Archive for 'Alps'
June 24, 2009 by Kimberli, under Alps, fibromyalgia, grief, Italy, love, photo, Uncategorized.
Part 7- Italy
I am remembering Mark Andres’ painting class back in 2006 again. We’ve practiced seeing our straight lines and curved. I am looking at a blank canvas when he stops us and introduces the concept of dark and light passages. I am not an impressive painter by any means, but I am amazed at how often I process the world as if I were painting. Since I was twelve and started taking adult lessons, I’ve observed life in terms of what colors I would need to mix to paint it. When I met my biological grandmother at 18, I learned she did the same. We still will look at random things and both say something like, “It needs a dot of red, right there. To anchor it.” So my instructor Mark, with his thick gray hair flopping in his face, tells us to prime our canvases with washes of dark and light paint. He asks us to notice how the darks in the picture connect and form passages, even when they are not literally touching. How the lights do the same when you squint or let your vision blur. How the darkness of the earth ties to the shadows on a tree and moves upward and out of the frame through the browns of the roof on the house. How the light swirling clouds in van Gogh’s Starry Night connect with the stars and move horizontally across the top two-thirds of the painting while the darks cover the bottom third and streak up into the left vertical third. Like the idea of straight lines and curved, I think of these light and dark passages as I shoot photography and as I try to process my life. The lightness of love and trust – melon gelato, prosecco bubbles, sweet strawberries. How they connect to one another and tie together easily once they begin. The darkness of infidelity and disappointment – aged balsamic vinegar, black truffles, blood sausages.
Here in Italy I’m reading a book called the Grief Recovery Handbook. I read it twenty years ago after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and spending over a year in bed. At that time I followed the exercises and drew timelines of my first twenty years. Now, at age forty, I’m doing the same exercises again, but have an additional twenty years of life, love and loss to cover. I look at the timeline and see that there have been dark and light passages flowing through it all. The darkness of illness that cycles, the death of a brother that is called up again with the loss of another brother that is brought back by the death of a friend and then another and then another. The lightness of music and periods of good health, friendships and travel. Bright passages of hope and love that connect the lovers and family members to one another and bring them all together in a marriage ceremony. Darkness that inks out everything as the timeline covers the past four months. There are periods that hold together like graphic blocks, bold and decisive with only general memories. Black or white. The are other years that are cluttered with details and whirl together like marbled paper. I am all of this, I think. The timeline becomes a painting in my mind, and the painting becomes a photograph I capture in the uneven doorways and electrical lines of the Venetian Jewish ghetto. The textures, the entryways and exits, the cumulative effects of it all.
Grief and four days
I don’t sleep well these night in Italy. I dream of houses collapsing, the walls falling outward while the family sits silently at the chrome kitchen table. “Move on.” “Put it behind you.” “You’ll find better.” “Time will heal,” are the things people say. I know myself, however. The hole not deep enough to bury, the distraction not sweet enough to sugarcoat and the mask not opaque enough to pretend. I have to process, regardless of well-intended advice. Tonight I was envisioning the past six years as a tall stack of wrapped boxes I carry around. The straight edges of the creased wrapping paper and twirly-twisty ribbon on top. I had taken a walk along the harborside and set my camera on the ground to shoot slow shutter photos of the sailboats in the water. In my mind I took my tower of boxes down and sat it next to me. I imagined the ways in which I could deal with these boxes. I considered several options. 1) tie the boxes together with rope, firmly attach a sailboat anchor to the end, along with my ankle, and push it into the ocean. 2) find one hundred helium balloons, I can’t yet see if they are all black or all colors, and watch the tower float off into the Italian Alps 3) open each box carefully and photography the contents. I know that some boxes will contain gifts, others grenades. Some will hold beauty, others bombs. I wonder how strong I will have to be to do it. How flexible I will need to be to discover what was not as I imagined. “Strong like a memory, strong like a willow in the wind. Strong as you’ll ever be, you will always need to bend.” Singer-songwriter, Craig Carothers
Is it final now? Four days since the paperwork was to be submitted. Four days for the judge to sign. Four seconds – a name on the Blue-toothed dash. Four days of silence. Forty days to move out. Fortieth birthday. Four month in a shocked coma.
Four minutes to book a flight to Italy.
Am I better yet?
Part 3 – Italy & Slovenia
I’m standing next to my canvas in Painting 101, it’s 2006. I’ve taken versions of this same class for years. It’s like tennis. You keep taking lessons and finally someone asks, “Don’t you know how yet?” The instructor wears baggy pants with a corduroy jacket, a scarf tucked inside the lapel. He has mounds of sloppy gray hair that fall forward over his round glasses as he talks to us, all the while looking over our heads at the wall. He doesn’t introduce himself that day of our first class, Mark Andres, just begins. There is a simple concept he learned through one of his mentors. He will share it with us. We wait. He shifts his gaze to the window. There are straight lines and there are curved lines. That’s all. Look for them. Their patterns repeat. I think of this almost everyday now, both in photography and life in general.
The delicate curve of a petite woman’s wrist. The hard line of a chiseled jaw. The feminine roundness of an eggplant leaf that grows in the gardens here in Slovenia. The masculine straightness of the hoe the old farmer uses to plow his field by hand. Rows of cherry trees in perfect lines crisscross a field. The bending red river of juice that flows from lip to chin after we stop to buy a kilo at the side of the road. Round barrels of wine lined up side by side at the farmers house where we have lunch. The sharp peaks of the Alps rising up through the sky, the soft arc of the stone bridge crossing the Soca River. Straight lines and curved. The way life never goes in a long direct line, but from point to point for some and in great loops and swirls for others.
These lines can also surprise us when we look in the mirror or at one another. Lines that cross my face. The flat line silhouette of a friend’s mastectomy. The unyielding curved edge of a young soldier’s casket. Lines on a map define us as nations and states. Men drew a line through Berlin dividing a city, a people, a family – like here in Gorizia/Nova Gorica. One side Italian, one side Slovenian. A line drawn in pencil, thin and light. Erasable, changeable. A heavy thick line of pen, permanent, indelible. A line drawn in the sand. Cross it and you end a marriage and, of course, he did.
“Look, a land far faraway,” says Elisabetta as we drive from hill to seaside where, on a clear day, you can see the Italian Alps and occasionally the Dolomites. There’s a haze in the distance today and despite the bright sunshine we can see neither. I tell her that I can’t see my place that’s far faraway, only what is immediately in front of me. The future is too clouded right now. I prefer my 85mm lens to my wide angle 24-70mm. Too much information is overwhelming at the moment. I have to look for the bold graphic elements to compose my shots as well as my life. Elisabetta loves this expression, “…far faraway.” It reminds her of Shrek. I think of fairytales, white knights, Prince Charming. I think I might throw up.
It’s Tuesday and yet another holiday in Italy. Republic Day, or something like that, is all the more anyone cares to tell me. We just had a holiday two days ago, as well. There’s another next Tuesday. Then the elections. The children will attend school only four out of the next ten school days. All of this is made up for with school on Saturday mornings. What a drag. But for today, the children are free and we pile in to two cars and head for a day in the Slovenian countryside. Elisabetta, four of her six grandchildren, her son and Argentinean daughter-in-law and one American. As we drive across the abandoned boarder checkpoint, I’m amazed at the ease of crossing. No longer are special papers required, no guards, no guns. Slovenia has been taken into the fold of the European Union since my last visit. Euros buy the children potato chips and sodas at the gas station.
Around every corner there seems to be another castle. Perhaps I am in the land of far faraway, I think to myself. Too bad I didn’t leave my baggage at the boarder. Who was it that said, “Wherever you go, there you are”? That’s my problem now; my mind keeps following me everywhere. I focus on the lines and curves to keep myself present, if only for a while.
This is a perfect place for photography or songwriting. The red clay contrasts directly with the complimentary green vineyards. Color theory at work. It’s so fertile I’m afraid to walk on it. The grape vines and rose bushes could be kudzu. It reminds me of the Mississippi delta red clay. In 2000 I was a touring singer-songwriter who had been on the road in the US for nearly three years. These lyrics “…where the kudzu vines cover up the road signs that nobody reads anyway – ‘cause the only folks here been here for years and they all know these roads inside out,” ring true. These people have been here for generations. They know their roads, wines and wars.
There is the most fantastic turquoise water I’ve ever seen. More of a milky green. Even more vibrant then the glacial lakes I saw in Coopers Landing, Alaska. I remove the polarizing filter from my lens, as I want to make sure there is absolutely no modification of this color. Here along the Soca River the small villages either melt into the clay or sit high upon the white limestone crests of the canyon. That water, the color, is literally unbelievable. The Alps build in a great musical crescendo in the background. One image layered upon the next. The shutter flickers away, but I can tell that I’m not getting anything as beautiful as the simple experience of it all. So I put down the camera and try to enjoy this land of far faraway.