With the Daughters of the American Revolution, I handed out Christmas gifts to the war veterans at the Home for the Heroes in Los Angeles. Most of these men had no living family or friends. Many were unable to speak. Even more were unable to move from their chairs or beds. Some were very happy, and rejoiced in our good company, while the sadness of others could be deeply interpreted in the silence. Antiseptic and incapacity filled the hallways with clinical doom, accommodations sparse and scarcely individual. Outbursts, involuntary movements, and blank stares left a haunted me longing to feel more, to question, to comprehend. Volunteers chirped: “Merry Christmas and thank you for your service!” But I, a mere child on this day, struggled to muster cheer, questions swirling behind incredulous eyes that stung from tears I’d willed into remission. Behind silent blank stares were powerful beings whose outer simply could not deliver the inner wellspring of life, history, and the extraordinary. “Heroes.” Not an unfamiliar term for me. Two post-9/11 years of media relations lent various allusions and tributes to our heroes maybe 50,000 times in my workflow, yet this was another reality to examine. Celebrating our heroes is the very least one could have done, or could ever do. What celebration is there for the soul imprisoned by war evermore, the life force caught in a vessel that cannot express its vitality beneath the casing? Where is the victory in man without family, friends, or voice to share what little joy not eradicated by post traumatic stress, physical pain, or confinement. This is the prize of a hero: a soul imprisoned in a lifeless body, a mind cursed with only the past to relate to… a hopeless state where present and future have no ground to lay a track of possibility and hope. There is no greater Hell than one whose life is limited to the past, and yet, this is the lifetime sentence for a war hero. “Thank you for your service…” to whom? Who are they serving in a war that will never be over for them, because there is nowhere to go moving forward? For what must nations fight? How archaic is weaponry in the name of religion, commodities, and nationalistic pride? For whom is this service rendered?
When I received Josh’s photo in advance of the job in Las Vegas, I was transported to my giddy schoolgirl years, because he was so cute, so “my type” of a younger year. Yes, another time indeed, when the pleasurable agony of a crush was merely fleeting, and weighed no more than lipstick kisses on a napkin.
In grade school, high school, and in college… we always looked forward, and life was fun. This dance room at UNLV smelled like excitement and promise. When I walked into the room and spotted the chalkboard, I remembered the seventh grade, when I was made to write repetitively as punishment for something that wasn’t my fault…
In three weeks I will be on my way to Vegas. Part photography assignment, part visit with a dear friend, I look forward to the adventure. With Rayme, it’s always an adventure, and with me… Well, one could say the same.
Road tripping through the desert alone will undoubtedly put me where it always does, in the place where there is nothing else, where real life evaporates into the ether and there I am with nothing on the page. For hours, maybe days, I will follow the asphalt ribbon through the void of reality, and simply dream, imagine, and plot, if not pray. The desert, for me, is about letting go, musing, and inhaling expanse.
The subjects of my assignment are performing artists. Many of them. All at the graduate level and about to embark on what will one day be remembered as the precious gem of life’s path: stepping into it with hope, an open mind, an untainted heart, and little mind clutter yet. Early steps are springy, bouncy with freshness of mind, the white time before hues of experience leave their transparent stains.
The last time I saw Rayme, I had some seriously creative fun. This time, who knows what will happen? Good things always do when I take the solo sojourn across the desert to see my kindred.
I travel alone often so I can indulge my acute case of incurable wanderlust. I disappear into new places and, more often than not, become hypnotized and aimless. I sleepwalk, which is when my images find me.
I was on a solo walk with camera in Taos, NM this summer, wandering about in the last minutes of streaking golden sun, when this man called me over from his porch. He offered that I may wander around his yard and take pictures if I’d like. And he told me about his porch. And how he sits on it every day. And he was very proud of his house and that he deserves to sit on his porch every day. And I noticed that he spoke in “I,” even though he wasn’t alone.
The other day I came across a Diane Arbus quote I really loved because it pointed me to the root of my drive, which I hadn’t really thought of, particularly not in this raw and primitive way. She was a sleepwalker.
“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” -Diane Arbus
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the lifelong dream. And I’m finding that the ultimate one imbeds itself into your soul and cannot be abandoned, no matter what life brings you to challenge its fortitude.
I have dreamed of my own studio for 21 years, but never did that dream studio look as beautiful as the one that has actually come. My studio is the confluence of multiple paths. I know it sounds intense, and it is, but only in the sense that I am deeply happy.
Today was my fourth solid working one. All the others have been doing, fixing, ordering, running, installing, head-scratching, and cussing ones. Today I have worked for a ridiculous amount of time and maintained a focus that really surprised me. This is what passion looks like. And I like how it feels.
A dream is never too good to be true. What amazes me, though, is how it will keep tapping you on the shoulder whenever you turn away from it.
There was a crazy mid-September hail storm today, and my friend David told me it was God’s confetti sent in celebration of my new adventure. Thanks, David, for pushing me to the very edge of radical gratitude.