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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

AshinWindowAlone

photo by DL

In this picture, Ash sits in the window alone, a photo shared by guest contributor DL who has presented several beautiful and often poignant pictures on this blog over the years. Her cat Ash is just learning to sit in windows alone for the first time. His big brother Pepi passed away recently. As DL said to me the picture might be a little sad but for me it is also a beautifully lit capture of perseverance and adaptation to change.

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As he later explained, he knew he’d done something. Or maybe he hadn’t done something.  Regardless just in case he owed me an apology, he decided to pick up this plant and leave it sitting in the sun for me to photograph. 😉 Have a good rest of the week, folks.

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Today I made my annual donation to one of the nonprofits I support, WalkBoston.  As a card carrying pedestrian (and dreamer), believe me, I need help crossing the road.  I made the donation in memory of my Aunt Thelma who used to describe her walks to me.  Following is a blog post I wrote about her two years ago, about how she influenced who I am today, including how I can choose to give myself to others.  This bright, beautiful day is her birthday so it seems like a good time to give back, and give thanks for her having been in the world.  At the end of the post is a youtube video of Dives and Lazarus by composer Ralph Vaughn Williams.  It was music Steve had shared with me, and music I remember replaying until I could collect the words to write about a lovely woman who in her own unique way helped me learn to walk in this world.  Please enjoy the words and the music, and have a good day.

***

Memories

My mother taught me to cook, to plant flowers, and to tell stories.  From her I learned to love books and to love writing.  She passed away before I ever wrote and had published my first story.  During her life, I never traveled abroad.  She never knew me with a camera in my hand.  She never met Steve or any other fellow in my life.  But her sister, my Aunt Thelma did.

In Aunt Thelma’s bedroom dresser are the postcards I sent to her from my travels all over the world.  On her bookshelves are the magazines and other clippings of my work.  And, last year, after I returned from my travels with Steve in Japan, she made me create a photo book for her.  “I need tangibles I can hold in my hand,” she said when I pointed out the pictures were viewable online.  “And include a picture of that fellow you’re seeing.  I don’t know if I’ll ever see him any other way.”  They never did meet, but she read about him, and they spoke on the phone once.  I sat next to her on her couch as she laughed with him on my cell phone.  I remember him asking her what he should call her.  She laughed and said, “Well, why you don’t call me what everyone calls me.  Aunt Thelma.”  After she hung up, she asked me if he was a good man.  I said yes.  And then we went on to talk about my brothers and their families.

Growing up in Virginia, my mother made it clear early in my life if I was ever in trouble I could call my Aunt Thelma who was living in New York.  When my mother died, Aunt Thelma traveled to Virginia and was there with me and my brothers, along with the rest of the family.  When my father died unexpectedly a year and half later, she couldn’t make it, but I will always remember standing in a hospital waiting room on the phone with her crying and her saying over and over, “You go ahead and cry.  It’s alright to cry.”

In bad times but mostly good, I called her, especially after I got a cell phone.  I could call her randomly as I returned home from work.  She’d laugh at my stories and in the end, wind up telling me to be careful as I crossed the street.  She always ended her calls with, “I love you, Cynthia.”

My Aunt Thelma passed away this weekend.  I will miss her.  I am thankful that she was in my life.  I learned a lot.  In NY this weekend, as the family gathered, I held one of my young cousins in my arms.  She was crying.  “I’m sorry,” she said as she tried to wipe her face.  I said, “Why are you apologizing? For crying? Don’t ever apologize for crying.  It’s alright to cry.  Do you know who taught me that?” When she shook her head, I said, “Aunt Thelma.”

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It has been a hard month, a hard summer, a hard year, for so many family and friends.  I read their words and hear their voices, and all I have been able to do, in the end, is absorb and listen.   On occasion I have been able to touch, to hug, and to encourage others to take such action.  Sometimes I have offered words of advice but I am beginning to think that, for the most part, those words of advice could be a song or poem or a passage from a book.  The words from my mouth are not so important as is my literal or figurative presence.  I am lucky to have them in my lives as well.

Despite the title of this post, I do not feel at the center of it all, whatever “it” may be.  As a writer, photographer, storyteller, I feel on the periphery, observing the chaos of life from odd angles that reveal ambiguities, sadness, horror, pain but almost always, great beauty, too.  When I talk with the friends and family who are struggling I find myself wishing … and then I stop myself.  I cannot live other peoples’ lives, but I can and often do ask them, “Without ignoring all that’s going wrong, what is going right? What’s one thing making you happy?”  One lovely friend will have a tendency to say, “Well, at least my cat is not dead … yet.”  And I’ll say, “Exactly!” 😉

These are the rambling thoughts that come to mind this Sunday morning as I hold close in my heart those who may be feeling a bit alone or vulnerable or just unsure of next steps.  I certainly feel that way about some things too.  And with that said, what is one thing making me happy at this moment?  It is the morning sun falling upon this apple creating a little apple universe.  At least I see the stars.

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Steve Hands for Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 8

Steve Hands for Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 8

The best part about having been given carte blanche to use his words and my images of him however I choose … well, it is just so much fun to say out of the blue, “Hey, Steve, guess what?  There’s a picture of your hands appearing in a magazine next month.”  He pauses, takes a deep breath and then says, “So, when did you take this picture?”  And I get to make statements like, “Oh, don’t you remember that afternoon you were peeling shrimp and we were talking politics?”  Anyway … 😉  His hands are paired with a vignette in the online and print publication, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Issue 8.  As explained on the journal’s website, a vignette is a word that originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” A snapshot in words.  Here’s a link to the freshly launched issue filled with great brief reads and a wonderful array of images.

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As soon as my brother uttered the words, I smiled and shook my head.  Once again I was proven right.  I may feel compelled to put my words out into the world, but it is my brothers who are the poets in my family.  In this case, my youngest brother was simply sharing his growing understanding of what it means to be a father — the ups and downs and everything in between.  And with this understanding he was able to look into the past from a different perspective.  “I remember,” he said, “walking towards Pop.  He was sitting in that chair, lost in thought, tilted over, looking like a dandelion without light.  I don’t know which of us he was worried about that day or if he was sitting there wishing he’d done some things differently in life or maybe he was just missing Ma.  But then he saw me and he straightened up and he smiled.  It was like the sun had come out.  I was his light.  That is what my son is like for me.”

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I have written of Steve’s kitchen quite often and in various ways, from the dishes he prepares to the memories evoked by his simple act of making coffee.  This autumn, I have found that even with that cup of coffee in hand, I like to sit in the quiet of his warming kitchen.  Like ritual, I watch the remaining leaves on the towering oak tree flutter in a morning breeze, and then … it happens.  I look across the table at Steve and I say, “The sun is coming around the corner on its sled.”  He says, “Mmmmhmm.”

It does not flood the room, this autumn light.  It moves slowly like honey or light maple syrup across a plate.  My favorite part?  How light pours upon the pot of sage.

It soaks into dusty leaves, alive and dead, and runs along unruly stems.

Truth be told, there are other herbs in the room, on the same little table, buckets of basil, rosemary stalks and more.  But my favorite sight in the morning light, this autumn so far anyway, remains the sage …

…even when its leaves are not green.

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Recently I had a conversation with that fellow in my life about how we have used music to better understand each other.  Where words have failed, sometimes our different reactions to music have revealed something important about the other.  The most humorous moments have occurred when he has tried to share classics with me like Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and in my head pop images of King Arthur racing across a moonlit field to battle (i.e. the movie Excalibur by John Boorman), or as he talks about Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries and I suddenly hear “Kill Da Rabbit” … or the whir of helicopters blades  in Apocalypse Now.   He quickly learned that I have been well schooled in music … through the movies.  Since he’s more into books than cinema, I compiled a CD of mostly movie-related music — pieces that move me, that I feel sweep the listener along on a journey, that make a body pause and feel.

“I was born by the river in a little tent

Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ever since …

I now realize that I lost the CD and made no backup.  I didn’t even write down the playlist.  But below are some of the more dramatic pieces that come to mind this bright day.  Warning, there is a certain sorrow to some of the songs, but there is uplift as well.  See what you think when you have a few moments to procrastinate.  FYI, in the spirit of pairing words/images/music, these are all links to YouTube renditions but these videos are just a tease.  I highly recommend viewing the entire movie to see the scenes and/or hear the music in context.

  • A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke, 1963 (moving movie moment is the conclusion of Spike Lee’s movie Malcom X)
  • Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3  (moving movie moment is the conclusion of Julian Schnabel’s movie Basquiat and there’s also the beautiful final scene in the movie Fearless)
  • Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (played throughout Oliver Stone’s Platoon)
  • Especially after sharing Adagio for Strings with my guy, he introduced me to Ralph Vaughn Williams .  I love his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis but it is Vaughn Williams’ Dives and Lazarus that I most often listen to when working past a writer’s block.
  • Anything by composer James Horner moves me deeply, but especially his music for the movie Glory.  And then there’s the campfire scene.
  • I’m still not sure if I like the movie Cold Mountain but Gabriel Yared’s soundtrack makes me think of home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is the sacred harp singing that makes S. weep each time.  I always see fields of gold when I listen to this song.
  • There’s that repetition by composer Philip Glass that drives some people crazy, but even if you hate his music, please close your eyes and listen to the music from the final scenes of Martin Scorsese’s Kundun.  Ah, when that flute sounds …
  • There is Hans Zimmer’s Journey to the Line in Terence Malick’s Thin Red Line.  First time I saw it, I found the movie too chaotic.  I did not want to like it.  But I could not get the words, images and that music out of my mind.  It’s now one of my favorite movies.
  • And, finally, Moby.   There are two songs in particular that I bow down to him for producing.  The first is the music underscoring the final scene in Michael Mann’s movie Heat as DeNiro and Pacino have their final confrontation.  I believe the song is called God Moving Over the Face of the Waters. The second is the song Natural Blues.

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Once upon a time, before I ever thought of picking up a camera, I wrote short stories.  They often involved a bohemian young woman,  in good spirits mostly, searching for something rather intangible.  Not an uncommon storyline I know.

Eventually, in a coffee shop, a tea house, or a meadow by the side of the road,  she would meet a man.  A complicated fellow of the “still waters run deep” sort, if you know what I mean.

The two would engage in all sorts of experiences.  From playful to painful, all of the acts in one way or another focused on finding joy in one’s life …

… and discovering sometimes unexpected beauty if one were willing to see the world through the fresh eyes of another.

Regardless of how much beauty found, by story’s end, the man and woman had often physically parted, choosing to walk separate life paths.

Even so, by story’s end, it was usually clear that the characters would remain forever connected by their memories.

I have not written such stories in many years but they came to mind this week as I sorted through these pictures I took of two friends in their vintage garb.  Knowing of my desire to build my portfolio, they offered me the opportunity to photograph them in various settings.  Quite a treat with such photogenic folk.  And quite unexpectedly inspiring.  Not sure if I will ever put pen to paper for such stories again, but  I do look forward to future fashion shoots.

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