Last night I went walking in my neighborhood after the sun had set. We have odd-looking street lamps that cast a soft orange glow on the sidewalks but they cast this glow sporadically. Some streets are well-lit and others are dark and spooky. I remembered playing a game as a kids where I would force myself to walk in the dark and imagine all the scary things that were there hiding and ready to jump out and get me.For some reason children like to be scared hence the invention of the roller coaster. I don’t like to be scared anymore. I have really had enough of fear and don’t like it when it appears in my life. Fear is bad for your body anyway. Think about it. When you are afraid you feel a terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach and an almost sickening sense comes over you. Your heartbeat speeds up and your skin becomes clammy. There are a lot of people in the world who are in this state most of the time. Say soldiers, for instance, or some cops, abused women or children, and small animals who have no place to hide. Fear is an ugly and dangerous force as it debilitates both humans and animals and makes their lives different from those who have little fear. We go into the state of fear so rapidly in todays’ world. One minute we are outside having fun and the next we are terrified as the war is escalating, the market is falling, our house is being foreclosed or our children are in danger. I think life was easier a generation ago. There was a lot to lose then too but not as much fear. People had their families to count on and to shelter them. You could go home to your wife who wore a Betty Crocker apron and have a nice dinner, watch the evening news and go to sleep. You could do this all across America.That’s why I like to walk in the newly dark evening. I started this habit as a child. In our neighborhood there was a lot of land around the houses so in order to see into them you had to walk up very close and peer into windows. I used to take evening walks when our Dad was out-of-town as then we had an early dinner and were supposed to be doing our homework. I liked some houses better than others as they were cozier and more interesting. The smaller the house was , the more apt I was to see a whole family sitting together. This was what I liked to find as it made me happy. Looking into the window of a happy family was and is infinitely comforting to me as it reassures me people still can find a place to live without fear. The house size correlation seems to be still as true as it was 50 years ago. Last night I saw a house that was smaller than all the rest and inside the window I could see an older couple watching TV. The house looked comfortably used and had a slouchy sofa with an old fashioned TV. For a moment I thought they were watching a DVD of Walter Cronkite but then I saw it was Animal Kingdom. I would like to be watching Animal Kingdom on a slouchy sofa with some guy I loved. in a cozy house with drapes instead of Levelour shades.
There is something very inspiring about an empty planter. Sometimes I leave planters unfilled for an entire season. This is disturbing to many and inspiring to others.I like the looks of this empty red planter because it looks as if it has been empty for a long time. This morning in the Times there is an article about the economy which suggests the stock market can be turned around by a national mental condition of positive thinking. That is, if a larger group of investors believes the market is on an upswing, it will be on one. I can understand this theory as it seems logical to me. However, I do not believe we should count on this theory to save our necks in todays economy. I do believe we are all still frightened about what is going on. We have never seen an unemployment rate as high as ours which is frightening. We have also never seen such a high rate of debt. I have no idea where to invest in the future nor in the present. Some say we should be investing at least 40% of our net worth outside the country. I believe that may be true but still have no idea where we should invest. Is China a good bet? Shall we bet on the future of Brasil or is India the place to look ? Scandinavia is also looking good to some. So back to the theory of stock market swings and the emotional state of investors. What if the emotional state of americans is positively affecting the market and causing the Dow to rise as it has over the past 6 months?Now it is winter and in winter the truth always comes out. There are still many foreclosures and in some state the rate is rising not falling. People are filling the malls and buying things they don’t need for holiday gifts. Credit card debt is rising rapidly. A friend of mine recently lost her line of credit as the issuing bank canceled it claiming she had not paid the monthly fee on time. She claimed she had and protested the decision but to no avail. In the paper this morning there is also an article about a bank that changed its billing envelope to one without any markings. It was thrown out by many customers and the bank then collected late fees for balances due that were not paid. What is going on now? Is there a kind of game happening in the world of banks and credit card companies where the point is to trick the consumer out of their money so you win more money? This is a really paranoid way to think but what if it is true? What role would the government play in such a game?
I am disturbed about the way things are going and worried about our country. I think many people want to recession to be over because they have no attention span for deprivation. It is much more fun to spend what you want on things you really don’t need. It is easier and faster to go out and buy things rather than to look inside yourself and discover what fills the void without spending money. That’s my task for today. I am heading out to the paths in our neighborhood to find beauty and serenity and see if it makes me happy. I am hoping glances at the beauty of California will make me deeply satisfied with my Sunday. I hope it works as I am no better than anyone else. A visit to Nordstroms is better than vanilla ice cream.
I think I used to be like a cactus but I have changed. I don’t mind so much being touched now and actually can hold hands at will.Coming upon a cactus is a bit like coming upon a rattlesnake: lovely to look at but deadly to touch. Having a cactus on your sink under the winter sun is a good thing. You don’t even have to remember to water it. If you look at the cactus and remember where it came from you can imagine leaving your own desert for an oasis. Creating your own mystical oasis is a good thing. If you have one you can go there any time without using frequent flyer miles. It doesn’t involve waiting in security lines or endless travel to and from airports. You can also create mystical relationships where you never actually see or touch the person you love. This is a safer way to live and love another. If you do this in place of real and present love, however, you may end out forgetting what it feels like to actually hold a hand when you want to. If you forget this you may forget how to breathe.
so I met this guy in Madrid and asked if I could take his picture. He smiled as if he did this all the time and posed against his car. I really liked this guy as he was so comfortable with himself. He lived in a town where everyone was a little unusual but I liked it there. It wasn’t as if people were mean or weird, they were themselves. Maybe there is something in the air in Madrid that allowed its townspeople to be happy just with what they had. Painting their houses red and blue, placing signs on their flowerpots, cowboy boots on their graves and making a world of hot color hues. I think you should visit Madrid and if you find my Madrid man, tell him thank you for making me believe there were still guys like him out there.
Sometimes I wonder what my braid looks like and so I had a friend take a picture of it. I was surprised to see there were some gray hairs running through it. I have no idea why this surprised me as I am 60 and should have a few gray hairs. When my mother got cancer the chemo treatment made her hair fall out. I could see her hair was not completely gray and she was 87 years old so perhaps I have inherited a “saving money on hair color gene”.I don’t really mind about the gray hair which concerns my hairdresser. It seems most people who color their hair want to completely remove the gray hair. I have no desire to do that as I feel the gray strands are like the silver threads in poems: I like the feel of them. Rougher to the touch than colored hair, they remind me of the hard times I have been through. Each time I go to see my hairdresser she spends some time pulling up the many layers of my hair and clucking in a low and concerned voice. LAst time I saw her she commented on the fact there was a lot more gray in there.I guess that’s why I wanted my braid photographed. I wanted to see. I like the feel of this braid as it has stayed constant over the years. The weight of it has lightened but the complicated and bumpy feel of it on the back of my head soothes me. Sometimes I don’t comb it out for a couple of days as I like the messy way it looks after a good night’s rest. I am slightly shocked at my behavior when I do this as it seems very naughty. Something an old hippie might do…I find hair interesting . Once you decide to let it do what it really wants to do your life is infinitely easier.
I love Santa Fe…there are a lot of places there where one can get lost in images. I forgot how I loved to take pictures when I was young. I forgot all the time spent in a darkroom and remembered only the long days in a dark room in a hospital where I developed only cancer cells. This was my first job.I think that was what made me less interested in complicated cameras. I was the family photographer when my family was young and once my daughter asked me why there were no pictures of me in the scrapbooks. I was an invisible mother behind a lense. I think I was also an invisible mother some of the time. I wanted to be present with my children but I didn’t know how to be present with myself. I think for many years I was depressed and lacked knowledge on how to find help for this. I think many of us are depressed and can’t admit to this condition as it seems somehow shameful to the world. I know now there are may people with serious emotional issues who feel this way: as if they hold a dark secret from the world. It is interesting to me that having cancer is more acceptable than having depression. If you have cancer you also are likely to get more emotional support as other folks are not frightened of you. In any case my experience in Santa Fe made me understand the importance of solitude and the creative process. I am also beginning to understand the nature of competition in life and the importance of knowing how to handle it. I will never forget my friend, Steve, telling me to try harder when I felt uncertain about my photography class. I went back to class that day with a different approach and did try harder. I produced some of my best shots during the afternoon outing to Madrid and came back to my hotel feeling happy and relaxed. It was a great journey to a different place inside myself. I ma happy to be in a state of mind these days that allows me to make these journeys.
For a single person Santa Fe is a good place to visit as it is casual and not focused on family entertainment. I am here for a photographic workshop which is probably my first since college. I find it challenging as well as frustrating as I am not as knowledgable as others in the class. We are learning how to use 35 MM digital cameras as well as Photoshop and the process is frustrating to me. I remember very well the beautiful simplicity of my Nikon camera with its simple F-stop setting and the round wheel that clicked softly when one changed the shutter speed. Now I have noticed in high-tech devices there is a fake sound attached to changes to make one aware the change has happened. I would rather have silence.
I first learned about cameras from my father who had many interests and many hobbies. A lot of very busy and successful people don’t have the time for this or the inclination but it is a good thing if you do. My father once went out to Yosemite and took a class from Ansel Adams. He came home with many photographs he had taken and was very proud of them. He decided we needed a darkroom in our house so he built one in our bomb shelter which had thankfully never been used for the original purpose. As it was 1969 by then I think he had decided the threat of nuclear war had ended or was at least in second place behind his new interest in photography. Before he destroyed the bomb shelter we had family bomb shelter rehearsals in it. There was a bike which someone had to pedal all of the time and boxes of fake food and games. Our family never played games so this box confused me. I don’t remember seeing water but this is not surprising as some of the time the most basic things were forgotten.
During these war rehearsals my Dad would explain how we were going to survive in the shelter for the requisite 8 weeks until the nuclear fallout had vanished.We were all assigned jobs to do in the event of an alert. My job was to fill several large, green cans with gas so we could drive to Vermont if we had time. There was an even larger bomb shelter there. He would take out a hand gun stored in a box and explain it was to be used to keep the neighbors out of our shelter as there was only room for our family. I found the gun terrifying and thought if there was an actual nuclear event I would run away in the neighborhood and take my chances with the fallout. I couldn’t imagine being contained in that small room with my family for 8 weeks as I had the distinct feeling some of us would not end out as we had gone in. Who would ride that bike all those hours? I rode my bike to school often but that was a 20 minute ride.
Anyway, the darkroom became our family photo lab once the threat of nuclear war was over in my father’s eyes. He took a few hours to show me how things worked but wasn’t the most patient teacher so I promptly forgot. My friend, Leslie Simmons, showed me once again some weeks later. The two of us spent many hours in there watching images appear through the developer like monsters from under a green and mysterious sea. My first job was developing photographs of cancer cells in a hospital as that was all I knew at 19. I had dropped out of college and needed to work so I took the first job I could find . After six months of trying to focus on cells, I returned to college.
Anyway back to Santa Fe…I think the most interesting thing about the class is how I tend to panic if I don’t think I can do what everyone else is doing with apparent ease. Yesterday I felt like I was in math class in seventh grade and the instructor was explaining an algebra problem. I could feel a slow daze freezing my brain and a feeling of exhaustion come over me .I started to think I shouldn’t be there and I had no place in the class though it had been billed as being for beginners.I think there are a lot of us who like to say we are beginners even if we are not as we are afraid of looking stupid. I have taken classes and said this only so I could feel a bit of confidence learning what I needed to learn. Once we were in the lab with the pictures we had taken that day and everyone was showing their pictures on the screens I felt inadequate and as if I were somehow not good enough to be there. Looking back on my life I see this is something I have felt before: an unwillingness to admit a lack of ability or knowledge as I might appear to be weak or pathetic in some way. This is so interesting to me as I thought I had overcome this but apparently I haven’t. It is good to be in a place where I am not even close to being as good as the class as I have to ask for help and try harder. This is not easy for me. I would like to be easily the best. I think I will sign up for another class.
It is interesting to look inside of things after you have looked outside for a while.It is Sunday morning and I have read the paper and am ready to embark on the day. These days I am not as restless as I was a month ago. The rest of the world seems to have become more restless, however. I went to the mall yesterday and there were a million people: so many people you couldn’t park. The lots were full and the parking lot behavior was very bad. I was surprised to see how many people were shopping and wondered why this was happening. The unemployment rate is higher than ever yet people are out there racking up credit card debt believing they will be rescued once again by God Knows who. I think this will be our next area of weakness: the credit card debt of the unemployed in America. What an enormous mess that will create! The good news, though, is people seem more likely to smile at you and more apt to help if you need it. There is definitely a sense of better cheer out there. I hope my observations about this are accurate.
Getting along with others is very important even if it means you have to fake it. I fake it more often than I care to admit but I would rather get along than have an impasse in my life. Sometimes the best thing you can say to yourself in the eyes of bad behavior is: “Don’t take it personally, it’s not my problem.” and walk away with a smile on your face. I am writing this now because I have noticed many times in the past year people seem to decide they can’t get along with someone else so they just drop them from their life as if they were meaningless. As if their memory or relationship is meaningless. As if their family history is meaningless. This is not a good thing as once you have stopped connecting with someone it is so easy to lose the thread which held you together in the first place. Then you lose a bit of love in your life. Everyoone needs all the love they can have so before you decide to disconnect, remember what it sounds like to pick up the phone and hear no dialtone.
I have been remiss about writing in my blog because my personal GPS seemed to be broken. As much as I tried I could not see a direction and therefore I had little to write. The path is clearer today and I am happy about that. I have been reading about “Intentional Communities” which are communities formed by those who want to live in a social group. These groups are often based on spirituality, common interests, or economic purpose. I am finding more and more people who do not want to live alone any longer. The American ideal of self-sufficiency is no longer as appealing to many single people and we are looking for alternatives. This concept is not new but one which has been tried a few times in the past some more successfully than others. Imagine living with a group of people who were all connected with purpose and love. I think that would be a wonderful way to enjoy life and have the support of friends.