Blur

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At sunset, the surface of the farm is coated with fog and I am in the midst of my own inner fog—a migraine that trickled through the upper quadrant of my head at sunrise. By noon, as the sky cracked with rain, I could no longer stand the relentless pain. Stripped of capacity to read or write, I closed the bedroom shades and got under the covers. When I later emerged I heard the sound of rain hurling against the roof, mimicking the interior of my head: a deluge of prickly spasms.

But soccer practice goes on, which means my daughter, Lu, will need me to pick her up at 5:30 pm. So at 6:00 pm I am in the car with her, heading home down Abbott Run Valley Road, my head a little less prickly but wildly pounding, when I see this white miasma sweeping across the fields of Franklin Farm—a low-hanging grey haze much like my daylong stupor.

Of course, yes, I pull over, stop. But I have only my phone. I take two (blurry) pictures and Lu yells at me to get back in the car. It’s cold, she says, and she needs to get to her schoolwork. I bring her home, grab my camera and return to the farm, running across swells of green like a madwoman, hand gripping camera, arms thrashing in the air, trying to capture the now escaping haze. Literally—everything seems literal these days—it’s flying the coop! (The empty coop, that is.) I chase it. It’s beautiful, it’s rolling and twisting and the entire farm is so very quiet. Except for the pumpkin-colored leaves mashing underfoot.

The fog is one step ahead of me as I run toward it. One step. I push forward, dazed, it pushes out. I am out of breath now, barely at its edge when the entire mass dissipates in the crisp air, and I stop to watch it flee.

A moment later, my head clears. Vanishes like the fog.

I go home and make chicken soup.

(Lulu will have it for lunch tomorrow.)

September Notebook II

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At noon I shift  to my right at the table. I should settle in the chair now directly across from me, to the west, which offers more shade below the umbrella, but there’s a wasp boring a hole in one of the teak rungs, and anyway I’m too lazy to move. I work this way whenever the weather permits. Which means, most of the summer and much of the fall I am working out on the back deck, lollygagging, and making my way counterclockwise around the table, with my laptop, under the umbrella, so as not to get burned by the sun. By one o’clock I should be on the northern side, but I won’t sit there as my back would be to the street, and I’d have to twist my whole self to see what’s going on in the neighborhood, whilst the whole neighborhood can see me sitting in my chair doing nothing.

Today, the air is cooler and there’s a soft, easterly breeze, which is most pleasant after this summer’s stifling heat and humidity. I’ve had my two coffees, my big bowl of flax and blueberries soaked in coconut milk, and I am full and satisfied, except for the fact that I haven’t yet written one word of my lecture. I am thinking about how I am going to tell my advisor, Susan Cheever, that I still haven’t written one word of my lecture. (Hopefully, I’ll write at least one word by the end of September.)

I am thinking about how to begin. How to begin? What is it I want to say (never mind thinking about the actual saying, the utterance of the words I will write, before an audience—of super-learned people—which is terrifying in and of itself)? This is always the hardest part. What to say! At least I have settled on a topic: Photography. Which is an odd topic for a lecture about literature, but what I’m talking about is photography and literature—the photograph as framed memory, vision and language, history and narrative—key elements of story: setting, time, imagery, tension, perspective, climax, resolution.

While the process differs, photography and writing both capture and represent the human condition—its beauty and horrors, community, isolation, destruction, rebirth—beginning to end, birth to death, dust to dust. Of course, I need to become somewhat of an expert on the subject to do this, and an expert (or scholar) I am not. I have stacks of books to read. There’s a plethora of essays on photography—Barthes, Benjamin, Berger, Derrida, Sontag, Strand. Some I’ve read, like Barthes—who saw death as the eidos of every photograph—others I wonder if I’ll ever get to. Oh, what to tell Susan! That, this month, thus far I’ve set up an online photo gallery of my work, and I’m in the throws of an intense sunflower series, and I wander, wander, WANDER? All the time? And tomorrow I want to take the train to New York just so I can have sex with my peripatetic husband? (Look, teens in the house and traveling are obstacles.) Well, I also want to go to a few art galleries to examine photos by Dorothea Lange and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and, you know, maybe lollygag a bit more… Dear god I feel a panic attack coming on. What to tell Susan!

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