Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Obscurity, Change, Grief, and Memory

There are nearly 33,000 photos on my phone, and recently the subjects are about 92% flowers, cats, and food, 6% political memes, and 2% family and friends. This is troubling to me. I notice how few pictures I have of my sons, of Geoff, and even fewer of friends. If Chickenblog is representative of our days, of what we are doing, what I am thinking about, then I suppose it's accurate, in a way, that there are no recent pictures of my Mom, or cousins, or aunts... not now, during a pandemic, while we are isolating. Then I question myself, What about the people living here, or even the friends that mask up and hang out? Where are those pictures?

I am certain that these days are changing us, altering our culture, our behavior. We move and act to cope, to manage living in the same space, for days, weeks, months on end. We compromise, and accommodate, we coordinate, cooperate, and negotiate. For all of the challenges, and self-regulating concessions we accept and practice, I believe we are doing well. We share the same values, and concerns, and we get along. So. That helps. Really, I can't imagine how it would feel to go through this if we didn't agree about wearing masks, or if one of us insisted on going places, taking more risks than necessary. Culture and behavior are not fixed, immovable, but it does take extreme measures, big shifts, to change how we act, what we do, collectively. I think the pandemic and social isolation have been significant enough events to change our behavior, our culture... not only in our home, but in the world. This likely, in part, accounts for the social revolution, the protest, the discomforts, and the insights and inspirations, we are witnessing, sharing, resisting. We are growing, or at least being challenged to grow, change, evolve, to adjust our thinking. We are in this together, literally, figuratively. It seems that this proximity, makes us aware of things that are wrong, things that are intimate, unfair, need attention, need care. For some, this imposes ideas that disrupt intrinsic, deep seated beliefs, and even forces us to examen what we know and compare and contrast it with truth, with what other people have experienced, or have been dealt.

Anyway, there will be lifetimes of study and reflection on the changes we are seeing, on the intersection of progressivism, politics, climate change, and pandemics, and how they marked this time, this era, and touched everything, everyone. In other words, it's a lot to think about, to express, to figure out.

I tend to recognize large issues, complex concepts and events, and distill them, simplify them... relate them to what I see close at hand. And I think I am not taking as many photographs of us, of my sons, and husband, of Bambi, and friends that come by, of Maria, because we are so close. I detect the intimacy and proximity of us, of seven people living together, working, studying, playing, everyday, for an indeterminate time. Blogging has always been a balancing act for sharing, and being personal, but not over-sharing, not being too personal. I'm sure I have erred in both directions. Indeed, I have been admonished, both, for over-sharing, and for being obtuse. However unsuccessful I am, or am not, I am sensitive to the issue, and want to be respectful, without actually giving up on writing, on being a blogger.

My brain plods on... how, when we are all here, together, am I taking fewer pictures of people? It seemed odd to me, a strange kind of omission. Sometimes, I recognize having few pictures of someone I love, and I worry that I have neglected to demonstrate my attention, my care of them, for them, when I don't have pictures of them. To me, it feels as if I have not been seeing them, and it makes me uncomfortable, sad. Have you ever been left out of a yearbook, a collage of family pictures, noticed when you aren't in someone's collection of photographs? I find it hurtful, and I take great care and worry a lot about not overlooking people when I make slideshows, or post images. I feel that who is missing from pictures can be as meaningful as who is included. Some patterns have simple explanations that make sense and don't represent a sad narrative. There can be, however, very truthful and revealing narratives in photographs. I think about this a lot, and I care very much about who is in my pictures, who is not, and why, and how they are represented. Initially, I was not aware of the change, or more precisely, why I changed... but I have considered this at length and I have realized that I am being distant because of our proximity. We are close, all of the time, and we cannot get away, so there is this gracious shift we have made, mostly unconsciously, to give each other room, to not notice even what is in plain sight. As a photographer, I am already aware of some people's discomfort about being photographed, and I want to be sensitive and respectful of those feelings. Now we are so much in each others' company, and have little choice about being seen, all of the time, I am more than ever taking care not to be invasive, not to ask too much of people. Candid shots are a delicate matter, a trust act, and I don't want to press. And posed pictures, asking people to smile, look at the camera, feels like asking too much.

I could be projecting. I know I don't feel the same, familiar to my own self. The world is strange, and I feel strange in it. And it's all so muddled! There is probably too much closeness and proximity between all of us living in this house, and then when we see friends, or neighbors walking by, we keep a safe distance, we hide our mouths, our noses, our expressions. What do the sociologists, and palm readers, make of all this? Who are we, when we live in this new way, with these new norms, and customs? I've started taking more selfies, even shared a selfie video... inexplicable choices, for me. I know these five months have been some of the most introspective of my life, and I have been jolted by thoughts of being very uncomfortable living with me. So, how have I become ok with sharing pictures I take of me? "Ok," but not good, not easy.
July 24, 2020

I was dabbling with all those deep thoughts when my cousin texted me, telling me about our Abuela. Along with a 1,000 other feelings and thoughts, I formed the impression that everything I had been trying to express here was senseless. I nearly deleted it, and wouldn't even read it. I suppose this is why they say don't make big decisions when you are mourning, and the other pearl of wisdom, don't make a permanent change because of a temporary feeling. I suppose this should have been taken into stronger consideration before I cut off my hair in four whacks. Sadly, the hair mess is the temporary situation, and the loss of all of my Grandmothers is permanent.

Saturn and Jupiter, my binoculars... very poorly captured with my phone. I don't mind "bad" pictures. Not when they recall good moments, when they can evoke the memory and wonder of an event, like seeing the moons left and right of Jupiter, of the cool July night when we hosted friends for a movie night and campfires, heard the owls, and saw bats.

When I was 14 years old, and staying with my Abuelos in Tacupeto, I saw something beautiful in the night sky. There was a star, or so I thought, that was lingering so near the crescent moon, it looked almost affixed to the tip of the moon, like a set jewel. A Kodak camera couldn't capture it, I had no binoculars, or even the notion that we can see both stars and planets. I doubt I even realized how ideal the circumstances were for stargazing, where we were, far from city lights, pollution. I've longed to see that again... to understand what I was seeing, to share the beauty of it with others. It would have been summer, July or August... it could have been Venus, not a star. And on this August 15th, before sunrise, I am going to watch for the crescent moon with Venus shining nearby.
Is it funny-strange, or ironic, meaningful, or plain coincidence, that I was thinking so much about pictures, taking them, what they tell us, what we miss, what we hope to capture... when I learned that my Abuela died? I am in that frame of mind, looking for signs and connection, feeling adrift, and wanting to find meaning, not merely coincidence. I don't have very many photographs from my childhood, of me with family, of places we were. And as many pictures as I took, when I was 14, and 37, of Tacupeto and Abuela, of her kitchen, and the places we hiked to, I am heartbroken for not having more.

I wish I had more pictures. I wish I could put the words to the heartache and longing, and make some sense of all this hurt. It's too terrible to comprehend that so much goodness is gone, and gone forever.

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