Will I remember the sun in the morning in November, the sun that barely warms, that lights just enough early to show our grey breath as you softly cough cold air out of your lungs? The leaves old and dead, crunch from decay, crunch from chill. Will I remember the anticipation of winter, the anticipation of spring? The rebirths, the rebirths, the rebirths. The welcoming of our children to a new day. As we await the new lesson, the replenishment of hope, and the fulfillment of our definition—the world as it fills in and adjusts around us, the colors in the periphery, the people in our adjacency, walking past us, making lines, tracing those lines, retracing, creating dimension. Will I remember the story or the words?
It was maybe a year ago that I started to look at that waiting, empty space after all the photos on my phone, speculating what might be there the following Sunday, what will have filled the room. There were things in the world that already existed, waiting for me to recognize them in whatever form they’d be in. Recognition may be one of the greatest gifts we can give to the world. It’s something we can do without knowing. The world that would be known to me the following week was already alive, I just had to go out and recognize it. I started to fill my photo album by taking pictures of the natural first—trees, mostly, I think because they were in stuck in place and gave me a chance to be a witness, to see their beauty as they stretch, their roots creating the boundary of a stage. I became more and more interested in watching the change of objects in the world that don’t move. People passed these trees, birds visited and retreated, weather visited and retreated. I was starting to see the extension and depth of a narrative in these things I took pictures of and, with it, the blur of the true subject presented itself. Spaces were filled in my photo album, but with doors and, with them, entry into bigger spaces, the peripheries, the adjacencies, the communion of the world.
Just this past March I visited New Orleans with my wife and two of our friends. There were particularly joyful moments and while we missed our kids, the freedom of having our own pacing was welcomed. We drank wine and shopped for food at a co-op while nearby monks made Mandala sand art over three days. We listened to music and swung in a hammock fastened to fence posts. Most of our days we spent walking neighborhoods, neighborhoods in decay, homes dressed in necklaces and brooms and colorful scarves, homes still choking on Katrina, streets injected with music and local artists. I had taken a picture of my youngest kid, Santino, just before we left and I still look at it like I’m watching a movie—there’s context and time, a description of who he is in the moment, slight looseness of his t-shirt, faded stains from strawberries on his cheek, a slightly lazy slouch. That pause; I can look at him here be held forever. In New Orleans I don’t think I took one picture of a tree. I snapped shots of notes people hung in trees but the trees themselves became the periphery, the adjacency. And it wasn’t because I lost interest in them but more that I recognized the familiar in humanity around me—I could see lines, tracings. Those stories interested me more. I spent time witnessing and taking pictures of jug bands, sword swallowers, amateur coffeeshop piano players at dawn, bar patrons who have been ordering drinks and telling stories for over fifty years, and the homeless, who hold signs that ask for money while offering blessings—those in the predicament of an intersection between capitalism and religion. The presence of illusory happiness that we’ve confirmed through our own lives is hoped for by those with very little, hoping that our generosity can help them play the game, to eliminate the separation between the sacred and the profane. One man recently told me how tired he was. He called me by my name and there was something about that gesture of familiarity that didn’t allow me to be a line on his outside. Him using my name made his life seem even more real, crashing into me, his stamp; everyone is always signing on our lives. He let me take his picture but he didn’t even look up, as if he was resigned to just being seen.
We’re all in each other’s adjacency in wait to be a bigger plural, to be a community. I feel this importance now in the form of a new art. Images, through pictures, make the story I can hopefully create from a greater story. It’s helping me to not just see but to recognize my sisters and brothers, helping me capture a reference of rebirth in a moment. Will I remember the sun in the morning in November, the sun that barely warms the feet poking out of a worn blanket, warms the face of the inopportuned, the artist, the joyful, those that wait for the replenishment of hope and the fulfillment of our definition—the world as it fills in and adjusts around each of us, we are someone else’s color in their periphery, we are the lines, we are the pluralism of love, recognizing and creating the words, recognizing and creating the story.