When, a few weeks back, Joan asked me whether I would like to have one of her drawings, I thought only, “Which one?” There are 30, perhaps as many as 40 drawings hanging in the fourth floor hallway. There were ones of younger frail women and others of cocksure men. Neither sort would suit. For weeks, my eye keep coming back to this woman you see above. And why? And why? Because her face intimates that she has suffered greatly but also that she has achieved a state of steadiness, of resolve, a kind of fortitude. Her pensive look does not imply preoccupations; it suggests contemplative stillness. Full-bodied, strong yet delicate, relaxed and unshaken, she is becoming an older woman and she is aging well.
There is beauty in human frailty if only we look closely.
Beauty in human frailty because life is so many things at so many times in so many ways. And there are fathers and mothers and there are lovers and friends. And then there is enmity and tragedy: the shards and stains and yoke torrents running crestfallen over sheeny, tar-like rocks.
Beauty in human frailty because there is also laughter, only–only the laughter, a laughter that comes with knowing that life is, or in any case can be, so many things at so many times in so many ways and that we are still here, amid it all, after all, through it all and withal, and then too that there are pieces of eye and sky and turquoise flowers floating above the tumult and growing apart from robin’s death.
I am looking at your photos. You have such a good eye for these quiet moments that open in the midst of all else. I think what all your photos share–not just these but all those you’ve shown me–is a sense of wonderment and a meditative eye for what is just now coming into being.
Maybe, let’s say, it’s the stillness at the heart of transience. I see the man’s hands, tied to boat, tied to rope, moving yet still. I see the evening light shining through the aperture. The hands and light are all so fleeting yet all very beautiful in virtue of their fleetingness.
The good camera does not belie the coming into being of this moment by ‘freezing’ and ‘petrifying’ it; the good camera holds it softly up to us even as it intimates, as though in a meditation on death, the moment’s passing away in one moment hence. The good camera holds up and reveals and lets go like a band of gypsies. The good camera is a still right hand crimping supple rope.
I am thinking in mid-sentence, as you know I always do. I think, just now, that perhaps what these photos are revealing is a kind of meditation: a meditation on the beautiful moment, on being ready for a loving opening, on reawakening to life and love and… and, yes, to the love of life. The changes you describe in your life are perhaps not so much ‘internal’ or ‘external’ as changes in your perception of the world–that is, not ‘internal’ or ‘external’ but a way of being in the world in which the new rises up, unencumbered by the stale, the taken for granted, the familiar, the habitual… The new discloses itself not in opposition to the everyday, not as a mere cosmetic, but from out of the everyday like a once-lying rope converging in a figure-8. I see you meditating daily, here where aesthetic perception meets patience and courage. Grace follows of course as love flows of course.
I noticed the texture first, the graininess, that is. Then the color or rather colors, especially the white light coming from the viewer’s far left, the lantern lit up like a gig lamp. Then the wooden chairs with their swooping, semicircular backs. And finally, behind the traced-out line, my eye came to rest on the glistening teapot. There it is–so porcelain, so clear and distinct.
The reality of the teapot is most evident in the slightly tipped lid. Like us, the teapot is not ajar, not irregular, not alone but turned and hinting, nodding, winking. It is winking quizzically at life.
Thanks to one conversation partner who sent me this stunning picture. About now, I imagine he is in mid-flight, gazing down in wonder at prairie and city.
The mouth of one crosses the mouth of the other. The first eye is visible but not the second eye, unless the second eye is also the eye of the other man.
The two faces are not superimposed neatly, one upon the other. One lies behind the other. Much belongs to the young and not to the old and vice versa. For instance, the young man has a thin neck, is embodied, whereas the older gentleman has gone beyond some of that, having become cheeks and brow and blue veins. And the first head is more angular, fresher hued, the face carved, more attractive. The second, while not unattractive, is that of an elder.
And what are we seeing in this drawing? One aging, the other aged? The one aging into the aged? Is it the kiss–the nose eye kiss–of tranquilidad? O senor, tranquilo!
Are we observing the warrior and the philosopher? The young man of action (vita activa) and the old man of leisure (vita contemplativa)? Thymos and sophia, Defiance and Love, Mettle and Patience? (Ten pacienca, por favor… Los suenos suenos son.)
To make sense of this, let us return, once more, to the kiss. The older man, let us say, is kissing the young man softly with age. Kissing away his fighting with life. Kissing away his helmet, his battle with leaky time, this with his long, white coils: away all with his limp hair, his friendly mien, his sated time.
By means of philosophy, one sees the other eye to eye, nose to nose, word into word. The blue lines are ours.
Thanks to one conversation partner for sharing with me this beautiful drawing of our first conversation together. I cannot think apart from the other. I cannot think at all. In my words, I mean to do justice to you. Ever that. Ever in gratitude, A.