Tonight I'm quiet, with so many things on hold, so many things up in the air, some of them quite important, some of them my own sad secrets. Tomorrow morning, a student will take me to see the mistnetting of birds. I will take their pictures, finishing out my second roll of film. Film. Loading my camera last week, I thought of how long it's been since I handled a roll of film. Summer 2001, my research trip abroad. Six rolls: an extravagance. That summer, I priced digital cameras in London, wishing I'd thought to ask my father to loan me his so that I could shoot the ephemeral: hairstyles, funny gestures, the smell of the city from the top of a double-decker bus. Graffiti. Shadows. The strange fadedness of my dormitories. My libraries, so beloved. But instead, I bought ISO 400 film and shot with care, as always. Now I straddle a funny line between film and digital: eight shots (out of thirty-six) fluttered away on my iced trees' second night. An outlandishness born of knowing that sometimes it takes me eight tries to get one thing I like, what with adjustments here, adjustments there, experiments, failures, accidents. Tomorrow afternoon, I learn to develop. "Don't wear anything nice," cautions our lovely professor. I have two professional commitments that require wearing nice things, just before class, and so I will be scrambling to get everything done in its time and in clothes most befitting.
It is possible to become sensitized to darkroom chemicals, to the point where one can't be around them at all. Some people, so sensitized, cannot even walk past a darkroom without suffering respiratory distress.
In hoping not to become such a person, I find myself emulsifying, imagine myself a photographic plate, silver-coated glass, wanting the light, wanting to turn to. A star-catcher, on the long exposure, standing so still in wait for blazes, for comet's catch. Glass distorts less than film, is more stable, reveals what has not been known. Despite fragility. No slight shine, no easy mirror.
source for tonight's image: Robert H. McNaught, via Astronomy Picture of the Day.