Thursday, January 15, 2009

Farewells 2

One last afternoon wandering through my parents' house, before it was sold, and I could no longer go there. One last afternoon, making music in the garage, and taking photos. I wandered through the house, taking more new photos, and then out through the back yard to the river, which was flooded.

I found myself taking detail photos, rather than overviews. The afternoon light slanting through the casement windows onto the carpet. The living room bright with light, as always.

One photo, the angle of the light striking the wall, door, and doorknob just right. A spectacular photo. Something about the placement of the light on the objects is perfection. You wait days, months, years, for the light to be this right, this true, this precisely where it's supposed to be. Look at the way the light reflects from the door in the back onto the door on the right, backlighting the doorknob there with light. Both doors, both doorknobs, lit in contrasting light an shadow. I could not have lit the scene this well artificially; this photo came from the perfect conjunction of sunlight, time, and object.

I could spend a lot more time fine-tuning my description of why I like this photo. It's a still life that is actually still; that, for me, contains a feeling of stillness. It is evocative rather than reflective. It doesn't just imply stillness, it participates in its depiction, in its creation. You wait a long time, you look a long time, you work very hard at being alert to the moment, to capture a moment like this, a photo like this.

These photos are quiet, reflecting the mood of the empty house, with all its memories, and ready now to move on to new people living there, who will make their own memories. I'm grateful I've had so many chances to make photos here, over 26-plus years. It's been a long story, a long making. It's been a good run. Saying goodbye to the house, that last afternoon, did not make me sad; it was a release, a goodbye, but not a dramatic or tragic one.

There are many boxes of family photos to be sorted through. Many photos of the house, of people living in it, of the gardens and flowers all around it. Of deer on the lawn, of many other wanderers passing through, of beings on the land. Photos that mostly my father took, but some snapshots made by my mother; and there are my own photos in other boxes, to be sorted through eventually.

After wandering through the house, I went out to the backyard, and down to the river. It was swollen with water, and water had filled the floodplain across the way. There is an ice dam every year at the bottleneck in the river downstream, under a bridge. A thin crust of ice was forming over the waters pooling on the floodplain, and on the shallows on this side, where the waters had come all the way up the bank.

In the center of the river, where it also bottlenecks around a sandbar made there by the river's curve, a little half-island where the ducks and geese land and wade every summer, where the great blue heron stalks in the warm season, slowly high-stepping upstream, its golden eye watching for fish in the flow, in the center of the river, ice-floes and small bergs make a temporary island which the rushing waters skirt, standing under the bare black trees across the way. Into the surge goes everything we remember, every day and night of watching this river, year after year. The river is never the same—you never step into the same river twice—but always there, always a constant in our lives, always a companion, some days roaring, some nights quietly chortling to itself, the soothe of its music comforting the sleeping waterbirds while the redtail hawk also sleeps. The river is never the same, always there, always in memory, its music indelible in my mind, a presence never long gone from my listening heart.

Later that afternoon, I drove upriver, to where Turtle Creek touches the county road north of town. The whole river was flooded: there had been days of melte, followed by a new freeze. There were ice-dams on the river which with the new snow and ice storms had flooded over the river banks onto the floodplains all along the river.

Light reflecting in water. I am always interested in the way water, pools, rivers, lakes, oceans, take on the quality of the sky, reflect the trees and other things that overhang their banks, become mirrors in just the right light. Here, the ice too is a blurred mirror, forming new sheets over the still flood pools, turning the sky's reflection into chiarascuro.

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Blogger Rachel Fox said...

I like to read you talk about light.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, Rachel. It's an endless subject for me. THe photography thing is part of it, of course.

12:08 AM  

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