I often fear that I just don't have a head for poetry. But I do love to keep lines of Ammons--like this one from very, very early in his career--running in the back of my mind, especially on days like this one. From my bed this morning, before I put my glasses on, I watched the far shade flicker like a lamp on fire, our day's high winds gusting clouds and blinking the sun on and out and on and out. Though I had imagined myself perched in the photo lab by 9 a.m., playing Hem songs quietly and spotting out the imperfections on my project prints, the morning took a bit longer to get started and was a bit less quiet once underway. But noon found me perched, spotting, and listening--both to Hem and to the wind's wildness.
The photo area is on the second floor of a huge grey barn-shaped building we used to call the Art Barn. It is adamantly a studio space: people leave their things strewn about on the big center tables; the ceilings are high and lofty; the windows are huge. Sometime this weekend, I found myself thinking about what it means to me to have my workspaces on second floors, rather than on ground levels. Just as I prefer to be up working when everyone around me is asleep (or so quiet that I'm able to imagine them asleep), I prefer to be physically up above the ground, preferably on eye-level with tree branches of some sort or another. Despite the fact that it can be sometimes chaotic and usually frustratingly cluttered, then, I love the photo area for its light and its elevation.
I have started to fantasize about living and working in a converted barn someday: a huge space with an open kitchen, a little sleeping loft, project tables everywhere, a darkroom in one corner. And views everywhere. And possibly a writing tower. There's a converted barn near Gambier whose silo (attached to the barn) now has windows spiraling up its walls. I imagine my huge drafting table (now my dining room table) three stories up in the air again, the way it was when I first used it, perched high above the clutter and noise that was my life in Rochester.
Late at night in Rochester, I used to look up at the skylight in the roof above my head and watch for planes approaching the airport, only ten minutes away by car. More often than not, the planes were on a different approach path (one that took them directly past my office window on campus). But on clear nights I could see stars, though they never shone as brightly as they do here.
I spent the entire afternoon working companionably in the photo area while students from the other class met with our professor about their final projects. The light was good; the talk was low and constant; I puttered away with a sharp pencil, a hot press, smooth matboard, a plastic eraser. I turned my Lexingtonian friend into art.
It's a funny thing, this turning of a friend into art. This week, it's occasioned my telling anyone within earshot about how extraordinary my friend and her soon-to-come baby are, hoping that my stories will help them see just how beautiful she is in the pictures, in case they can't already. Tomorrow, I'll learn whether or not I captured that beauty in a way that translates even if one doesn't know her and thus can't feel particularly proud to see her holding her belly and looking down to smile almost secretly, almost just to herself.
Last night, all this art-making occasioned my dreaming that the baby had been born and, within a day, had begun speaking in complete sentences, even though she barely weighed six pounds and was thus very much a babe in arms. In my dream, I was moving house, taking a trip through yet another cluttery collegiate village landscape. When I awoke, I knew all the dream's referents by heart.
Tonight, we'll see whether, to borrow from Ammons one more time, "the wind has sown loose dreams / in my eyes."