Retreat in the Woods
We have had a friend, Gianni, for 20 years in Tuscany, and as soon as we arrived and settled in he took us off to his cabin that he built in the woods, where he reads and writes, brings his treasures, and hangs out when things get too hectic. It’s a real retreat.
If photographs could convey the ‘smell’ of a place, and sometimes we can almost sense it from the mood of the image, this place would be rich with the scent of old wood, leathers, canvas, wool and linen, antlers, boots and their polish, saddles, oil-skinned cottons, all sun warmed and carrying the aroma of the deep green and fragrant, springtime woods. What a place!
We had packed the house for a May 1 departure back to Tuscany. We were nearly done with the last details when Maggie walked out the door with this little walking stick I had bought a few weeks before. Why I bought it I had no real idea, just that the stick itself seemed to have a kind of ‘character’ that I felt might make its way into a still life; slender, with a small, knobby head, and a lovely flexibility that made me want to do a little dance when I picked it up.
It’s the kind of stick that as soon as one takes it in hand a transformation occurs; turning one into a Chaplin, or Chevalier, or a dandy, a fencer, a hoofer… and Maggie was no different as she strutted out the door and did her little jig and spin for me. At moments like this one can see their intimates in a new light because the playfulness and theatrics are revealing in sudden and fresh ways. Although with Maggie I am fortunate to have a partner who is always ready to play, and so I see different characters quite often. Still, if there is no camera in hand the transformations are lost to time.
Serenity after chaos can make itself felt in various ways. And it is needed to rebalance ones state of mind. I found myself drawn to this humble photograph because of the expansive and yet ordinary characteristics it uses to hold me for a moment, not let me move on, and then to draw me in, to transform my resistance into a small smile of wonder at the recognition, once again, that the most we can do is to work with what we have at any given moment.
This is where I am. This is what I see. This is what the world looks like.
A kind of honest appreciation of the fact that the sublime is often hidden in plain sight.
Simple Things Say a Lot
Some days the images that stop us come out of our accumulated past. I see something that I know I have seen a thousand times; in this case the facade of a house, simple as the fact of its being. An honest exaltation of, “I am.”
This ordinary house, along a canal in the town of L’Isle-sur-la sorgue is embroidered by Nature’s hand, which, now that winter has struck the shiny glitter of its ivy leaves to the ground, is showing me the unstoppable force of a single root which has taken dominion over the entire surface of this building.
I was stuck dumb with admiration for the complexity and sheer visual, graphic, beauty of this circulatory system, for surely that is what this is, a root dipping its toe into the waters of the canal below the house.
And isn’t this what we hope photography can reveal to us? A moment of innocent wonder at the gifts that nature, or mankind, offers us, and the power it has to set us free to simply take in whatever meaning this, or any other form of unexpected beauty presents.