the wash


There’s something about the wash hanging outside a window that pulls me toward it–almost like the feeling I have for row houses.  “The task of finding your key images is lifework,” Georgia Heard wrote.

Oddly, though, with the wash, it’s the differences that attract me; whereas with the houses, it’s the similarities. img_1646

Still, I think the fascination comes from what I can see rubbing up against what I can’t.

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”John Berger from Ways of Seeing

img_16981 There’s a beauty in the colors and shapes blowing in the wind. an honesty in putting it out there.  This is who we are, it says.

“some dreams hang in the air”
lucille clifton from Good Woman

row houses

028_00When Georgia Heard was asked what one image she thought represented her life, she answered “layers,” clarifying “as in the Grand Canyon.”  I would have to say houses, as in rows of identical ones.

Georgia Heard wrote in Writing Toward Home, “The seemingly random observations I make or the subjects I choose to write about are like the branches of a tree whose roots reach down to the depths of myself and reveal my obsessions….The task of finding your key images is lifework.”

Pam Houston wrote in “Pregnancy and Other Natural Disasters,” an essay in A Little More About Me, “There is only one story of our lives and we tell it over and over again, in a thousand different disguises, whether we know it or not.”  And I swear one of her characters says this too, but I can’t find it.

I don’t know what my one story is, but I’m working on it.  The more I write, the more I see similar shapes.  I have pictures from all over Columbus of these row houses.  (Unfortunately, I just realized, not digital ones.  And my scanner is refusing to work with Vista.)  When I travel, I take pictures of these houses as well.  The one at the top of the blog, as well as the one in today’s post, were both taken in Provincetown in 2006.  The one on my website is of the same houses but taken by a professional photographer.

I think the houses have something to do with exteriors and interiors.  All alike on the outside, but what goes on inside must be so different.  Or maybe a fascination with the exterior to avoid the interior.  Also, maybe something to do with simplifying our lives to one of these small little houses–something manageable.  Perhaps even , though this one will surprise me if it turns out to be true, something to do with community.

In an interview at the back of Waltzing the Cat, Pam Houston said, “I surrender myself to the truth of the metaphors I have chosen (that’s the scary part), and eventually, the story finds its own truth.”

a gathering place

On NPR, on September 20th, I heard David Sedaris say that he was no different than anyone else except that he kept a notebook in his pocket.  He noticed and he recorded.  In the May 8, 2006 issue of the New Yorker, he wrote:  “For the past ten years or so, I’ve made it a habit to carry a small notebook in my front pocket. The model I favor is called the Europa, and I pull it out an average of ten times a day, jotting down grocery lists, observations, and little thoughts on how to make money, or torment people.”

In Writing Toward Home, Georgia Heard writes, “A notebook is a gathering place, a portfolio of thoughts and fragments…What moves me to write one thing and not another is the point…My notebook is a constant weight in my already-too-heavy black bag…Its presence always reminds me I’m a writer, and it helps me live a considered life that doesn’t spin by focused only on groceries, dinner, and car repairs.”

This is a gathering place.  Where reading and writing and life come together.  Words from the notebook I keep in my purse linked to a favorite passage or book…Looking up from a passage and attaching it to a moment… Writing here makes me more aware of all three.  Why is it we write one thing and not another?

Is a day full of breakfasts and pants left on the floor and haircuts so thin that it slips through the net, impossible to catch?  One way to find meaning is to notice.  Another to record.  I should let the groceries and the haircuts fall through but take the time to fatten up at least one moment so that it has enough meaning to catch.  I can swell an hour with the thoughts of someone who lived a lifetime ago.  Take a minute to see the red leaf that wasn’t there yesterday.  Pause a second with the white tail of a deer as he jumps the hedge.

Dillard writes that we should “labor with both hands at sections of time.”  Some days it takes both hands.