I got a nice note from a word-photographer today. I, like my correspondent, like the idea of words as snapshots, as quick glimpses of the physical events, like a camera, only a camera can't catch the feelings. I took a lot of pictures in the last eighteen months using disposable cameras. They don't really permit close-ups or telephoto type of things. One must stand four feet away, and the picture will be of a certain quality, and not of another quality. Writing word pictures is much the same. The person writing has a certain set of lens and sometimes there's flash and sometimes there's not. I have heard it said that people benefit from honing their craft, in workshops, through serious study, and through serious investigations of what lies beneath. I am sure all of this is true. But I like the notion of the quick snap--the endless creation of frame after frame--most to be discarded. I do not plan to build an inward darkroom anytime soon (I tried to set up an amateur one, but I found that my personal darkness is far too light for effective development).
Maybe the whole problem is pronouns. When I was younger, I tried to make sure all my letters did not use the words "I" and "me". This led to all sorts of archaic grammatical phrasing, and arguably an over-reliance upon the word "one", but the point I was making in my inner debate may have been sound. I notice lately that my weblog has so many adjectival phrases about "me" and "I". Perhaps one should spend less time describing, and more time just letting oneself define oneself.
This letter writing project, which is just begun, is great fun. The goal is to get all the letters done by the end of September. Suddenly, a memory flashes--a letter received from a friend's girlfriend back in college. One finds over and over in life that people wish to confess their sins and imagined wickedness. It's hard to imagine why--nobody really confuses a pseudo-intellectual for a priest. Still, without benefit of confessional or hassock, one tends to hear the most intriguing confessions--even before weblogs, secrets seemed to flow like rivulets. The memories section of a personal "weblog" include waking at dawn to a Saturday morning to a folded-up note on a bit of legal paper from a girl who felt the need, beyond figuring out then or now, to explain an evening of lapse with a mutual friend not her boyfriend. Why explain such things at all?, one wonders now (the story always being some variant of 'there was a spark, and then a flame, and then there were the ashes of what got torched'), but that was just what happened. The part of the simple note which springs most readily to recollection is the part that assured the reader that the writer did not think of pleasures of the flesh all the time, but instead that the writer usually thought about "horses,mostly". It's quite an image--an unusual usual preoccupation with horses. Perhaps there's something to be said for leaving the cares and woes of the day to day behind, and thinking about horses in fields. On second thought, perhaps not horses in fields. Maybe instead ants co-operating. Fire ants. Once fire ants invaded a home in Mesquite, Texas, biting the owner all Summer long. The scars, tiny but real, burned for years. No matter how much one contemplates animals in fields, the scars still burn from the very real bites one receives. But the scars heal.
Running into a wheelbarrow during a game of chase in the dark. A wheel barrow handle sized scar, cutting into thigh. The feel for years of a circular indentation, remembered pain, from a bruise that seemed never to heal. The bruise is gone now, having departed after some years. So many "permanent" bruises do depart. It's like the time playing with the car cigarette lighter. The end looks so innocuous--but it caused a circular thumb burn that taught lessons about playing with fire for years. The burn ached as though it would never heal.
Sometimes these life experiences are snapshots in their own right.
Things not fully explicable, but which teach their own lessons. Lessons like the part about how actions have consequences. Lessons like the part about no matter how much sleep-walking one does, the real things have a way of marking and changing one. If one walks into the flame in a trance, the flame still combusts fabric. No matter if one can take a good snapshot of the fire--one still walks into it, and through it, and it still burns.