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Week 24

In which the vacation has its ups and downs, with too many downs; I read Susan Sontag, On Photography and Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart; I walk and walk and walk, completing the full length of the shore line under the Clayhead trail, from Mansion Beach to the North Light Parking Lot; my iPad falls tragically to its death; Black Lives continue to Matter.

June 13, 2020

226.8 lbs

3:25 PM – the cottage

… Susan Sontag, On Photography

But as people quickly discovered that nobody takes the same picture of the same thing, the supposition that cameras furnish an impersonal, objective image yielded to the fact that photographs are evidence not only of what’s there but of what an individual sees, not just a record but an evaluation of the world.

[ 6/13/20, 3:57 PM – My thinking is that the daily image gathering is entirely about my take on what i see around me, it is me, a portrait of how i think, respond.]

2:17 PM – the cottage

… trying to escape the shelf lining project, i return, H&M have just got started, it looks like a project that will take hours… i pull a camping chair outside in the shade to read, i don’t want to be drawn into the project…

7:18 AM – walking, mansion beach

… back release break… much as i am anxious to get home, i do love it here, beautiful, mornings are best, long walks, alone, with H and the dogs… strange dreams last night, lots of frustration, things to do without the turnaround time, a woman, not H, but my wife, sick, COVID19 i feared, wanting to go out anyway, so we did, dream ended, slept night through, went to bed late…

5:01 AM – the cottage

… deer in the yard, Chas whining upstairs, if i let him out now i will have to take him out and he will go nuts, Fiona too… calorie counted yesterday, did well until dinner, blew it on the alcohol… a number of lovely pictures yesterday, more today… really looking forward to going home, this has not been a great vacation…

June 12, 2020

226.2 lbs

3:29 PM – the cottage

Susan Sontag, On Photography:

…one of the most disquieting films ever made, Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1963), is the tale of a man who foresees his own death, narrated entirely with still photographs.

2:20 PM – the cottage

… boiling potatoes for potato salad…

Susan Sontag, On Photography:

…essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.

5:02 AM – the cottage

… three cans of beer, 1/2 bottle of wine last night, Nina Simone, let it be me, TV not working, in bed by 8:30 PM, alarm at 4:30 AM, usually up before then, slightly dry, slightly sore throat, not uncommon after alcohol consumption, just finished logging my meals for yesterday, over my calorie allotment, will be working on that… foggy morning after stormy night, the birds singing cheerfully, do they feel joy when they sing?, or sorrow?, like people?, or is it just something they do?… opening Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, a book for the times, i read about the eight worldly dharma, and remember being disappointed with the very few FB likes or comments on my posts, the dharma of fame stalking me, i am having the idea to largely withdraw from social media and simply concentrate on my daybook, which is where people should go to check in on me, why promote?, why supply content and data to them?… the four dharma pairs are hard wired, basic instincts, becoming aware of them, avoiding getting trapped in them is key to a conscious mind not ruled by them, we learn to wait while urges work their way into consciousness where we can name and redirect them if necessary…

Pema Chodron:

The irony is that we make up the eight worldly dharmas. We make them up in reaction to what happens to us in this world. They are nothing concrete in themselves.

[ 6/12/20, 5:44 AM We don’t make them up, we name them, they are outgrowths of basic animal instincts, pleasure, pain, fear. These are survival instincts hard wired into our biology. By naming them, by learning to wait to act as they surface, we gain control of them.]

June 11, 2020

226.8 lbs

3:31 PM – the cottage

… this morning i photographed with iPhone and Lumix, saved the Lumix for images with art image potential, the iPhone recorded various walk scenes to will place in my daybook… i want the walking of the moment?…

8:08 AM – walking

… man, bright orange shirt, beard, headphones, jogs by, everyone walking or running seems to have ear buds, the sounds are so beautiful, it is hard to understand why the earbuds… family of mom and three girls rides by, mom to those ahead, we are losing Kayla, everyone rides on…

6:55 AM – walking

… turtle crossing the road…

5:53 AM – the cottage

… reading has calmed me down…

5:05 AM – the cottage

Susan Sontag, On Photography:

…photography first comes into its own as an extension of the eye of the middle-class flâneur, whose sensibility was so accurately charted by Baudelaire. The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes.

… and so i must assess my own practice of flaneurship as something new or not… Baudelaire via Walter Benjamin seems to have been the originator of the concept…

Social misery has inspired the comfortably-off with the urge to take pictures, the gentlest of predations, in order to document a hidden reality, that is, a reality hidden from them.

… i read this and think this is why i don’t photograph people, really, i am too shy to ask permission, too timid to just do it, and so, i focus my picture making activity on what grabs my attention, nature, the byproducts of people, and attempt to render my inner psychology through the spontaneous gesture of making a picture when compelled…

Surrealism lies at the heart of the photographic enterprise: in the very creation of a duplicate world, of a reality in the second degree, narrower but more dramatic than the one perceived by natural vision. The less doctored, the less patently crafted, the more naive —the more authoritative the photograph was likely to be.

4:52 AM – the cottage

… not happy this morning, i keep trying to appreciate being out here with all this beauty, and there are some hours, usually in the morning, when i am, but then the managing of the household takes over, the having to do everything takes over, we can’t even go out for dinner, i wind up longing to be home in Beacon where it is at least a little easier to be in charge of everything… the dogs won’t leave me in peace, i get up, they get up, i have stopped giving them treats in the early AM, that is what they come down for… my back has been hurting me, just enough to make me uncomfortable, i stretched this morning hoping it would help…

June 10, 2020

226.4 lbs

8:15 PM – the cottage

… horrible internet connection continues to be horrible…

7:58 PM – the cottage

… dogs wrestling, H cueing up Fringe, one episode, then to bed…

11:15 AM – the cottage

Susan Sontag, On Photography:

If (in Whitman’s words) “each precise object or condition or combination or process exhibits a beauty,” it becomes superficial to single out some things as beautiful and others as not. If “all that a person does or thinks is of consequence,” it becomes arbitrary to treat some moments in life as important and most as trivial.

… this idea is exactly what my daybook is built on, perhaps not perfect execution, but what i am reaching for…

10:53 AM – the cottage

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Altogether, ye tang che means totally tired out. We might say “totally fed up.” It describes an experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. This is an important point. This is the beginning of the beginning. Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.

9:10 AM – the cottage

… yesterday, as i followed people and their dogs down the beach, it occurred to me that i am missing a great pleasure in life to walk with dogs and wife on the beach in the morning, so when i got home i made breakfast sandwiches, we took them to the beach, we ate, we walked…

5:15 AM – the cottage

… wondering where to walk today, Mohegan bluffs is a place i have not been, there is only negotiating the stairs, I haven’t done the walk into town from South Lighthouse… as i sit here i realize that the iPad is a preferable device to the iPhone for idling about… i am, again, not liking the taste of coffee… i was thinking about bringing Fiona with me this morning… maybe not, i am out of sorts…

June 09, 2020

226.0 lbs

1:45 PM – the cottage

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart:

Not harming ourselves or others in the beginning, not harming ourselves or others in the middle, and not harming ourselves or others in the end is the basis of enlightened society.

In this context, however, refraining is very much the method of becoming a dharmic person. It’s the quality of not grabbing for entertainment the minute we feel a slight edge of boredom coming on. It’s the practice of not immediately filling up space just because there’s a gap.

8:05 AM – walking, road to north light

… yesterday i hit a calm place that i have not hit today, mind very active, trying to think positively about being on the island, hoping H feels better, she seemed to sleep well… the idea of focusing production on the iPhone… the idea of series of photos in video slideshow format, the idea of forcing sequence, the knowledge that people have less patience for video than still image, videos call for sustained attention… as i came off Clayhead trail raucous seagulls in the distance, i am reminded they are nesting this time of year, that walks out to North Light are not fun as they aggressively enforce a wide perimeter…

7:07 AM – walking, Clayhead trail

… the smell of beach roses…

5:05 AM – the cottage

… i wake up with a kind of dread of the day, i tell myself to be positive, that whatever has been, is, going on, it can be met with a calmness of mind and joy for living another day, for the present moment in which the birds are singing, the dogs are playing, the wife is sleeping… soon i will head out for the walking meditation, i will bring only the iPhone camera, i will simplify… the argument for new iPhone vs new iPad plays out in my head again, an upgrade will give me a better camera, the phone is as good at most things as the i pad, i wonder if there is a keyboard for the iPhone 11?, yes there is, but i knew that… how is my photography practice changing as i move to the iPhone, to the short daily video poems?…

June 08, 2020

225.6 lbs

3:06 PM – the cottage

Susan Sontag, On Photography:

Photography reinforces a nominalist view of social reality as consisting of small units of an apparently infinite number—as the number of photographs that could be taken of anything is unlimited. Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers.

While individual photographs can stand alone, are complete unto themselves, they are also capable of being presented in series where they add up to something larger than their individual selves, like human beings, no matter how individual, there are always other individuals to interact with, community, and that is different.

1:46 PM – the cottage

… tried to call C, nobody picked up, i left a happy birthday message… i keep thinking about chaos as something that is nature’s and inevitable, broken iPad, nations break down, order dissolves, and there is nothing to do, chaos is not something that can be controlled, it is simply weathered… the events of this time will unfold and it is impossible to know how long the storm will rage or if it’s only one of many storms passing through…

7:15 AM – walking coast gaurd road

… more and more i think in terms of groups of pictures to convey meaning, impressions, not single iconic moments…

6:45 AM – walking, coastguard station

… having a conversation with myself about not replacing iPad, but, instead, upgrading my iPhone which is a few generations behind, about moving to iPhone camera for most picture taking during walks, about being more immediate with pictures, words, videos, less formal, less removed… i have had these thoughts before, haven’t gotten very far with execution, i am not often happy with iPhone photo quality…

5:28 AM – walking

… two deer, two pheasant, flee as i walk by, reverberations, then, just bird song…

4:28 AM – the cottage

… my iPad died yesterday, leaped to its death from the railing outside the dining room where i placed it for just a moment while i folded up the camping chair, at first I thought i bumped it, but no, i think it just slid off… we seem to be on a bad string of karma or whatever, H with her shoulder, a TV that works intermittently, a legion of small annoyances… when the iPad fell i was remarkably calm about it, which means, i guess, that it’s a luxury, not a necessity… as i read Pema Chodron on meditation, I think for the millionth time that i should learn to meditate, but then i think, that is what my walks are, meditation, i don’t need to add another routine to my day, that is the routine, i only need to deepen that practice…

June 07, 2020

226.4 lbs

3:31 PM – the cottage

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart:

…the rampant materialism that we see in the world stems from this moment. There are so many ways that have been dreamt up to entertain us away from the moment, soften its hard edge, deaden it so we don’t have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we cannot manipulate the situation to make us come out looking fine.

8:48 AM – Walking

… relentless processing of my confrontation with J, amazing to me how the effects of a confrontation can reverberate for days, my sensitivity to confrontation… a lovely day, almost 15k steps already, will be up to 20 by the time i get back to the cottage… thinking about my general sadness, tiredness, frustration, thinking i need to get a grip and find a way to be happy out here inspite of dodgy circumstances…

5:15 AM – The Cottage

… i thought maybe i turned a corner yesterday on mood, rainbow and all, storm clearing the air, but the frustrations continue, H laid up with a painful shoulder, everything having to do with day to day life on my shoulders, i am so tired, it is barely fun at all to be here,… Black Lives Matter protests continue… this thought reminds me that Beacon is flying the gay pride colors along with the American flag and the state flag, initially i think this is great, but then i think, wait a minute, there are lots of groups with flags, maybe BLM has a flag too, the confederates have flags, are we to fly the flag du jour all the time?, i don’t mind flying it on my house, i prefer it to the American flag, i think if we fly the American flag we should fly it upside down, because we are upside down right now… H is up, i sure hope her shoulder is better… two things are a big problem for me out here, lack of internet connection and lack of ability to let dogs out in back yard, makes everything harder… back to BLM, tit is said there have been improvements, maybe, sure does not seem like it, feels like we are so fucked as a country, that we never will get over our racism problem, which we seem to have worse than many other countries… dreams last night about going to the grocery store, struggling to be organized, find my shopping list, defend myself from the virus… dogs being obnoxious upstairs, H not happy about it, don’t know why she has not come down yet, she sounds fully awake… i don’t know why i am writing, nothing meaningful to say… full moon, last night, tonight, any moment… birds singing riotously this morning, not a cloud in the sky… dogs refused to pee, Chas pooped, that was it, not possible to not need to pee in the morning, neither would, round and round the house, a dozen times it seemed, too preoccupied with animal smells, hunting… a horrible feeling about what we, the people, are heading into, feel like a spectator with no meaningful role… keep trying to find ways to feel better, would like to read something helpful, uplifting, i started to re-read Susan Sontag’s On Photography, she has a writing style that proceeds at breakneck speed to amass facts and verbal imagery, her analysis lush with examples that have to be looked up, reviewed, considered in the context of her critique, one could spend a year just looking up all the references she makes… i am reading because i have submitted one of my video slide shows to Salon to share, assuming i can get the video conferencing to work… i am reading Sontag because she mentions a short movie that is composed almost entirely of stills, then has this one moment when a still flickers to life in movement and then collapses into stillness again, incredibly memorable… SS points out that photo books attempt to control the sequence of viewing images, the story line, people always subvert the sequence, flip through, from back to front, pick up in the middle, almost never methodically page to page as book creator intended, i wonder if there is a way to make a book that subverts the tendency of readers to subvert the intended sequencing?… this does not happen with a book of prose, if you are interested you read from beginning to end because each passage builds on the passages that came before and often doesn’t make sense without having passed through the preceding passages, we understand that, this is less so with photobooks, because we don’t understand how they build in sequence?, because ultimately, photographs are individual, self contained objects that don’t depend on the image that came before to feel complete, even if the story arc of the book does, the image itself is more important because easily grasped as an entity unto itself, than the story arc that might be intended by the artist… Sontag points out that this problem of loosing the attention of the viewer to the narrative is corrected in films or slideshows, but that these are not salable the way that books are, if at all… this is why i am dabbling in slideshow films, i can control the sequence in which things are viewed, i can play around with adding moving images and sound to the mix, to develop a rich, linear experience that must be viewed in the way i intended it to be, to hell with being able to sell it, i will make the book version too, but, oh, i can’t because a book can’t have moving images, sound, at least not a print book…

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