The Map is not the Territory, the Word is not the thing it describes
A story or poem follows me around for a while, I write it down to get it out of my head and sometimes after rereading it seems universal enough that I hope it might also speak to someone else.
One thing that has become clear is the photography and the writing seem to be morphing into one, the photograph being the muse for the words or the words for the photograph.....and then a quote I find from someone who had the talent to put what I am trying to say into a few precise sentences.
I was sorting through bits and pieces of writing collected over the years and came upon a comment sent to another writer. I expressed how their writing took me to that “other dimension” the moment “just beyond” the witnessing. They suggested I try to form words around the dimension I was describing…..it felt ineffable.
Pareidolianoun The perception of a recognizable image or meaningful pattern where none exists or is intended, as the perception of a face in the surface features of the moon.
Discovering a new word, especially one that names a phenomenon I did not realize was a ‘thing’ is always interesting.
Pareidolia is quite common in humans according to online research and a small survey I conducted asking friends (or anyone I could interest) what they saw, if anything, in a series of photographs I took recently.
This Spring I attended a Geopoetics Symposium. I was unsure of what Geopoetics actually was at the time and probably couldn’t give a good definition even now, having attended and had time for reflection. One afternoon I attended a session that invited us to walk the shore at low tide in a “counter clockwise circulation” forming a circle in the sand “that we would later in the evening watch the sea edit.” Rain was pounding down and only five hardy participants showed up.
We faced the downpour and proceeded to walk in counter clockwise circulation on the exposed sand. The large circle we formed filled with rainwater causing the sides to collapse….any indentation we produced was quickly refilled with sand. I was about to abandon our efforts when my eye caught an image that had formed earlier by the pull of the outgoing tide.
Below is the first image I took of ‘Salish Sea Performance Art’ Mother Nature seemed more adept at producing and leaving impressions in the sand than we humans.
‘Performance art’ because the images are formed and stay only during low tide and then are “edited’ hours later by the incoming water. Twice a day everyday, I started returning every day at low tide and each day there was a new gallery of images.
Rotating the images once I downloaded them I stopped at the rotation that felt right. I cropped some of them but I have not altered them in any other way. The one below took my breath away when I rotated it into position. Everyone sees something different, please leave a comment below and let me know what you see.
The instructions we had read before starting our wet, circular walk read in part:
“Our shoreline interaction may spur participants to explore estrangement, intimacy, rural ritual, chronology, history, and/or relationship with human and more-than-human watery bodies. The interaction may be considered Geopoetics performance-as-research. There will be ears, and the shore will be a room.”
No circle was produced that day but upon rereading our instructions I realize that I was shown original artwork produced by a more-than-human watery body that reveals something new to each person I share it with.
“Summer was like your house: you knew where each thing stood. Now you must go out into your heart as onto a vast plain. Now the immense loneliness begins. The days go numb, the wind sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
THE OTHER SIDE
This morning forcing myself to rise from the Other Side of the bed the world a sky where rain fell no bombs not rising to cram essentials into small bags before entering a corridor of human strength and misery
This morning on the Other Side of the world the bed first foot met the floor with “Thank” the second “You” humanity rising no Other Side to Courage Truth Freedom
We rise unstoppable tide forcing everything everyone Forward.
My project for February is picking ‘new words’ from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and matching them with photographs that feel like a visual of what the word evokes in me…. then perhaps leaving my own comment.
n. a mysterious aura of loneliness you feel in certain places; the palpable weight of all the lonely people secretly holed up in their houses and apartments, with a flickering blue glow cast up on their walls-so many of whom might just want someone to talk to, or just want to feel needed, and could be that for each other if only they could somehow connect.
Short for “All the lonely people,” from the song “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. Pronounced “al-uh-pee.”
….from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig
A Slice of Life
Alope brings to mind the Hitchcock thriller Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. Stuck in his apartment with an injury he looks across the way and watches others play out their lives through the windows of their apartments.
A slice of life, making up back stories, feeling their loneliness or imagining it. Watching others come and go from their windows as they watch him do the same.
A book with the title The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows recently made its way into my hands. It is a compendium of new words. “It’s mission is to shine a light on the fundamental strangeness of being a human being.” The author John Koenig spent several years forming new words that “capture the delicate subtleties of the human experience” then published this Dictionary that is described as a “poem about everything”.
I thought I would attempt to match a word and definition from the book with a photograph, a shot that I had taken in the past or use it as an inspiration to search out a visual that matched my interpretation of the new word.
SONDER the awareness that everyone has a story
“You are the main character. The protagonist. The star at the center of your own unfolding story. You’re surrounded by your supporting cast: friends and family hanging in your immediate orbit. Scattered a little further out, a network of acquaintances who drift in and out of contact over the years. But there in the background, faint and out of focus, are the extras. The random passerby. Each living a life as vivid and complex as your own. They carry on invisibly around you bearing the accumulated weight of their own ambitions, friends, routines, mistakes, triumphs, and inherited craziness. When your life moves on to the next scene, theirs flickers in place, wrapped in a cloud of backstory and inside jokes and characters strung together with countless other stories you’ll never be able to see. That you’ll never know exist. In which you might appear only once. As an extra sipping coffee in the background. As a blur of traffic passing on the highway. As a lighted window at dusk.”
French sonder, to plumb the depths. Pronounced “sahn-der.” Can be used as a noun or a verb, as you would use the word wonder.
from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig
You now know that anything could happen; things that never happened before, things that only happened in movies and nightmares are happening now, as if nothing could stop them. You know now that you are not safe, you know you live in fragile skin and bones, that even steel and concrete can melt away, and the earth itself can come unhinged, shaken from its orbit around the sun. You know, now that anything can happen, it’s hard to know what will, and what will you do now that you know? What words will you say now that you could say anything? What hands will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you?
Joyce Sutphen, “Now That Anything Could Happen” From Naming the Stars. 2004 _____________________________________________________
Not a Commercial Operation “now that anything can happen, it’s hard to know what will“
The wind was picking up, whitecaps appeared as a small boat floated into sight. Trailing behind was a questionably seaworthy barge hauling a large propane truck, both were being buffeted by the growing swells. The boat was moving closer to shore appearing to zig zag in an attempt to jockey the barge into a less precarious position. I watched as the barge rocked back and forth, at times no longer visible, giving the illusion that the propane truck was making its own way across the water.
I called the Coast Guard, explained what I was witnessing and was put on hold. They came back and advised me that there were no commercial operations in the area. They did not need to convince me that this was not a professionally orchestrated commercial operation. Feeling their job was done they ended with “people do all kinds of things”.
I watched the boat and truck bob and weave it’s way out of sight, the thought that lingered was how familiar it felt each time a wave hit and the barge disappeared below the water line. I recognized it was the emotion we have been living with the past two years.
The truck is too big for the barge, the boat is too small to be pulling it and the wind and waves are never reliably consistent. We are living in a world now “that anything can happen” and as we are being reminded every day “people do all kinds of things”
So, I extend my hand to yours as we all jump forward into this New Year and ask the question ….
“What words will you say now that you could say anything?”
I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.
Henry David Thoreau
My wanders to the Island loft have resulted in a few stories none of which are extraordinary but I feel inclined to record the more insistent ones….. the visits have been ‘between storms’ or alternately ‘riding out storms’ which have cut off ferry service and electronic communication. The times I spent incommunicado felt strangely more like a comfort than an inconvenience.
Contains some “salty language “
THE TWO BEST WAYS TO DIE
He was a Street Photographer’s dream, but this was not the street and it would be next to impossible to get a candid shot from my position in the driver’s seat parked in the ferry lineup. My hand had involuntarily reached for the camera when I caught my first glimpse, but instinct told me to retreat, sit back, watch and listen.
Minutes earlier I had pulled up behind an older model car with a broken tail light and bumper sticker that instructed the reader to BE RE’MARC’ABLE. I was hoping to see some evidence of this re’marc’ability from the car’s occupant, I did not have long to wait.
The car door opened, out stepped a West Coast, post modern, biker-pirate-sailor hybrid. Every bit of clothing on his body was some shade of black. A mariners hat with a small brim was pulled down tightly over his dark hair. A long pea jacket ended just above the knee under which hung a shapeless wool cable knit sweater stretched almost the length of the jacket. Tight jeans and leather biker boots whose tops flopped side to side as he stepped. So many layers of darkness it took me time to detect the braid that fell over his right shoulder ending just above the waist. He was living up to his PR and hadn’t yet spoken a word.
In these days of distancing I was well aware of my “come from away” status on this small and intimate island, maintaining a safe physical distance from the locals. ‘Marc’ as I will call him, made his way past my partially open window coming to a stop nearby, within earshot. Two women stood outside their vehicles just behind me, they formed a Covid friendly triangle. It became clear they knew each other casually, also clear was that Marc had much to say and jumped right in and started saying it.
He lived on his boat and had spent time moored in various bays and marinas up and down the West Coast for years, twenty to be exact. Speaking to no one in particular he declared that if he ever had to live on land, someone would have to “just take me out and shoot me.” What followed was a ten minute monologue of his life at sea. It was never clear if he had ventured far ‘out’ to sea but he was very familiar with the bays and harbours of the islands that border Vancouver Island and the Mainland.
Time had been spent ‘below deck’ with ‘mariners’ where much alcohol was imbibed and ‘salty’ stories of the sea exchanged. He spoke of sailors and boats that were part of West Coast lore, stories were told in a way that left no doubt he had indeed spent much time below deck.
I recognized the name of one couple, Alan and Sheri Farrell. They were legendary, as was the China Cloud, one of the many hand crafted boats Alan had built. I caught a glimpse of it one day…..
His tales of the sea were interrupted for a moment as Marc admired the necklace one of the women wore, she told him it had belonged to her mother who recently died. Marc’s mother was also dead and he spoke with scorn about being offered a Kitchen Aid mixer when her belongings were being distributed. Living on a sailboat there is no space for such luxuries, he had taken instead a piece of her jewelry.
The talk of dead mothers brought the conversation around to a place that many of us find ourselves when death overtakes a conversation. What was the ‘best way to die?” it was quickly decided that the best way to die was, without doubt, “in your sleep”. There was a silence as this peaceful end was pondered by all…. Marc broke the silence…..”or fucking”.
A rather jarring addition to the usual death options. I adjusted my rear view mirror to see the reaction of the two women but everyone was heading back to their respective vehicles. The ferry had arrived, it was time to board, and so we did, each in our own vehicle with our own thoughts on the matter of Life and Death and how we hoped to experience both.
It has been a while …. I recently joined a writing group that uses ‘jump off lines’ from poems to get us writing ‘wild writing’. I plan to post one of these ‘wild writings’ every week and see where it leads.
IT BEGAN WHEN……
It began when I spoke something, something that sounded like a promise, that tasted both foreign and sincere on my tongue.
It began when there was no doubt your body was dying, when that promise had to be unearthed, examined, acted upon.
It began when I held your hand and it came time to say goodbye, the gifts and pain that flowed from that touch.
It began when I went to the shore sobbing, as a scene played out between a man and his dog.
It was all ‘clothing optional’.
It began when there was no other option but to release, everything, clothing being the least of it, that first layer easily removed.
It began when attempts to control anything moved forward like a tsunami, spilling onto ground, exploding into air, inhaled by merciless waves.
It began when you asked me where I was going and I replied “Wherever my feet take me.”
Yes, that was the moment it really began, when feet carried me to the edge of a waterfall
This statement reached my ears and I was unable to process the meaning, my deep heart had no such trouble.
“I am Losing my Mother Words”
These words were in response to a call from an adult son. A call to his mother, an attempt to make sense of the myriad of events tearing humanity apart. He was looking perhaps for ‘mother words’ of long ago, the ones that somehow put pieces back in order, that securely strapped you in even if it turned into a bumpy ride.
His question was one of bewilderment, how so many failed to see beauty, failed to choose peace over war, acceptance over hate.
I too am losing my ‘mother words’, my initial reaction was deep sadness but I soon realized that the ‘mother words’ of the present were of no use to either myself or any intended recipients. They were slowly being unmade, new words were forming, sent from the Ancestors for Future Generations. Words of transition and transmutation.
The speaker then described the beauty of apple blossoms in her garden and then the horror of bombs falling in another part of the world. What ‘mother words’ were being spoken by mothers and fathers huddled together holding children close as bombs exploded around them? What words will comfort in that reality?
A discussion on how ‘breaking down‘ is often a portal to ‘breaking through‘ prompted a friend to forward the attached poem to me.
We had been using the metaphor of snorkeling to describe the approach many of us take towards the bigger questions of life. If not forced by circumstance to confront something, we snorkel, safe on the surface just looking into the depths.
We toyed with the image of putting on tanks, diving down to interact with and perhaps touch what we find, or a diving suit, a submersible that allows a walk on the bottom of our unconscious. A few days later I had the image of “free diving” unencumbered by any sort of attachment to the surface except the air you captured in your lungs…. doing a deep dive…
Surrender……. not the ‘giving in to‘ but the ‘living in to‘ the “promiscuous” present moment.
The descent by Gina Puorro
There are things you can only learn on your knees or in a storm or when the cracks in the foundation of this modern world open a chasm of uncertainty beneath your feet. Your discontent with what has been named normal is both grief and longing for what your mind has forgotten but your body remembers.
You can feel it in the way a child’s laughter disrupts your commitment to what is appropriate and makes space for foolishness and magic. You can feel it broken open at the altar of all you’ve lost and how much you’ve loved. Can we fall apart together? Make a commitment to search for the truth but promise to never find it. Let myths and stories be the cartograph for what is both primordial and brand new because the present moment is promiscuous like that. Compost ourselves down into the dirt beneath the dirt and tend the chthonic embers that light the ancient fires in our bellies.
When the fault lines open and your mind is grasping and you don’t know in the way that water has taught you how to be a vessel and how to spill. Can you trace your lineage all the way back to salt? the same that now stains your face with both sadness and laughter excites your tongue and protects your prayers. You are diasporic. Ecological. Holon. A vast territory of many wild bodies melting into each other dressed up as human. Simultaneously living and dying shaping and dismantling filling up and boiling over.
Ashes to ashes stardust to bone. What language do you grieve in? What is the mother tongue for that which twists and contorts your body wringing oceans from your skin? The gravity that pulls you down to your knees forehead to ground where to go from here; prostrate trade rapture for rupture let yourself spill and descend.
Wandering on the ‘misty isle‘ I happened upon reflections in a dark pond, the message of the photograph became the two directions, up and down, towards and away, only revealed when the image was turned sideways.
Yesterday a friend introduced me to this poem by Quinn Bailey.
When our internal or external worlds are turned sideways, that can sometimes be “when the boulder in front of the cave begins to shift”
THE ONLY TWO DIRECTIONS BY QUINN BAILEY
This world has only two true directions: Towards and away.
The big fear, in the end, is to awake and find that You chose away.
That the hand Which held you down Was none other Than your own.
The pursuit Of that which is not truly us Renders even the most Powerful vision useless
When the boulder in front of the cave begins to shift
When that first illuminating shaft Pierces the dark
Do not hesitate long
Do not waste time Anticipating the griefs Yet to come
They cannot be helped and perhaps are necessary
On that long And awkward walk Towards yourself.
Quinn Bailey The Currents of the World 2020 Homebound Publications
“Longing is the deepest and most ancient voice in the human soul” John O’Donohue
THE SUBSTANCE OF SHADOW
HIRAETH: longing for a home that no longer exists or maybe never was
There are words that speak from another place. A word can have no english equivalent when it is speaking the language of soul, a language seldom spoken in the west.
The lure of Hiraeth comes from a place where “home” is ephemeral, not a house or a return address. It is an internal longing that can appear external when recognized in another. Its call is strongest in times of transition, when the veil is thin…dawn, twilight, full moon and those times when life calls us to ride out unpredicted storms.
This longing aches for a shared fantasy, one that will provide temporary relief from these times. The shelter provided reveals itself to be a portal into deep, often painful insights … a threshold that when crossed leads to an untapped vein of love and life waiting to be mined for its wisdom and nourishment before being brought once again to the surface.
We chase this shadow as if it is the substance of the shadow, irrationally bound to the belief that this ‘home that never was’ is just as real as the house our bodies currently occupy.
This poem by William Stafford speaks of a thread, I feel it also speaks to the times.
“You don’t ever let go of the thread.“
THE WAY IT IS by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you can do to stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.
Hello darkness my old friend I’ve come to talk with you again because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains within the sound of silence.
Sound of Silence Simon and Garfunkel
THE SOUND OF SILENCE
In this year of a thousand months a silence has settled, palpable, like silk against bare skin.
One by one freedoms slip away in an unintentional game of musical chairs until we find ourselves alone, gazing into the Great Mystery.
Fooled into thinking this was unexpected we see plans for this journey seeded long ago with every “yes” carelessly spoken.
Each moment becomes a new invitation, moving deeper like a lover searching for that place on your lip meant only for others.
Eyes closed, surrender drifts like wafting smoke to linger over new terrain, unsure of where to settle.
Shadows that once held fear dissipate with every wind gust, free now to ride this undulating movement…