Photography has served two purposes within my life: 1) validation of one’s life and of the emotional connections between people and 2) a visual means to communication beyond the limitations of words.

Nikon D750 … f/4.5 1/125s 85mm

The grass does not refuse

To flourish in the spring wind;

The leaves are not angry

At falling through the autumn sky.

Who with whip or spur

Can urge the feet of Time?

The things of the world flourish and decay,

Each at its own hour. ~Li Po (cited: Trans: A Waley & B Li, The Poet Li Po. Project Gutenberg Ebook)

Horsetooth Reservoir Nikon D750 f/7.1 1/200s 50mm

A song out there… Why, it is a beggar singing! If this old man who never had a silver coin can sing, why must you with rich gold memories sit here and sigh?

~Tu Fu (cited: The Jade Flute: Chinese Poems in Prose, gutenberg.org)

This week scillagrace invites us to share Getting To Know You photographs that show our relationship with a subject that generated our attention, won our affection and taught us a thing or two.

on a makeshift bridge
we make friends…
croaking frog
~Issa (cited www.haikuguy.com)

I enjoy photo walk abouts…it is as if a camera has a third eye that invites me to look/see. Over time, I’ve enjoyed expanding my efforts to include using double exposure, long exposure, window reflections in street photography.

Introducing body language as a way to introduce emotions within street photography.

Exploring window reflections as a means to compose a frame within a frame as well as create an abstract street image.

Accepting the challenge of in-camera double exposure.

And…may I invite you to spend a few minutes watching a mom and child, getting to know each other through laughter and validation. I know you will find yourself smiling.

Bebê italiano aprendendo a falar

https://fb.watch/51pEYvmHHV/

if I go to heaven I will forget you,

and

if I go to hell you will forget me.*

memoryportraiture
self portraiture created through the use of mixed media

In China a person who will not forget the past is described as ‘one who did not drink Old Lady Meng’s soup.’ Borrowed from Buddhist folklore, Old Lady Meng dispenses the Broth of Oblivion to souls leaving the last realm of the underworld on their way to reincarnation. After drinking her soup, the soul is directed to the Bridge of Pain that spans a river of crimson water. There, two demons lie in wait: Life-Is-Not-Long and Death-is-Near. They hurl the soul into waters that will lead to new births.

Old Lady Meng is more than a quaint antidote for the Greeks’ Mnemosyne. She embodies a psychological understanding about the forces that promote, indeed demand, forgetting for the sake of ongoing life.  It is not enough to note that water is linked with amnesia in Chinese folklore as much the same way that the river Lethe is associated with forgetting in Greek mythology. The challenge here is to make sense of the distinctively Chinese attachment to remembrance in spite of the benefits of Old Lady Meng’s soul.

In Jewish tradition, too, the benefits of amnesia were acknowledged along with the sacred commitment to recollection. There is a midrash, or Torah-based story, that teaches us a lesson similar to that of Lady Meng: ‘God granted Adam and Eve an all-important blessing as they were about to leave the Garden of Eden: I give you, He said, ‘the gift of forgetfulness.” What is so precious about amnesia? Why would God, who demands fidelity to memory, offer the relief from recollection?Perhaps it is because without some ability to forgive and forget we might become bound by grudges and hatred. To remember everything may be immobilizing. To flee from memory, however, leads to an ever more debilitating frenzy.(40-41)**

source:

*Arang and the Magistrate

Munhwa broadcasting corporation 

**Bridge Across Broken Time

Vera Schwarcz

Initially posted on October 10, 2013

As the ink flows onto the page, 

each word creating and tumbling into another,

she wonders aloud to no one in particular,

“are these sleeping memories

left in the shadows of grief …

a past writing on and on

this tale and that …

moving my pen across the page

as if a bridge to yesterday?” 

my face – my mother’s

lingering scent of sweet peas

mirrored reunion.

meandering tales

beyond a haze of tear drops

my mother’s face – mine.

faded looking glass

a cup or two of coffee,

“Let’s linger a bit.”

red pedal tractor

sun-lit hair…freckled-face smile

fading breath of time

“You are a girl! Girls do not deliver newspapers! Only boys!” Not exploring any real life variables that would put the kibosh on any further discussion … like how we lived miles out of town. Or, I didn’t have a bicycle…and even if I did I didn’t know how to ride one. Not even putting forth a reminder of weather variables, like cold wind and snow. Absent was how most mornings I couldn’t get myself out of bed to help milk the cows. 

Nope…I was a girl.  Sewing and cooking projects for the 4-H fair, white ribbons.  One winter I did try making doll clothes, seams fell apart.  Cakes fell…bread didn’t rise.  Crochet projects curled into themselves.  Cleaning house…temper explosions when mud was found on the floor.  You said, “A house has to be lived in for it to be a home.” 

“Do you remember that Christmas when Santa brought C that amazing push-pedal red tractor?  I…a doll. A doll that S carried around 14 years later that still had it’s new scent?”  

Then came that day … you and I in the living room.  You gave me three hard bound books…illustrated books. One about the lives of bees, the other about the Civil War, and lastly…the female reproductive system, “You are a woman now.  You must wash your face twice a day.”  And then a whisper about trusting boys. 

I was a woman.   Books freed us to worlds beyond a rural newspaper route.  Books were trips to the library, classical comic books left on my bed, novel reenactments, and later carefully National Geographic cutouts attached to your letters.  

I loved novels. You, nature and science.   

“Purple and green, do they match?”

“Of course, look to nature.  See its purple blossoms and green leaves.”

I felt my mother’s touch as I opened a donation request letter from the food bank. Unknown to her, there were nights I, on the top bunk, eavesdropping … peeking into her late at night…the children are asleep (so she thought) conversations. When the lights were just right, I listened in to those adult-only conversations by watching the mirrored images…the refrigerator’s reflections of her hands dancing in the air.

“No! No you cannot use my children’s money!  It is for them!”  Children’s money, Social Security survivor benefits for her three oldest children … entrusted to her to protect in order to stretch around a family’s budget.   

Children’s hands crumbling soda crackers into bowls of soup, evenly divided.  Crackers stretching a can of soup to feed lunch for six. Oatmeal, in place of bread crumbs, added to the meatloaf mix; later to be served with canned corn, a filler, on the side.   

Oh how I resisted those government food programs. Pitchers of milk that had been expanded with clumps of powered milk mixed with water. Dinners of sliced and fried Spam with scrambled eggs or French toast made with powered eggs whisked into the egg batter. Syrup made with brown sugar and water. Peanut butter with a thick layer of peanut oil … shiny oil to cut through with a knife before spreading on a slice of homemade bread.

“But why not?”  I once pleaded to fingers that snapped, “No!  Kellogg Corn Flakes and Shredded Wheat are enough!  We cannot afford sugared cereals!”  Cold non-sugared cereals, lumpy watered down milk, and a vague memory of a summer I waited for that shetland pony I had won. Still waiting…

A determined stance. Eyes that said, “No I will not bend.” Firm hands saying, “One capful of dish soap is enough to wash the dinner dishes.” 

Homemade quilts … heavy quilts … made of haphazard geometric shapes of cloth.  Materials saved from scraps of cloth from previous sewing projects, various kinds of fabrics only found in a Saturday rummage sale, shame-filled church donations, and mended hand-me-down children’s clothes, worn and tattered…transformed into … never seen before in all of history…unique quilts.  

Asking for money for a candy bar or a soda pop to buy during a school outing would result in being sent to the kitchen to make no-bake chocolate oak cookies? Once again, “good enough.”

Yet, behind all those times is that one singular moment … she and I standing on the sidewalk in front of a second hand store.  With a quarter in her hand and eyes of regret intermixed with sadness, “I could not find a swimming suit for you. I have only this quarter.”  

No memory of that sense-felt longing for a swimsuit. Her eyes…emerald green eyes … validating and embracing … those eyes…those parent eyes that only a child can hear.

upon the salsify

morning dew

both … at rest

I felt my mother settle beside me as I picked up a photograph … four generations of women, “you seem fragile sitting there with a half smile. I didn’t see your aging … the tellings of you as a grandmother … a great grandmother.  It is as if I remained within a 6 year-old time frame while you rode a time train into your future.”  

Eyes glistening and an acknowledging smile and nod, “Within an album is another image, a faded photograph … unique to the 60s and 70s.  Together, on a couch…your grandmother, you, E, and I.  Four generations.” 

My left arm wrapped around your waist…my right hand reaching towards E.  B, sitting on her mom’s lap, her dress pulled up … hiding her face, as toddlers are known to do, playing pick-a-boo.  It is as if I was a conduit … arms reaching through the barriers of time…connecting each of you to the other.

Two moments of togetherness…four separate lives within one time frame … a telling of our ancestral heritage. 

Tomorrow a birthday celebration, your great great granddaughter.  Within her unabashed joy, glimpses of you. 

Adopted 70 – 74 years ago. A teddy bear, 12 inches tall and 9 inches wide.   A child’s toy stuffed with long, fine wood shavings. A faded pink ribbon … placed around the neck … frayed … a limp bow.  A mishmash nose …the tip reconstructed with thick black thread. Missing mouth and eyes.  Matted and worn wool body  … the muted yellowish brown colors of early spring.

Well traveled … bits of time along the east and west coastlines of the United States as well as the mid-west and Rocky Mountains. Deployed with the family for 2 years in Australia. 

The numerous times the childhood family and then my family moved … household items, furniture, toys, clothes left behind … moving sales, yard sales, donations, and tossed in the trash things … a shedding of things…leaving a trail of chosen and then discarded things.  

Never though … photograph albums … ones she created for each of her children, her marriages, and her childhood family.  Each one a chapter within a visual memoir … validating her life.  

But why this one teddy bear … adopted during the first chapter of her life as a wife… a young mother of two girls?

A teddy bear … a child’s gift tucked away for safe keeping.  Later an adult’s re-given gift of a mom’s unspoken memories kept close to her heart.  

summer will soon

wander

between wild flowers.

in our next lives

let’s meet as butterflies

afield

Outside my window the world is dove gray…a late spring snow … powdered snow covering tree branches like the powdered sugar she sprinkled on the top of one layered cakes.  

The silence of snow gently interrupted, “Why was I sent to that school with D?”  D, her first born.  A black and white framed photograph reminds me of the softness of her permanent like curls crowning her head and the same unabashed joy of our mother…our mother before she was our mother.  The photograph belies her strawberry blond curls…golden tipped curls.  

“So she would not be alone.”  Alone…the same aloneness that accompanied her during those years she was separated from her family…sent away to school?  

Me, the second born…given a purpose at birth, ”A playmate… a barrier, a protector against being alone.”  

There were those nights when darkness became like a blanket that settled the house into a quiet silence.  A silence that opens a door to a private passage to a realm where thoughts and images become ethereal and reality is colored by the imaginings of self free to roam.  And then…unexpectedly, consciousness shifts to a gentle voice, “ring ring” responded to with, “hello.”  Uninterrupted exchanges between sisters, separated by darkness—confiding, sharing, questioning—creating private night time stories lulling us into sleep.  

Years later the darkness of night often would invite a repeating dream. No…not a dream. A nightmare where a sudden appearance of a dial phone transformed me into a relentless pursuer.  A series of events, where I stumble over one into another … the phone line remains silent; “this number is no longer in service;”  I can’t recall the number as I dial; a nearby phone book opens up to blank pages; I have no coins; my mind goes blank when I pick up the receiver. Failure becomes an enemy which I fight, again and again, until waking releases me to another darkness…

My mother’s grief  … her felt emptiness … her loss of her first born child and first born grandson…together in one grave…not alone. Her emptiness hidden within a Sanskrit word, Vilomah…against the natural order…a parent whose child has died.  A Vilomah who, in later years, would also be a parent whose two sons had died.