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Index of Summer Essays
#1: Putting Together the Pieces
n 2004 I published J R’s Transition, which comprised 112+ essays, which will someday (eventually … maybe) show up on this site.
That Transition was a journal like I'd never journaled before, and I often added new (some pretty long) essays every day during the turmoil. J R's Transition was illustrated with photographs from a series I had begun before and continued after. I gradually slowed, then finally stopped both words and pictures, when the torrent turned to drips, then the dripping stopped.
This first new entry — and those that follow — aren't all still. But they are life, and that’s progress, another transition, none of which ever really end, and which tend only to be noticeable when something happens.
Like many breakthroughs, the photograph atop this page was an accident. I was trying to capture raindrops dripping off the eves over my front porch after that afternoon's white squall. I thought I saw them clear and sharp in my viewfinder. But as out of focus as this image is, that would have been highly unlikely. Turns out I had my camera set on manual focus for a different distance.
Once again and in yet another space and
circumstance I saw what I wanted to see, not what
present in front of my eyes. Not sure if this result is
better or worse, but it is different. When not that much is
obviously transitioning, it sometimes takes a accident to get my
The rain today came sudden. Just before traffic on I-30 slid to a stop (It was gradual but seemed sudden.), I got off the I and took surface roads the last mile home. For maybe three minutes I couldn't see the road I was driving on.
Then it got worse, so I pulled as near to a curb as I could find and reached for my camera, took my shot, then drove off into the thickening white. Minutes later I pulled onto my street and shot this as the rains let up. I could see, but rain was falling fast and I felt much safer when I rolled up my decrepit driveway and parked in the leafy crepe myrtle by my front porch.
'd been promising me I'd do another journal soon as I could get away and go someplace alone. I thought maybe my parents’ house in the Rio Grande Valley or the mountains of Northern New Mexico I so love. But I'm too poor to travel far, and realized sometime in the big middle of today's squall that I can be alone here, now. Already am.
All I have to do is
disconnect from the people around me. Which is almost normal for me anyway.
Soon as I finished shooting rain from the porch, I came into my house,
saw bright color in my windows and shot a few images, wondering how many
times I'd shot those same objects before.
It hardly mattered. It was another beginning. Sudden, or so it seemed. But then, when we notice these things, they always seem sudden, even if things have been leading up awhile.
But a start.
Or so it seemed. Just then, as it often does in this poor neighborhood after a rainstorm, the power went off. Ka-blooey! Lights out. I didn't want to count down to oblivion, so left the house in the sudden (that word again) clear light of cool breeze after a rainstorm, ate at Stupid Salads, then walked the lake for only the third time since it started getting hot in mid June.
My summer didn't start till the June 16. That's when I finally turned my AC on. My June electric bill was $26, an all-time, summer low. I use the AC often now, of course. 100+ is too hot even for a dedicated cheapskate. But mornings and late at night, it's easier to do without.
his essay may be the beginning. I have some ideas for the next one mixing it up in my mind already. The last one was never fully realized and on another website (It's here now and updated.), where it attracted remarkable feedback. Like the next essay, it derives its wisdom from a movie. (Like the first, the one after next begins as a movie review — I review movies.).
A lot of the wisdom from The Transition essays came from Joan of Arcadia, but they took her off the air. I already know the essay after next is about that odd place Between Liminal and Subliminal, what can be done from that space, and how we — or at least I hope we — can use “what we call perception” to do what needs doing.
When I first imagined me writing these essays, I saw them illustrated with an abstraction of photographs that did not — something I've been experimenting with ever since my 2001 essay, Of Whirligigs & Other People's Magic — directly illustrate the words around them, but from which, you would get the gist.
We get gists — like we “get”
everything else, by perceiving, then remembering the pieces, which we
use — like words — to put the wholes together again in our
minds. Memories and words create patterns. Our mind takes these and “makes” of
One of my great joys in life is to participate in a conversational thread, then several hours, days, weeks, months or years (sometimes) later have it brought back into the discussion un introduced, like a wild goose running joke, just a few words or sentences, then off into newer and older directions. Dovetailing only when those birds need re-touching.
Novels are based on stories like that. Monologs depend on them. Like clichés are interwoven into our lives, many of the same pieces keep coming back to form new completions. The history of painting is a long series of quoted images and techniques. Sculpture, too.
All art is built brick by brick, over decades, lifetimes and centuries. Everybody is standing on everybody's shoulders, giants and midgets alike. The human tower wavers but continues. Some dare call it progress. Like walking over art too big to understand in their totality, our senses gather the jig-sawed components, then refit them together in our minds like the puzzles they are.
We're who puts the pieces together.
July 11, 2005
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