09 November 2010
Me, of course, as ever-snarling Witch Baby. Note the bug shoes. Also, I made the tutu.
My other half, the G train.
From left, housemate and bestgirlbuddyinthehouse Claudia (no costume), and friend Hailey (some sort of lesbian cowgirl from her favourite book?)
Max, playing Devil's Advocate. There's a Powerpuff Girl in the background.
Housemate Dan and his new ladylove, Raven (the hair is not natural).
Santos, whose costume consisted entirely of props. Hailey's bloody cowgirl wounds in the background.
Jamie as Robin Hood or Peter Pan, depending. Sorry about the quality of these next few... I scanned them from disposable camera shots taken by my housemates.
Me, more snarling, this time with my full costume...The camera was essential. Note Santos in the foreground and a confused Hailey behind me.
He got used to the snarling and biting as the night wore on. Also, note the REAL Halloween decorations--pretty classy for a college party, no?
My favourite picture of the night, partially because I think I look so much like Witch Baby here, and because of all the great back and forth motion, with Jamie blocking both MB's camera and the one that took this photo.
And now we march onward toward the end of the semester! It's officially the end of fall here, and temerpatures are dropping rapidly.... I can almost smell the first snow.
27 October 2010
Now that we've finished with that, I must apologize for being so long absent from this URL for so long. I shall simply skip the excuses and distract you with these lovely images of autumn here in Bronxville:
I think this little guy liked the sound of my camera shutter...I was lucky enough to get a nice half-hour break in the rain to obtain these! This week is probably to be the doomed last of these colours, but it is a very lively one at Sarah Lawrence--this weekend is Halloween, which may be the best loved and most fervently celebrated of all holidays here, as well as Fall Formal and parents' weekend (we all know that they assign this weekend as family weekend on purpose, in some vain attempt to cut down on partying). I will be enjoying myself on Halloween with my housemates here, but this Friday, I have more important plans than a school dance: the Mister and I have tickets to see the wonderful Cloud Cult live in Brooklyn. Their September album, Light Chasers, is one of my favourites of the year, and presented me with a much-needed burst of autumn optimism earlier in the semester.
I won't go too far into what about this album was so important for me, but I think it has to do with the end of a long spiritual search for the songwriter and the literal birth of new chance for he and his wife. His and the band's story can be found at length on Wikipedia, and it's compelling enough to warrant a read even if you aren't a fan. Something tells me that Light Chasers will be the last Cloud Cult album, maybe for a while, maybe forever, but I think it's a fitting end to a story that is both heartbreaking and deeply triumphant. I am looking forward to a good, hard, empathetic cry at this concert.
In other news, I have been holing myself up here, gearing up for the second half of this semester. I'm two-thirds of the way through Spenser's The Faerie Queene for conference work in Bill Shullenberger's class, and studying Symbolism at length for (get this) an eight-page paper written entirely in French! I must admit that this is a wholly masochistic mission on my part, and one that continually challenges me when I receive potions of it returned to me positively splattered in red pen. But I'm learning... slowly but surely.
I have also been cooking. Intensely. So much cooking. Some of my sweetheart's and my most successful experiments have been: sweet-potato-and-edamame pancakes with baked apples; acorn squash stuffed with grains, hazelnuts, and figs; eggplant, chard, tomato and rice casserole; butternut squash with butter and sugar (for desert!); leeks vinaigrette, which has quickly turned into "any steamed vegetable vinaigrette"; Perfect Miso Soup; and lots of homemade bread. Unfortunately, and this may be very cruel on my part, I haven't any recipes. The two of us have decided it's useless to write down recipes that we come up with--we never end up following them, and we often like to make things just once. But rest assure that they were all delicious, even if completely unreproducible.
I will be home for Thanksgiving weekend, which (hopefully) means that I will make something somewhat like these for my family and maybe have recipes! FOr now, though, I am off to read more George Herbert and teach my housemate Gabe to make bread... Pictures later, and certainly after this weekend!
15 September 2010
Mabel was a gift from M. Benjamin, who found her cheap and put new wheels on her, and tweaked her to suit me. He also found me the darling little bell with the fawn on it--which I like not only for its association with the "Nimble" written across Mabel's frame, but also because of its association with the darling man that introduced her to me. I've had the basket for a while, a gift from my Grandparents on my birthday, and I think it looks just splendid on her--plus, I like the doily look with an old lady name like Mabel. :)
Classes are progressing with ease, and I am loving life here in my cozy little house. We've put up some bookcases in the common room now, so they're filling up with books and this place is really starting to feel like a home. Still haven't quite gotten into the writing groove yet, but... I will sooner or later. New poetry going up on the trees speak riddles this morning, also.
14 September 2010
Here's a wonderful quote I found on Keri Smith's blog that resonates with me and makes sense in the context of my life. So often I become discouraged when considering post-modern life and society, corporate greed, the bored and boring literature from the last twenty years, and this feeling that I and a few selected peers alone are gifted with a Sight that goes beyond success and convenience. And then Keri Smith posts something like this to cheer me up:
The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in US life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. The anti-rebels would be outdated of course, before they even started. Dead of the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachonistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations, of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh, how banal.”
–David Foster Wallace
07 September 2010
That said, moving always gives me the excuse to do my favourite thing in the entire world: nest.
This is my new room in Slonim 9! Small, I know, but I also have a large common room with a kitchen at my disposal, to share with my seven housemates. It's a rather cozy little space, if you ask me. Hopefully, in the next few days, I will be able to share with you pictures of my housemates: Dan, Claudia, Gabe, Max, Isabella, Talia, and Santos.
So far, I've already attended my first French class and my first Metaphysical Poetry seminar with Bill Shullenberger--this afternoon is my first poetry workshopon "Masks, Personae, and the Literal 'I'", which I'm hoping will give me the incentive to continue writing the poetry I've left off all summer. I do have some ideas, though....
20 August 2010
2. learn to spin wool into yarn
3. continue my French studies
4. take a trip to the ocean (East Coast)
5. stop cooking meat
6. grow potted herbs SUCCESSFULLY
7. get a real job
8. write and draw as close to every day as I am able
9. stop swearing so much
11. exercise... somehow...
12. compost when I'm at school
13. read Canterbury Tales and Beowulf
14. buy real wool stockings
15. blog more frequently :)
16. play more games
17. publish a poem
18. make a yukata
19. make a backgammon board
20. make a functional pie crust
I journeyed for the first time to Oregon, to visit my dear cousin Shereé in Ashland, where she is going to school; I also visited my best friend, Amina, at school in Arcata, CA, where my love of the mossy and the dreary became truly apparent; M. Benjamin and I spent one day in Yosemite for a picnic and walk; I took two day trips to San Francisco, once to meet up with my almost-almost-almost Uncle Aldo, who was visiting California from his home in Assisi in Italy with his wife, and once to see the travelling collection from the Museé d'Orsay that was on exhibit at the de Young museum. In between all of these were several trips to M. Benjamin's family home in Meadow Valley, both before and after the event that seemed to define the summer for both of us: The breaking of the engagement between his sister, Emily, and her fiancé, Gabe.
This event had a profound effect on his family (although a profoundly good one, as no one was fond of this man) and on mine as well, and kept everyone involved on the edges of their seats all summer as the dirty details of the relationship were revealed little by little. My poor sweet Peach was persuaded to act as go-between for his family and Gabe, and was nearly run ragged by Gabe's immaturity in dealing with the affair and his unreasonable demands of Emily and her family. But, now, he is removed from all of our lives and Emily got two wonderful kitties, a cute little house in Quincy, and a trip to Jamaica with her best friend out of the deal, so we are all thankful for her change of heart.
Also, in conjunction with my twentieth birthday in July, a have penned a list of twenty things to do in my twentieth year, and have done my best to begin chalking them off (for information about my inspiration for this list, see Keri Smith's book, Living Out Loud, as well as her blog, wish jar). First was: learn to knit. So, I procured some yarn and needles and connected with my lovely friend, Meredith, and she taught me some stitches and so far, I've made two scarves, one knitted and one purled. Here's the purled one:
My next project is called the "antler scarf," and is a cabled scarf!
I also made shoes this summer. Well, more that I decorated shoes. In Francesca Lia Block's beloved Dangerous Angels books, the character Witch Baby has a pair of "rubber bug sneakers," so I took it upon myself to make a pair, and here's the result:
While I was taking all these pictures this morning, the family cat, Tucker came to visit me from his bower in the garden:
So now, off to continue the summer-long project of cleaning out my room and organizing what's for California and what's for New York. I'm staring to feel like I lead a double life.... But before I go, I want to congratulate Mary Catherine Garrison on her new home in upstate NY! Can I say how envious I am of this beautiful new nest? It makes me excited for the day that my love and I may have a true nest of our own--and may it be even half as beautiful as this one!
04 June 2010
I spent much of the last week on an extended road trip with M. Benjamin and his family--the two of us first travelled north to his family home in Meadow Valley where I was introduced to the many new additions on the ranch, including Tuck, the bouncy new Airedale Terrier puppy, and the beginnings of a herd of Scottish Highland cattle, a bull, five cows and a little heifer. Amongst the many project in which the two of us are engaged this summer is the restoration of a little cabin in a beautiful ravine that has sadly gone to seed since it was built in the 1950's--but we were able to finally set up M. Benjamin's antique rope bed in the loft and spend a couple of cold, stormy nights there. Pictures later in the summer as the restoration continues.
The bulk of our time, however, was occupied on the long drive between Meadow Valley and Loma Linda, with the mission to see Emily, M. Benjamin's sister, graduate from dental school. We stopped a couple of days in Bishop for the--can you believe this even exists?--annual Mule Days festival, and spent much time with Emily and her fiancé, Gabe, once we reached the valley.
I'm currently working on an illustrated journal for this trip, which I may post in increments once it's finished. Thus far, it's titled "Marrying In" and shall hopefully serve as an interesting memento of this very interesting weekend.
I'm still sorting through those old family photos I went on about a couple of months ago, and here are some new scans:
This last photo, and the photo of the woman with the draft horses may be my favourites. I love the bleakness of the North Dakota landscapes--all my life I have been drawn to this bleak, muted, solitary aesthetic in all things visual, poetic, and musical, and I'm starting to think that it may run in my blood.
Off to work on the journal now, but I must shamelessly plug a new coffee shop in Modesto--The Serrano Social Club has finally opened on J Street after years in the works, and it's better than anything else in town! Coffee and pastries are superb, the baristas are awesome, talented guys, and their already hanging art and planning live music. Any Motowners reading this should check it out. You will not be disappointed.
18 May 2010
1) Some brilliant late-at-night eateries, including (but certainly not limited to) L'Express for 24-hour French food on Park Ave. at 20th Street, Cosmic Cantina (3rd Ave. at 13th) for organic, vegetarian, and raw food burritos, Chickpea (14th Street) for falafel, and 71 Irving (Irving near Gramercy Park), which isn't open too late, but makes great sandwiches, coffee, and pastries.
2) The antiques garage on 21st or so between 6th and 7th Avenues, I think, though I will need to double-check this one. Two levels of the garage rich with vendors or vintage clothing, artwork, jewelry, and such. The Mister and I have spent way too much time here agonizing over whether or not to buy the table lamp that needs all the glass plates in its shade replaced. Only place I know with a vendor that sells almost nothing more that antique corkscrews and bottle openers.
3) New York shows are cheaper than California shows! Go see concerts in New York!
4) Dog-watching: better than anywhere but Paris.
5) Harlem. If nothing else, it is so worth just wandering around this neighborhood on a warm afternoon. It has a more vibrant street culture than elsewhere in the city: there are rowns and rows of vendors selling incense, books, reggae music, ice cream, perfume, and thick spears of fresh fruit on skewers. People are friendly here, also! And, you are bound to see at least one good-looking man dressed in a suit that seems plucked out of the '20's. Sundays are the best: you can here the singing in the churches from the street, and all of the older ladies come out in their brilliant hats!
6) Thursday night Chelsea gallery walk. Largest concentration of pretentious conceptual art and free wine in NYC. No matter how cold it is outside, don't bring a jacket because the body heat in the galleries is sweltering and you'll end up carrying it around more frequently than wearing it.
Well, there may be more later, but for now these are the most memorable bits.
Today, I am trying a new muffin recipe--I'm trying to replicate the Morning Glory muffin at the Grey Dog's on west 16th Street--as well as a quick raw food recipe from Jónsi and Alex's cookbook, a pdf of which can be found here. The Mister is coming into town tonight, so we'll taste-test and update with results tomorrow...
11 May 2010
However, the stress of the end-of-semester rush was tempered by frequent artistic encounters that made it all worth while, the most exciting of which, was of course, the Jónsi show that kept my dove in New York for an extra week after his semester ended, the show that will divide my life into periods of "before" and "after."
(photo of stage animation found here)
Saturday night's concert was indescribable. Of course I have been haunting the internet for decent videos that capture how that night felt, but I've been startlingly disappointed with them all. If you want read reviews, see pictures and videos of the show, there are plenty here, on Jónsi's website. It was a rather short show for the most part, mainly selections from Go and other originals not on the album, but from the moment Jónsi quietly, seriously stepped on stage with his guitar and nothing else, in his white marching-band-jacket-turned-bower-bird, to play my favourite song, "Stars in Still Water," I was in tears, and remained thus for the remainder of the show. Every member of Jónsi's band was phenomenal, from the lovely Alex Somers, of course, to múm drummer, Ólafur Björn Ólafsson, to bassist Úlfur Hansson, to the rather unknown-before-now and positively brilliant percussionist, Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson, who had so much raw animal energy that he nearly belonged on the animation screen on the stage.
Not only was the band brilliant, but show itself was unlike anything I've ever seen. The animations projected onto the sheet in the back--and the beautiful gridwork of antique window frames that was revealed when the sheet was dropped--as well as the broken, sooty glass frames and museum curio tanks was stunning. Each song was animated differently and the images bled seamlessly into one another with trees, falling snow, predatory chases, and flight. The structure of the set list was unusual, but very effective; Jónsi opened the show with a string of nearly all his slowest, moodiest ballads, building with xylophone solos up to colourful performances of the singles, "Go Do" and "Boy Lilikoi," then leapt straight into the cinematic, uplifting epics that crowd toward the middle of the recorded album, ending the main set with a thrilllingly delicate acoustic version of "Around Us," which was one of the most powerful things I've ever witnessed.
The good news is that there were cameras all over the stage--a good sign that there may be a tour DVD! No recording can compare to the live show (even Jónsi's voice is that much more ethereal and angelic on a live stage), but God, would I love to have any kind of reminder of that night.
M. Benjamin and I also spread a bit of our own art that night--we sent the fist copy of our limited-edition chapbook backstage to Jónsi and Alex as a gift. We hope that inspires them even 1/1214 the amount that they have inspired us.
This time of the year I am consistently drawn to music and art that feels like growth, feels like new beginnings. I am drawn to music that reminds me that hope isn't so far away, and that it's okay to cling to it once in a while. Jónsi's album and tour has been just that for me; the dominant themes in the music and animation on stage were unfurling things, things outgrowing death, and their rebirth in colour. As the music swelled to it's ultimate peak in colour in flight--the collision of two animated hummingbirds that "broke them into blossom" as James Wright might say--I felt my own body regenerating itself after such a long emotional hibernation in New York. I could feel the go do in the swelling season. This is the beginning of the "Summer of Go Do."
Now, as I watch my last New York evening for several months fade from windy to golden, I look forward not only to a summer's worth of doing, but to a summer's worth of holding onto hope. I've long believed that most any intelligent, ethical person out there ends up a cynic--myself certainly included--but I don't think that we are fallen. There are always beautiful souls like Jónsi out there to remind us that even the trees, in the dead of winter, have the hope to bloom in the spring.
Here are some lyrics--these may no be the "officially" accurate ones, but that are the one that I hear and the ones that affect me.
"Stars in Still Water"
Put your clothes now out to dry;
it's early morning--
the day is unfolding ever so softly.
I will always be, oh, alive within.
It's a never-ending song that I sing alone:
I am awake.
The only one awake.
I see the sun break out--
no clouds, no crowds,
no one out, true...
Only that you...
Don't stop in still water.
Don't stop in still water.
Now the sun's in your eyes--
It dries away your tears.
Let the wind be the only one
to move you so gently.
I will always be, oh, alive within.
It's a never-ending song that I sing alone:
I am awake.
The only one awake.
I see the sun
in shades we did the best we could...
Only that you...
I see stars in still water.
There are stars in still water.
29 April 2010
Happy birthday, Charlie! (April 19)
Happy birthday, M. Benjamin, my dove! (April 26)
Happy birthday TK! (April 27)
Happy birthday Carly! (April 29)
And for good measure:
Happy birthday, Kevin! (May 5)
I must admit that my blogging has been at a minimum lately due in part to the semester coming to a close very very soon (two weeks left after this one!) and partly due to my starting a new job in Manhattan, which has kept me scooting back and forth on the train every minute of rest I am allowed. Next weekend, though, is the event that this blog has been leading up to for several weeks now: Jónsi in concert! My sweetheart and I are going to see his show at Terminal 5 on May 8, and be sure that there will be an excited blog entry the next morning.
In addition, he and I are in the process of printing our limited-edition, twenty-copy chapbook, möbius strip, or (filaments) caught in growth, "filaments" for short. It contains four poems by him, and three by myself, including my semester-long, five-part project, "möbius strip". In addition to the limited edition (which we are mostly only gifting to family and friends), we are also printing conventional chapbooks, which will be available through either of us at the end of the semester. Please let either of us know if you are interested!
Well, onto the next phase of my day: class and muchmuchmuch writing of my conference paper...
22 April 2010
10. tulip trees
1. dogwoods, of course
(A brief note: when my darling and I first met, I naturally asked him right off the bat what his favourite tree was, knowing full well that if he chose something incompatible with my trees I could write him off. However, he not only did not think me strange for asking, but also answered that his favourites were cedars, which just happen to grow quite symbiotically with mine, dogwoods. Sigh!)
So anyhow, I did not write this post because of trees, but because of an entirely new list altogether! After spending so much time with Jónsi's Go, I have made a list of my favourite albums of all time which I should like to share with the "blogosphere." Note, though, that this is "favourites," not necessarily "bests."
12. Gulag Orkestar by the band Beirut. A beautifully cinematic, lo-fi, Eastern-European-influenced experience. Best on vinyl on a yellow summer evening, in the trees, with smoke in the air and dark red lipstick.
11. Louder Than Bombs by the Smiths. Has most of their best melancholy hits, including "Asleep" and "London," and "Unloveable." I listened to this album continuously in the spring I was fifteen, and hearing brings me right back to that feeling of filtered light the colour of bougainvillea, incense smoke, and spring showers.
10. Kurr by Amiina. Oh, those Icelanders know how to do it! This is a new addition to my list, but watching the first snow fall in New York to this album is something I will never forget. This album is snow music, perfect, gentle, magical snow music.
9. Blue by Joni Mitchell. I hesitate to put this album so low on this list, but I admit to being a new true Joni convert. I've grown up around her songs, and this album helped me survive leaving California. Spring mornings, headphones, new flowers for this one.
8. Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap. I love these songs best when performed by a marching band, in the middle of woods that I am exploring like the little elf I am in petticoats and stockings and oodles of scarves. Or in the car, at night, driving fast. Constant Comment tea.
7. Give Up by the Postal Service. Ever so slightly melancholy, but being in love with that melancholy. For grey days on trains and buses going away from places and between places, but only for a little while. California in February, when the hills are very green and all else is grey.
6. Crane Wife by the Decemberists. Listened to this the first time after reading Cold Mountain and loving the Civil War, and it fit right in. It's wonderful for knapsack lunches in the sun, and wearing white cotton sundresses with scuffed, chunky brown boots.
5. Oh, Inverted World by the Shins. I have a love-hate relationship with this album because, although it's their best in my opinion, I feel the songs are out of order and for that reason it is wholly disappointing on vinyl. nevertheless, still brilliant, bright, and Natalie-Portman-y.
4. Go by Jónsi. Yes, it is new, but it's already beat out favourites from my early adolescence, which is saying something. It's bright and bird-y, fully textured, and variant. It's music for building up towards a summer of "Go Do." This may end up at number 2 or 3 eventually.
3. Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie. I know it's an indie standard, but it's still a damn good album. Even if the first song weren't titled "The New Year," it's still an album for the new year, dark and delicately brooding. Their masterpiece, to be sure, with brilliant cover art to boot.
2. Come on Feel the Illinoise! by Sufjan Stevens. My first copy of this album was vinyl, and it was truly meant to be listened to that way. Each side (their are two discs) is like a perfect vignette of a masterfully rich whole. It is heartbreaking and goofy, deeply innocent and thoughtful. This album is for a whole summer spent looking out of windows.
1. Rubber Soul by the Beatles. I know, I know again, you're thinking, "she couldn't get more creative than putting the Beatles as number one?!" I don't care. This album is golden. Not too psychedelic yet, with just a hint of folksy hippie goodness. "Norwegian Wood," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Michelle," "in My Life"... nearly every song is worth mentioning. My first copy was a UK version cassette that my parents had, and I love the UK one so much more. And the crinkly sound at the end of each side. This is for nights lit by paper lanterns and campfires, with a guitar and everyone you love around you.
I reserve the right to change this at any whim. God knows it will.
14 April 2010
(That's Jónsi on the left, upside down, and Alex on the right with his eyes closed. I found this photo here)
I just can't help but think of the beautiful artistic synergy that must happen in their peaceful household. They relate to each other with such a sweet, playful, quiet respect and affection. The art they create (in music, in visuals, in food, even) shows the clear marks of deep love and companionship. Oh, if all couples were so well-suited to each other as they are!
On this note, I announce a collaborative project even dearer to my own heart. By the end of this semester, my own partner in art and I shall be self-publishing some of our own creative works. There will be chapbook which will compile most of the poems that both he and I have written this semester (title and details pending) and, the best part, we are planning a limited-release edition of twenty copies or so, in larger-format binding, individually silk-screened in our own writing, with illustrations and individualized covers. We are very excited to begin this, our very first creative collaboration in the two years we've been together. I hope to keep this bog updated with the details as they become more clear, and as they flesh out on paper.
I cannot end this post with anything more than "hooray for love! hooray for art!"
10 April 2010
Isn't it lovely? I positively adore the bit at the beginning where he first begins to bang on that big brown suitcase.
And, in conjunction with this lovely avian creation, here are some links to other avian creations, these ones constructed by bower birds or, as my Mum has begun to call them, Jónsi Birds:
bower bird constructions
art inspired by bower birds
Have a lovely week-end!
08 April 2010
Anyhow, while you're streaming this wonderful new album, feast your eyes on springtime at Sarah Lawrence. I feel that the enthusiasm of the first half of the album truly suits the joyousness of the new season:
Tulip trees outside the President's house...
I love how rusty they look when the petals get smooshed.
Spring painting at Westlands--all the white trim is getting a touch-up.
I ran into my literature professor, Bill Shullenberger, and his sidekick, Rufus, who were also out for an afternoon walk...
A dried blossom that somehow made it through the snow... hydrangea, possibly? Isn't is brilliantly preserved?
Pink buds... I wish desperately that I were more familiar with the trees of the East Coast but, alas, this one shall remain nameless for now.
And a lovely rusty gate I failed to notice earlier in the year. My darling will like this one, I do suppose--oh, the marvelous aesthetics of decay!
This weekend has much reading in the sunshine in store for me, I gather. I still press on through Ulysses, Omeros, two books on photographer Miroslav Tichý (whose first American exhibit at the International Center for Photography is a must-see for anyone in the New York area), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and some various poetry, of course. Onward, troops, toward the end of the semester, and the summer holidays...
While I was on holiday in California, I went through two big apple boxes of family photos, stretching back to the Swedish and Norwegian immigrants that settled in the Dakotas and camped their way to the central valley of California at the beginning of the twentieth century:
I do not know who took most of these pictures or, indeed, often who their subjects are, but they fascinate, startle, and sadden me just a bit:
When I look at these photographs, I cannot help but realize how their content shaped me, how they informed my vision, even before I saw them. Is there something that runs in my blood, the blood of these people that wrenches my heart in bleak landscapes? Something that piques my interest naturally when I come across another person with that odd, lurching, twisted height of my great-great-grandfather Osmund? Even before seeing the photograph of "Girls in White," as my mother has so poignantly named it, was there some unconscious familiarity with its subjects that causes fascination--and a little fear--at the sight of a little girl in a white dress?
Earlier this semester, I read Roland Barthes' La Chambre Claire, a meditation on why the photographs that affect us do affect us, in which he explains that the pictures that interest have two qualities that we find attractive. There is the studium, the over-arching interest in history, in costume, in people and personalities that originally draws us; then, there is the punctum, the "prick" that haunts us afterward. The strange white goats on the running board (why goats? why so small?). The small, round glasses on great-great Aunt Nordisse, set above small, round mouth (she owned the only camera in the family for a while). The drooping, walrussy, Nietzsche-esque moustache on Norman Qualle in the sleigh (did he, like Nietzsche, insist that the ladies loved it?). These are the punctums that draw me to these mysterious photographs.
I'm off now to take some photographs of my own, posted probably tomorrow. I wonder whether, years from now, they will have some strange effect on a little girl, a great-great-granddaughter of mine, who will ask herself, "Is this why I well up when I smell tulip trees? "