At dusk in Savannah the summer sky gives way to rich colors. Like a painter mixing his watercolors, the vibrant blue of the afternoon sky folds into the reds of the horizon’s setting sun. It is almost purple in Forsyth Park. The air hangs heavy on willowing branches. Spanish moss drops down low from weathered tree limbs, making the old oaks look exotic—then again, this is a storybook place…so that might just be my imagination. As I walk, the dampness of a looming thunderstorm wraps my body in a sweet summer heat. The humidity pulls my clothes tight against my skin and I feel the heat’s embrace. In the bushes the song of the cicadas rises and falls, rises and falls, rises and falls. Steady rhythm. Then, along the street, the gas lamps flicker on. Dull orange flames dance in the glass bulbs against the fading sun. And it’s evening in Savannah.
These are the four subjects that run rich in my blood. I study them and fall blissfully in love, understanding that each bit of knowledge that comes from them is a rare treasure. Archeological diamonds. A ruby in Cumming’s words. Sapphires lining Yoga’s peace. Crystals of black and white ink. I am learning that the messages of these subjects intertwine so carefully that they are braided together in unending knots: I photograph the world I observe. Yoga connects me to the earth and humanity. And I write about what I see.
“Write a reflection about your Yoga journey.” This was the last assignment of my college Yoga class. To complete it, I knew I would have to incorporate my other subjects. I wrote my reflection at the beach. After I took this photo. This is my truth…simply:
I am discovering the gift Yoga has become for me. With every practice I have become more spiritually centered and internally aware. A fire is burning within me. It is an energy, a happiness, a state of being, a way of life. I am learning that while I cannot control life around me, I can control my emotions and my reactions. I do not try to suppress my inherent human emotions, but I analyze them to understand the root causes of inner chaos. I have become more aware of my surroundings. I appreciate the pill bug that crawls by my mat in the gym while I practice. I hear the lizards bustling freely through the leaves. I see the radiance in blue wings of the low swooping bird, and the yellow of the bird in the window. I talk softly to the dogs. I feel compassion at the climax of a heated argument. I feel peace in the motion of the wind. I lean into the window to feel the sun on my skin. I let the ocean be my guide.
Undeniably, happiness is my ultimate goal in life. I would like to continue practicing Yoga to assist me in my quest for happiness. But I have discovered that happiness mustn’t be forced or feigned. I once read a short story about a man who wished for permanent happiness. When his wish was granted, he was unable to appreciate the gift he was given because he did not recognize feelings of sorrow or pain. Turmoil and tragedy are natural stages of life. At times, grief will engulf the mind. Accepting the realities of suffering is necessary for growth. Contentment in times of pain, leads to happiness in times of joy. This is the message I have received from Yoga.
It is appropriate that I began my path towards fulfillment through Yoga in my last semester at Grossmont College. It is my parting gift. As I begin a new chapter of my life at USD, I will take the lessons I have learned, and expand upon them through my continued Yoga practice. As an Anthropology student I will use the lessons of Yoga to observe a spiritual connection between myself and the people I study. As Alfred Lord Tennyson observed in his poem Ulysses: “Tis not to late to seek a newer world.” Yoga will be my new world. And I will explore it. With an open heart and a pure soul.
To me this red rock looks like a fresh piece of meat that hangs from silver hooks at the local butcher shop. The blood puddles in pockets around the veins and muscles and tissues. That’s what I see. That’s what abstraction can do. But I don’t like butcher shops. The smell of raw meat drowns my senses from the street, and looking at the browning blood on the butcher’s apron makes me nauseous. It’s interesting though; butcher shops have an important place in art. Some of the greatest works of the legendary classical composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, were discovered in a European butcher shop several years after his death. It is said that the butchers wrapped the fresh cuts of meat in his sheet music.
In her novel entitled Eat Pray Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert artfully describes Italian butcher shops in a small Tuscan town called Lucca:
“Sausages of every imaginable size, color and derivation are stuffed like ladies’ legs into provocative stockings, swimming from the ceilings of the butcher shops. Lusty buttocks of hams hang in the windows. Beckoning like Amsterdam’s high-end hookers. The chickens look so plump and contented even in death that you imagine they offered themselves up for sacrifice proudly, after competing among themselves in life to see who could become the moistest and fattest.”
In 1925, Expressionist artist Chaim Soutine painted a portrait of an animal carcass. Often described as grotesque, the painting is bold and rich. It has been said that Soutine’s gruesome paintings are representative of his emotional state. As a Jewish artist living in France at the time of German invasion, Soutine narrowly escaped arrest by the Gestapo. He suffered from depression and died of perforated ulcer only two weeks before Allied forces freed the French capital. His paintings tell his story.
Butcher shops and bloodied meat portrayed in art. The photos, the music, the writing, the paintings demonstrate a profound and simple truth. That is, intense beauty can be discovered in even the most repulsive and uninviting places. This is true not only of butcher shops, but of all aspects of life. The beauty of humanity’s generosity after a natural disaster strikes a country. The beauty of love that often comes with loss. The beauty of strength as an injury heals. The beauty of light in darkness. We are never alone. Beauty and life intertwine, always.
On Friday afternoons I cook with my grandparents. Beef Stroganoff in this photo. But sometimes it is baked beans, which make the air in the apartment sweet. Once it was biscuits, grandpa floured my hands while the heat from the oven wrapped around me. And when we make the chocolate cakes, me and grandma lick the batter bowl clean. There are no words for this love.
I carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
There is a rickety old abandoned building on Rue de Lillie in Paris. It must have been a hospital back when the paint was fresh. The windows are now broken and cracks run up every inch of the stucco walls. But there is a set of double doors in front, locked tight, no handles, protecting the remains of the mysterious building. They are exquisite. Wood crafted carefully with old-fashioned medicinal symbols and coated with a blue paint more vibrant then a late summer sky. Perfectly square chips of brown show through, the work of rainstorms and old age. Click Click with the digital camera, and my hidden piece of Paris comes home with me. Hints of the city seeping through the wood.
It is busy on India Street most of the day. The deli on the corner serving its signature cold cuts to busy passer-bys, and the couple sipping wine on the patio at the Italian restaurant across the street. But here it is quiet. Here at the little square house next to the freeway the vines crawl eerily up the awning and the hidden trees cast shadows on the retouched wall panes. The black door and window are uninviting; as if darkness is imprisoned behind the bars and screens. The broom leans against the mailbox and waits to sweep away another layer of dust off the crocked floor mat. Still, the chair stands alone on this porch. It’s a throne from which to watch the life on India Street; straight, tall, rusting, and ripping. Posing, like the ghosts of all who have sat there.
This photograph represents the passage of time. In the empty chair I imagine a man on Sunday morning, sitting straight with his right leg crossed reading the newspaper. Or a woman in jeans balancing a baby in her lap who giggles and shouts when German Shepards and Labradors walk by on the sidewalk. To me it is about imagining the rest of the photograph that isn’t there. Seeing the past, the history at the little square house. In printing this photograph, the comment I received the most was that it was eerie in its emptiness. I like that comment. It is. This throne holds the secrets of India Street.
It has been four months since my last post. But in the midst of lengthy papers and college finals, the photographs have not stopped. In the spring my family and I went to Las Vegas. Before we left, a close family friend recommended that we take one afternoon to visit a place uncommonly explored by Vegas tourists. It is called Red Rock Canyon, forty minutes from the strip. The name alone intrigued me; I wanted to see the red rocks. I pictured them in my head, drawing up images from movies and paintings, I saw deep rich red rocks, carefully crafted by wind’s hands to fold and branch in every direction. Red Rock Canyon isn’t like that, I discovered. But it didn’t make it any less majestic. These rocks towered; huge mounds of patterned, jagged, red-tinged earth. And they were painted by rain the day we went. The red to brown to maroon to orange tones wrapped and splashed and draped and dripped down the white rocks from every angle. And strangely, I felt wildly adventurous climbing them. With each step the face looked different, lined and cracked here, smooth there. Click Click Click Clicking my camera in the sprinkling spring rain, I tried to take what I could from the desert rocks.
“MMMM. Sweet red-licorice ropes from the candy store on Market Street?”
No. This scrumptiously chewy looking rope would shatter your teeth if you chomped into it. Its not for the sweet tooth to savor at the Giants game with buttery popcorn and a six dollar mustard Frank. It doesn’t come in a twist-tied plastic bag from the shop that smells like taffy, fudge, and chocolate bars. No. It, in fact, is a cable. One of the thousands lining the Golden Gate. Dripping with wind-dried “International Orange” paint from seventy-two years of touch ups. A single line, shouting to be photographed against the blustery sky with its luminous rain clouds. And while its vibrant color would paint a cool blue summer sky in warmth, its place amongst the gray makes it shine.
When I was a little girl, my family went on picnics. The Gypsy Kings CD took us to La Jolla and we’d lay our enormous blanket on the grass above the tide-pools. The overflowing basket was packed with deli sandwiches, canned sodas, plates, and a small honey-yellow crocheted box hidden at the bottom with three rows of sweet-tarts candies. Keenan and I would split a “just cheese” sandwich, or give it up unwillingly to a low swooping seagull. At dusk, the four of us would scurry down the cliffs, a perilous journey for me in my pink shorts and sneakers, but Dad’s shoes would squish a grass path and I’d step in each indented footprint until we reached the bottom. The water in the tide-pools danced softly in the fading rays of the sun and I’d jump from one to another entranced by the life they possessed. I think it was on these picnics that I fell in love with seeing the worlds I discovered. Its no wonder that whenever I return to these pools now I search for new wonders. Capturing my finds with my lens is to see them again and again. Like this, a sandy ledge that echoes the shades of the sky it lives beneath, and the ocean that washes it in its waves.