since this is probably the most torturously self-conscious post in the history of this blog I will leave you with a pretty picture I made of some flowers and hope you feel less conflicted about that than me.


Instrument of Beauty

361.365 50mm (+12mm mac tube) f2 1/60 ISO 400The first night I met my husband he played Friend of the Devil on guitar and I was smitten.  Completely, utterly hooked.  (Looking back, perhaps I should have seen it as a bit of a warning too, but all's well that ends well, right?)

We have been married for five years now so obviously he doesn't play guitar for me much anymore.  His good guitar has been at a friend's house for about six months now but it finally came back to us this week.  Yesterday I was just admiring how gorgeous this instrument is.

That's not even to speak of the beautiful sounds that come out of this guitar.  I may just have to prevail upon him to pretend for a moment that he still wants to impress me and play.  My birthday's this week, so he couldn't possibly say no, right?


Parent Trap

178.365 50mm f2.8 1/250 ISO 200I was craving chile rellenos last night so we fed Ezra his normal, carb-laden dinner at home and then loaded into one of our neighborhood Mexican joints.  I have no guilt about letting Ezra eat tortilla chips for dessert.  Or about delaying his bedtime for an hour so I can get my fill of salty/green chile-doused/cheesy goodness (with a margarita on the side). 

Here is where the guilt comes in:  the ladies at the table next to us were positively swooning over him.  They repeatedly commented about how cute he is.  And how smart he is.

And I liked it.

Okay, a) I want my child to understand that life is not about being cute.  Or beautiful.  Or whatever other surface thing one might be judged to possess or to lack.  So when people I don't know are oohing and aaaahhing over my kid and I'm liking it I get a twinge of what kind of a person am I? 

And then b) as Ezra kept a running commentary of everything he saw around us (Where the baby go?  That's a cowboy!  He rides horsie!  Horsie eat the grass!) the woman next to us said "oh, he's obviously very smart."  And then I got all proud, and then embarrassed that I was proud because what does she know?  And also, every time anyone three-feet-tall or less says anything remotely coherent we adults think they're they second coming of Einstein.

Obviously I hope my kid is smart, though I suspect it's too early to really tell.  And, like every mother on Earth, I'm pretty sure my kid's the most beautiful creature ever to walk upright.  I know he is handy with a screwdriver.  And that he has an impulse to fix everything he encounters, whether it's broken or not.  And that he was somehow blessed with mile-long eyelashes that I would pay large sums of money to simulate.

I know that he reveals himself to me a little bit more every day.  And I'm still dying to know just who he is.


Organizing Principles

161.365 50mm f3.2 1/250 ISO 200Many days as I look for something to shoot I ask myself one of two questions:

  1. What's the most beautiful thing that crosses my path today?
  2. What's the most random thing that crosses my path today?

As it happened, yesterday the answer to both questions was the same: Xavier.  When I arrived home from work last night Xavier, a beautiful, random Frenchman, was sitting on my porch.  Those eyes!  That smile!  (Sorry ladies, he left after a couple beers.)  He's hopping on a Greyhound bus and heading for a farm in Missouri tomorrow, but for a short time he lit up my porch.  How could I possibly resist pulling out my camera?