Wednesday, July 19, 2006

lifting off

Whenever one goes on holiday, they wish to bring back something as a memento. Usually, gifts and souvenirs are brought back for those loved ones who didn’t even take the trip. They say, in effect, “we missed you and wished to share our experience with you.”
My favorite mementos are always symbols and photographs. I’ve never been one for trinkets and knick-knacks – those little black bears made carved from coal, or tropical fish carved from coconuts. Even my photographs, for the most part, attempt to be symbols, attempt to capture feelings and emotions, breezes and fragrance, colors and temperatures. I wish to freeze experiences, or even to squeeze together spans of the passage of time into a single frame with timed exposures. One can experience a period of time in a single instant.
So I took 768 photographs while in the Caribbean. I took all the kinds of photos I could think of. I even experimented with slow-speed photos of Allison, in which the background is still and sharp, but she is blurry with motion. We move through time at break-neck speed, constantly changing in the constant. We flurry and hurry about against a timeless, ancient background that changes and moves so slowly that it is imperceptible except for the affects of the interplay of natural forces that have shaped and polished over millennia. One can only ponder at what things were like before they encountered one another and shaped and sharpened. In our own lives, we can see the changes happening if we take notice. We can differentiate between who we were yesterday, and who we are today. If we care to, we can calculate course based on that observation, and make corrections before tomorrow comes and finds us yet further from who we ought to be.
There are distance layers of motion in our everyday. I often think of this while riding in the country and seeing the broken white line whiz by like and endless ellipsis seemingly saying, “and so on, and so on, and so on…” But just beside me, the trees at a slight distance seem to move by somewhat slower. The barns in the fields lazily disappear from my side mirrors and the hills in the distance barely move.
As we lifted off Union Island in a tiny prop plan and climbed to 10,000 feet, we could feel the forces of movement fighting the forces of nature trying to keep us where we were. As we began to level off, at nearly 200 mph, the island below us seemed to sit and linger, it watched us for a very long time shrinking in the sky toward the northeast. In an hour, we landed on Barbados, endless flurry on a static coral island. Next day, we lifte off in a 767 and were in another country, another culture, another time, in less than 5 hours. The speed of life. We swoop in and swoop out of lazy, slow changing contexts and take a moment’s respite. There are those there, like Ents taking in the passage of time, slowly shaking their heads at our flurry, and they slowly wave their arms in farewell as we rush back to our realities.
I snap a photo of quiet, still, breezy island in the distance, far below, sitting crisp and sharp in the exposure, but you’ve got to look through fast moving clouds and a blurred propeller to see it.

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