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Entries in quiet (5)

Wednesday
Aug062014

Bouyant

Dawn broke with a peach sky out the window of our rented vacation home. It was hard to convince myself to get out of bed at that hour but I did it anyway. Grabbed my camera and quietly stole from the house, leaving behind 15 sleeping family members. The pink was gone from the sky by the time I got to the field where the Steamboat Balloon Rodeo launched, but there were already hundreds of early risers there to witness the bloom of these inflated rainbows and their wondrous bouyancy.

Sometimes being alone in a crowd with my Nikon as a companion is the most comfortable place I can imagine. I don't have to talk. All I have to do is walk, look, listen, and click.

Click.

Click.

I remembered, in this little gift of a morning to myself, that the camera in my hands heightens my senses. This practice has taken a back seat to my other duties lately and to the busyness that snuffs out spontaneity and personal creation. Here, as a quiet observer in the midst of a carnival morning, I had the luxury of introversion and silence. Click.

Click.

Balloons are not precision aircraft. They are a primitive, if beautiful, means of defying the laws that bind us to earth. They were breathtaking in their sheer unlikeliness, up there in the mountain morning. In the silence between the click click click I toyed with the idea of bouyancy. Maybe it's simpler than it seems to float. Maybe there's room for this sensation in my life: quiet, expansive, and weightless. And maybe the simplest way will be the most beautiful.

Tuesday
Jan032012

Weight Lifting

My job shut down for the week between Christmas and New Years and we had the unusual circumstance of no family around, so I had the gift of quiet space this holiday.  I had to acknowledge to myself during this time just how disconnected I've been from my camera lately.  I have felt and known this for some time, but it was really the first time I have allowed myself to say it out loud. 

My camera weighs five hundred pounds.

I can barely lift it.

This makes me feel panicky.

What happens if I don't shoot?  What if I can never pick it up again?  What if I forget how to shoot?  What if I forget how to see?

I considered committing myself to another 365 project just so I have to shoot, but then I thought of the long list of other photography-related projects I have half-conceived.  I realized that a 365, with its comfortable rhythms, might just be a distraction from pushing through the fear I have about starting some new and different things.

I went outside a lot.  I breathed in the cold air.  I stretched, warmed up my muscles and picked up the heavy camera, determined to make a few images.  I did some things I am comfortable doing, and I tried some things I have never done before. 

It is the new year, and I am a beginner again. 

Friday
Dec162011

Hold The Space

Certain gifts are so much easier to give others than to give ourselves.

To be present.  To listen well.  To accept without judgement.

These are gifts I want to offer to the important people in my community and I hope that I succeed in that, at least sometimes.  But I am not in the practice of offering these to myself.  I am not in the practice of receiving them from myself.

I noticed this, as I sat in the dark with only the sounds of my breath and the the furnace cycling on to warm the house before daybreak.

It's hard, sometimes, to know how much space to take in the world.  I don't know if I've grown lately and am straining against the edges of a container that used to be comfortable.  Or maybe the shape has just shifted and the new corners are irritating me but I'll stop noticing as soon as I form new calluses.

In the dark I can't see where I end and the world begins.  An image of my internal space materializes in my mind, a cramped and partitioned apartment building with lots of doors and not enough light.  That's not how I want to look inside.  Internally I want to be a vast meadow where the breeze ripples tall grass and any sound could echo for miles. 

---

So far it's worth it, trading 30 minutes of sleep for quiet, dark wakefulness.  It feels like a gift to myself, holding the space for an endless landscape to unfurl inside me, where I can stretch out and breathe.

Monday
Dec122011

How to Disappear Completely

I wake early and slip as silently as possible out of bed, quietly gathering clothes and camera gear and making my way to a neighborhood park to shoot the eclipse. It is completely dark and very cold when I pull up to the edge of the lake and the shadow is only beginning to show on the upper edge of the moon. It is also very comfortable in the car and as the seat warmers kick in I decide I can wait until the eclipse gets a little further along to set up my shot. After a few minutes I turn off the radio and sit there in silence, watching the shadow slowly slowly eat the moon.

Last weekend I was Skyping with a friend who asked me if I get much alone time. Um, my commute, I noted a little more bitterly than I intended. Three-year-olds, husbands, and work collaborators seem to demand a lot of attention.

People start pulling up to the lake, getting out to watch the moon.

Commute. Alone. If I'm going to insist on being one of those wasteful Americans in my gas-guzzling car driving to work by myself, maybe I should take advantage of the chance to be alone.  I noticed this last week and resisted the habit of making phone calls on the way to work.  Quiet.

Long lenses and tripods begin to populate the lakeshore.  Orange creeps into the eastern sky behind me.  In the car I am alone.

I sit for an hour and a half. The eclipse is so gradual but somehow the moon becomes a sliver suddenly, and it's sinking toward the mountains fast. I came here to take a picture - the third month in a row I have tried in vain to shoot the full moon - but by the time I get the tripod out of the car I don't have time to find the right place to set up or frame the shot the way I'd imagined.

It's strange that you can race through life at such a pace as to approach terminal velocity, but when you do sit you can totally lose track of the urge to move at all.

In the end, I only fired a couple frames of the eclipse. Immediately after it sunk behind the mountains I had to fight off regret for not trying harder to get the shot. Missed opportunity! What was I thinking?! It's not the shot I came here to make!

But the warmth. The quiet. The shadows. The light.

Invisible.

Peace.

Monday
Aug152011

One Weekend, Two (Incomplete) Lists

First, things to let go of:

  • the compulsion to prove myself the Life Of The Party
  • the disappointment that I'm not
  • the urge to dance with 10,000 weirdly dressed freaky people at the Thievery Corporation show at Red Rocks
  • the anxious stomach, at the thought of Doing The Right Thing
  • the one remaining ticket to Burning Man, to be mailed to a deserving soul in San Francisco today
  • the vivid Playa dreams I've had for the past 12 months
  • the fear that I'll never be able return to Black Rock City

I chose the quiet space this weekend, though the fleshy little crescent moons dug into my palms betrayed my fight to release the Showy, the Loud, the Fun.  It is possible that the fact that I was too busy all weekend to write proves that I still have a way to go toward the quiet space.  But never mind that.

So, List #2.  Also known as, steps toward quiet satisfaction:

305.365 50mm f1.4 1/60 ISO 1600

  • Is it weird to profess moving toward a quiet place and then immediately show a photo of a DJ?  Baby steps.  But when your brother -- who has excellent taste in intelligent music and who is really getting the hang of matching beats -- invites you to dance... and when the dance is in a dark room with no alcohol and no expectation that you'll even speak to anyone and only the impression that you'll let the music move you...  well, at that point it becomes kind of like a late-night yoga class.  With big speakers.

306.365 50mm f3.2 1/320 ISO 200

  • Come to think of it, toddler birthday parties are not famously quiet either.  But being the world's Least Organized Mom (manifested this week by my inability to plan Ezra's birthday party more than three days in advance) does have occasional advantages.  No Chuck E Cheese.  No pool party.  No Children's Museum mayhem.  Just a couple picnic blankets, some cupcakes, and a small gathering of the kind of long-time friends and family that let you know you've arrived at Community. 

Ezra will turn three this week secure in the knowledge that he got his birthday cake.  And I will keep from him the secret that there is still a vat of homemade cream cheese icing in the fridge.

307.365 50mm f1.4 1/60 ISO 800

  • Finally, I had been torn between an invitation to a salon my long-lost friend Marjorie was hosting last night (quiet) and the Thievery show at Red Rocks (loud).  I met Marjorie in a writing class years ago.  She has been cultivating a writing life ever since and gathered a collection of some of her favorite writer friends for dinner and readings. 

Wow.  Just, wow.  First of all it was incredibly flattering to even be invited to the same gathering as these people, under the guise of being a Writer.  I mean, they were reading chapters of novels they're working on and memoirs and poetry.  I took the out offered on the invitation and read the work of someone I admire, Kate Inglis.  Seemed a better option than reading aloud the glorified journal entries I post here. 

But here is what I have to say about this: the food was delicious, the people I met were talented and fascinating, the variety and quality of their work was inspiring, and I could have stayed to talk for much longer if we had not already been on the verge of turning into pumpkins by the end of the night.  I did not wish for a moment that I was instead dancing among the throngs at Red Rocks.  Thank you, Marjorie, and all your writerly friends for including me in a completely nourishing evening.  It was exactly what I needed.

(But feel free to keep reports of Thievery Corporation to yourself, people.)