In photo class we talk about awareness. Awareness of light. Awareness of shadows. Awareness of what is in the frame. what is outside of it. Conscienceness of movement and depth of field. How much of this that I see do I want captured on the film in acceptable focus?
If I think about my life as if it were a photograph, the depth of field would be very shallow. This moment would be crisp and sharp within the frame and all the background detail would be lost in the haze of ambient light.Right now, the apeture is as wide is it can go, and the shutter moves at a fast clip. I can't even blink before its gone.
I stop by Wal-mart on my way out to the lake where I want to shoot today. On the way the radio is playing Cyndi Lauper's time after time. I roll down the windows and sing along.
You say go slow, I fall behind. The second hand unwinds.
I wear my sunglasses into the building and leave them on. A few tears have collected in my eyes; I don't want to wipe them away.
I wonder how far out into the silt on the lake bed I can make it before I end up in mud up to my knees. You see, on the lake bed, after a dry winter everything is deceptive. It is never as dry as it looks.
A butterfly lands on a flower while I'm figuring out the bracket in my head. Two overexposed shots, two underexposed shots. One as the light meter reads it. I get five shots in before the butterfly moves on. Right place, right time.
Everything depends on this moment because everything is this moment.
Flowers. Weeds. Leaves. Trees. And a charred old log. Less than a tree. More than Ashes. Walking around the log I think of karma--the cosmic law of cause and effect. How did this get here? A seed fell, a tree sprouted. From the looks of things, years later lightning brought a giant to its knees. How did I get here? I made a choice. All of yesterday's decisions culminating in this moment--standing here in the ashes. And tomorrow, like today will be another moment of cumulative decisions. Having made the choices I've made I am where I am. I remember being in school when I was little and discussing cause and effect relationships in a class. Action because justification. A because B. The sun appears to rise in the east because of the rotation of the Earth around its axis. I am where I am because I am who I am. I Am. The future is not out of focus, it is outside my depth of field.
Sometimes you get film back and you wonder...What the fuck was I thinking? And you go back to your notes, cryptic and illegible, to find passion or patience or light. And you still don't know what your point was, but you know in that moment you were fully aware of something and maybe somewhere inside of you there is still that awareness. I move around the tree and exhale. I think of breathing as a compulsion, and then just a biological function. I reduce myself to nothing more than a series of biochemical tasks. The film rewinds.
The wind blows off the lake, a little cold for May. But the sun is warm and there are geese on the silt bar. I am out of film so I just watch them, pecking and preening. Splashing and honking and flying. I could stand like this forever, but it is time to go home.
Robin calls while I'm waiting on the film to develop, in one of those freaky moments where you are thinking about somebody and then they get into contact with you. We talk about things that have been on my mind. And, I know I'm being silly; that these things that bother me, bother everyone and that there are no hard and fast answers and that I'm being ridiculous expecting there to be. I understand that what I see isn't always all of what is there.I am amazed at how understanding my friends are, at how well we know each other. And that doesn't make things easier, but it makes them okay. I have to go back to work, so the conversation ends. I smile for the first time in the evening.
After midnight I go for a walk and I think about the movement of my muscles. Some relax, other contract and my whole frame moves. Right leg, left leg, right leg, left leg. Like dialogue. When I start a conversation, I expect a movement. However imperceptible, I expect to be different on the other side. At least, I tell myself I do. When I burn myself down, I expect to find more than ashes, as if I'm really some phoenix creature masquerading as a girl. If I close down the apeture, I get ashes in the foreground, with grass sprouting up through it and what remains of the tree in the background. After this moment, this lightning strike, what will remain of me? I cross the street and make my way back, I have slides to go through, work that needs to be done.