Saturday, March 11, 2017

#SOL17: Making Comfort

One of the few photographs I have made this year.
(Arles, France, July, 2016)
I.

It's difficult to look at images I've made during the last 20 years. My stomach clenches and that wave of grief powers over me bringing with it memories of Rob and me and Dev.  Sometimes, I stall momentarily in that pain, forgetting how to swallow.

It was Rob who I most always showed new photographs I had made. He was often the first person who saw my work and he encouraged me to exhibit and publish. Now, I think of the time I spent making images--most often a solitary act-- and I would gladly trade every image I ever made to have just a few more minutes with him.

During the last year I have not photographed very often. Yes, I'll snap a quick picture with my phone, but I barely have touched my Nikon during the last 18 months and I have yet to pick of the Leica camera Rob bought me. I can't even say where it is at this moment. Two weeks ago I took my Nikon with me on a 6 mile hike and the feel of the camera in my hands felt natural.

I have yet, however, to look at the images.


II.

In my mind, Rob and I would grow old together and we would take that trip across the United States a decade from now with camera and pen in hand. We had planned to make a book together.  The poet and the artist. I didn't see the possibility that he would die so young and that his life would so quickly be gone. Even though Rob was at home for his last three weeks, he was lucid only now and then and not for any sustained amounts of time. Mostly he was negotiating his leaving the earth. Fifty days prior to that were spent in hospitals. The last sustained conversation--for hours and hours I had with Rob was in late September. Then, we sat up all night and talked. Staph infections, narcotics, and of course--the spread of cancer reduced the quality of time we had together during his last 6 months. Most of that was avoidable, had surgeons and infectious disease doctors done a better job--or even a competent job.

III.

I don't know when I decided to blog about the cancer, Rob's fight, death, and the aftermath of grief. But across these last 18 months, I have written more than 130,000 words and filled several art journals. I never imagined in August 2015 that I would have this record of life. How could I have known? A friend told me that the way I would manage after Rob died was by making things: words on a page, an image in a journal.

And today, nearly 19 months later, I think that perhaps what art making most answers is what we cannot know. And knowing that is why I still lift my camera, still paint, and write most days. It is the need to make, to create that best defines comfort.

19 comments:

  1. Your words tell me so much more than what you've written. Maybe it's because I filled in some of the gaps. Maybe it's because I know about death and how it changes us. But I also know your last lines to be true. Making sense out of pain drives us. I wish I could know you better. Such beautiful writing.

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  2. Art is so, so powerful. I'm sorry for your loss. Keep shooting, keep writing. You may not be able to look back at those images now, but someday you will. All the best on your journey.

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  3. keep writing - you are doing a great job. i am sorry for your loss.

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  4. I think this has been especially true for you: "what art making most answers is what we cannot know". Your art and your words have been such a powerful way to feel your way into knowing.

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    1. It is about feeling your way into knowing.

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  5. I also agree - that last line is especially thought provoking. Writing it out gets some of it out and slowly, that helps us process and grieve. Your writing is so rich

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    1. I hadn't thought about the slowness. Something to think about.

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  6. Continuing to make art even from despair is a very commendable way to channel your grief. Your grief is still new, and you are still processing. One day you will feel a new inspiration, and your grief will evolve into a new state of mind. Meanwhile, don't worry about any of the details...just live, and find comfort wherever you choose to. I have been really loving your posts and getting to know you through them. I am learning about grief from you.

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    1. The details will take care of themselves. Sometimes I still forget that. Thx

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  7. Thank you for sharing a delicate piece of who you are. Art can be therapeutic... I hope you continue seeking after that beauty even in the midst of your grief.

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    1. I hope I do as well. Thank you for such kind words.

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  8. Your art, your photography is like a small green shoot. It is important therefore to nurture it, for in doing so you are rebuilding yourself after this most devastating loss. Myriad feelings swirl around us at such times and through the fog of grief we begin to slowly move forward. May you continue to move in that direction Mary Ann, at a speed of your own choosing and with the love and support of those around you. Keep writing, for we write to understand.

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    1. Thank you Alan. Inspiring and comforting words.

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  9. What courage you have. What courage you give others, by simply raising the camera again - a small act imparting hope. Strength to you each and every day.

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    1. Fran, thanks so much for these words. Means a lot.

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  10. His life will not be so quickly gone. How could you have known you would have this record of life? Reading this it appears that you have that trip to make together. Camera, pen, pencil, brush. Love. Art is where you are never apart.

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