Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: March 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Growing up as I did, the daughter of a surveyor, it is perhaps not surprising that I regularly wonder about borders and boundaries.

The forest in which Nora, Pat, and I grew up is filled with surprising stone walls - stone walls where no foundation or house is nearby, stone walls that the Joshua's Trust trails now traverse.


I've had debates in suburban backyards about whether or not property boundaries are real (nb. do not try to have this argument with an existentialist, even one well-acquainted with stone walls and hedgerows, unless you are prepared to give up a bit flustered).

In my days teaching daycare, I enjoyed watching the various methods 3-year-olds have for negotiating boundaries - rule bending, side-stepping, and loop-hole-finding at its best.

These days, I've been wondering about where the self starts and stops. Sometimes I feel the fixed perimeter of this corporeal husk so palpably. I feel amazed that I don't burst over the seams of my body. Other times, it seems comforting to reject the "hereness" of our bodies.

What keeps one fragile force from another? That's what I kept wondering last night as I was watching Caribou at the Iron Horse. It was easily the best concert I've seen this year and, as they sat, drum kit to drum kit, face to face, I couldn't help but marvel over all those sounds - those overlapping indexes of self - and where it all starts and where it all stops.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the hectares of my heart

I look at this picture of my mother and I think she is probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.

my mother pregnant with me

Today my mother has officially spent half her life as a mother. She was 29. She had lived in Hawaii and Tucson and sundry locations across the Northeast. She had been married and divorced and married again. She and my father owned a house in the middle of a forest they loved. She had found a career in a field that utilized her degree (granted, that field did not and does not pay a living wage). She had and has great legs.

It's hard not to measure oneself against that.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

you can't take it with you

I do not have great chronological mastery of my memories. They tend to flash before me like so many birds. Sometimes they sit still, wait long enough for me to take a good look, to take in the tawny spectrum of their feathers. Other times they undulate in the sky - their swarming dance not unlike the pull and recoil of algae in a tidal pool. Still other times they dart across my field of vision so fast they are the merest suggestion of a being.

bird impression

"A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt." - Susan Sontag, On Photography

The photograph I've placed above was taken by a woman who was on her last visit to her dying mother. In the same batch, she has posted the last photograph she took of her mother. Her mother is in a hospital bed, in the photo, with tubes - oxygen and something intravenous. She looks frail and tired (as one would). The woman notes, in her caption, that her mother was at an excellent nursing home, where she was pampered.

About a month later, after her mother had died, the woman returned to Honolulu with her brother. They climbed to the top of the highest hill in the city, where their parents wished to scattered, and took this photograph of the site:

where their ashes will go

I think there was a pretty significant paradigmatic shift that came with the popularization of photography. It seems to me that we know better how to negotiate our experiences through this medium.

I remember three things mainly about my grandfather's funeral: (1) it was surprising to see my father, my uncle Freddy (from the other side of the family), and Bob Cook standing together; (2) the room smelled musty and I was concerned that I would sneeze inappropriately; and (3) my grandfather's hands were harder than I'd expected and cold. I don't know if I would feel differently now about his hands if I had photographed him, but my impulse is to guess that I would, to guess that the thing would grant me aesthetic distance.


• • •

Later on the day of my grandfather's funeral we sat on my aunt's porch and Bob Cook gave my little cousin Robby things to throw into the chiminea - scraps of paper, receipts, a soda can, a hard boiled egg.