A big storm is stalking my state. I had no idea until my flaming-sword-wielding friend e-mailed to ask whether she can stay in Gambier tomorrow night rather than forge home through the snow. The snow? The snow. I looked it up. There's a big streak of storm coming our way.
This morning, then, I had special reason to realize that I was running low on food again. I brewed myself a little pot of espresso and started making plans, and those plans grew and grew. The basics--bread, milk, and toilet paper--became an Italian boule with three kinds of European jam (blackcurrant and raspberry from Switzerland; cherry from France), two half-gallons of milk, a massive pack of toilet paper. Once I was on that roll, and once I discovered that the whole county had not yet flocked desperately to the store, the going was easy: bottles of pomegranate juice, cheese in ash, Italian fontina (the finest of fontinas, and newly available in my grocery, which I now hate much less because of the fontina's new presence), so many yogurts, a bottle of cabernet and a bottle of pinot noir, a baguette, new sponges for washing dishes, pizzas, energy bars, three kinds of tea. Instant coffee. Gourmet raviolis. Calciumized orange juice. Both kinds of Quils (day and ny) for the cold that afflicts me. So many, so so many boxes of Kleenex--real Kleenex--some with lotion for my sad nose. Ingredients for shrimp pasta. By the time I left the store I felt beatific.
This photography project, I tell you, is a major step for me: I can see how the dozen (or so) images I've printed could be improved; I can imagine the criticisms they might receive during my first critique tomorrow. But at some point last night, after everyone else had gone home, I hit a stride and realized that this project is meant to show what I've learned how to do. And look: twelve glossy images, each of which you longtime readers might recognize as one of mine, having come to know my visual style. There they all are, and they don't necessarily make a coherent narrative together--but neither do dreams (which, you may recall, we're meant to have explored through these first pictures).
I have a woman grasping a cardinal above her head, as though seizing it out of the air, and a net surprisingly drapes over her face like a veil. That's a detail I couldn't see until I came out of the darkroom at 4 a.m. I have a house that went all awry while my shutter was open in Cleveland yesterday (it's possible that we hit a pothole while I was taking the picture), and it needs to be dodged differently than I was able to manage last night before I lost patience. But it is the ghost of a house, its dormers crazily multiplied, and so I have put it into the project--simply because I love it. This is a thing I might not do if I were actually receiving a grade. It is a thing I might not have dared to do at 18 or 20. But at 30, I feel good, even better than good, about saying, "I just love this one. Look at how the roof shadowed itself."
I have a drive-by barn, which I took yesterday on my way to Cleveland with two lovely students who invited me to a dance concert and then took me there. As I took that one, I hit the window with the camera lens. I knew at that moment that I would love the picture, and I do, even though it has some weird, weird flaws.
I lay out the pictures and look over what I've made, what I now know how to do. I am so happy that I make new plans for the evening. Milky sugared tea. Two hot cookies. More Tolstoy.
There are towns in upstate New York with more than eight feet of snow on the ground. I thought 66" in one month was bad, the year I lived in Rochester--though even then I knew it wasn't as bad as it could be. I think it was that same year that Buffalo got eight feet in one day. Tomorrow, if things go as they're predicted to, we'll get about 10-12" over the day. A lot of it will fall during the afternoon, making me think of the time my Chicagoan friend and I went to two make-up seminars in a row on a December day in 1997 and emerged into a new near-foot of snow that had fallen in four hours. We'd seen it when we changed over from Smollett to Oliphant, but we'd had no idea how big things were getting. My neighbor made psychotic snow people and left them for me on the house's steps that night.
I might be too anticipatory to work at home tonight. I am in desperate need of a clock reset, a goad to sleep before dawn, after last night's printing binge.
In one of my many, many parallel lives, I am not only taking and printing pictures but am also showing them, and people are coming to see them and finding themselves stirred, changed. In that life, I have found my brilliant artist-partner. We take turns writing each other's wall captions, poems in verse of a sort no one has seen before.
Sometimes parallel lives become tangential ones. Or so I can hope.
I can barely believe that I haven't shown you this post's photograph yet. I've been loving it for two weeks now. By this time tomorrow, those branches will be gone.