15 March 2017

Storm’s End. Making Art Out Of Trouble, Affirming My Life

Shoveling, Crashing

One of the challenges of creativity is to make art out of trouble, out of life.

Without creativity, Monday's intense blizzard would have just been a hardship, something else to complain about on Facebook, to feel sorry for myself about, to see as an unjust disruption in my life.

Photography and writing have given me another path, another way to save my soul, to think about the reality of life, rather than live in false and unhealthy expectations.

I do not seek a perfect life, I seek a life that I can capture in words and images, and hopefully share them.

Tens of millions of people experienced this storm Monday, we all have our own ways of seeing it and relating to it. Some complain and feel sorry for themselves, others find ways to accept life, to connect with other people, help them, be creative and strong in their responses.

When the blizzard hit, I was thinking of three things: l. Maria and I would figure it out. 2. Everyone has it worse than me, everyone has a harder battle to fight. 3. How can I capture the experience of being in this storm, not because I alone am feeling it, but because everyone is?

My goal is always to take pictures that make people say, yes, I was there, I saw that, that happened to me, it happened in Michigan or Ohio or Maine or Texas. I never think I alone am seeing or feeling these things.

None of these images are of things that happened only to me, none of them are unique to me, none of them suggest drama or lament – woe is me, I had a blizzard land on my head. In our mind-shrinking culture, we look only for agreement, but the best praise I ever get is when people say, "yes, I know that, I saw that, I felt that too."

That's my purpose.

I see these images as a mirror, not a drama, reflections of our common experience, not just mine. What the artist must render, wrote Joseph Campbell, is a living moment somehow, a living moment actually in action or an inward experience.

Once the reader or viewer recognizes the moment and is touched by it, then both experience the miracle of empathy, and they each belong to the other. People who run from me because they might disagree are not connected to me, they cannot experience empathy.

The role of the artist, I believe, is to reveal through color and light and images the implicit forms of the soul, the great inspiration of the writer or the artist is myth, those stories through which humans reveal themselves and their aspirations.

The word myth is derived from the Greek word cosmos, which simply means "story." A myth is any story that tries to explain the inexplicable. that is historical or supernatural. A myth can be a story which explains why something exists, or reflects a need for humans to find ritual and comprehension.

Why is there a blizzard? What purpose does it serve? What does it reflect or bring out in the human spirit?

So the blizzard is not just a storm for me, but the ultimate creative challenge, a chance to make sense of the confusing world. There is so much we don't understand, the job of the artist is to take something everyone is seeing and feeling and try to make some sense out of it through color and light and words and images and feelings.

I felt very good about the blizzard, I used my new pinhole mount and got a good image for the first time, I used my new Petzval lens to good effect, the blizzard was a great opportunity to educate me in how to use it. This  helped me to share the look and feel of nature in a different way.

Today, I exhausted myself on the practical side. We shoveled and shoveled all day I collapsed at the end of the day and slept for more than three hours, it was a deep and unbroken sleep, I have not had a sleep like that since my open heart surgery three years ago. That tells me I overdid it, and it was okay. I never do well when people tell me to shrink my life in any way. I need to know that I am strong in my own way when I need to be strong. There is nothing more healthy than that. I cannot hide from life and will not, or become a bystander in my own existence.

Today I did not wish to get help, or leave it all to Maria, or pace myself more intelligently. The blizzard stirred something up in me, it as so intense and frightening and beautiful. I felt strong and very much alive.  My camera helped me find the way I did not know I could do as much work as I did today, no one I know would have suggested it.

I had gotten the idea, with all of the warnings of people to take it easy and be careful, that I needed to take it easy and be careful, when just the opposite was true. That is really the first death for me. I was out in the storm all day with my camera, just where I needed to be.

I pushed myself to the limits, and I felt strong and useful and creative and healthy. I did not once feel out of breath or in pain. And at the end of the day, my body said, enough, turn yourself over to me now, and rest. I did and I will.

The storm is gone now, and I will move on with it to other things. My book, my blog, my photos my life with Maria. The latter was affirmed again for me today, we did so much together, the animals are okay, there are paths through the snow where there need to be, I raked a ton of snow off of the roofs dug a path to the feeders, freed our cars.

We had a good time.

We are ready to go, and looking over the images I took in the storm – it was quite wild out there – I felt good about today, I did my job. And I feel very good about going to sleep now. I thank you for sharing these images with me and I hope you see in my work something of what you saw and felt, and something of you watched only from afar.

For both, there is the change for empathy, standing in the shoes of the other from close up and afar. I hope your blizzard is over too, and my wish for you is that you also found something worthy and affirming in it.

Posted in General

In The Storm, Our Little Apple Tree

Our Little Apple Tree

We have a big apple tree and a little apple tree, the little one is out in the pasture. It is a beautiful tree, all the more so in the storm yesterday. These old trees have been through a lot of storms, they are brave and strong.

Posted in General

Storms Can Be So Beautiful: A Blizzard Ballet

So Beautiful

The thing I would miss about big storms if we didn't have then was their beauty. Yesterday was one of the fiercest storms I can recall, second only to the storm that greeted me the day I arrived at the first Bedlam Farm in 2003. That one went on for three days and told me I had come to a different place.

The wind makes a blizzard unique and especially beautiful. We tried to keep up with it all day yesterday, but you can't keep up with 60 mile per hour winds, they just move the snow all over the place. I loved this image of Maria shoveling snow off the porch – for the fifth or sixth time.

It looked beautiful to me, like a painting. The only color that survived the wind was a glimpse of red from the back door. Otherwise, the storm had hidden the colors of the world

Storms are exciting, they challenge us to step out of ourselves and think of the house and animals and birds in our care. They can be disruptive and frightening, and so many people suffer worse than we did from them, but still..there is awful beauty in them.

Posted in General

All Day, I Thought Of The Birds. How Strange.

When I went out to take this photo, to check on the birds who have arrived for Spring, my camera, clogged with wind-driven snow, froze.

It was strange. From the first I couldn't get the birds out of my mind. Their whole world had been covered in heavy snow – there was nothing for them to eat –  and the wind was so strong it was blowing many of them across the yard and parts of the pasture. They had gathered in the bushes low to the ground and next to the studio where they had some protection, except for the gusts, which literally lifted them up and carried them up into the wind.

All day yesterday, I kept slogging out to the feeder and filling it, the birds seem desperate and ravenous, they even kept eating at the feeder and at the seeds that spilled to the ground. I knew the sheep and the donkeys would be all right, they had shelter and are hardy and strong.

The birds seemed especially vulnerable to me. I knew the feeder was close to empty, at least before the driving snow made it impossible for me to see.

By mid-afternoon the snow drifts were so high I couldn't reach the feeders and I thought of the birds all night. This morning, I dug through the drifts to open a path while Maria dug out paths in the pasture. The feeder, I saw, was empty. The day was fairly memorable yesterday, but when I think of it, I will think of the birds, out by Maria's studio.

I was exhilarated to get to them, but I think I will dream of them for awhile.

Posted in General

Rescue Team Arrives

Rescue Team Arrives

When we woke up, we formed a rescue party to get out to the animals, we had to dig a path to the pasture gate, and then to the animals stuck in the barn. The sheep had walked back and forth to the water feeder, Fate took this path ahead of us and was greeted by Socks, who was watching for us at the corner. Fate had nowhere to go, she doesn't really challenge the sheep, and Socks wasn't backing down.

We had a brief stand off and then made our way to the barn. We dug out the feeders and created some new paths, which the animals will have widened by tomorrow. We were all glad to see one another.

Posted in General