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Archive for the ‘Postcards From The Edge’ Category

Postcard From Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In February, we read the work of Billy Collins in our monthly Poetry & Meditation Group. Though he was the United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, I had not been introduced to his body of work (with the exception of his popular poem about mothers and sons, “The Lanyard“). But after reading “Japan” and “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” out loud, and listening in silence while others read his poetry, I became a big fan. 

As is our custom, at the end of the night, the founder of our Poetry Group passed around a card for us to sign, a token of our gratitude to the poet. Each month, she addresses, seals and stamps the envelope, then mails our card off to the poet the next day. We don’t have expectations; it’s enough to share their poetry.

But once in a while, the Universe responds in kind. When we arrived at the March Poetry & Meditation Group, here is what we found:


___________________________________________


Liu Yung By Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To the Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group!


Liu Yung

This poet of the Sung dynasty is so miserable.
The wind sighs around the trees,
a single swan passes overhead,
and he is alone on the water in his skiff.

If only he appreciated life
in eleventh-century China as much as I do —
no loud cartoons on television,
no music from the ice cream truck,

just the calls of elated birds
and the steady flow of the water clock.


Billy Collins


Poem reprinted with permission of the author,
Copyright 2006 Billy Collins.


___________________________________________


Billy Collins describes poetry as “the only surviving history we have of human emotion.” We were thrilled and honored to hear from him. And it seems like a great way to kick off National Poetry Month on red Ravine. I am continually surprised by the generosity of famous writers to give back to those of us who find ourselves at humble beginnings. Maybe it’s a lesson to pay attention to — that no matter our status, we are all at the beginning. Every poem, short story, essay, and blog post takes us back to Beginner’s Mind.


National Poetry Month at The Academy of American Poets

We hope you will join in the celebration during National Poetry Month. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and is a month-long national celebration of poetry.

According to poets.org, the concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media — to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. The hope is to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.


The goals of National Poetry Month are to:

  • Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
  • Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
  • Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
  • Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
  • Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry


On April 16th our Poetry & Meditation Group will be reading the poems of Yusef Komunyakaa. Maybe you’ll want to start your own poetry group. Or purchase “Ballistics,” the latest from Billy Collins. Poem In Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 30th. And here are 30 more ways to honor poets and poems. Whatever you choose to do, celebrate poetry!


To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  USA 42 --- ALASKA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

-related posts and links: NPR: Reading List & Interview with Billy Collins, Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), Billy Collins Reads “The Lanyard” on YouTube , PBS Online NewsHour: Billy Collins Interview, December 10th, 2001 — the week following his inaugural reading at the Library of Congress after becoming U.S. Poet Laureate, Poetry 180 — a poem a day for american high schools

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Carlsbad Caverns (one) — “the postcard experiment,” inside the Caverns on November 29, images and photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






Dear Mom,

You wouldn’t believe the Caverns. They are so cool. I haven’t been here since a Fifth Grade field trip with Alvarado Elementary. Remember?

Dad dropped me off at the school parking lot at 3:30 in the morning. It was dark. They served us McIlheney Dairy milk (probably unpasturized in those days) and store-bought donuts. Gross. Last thing you’d want in your stomach before a four-hour bus ride.

But the Caverns themselves are everything I remember and more. Wish you were here.

Love from me










Dear Mom,

Carlsbad Caverns is called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” And it is. We walked all day long, took a guided tour of an area called King’s Palace and then we did two self-guided tours. 

This formation was called something like Walrus Tooth, except that wasn’t it. I should have taken notes. As it was, it was hard to take photos. They fall way short of the real beauty and magic. (Although, I have to say, in the Visitors Center there is a display of Cavern photos by Ansel Adams that are just stunning.)

Hope Sony is being a good girl.

Love you,
moi










Dear Mom,

I just found out that you and Dad have never been to Carlsbad Caverns. I can’t believe it! You’ve got to see it. Dad almost made me cry on the cell phone when he said it’s probably too late for him. Not so, I told him. We can rent a wheelchair. I saw several people in wheelchairs down there.

There’s a 750-foot elevator that takes you down in less than two minutes, or you can walk all the way down via the original entrance. We did both, and I preferred walking (I got a little creeped out by the elevator at first, but by the third ride I was old hat). We’ll definitely take the elevator with Dad.

They say January is the best time to come. We can visit Aunt Erma and Uncle Henry in Lincoln, just like we did this trip. Hopefully there won’t be snow.

All for now. We love you.

Yo









Dear Mom,

Next time we come to Carlsbad Caverns, we’ll stay in Roswell. It’s a lot cuter than the town of Carlsbad. Plus, Carlsbad kind of stinks. All that natural gas and oil. (Not in the Caverns, but above ground. I guess that’s part of the geology that went into forming these caves.)

Did you know that a guy named Jim White “discovered” the Caverns in about 1901? He was 16 or 17 years old, riding the Chihuahuan Desert on his horse, when he noticed a huge black flume coming from a hole in the ground. Turned out to be millions of bats.

He came back, made a ladder out of fencing wire and branches, and went down more than 200 feet to explore on his own. He almost lost his mind, which I can understand. (They did a black-out on the guided tour, and whew, talk about dark.)

It took him over 20 years to get other folks to come take a look. You know what finally did it? He invited a photographer down and, well, the rest is history.

Give Sony a kiss for me.

Me










Dear Mom,

I took lots of pictures of the whole trip, which I’ll show you when I get back. The Caverns were my favorite part, but we also rode an old paddle boat down the Pecos River at night. (I didn’t know it flowed all the way down here.)

People who live on the riverbank set up holiday lights and fancy displays; it’s called “Christmas on the Pecos.” (Although, we went late, the 8:15 tour, and it was so cold on the boat, we couldn’t feel our toes. Jim and I called it “Torture on the Pecos,” but just as an insider joke. We really did love it.)

Thanks for taking care of Sony. I’m sure she’s enjoying it. We’ll be in late to pick her up. More then.

yb






-related to post: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge)

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Truth & Beauty, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Truth & Beauty, cover of Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s been a long couple of weeks. Sometimes it feels like the world’s gone mad. Where do you go to find ground? Go to what soothes you. For me it is my practices. One of those practices is gratitude.

When I was thinking of what I wanted to post at week’s end, I returned to our Poetry & Meditation group of a few weeks ago. After Robert Frost, homemade rhubarb cookies, and chamomile tea, I asked Teri if I could take another look at her postcard from Ann Patchett.



The Box & The Egg, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ann & Lucy, back cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.[a friendship], cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



See the hardcover of Truth & Beauty, the one with the box and the egg? Well, there’s another cover, a paperback, with an illustration of a grasshopper and an ant. Teri wrote to Ann, thanked her for her work, and asked — why two covers? And what’s the meaning behind the box and the egg?



Ann wrote back.



Sunset Produce, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Nashville, TN, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Here’s what she said:




Dear Teri,

Sorry to be so slow in answering your question about the cover of Truth & Beauty. I had nothing to do with it but I like it a lot. I think you’re right — fragile egg, protective box = Lucy + me, but I like the fact that it’s open to interpretation. It’s a cover that makes you think instead of being an illustration. Also, I love the paperback cover of the grasshopper and ant.


Thanks For Reading!, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Thanks for reading!

Yours,
Ann Patchett





 
I read the postcard again, turned the handwriting over in my hands, and felt immense gratitude at Patchett’s willingness to give back to a fellow writer. Perhaps it’s a small thing. But I don’t think so. She probably gets hundreds of postcards. A writer’s time is valuable. She didn’t have to write back.

And so, it is with gratitude I end the week. On one of those Fridays when I’m sure the world has gone insane, I’m happy to express my appreciation for one of the writers who came before us. And raise a glass to a few moments of peace.



Jumbo, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We are big fans of Ann Patchett on red Ravine. To read more about this accomplished author, check out these posts:




Post Script: Is there anything you’re grateful for this week? It helps me to make a list (the little things count the most). Gratitude to Teri for sharing her postcard with us. And for taking the risk of writing it. It was almost exactly a year ago (October 16th, 2007) when we sat in the Fitzgerald Theater together to hear Ann speak.

It’s been my experience that many famous writers are generous with their time and energy, and encouraging to fledgling, up-and-coming writers. If you have a favorite writer or poet, maybe you’ll want to take a chance — write to them. You might one day open your mailbox to a pleasant surprise.



Truth & Beauty II, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Handwriting, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Truth & Beauty II, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Handwriting, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Truth & Beauty II, Handwriting, cover of Truth & Beauty, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 3rd, 2008

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I have a photo of me in Ray Bans and a bright green bikini top, climbing sandstone rocks on a beach in Costa Rica. I’m smiling, teeth white against my dark skin. On the back of the photo, these words in my handwriting: March 1996, for Dee, so you’ll know what your mama was up to six months after you were born.

Rosa from work snapped the shot. She and Kevin and I were on a two-week trip to Central America. Guatemala and El Salvador the first week, weekend at Manuel Antonio, and the second week in San José. Rosa and Kevin went on to Honduras and Panamá, while I flew back home to be with my baby.

It’s a long story, how I ended up in Central America when Dee was only six months old. Suffice to say that it had to do with a grant proposal I submitted on behalf of the university I worked for when I was pregnant. The proposal was funded, and I had to follow through with the trip or risk losing the money.

As with most international travel, it was Hell getting mentally prepared. A jet plane crashed in the region weeks before I left, killing everyone on board. All I could think was, I’m going to die and never see my baby grow up. Of course, once I got there I was pulled into the color and smells and sounds. I loved it.

Between appointments, I had to run to my hotel room and power on my little battery-operated breast pump. Waoo-waoo-waoo-waoo, it went, like a sick cow, for twenty minutes. I sat on the bed with my blouse unbuttoned and tried not to worry about whether I’d dry up by the time I got home.

Later, walking past indigenous women sitting on the sidewalk, infants in bundles on their backs or in their arms, I pictured my watery milk running down the sink and wished I could pick up a baby and feed it.

“Ew, that’s disgusting!” Rosa said when I told her what I wanted to do.

That trip, Dee refused to take the bottle. Typical conversation those first days I called home:

     Has she taken it yet?
     Nope, just spits it out.
     My God, what are you gonna do?
     Everyone says she’ll take it when she gets hungry enough.
     Have you tried other nipples?
     Yeah, went through four new ones today.
     I’m sorry.
     It’s alright. She’ll be fine. Don’t worry.
Click.

Everyone was wrong. Dee never took the bottle. No other options left, Jim finally introduced rice cereal.






I was thinking about that trip yesterday. The postcards I’d sent from Vietnam had just arrived, and I remembered how before I left for Central America I prepared a postcard a day for Jim to read to Dee. I didn’t actually send them; I left them for him to show her, a new one each day.

I went on a lot of trips while both my babies were young. I left the university when Dee was about a year old; new job yet one thing remained the same—still plenty of travel.

I remember sending baggies of frozen breast milk over dry ice for Em when I took a week-long training course in Eugene, Oregon. I became expert at pumping in mothers’ rooms at work and in airports. Life revolved around finding the best place and time to run my little machine.


I pumped milk in the Portland airport. I used the private kiddy bathroom, which had a plug so I could use electric. After 15 minutes, someone jiggled the door and it turned out to be a cleaning woman. At first she scolded me for using the kiddy bathroom; apparently a woman had complained about not having access to the changing table. But when I explained that I was pumping and that I appreciated the privacy, she seemed to understand.

I’m coming home with something for everyone: Em’s milk, a watch with a floating dinosaur for Dee, a Nike fleece sweatshirt for Jim.


Before we had kids, Jim and I made the decision that one of us would stay home full-time to take care of them. We both came from families where a parent stayed home, and we wanted to do the same thing for our kids if we could afford it. Which we could, barely at first. Jim got the role of stay-at-home Dad, and I got to pursue my dream of working in a job where I could travel.

But it wasn’t easy being away from my children. All the time I was on the road, I wondered if they would grow up and resent my being gone. Yet when I was home I was a present parent, more so, I imagined, than dads in my same situation. Bone tired, I took over the moment I got home. Evenings and weekends were always mine.

My girls are both old enough now that I can see they’ve not been damaged. On the contrary, they are bold and adventurous from spending formative years with a parent who let them walk on roofs versus one with a fear of heights. They love being outdoors, think nothing of catching snakes and frogs, and are up for long hikes.

They also want to get to know this world. “Take me to Vietnam,” they tell me. I promise them that I will. Hopefully next summer.

They’re in for a wild experience.




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Viet Nam 9000 -- Stamp Of Approval, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Viet Nam 9000 — Stamp Of Approval, postcard from ybonesy, Saigon to Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






After a long day at work, I opened the mouth of the black mailbox this afternoon to find ybonesy’s beautiful postcard. It is dated 2 Sept 08 and postmarked 05-09-2008. I guess that means it took 16 days and nights to float from ybonesy’s hand in Saigon to a little white cottage just outside Minneapolis.

Thanks, ybonesy. You made my day. I’m bananas for you, friend!






         Postcard From Vietnam. Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City, original photographer Radhika Chalasani, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Postcard From Vietnam. Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City, original photographer Radhika Chalasani, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

        Postcard From Vietnam, Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City,
        original photographer © Radhika Chalasani, photo of postcard 
        © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


        Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 18th, 2008

-related to posts: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), Thank You For Keeping An Eye On Me, Mary

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Atlanta Airport - 1952, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Atlanta Airport – 1952, family postcard, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I’ve been thinking about the lost art of writing postcards and letters. A few weeks ago, while staying at my uncle’s place in Georgia, I began the long process of scanning old photographs and historical documents for the family archives. I asked my uncle if he would pull out his collection of memorabilia. He showed up the next day with stacks of old black and white photographs. And a wide, faded brown shoebox containing bundles of newspaper clippings, letters, and postcards.

Most of the postcards were to or from my Great, Great Aunt Cassie. My Great, Great Uncle Claude had worked for the Georgia Railroad and they traveled a lot on their vacations. But there was one in particular that caught my eye – a postcard that Mom’s older brother, Jack, had sent her in high school. The postmark was July 24th, 1952. A postcard stamp was only 1 cent back then. One cent.

My Uncle Jack would have been 16 at the time. He must have been on vacation with relatives. On the front of the postcard, where we might now see a digital photograph, was a 4-color illustration of the Atlanta Municipal Airport, the same airport Liz flew out of on her way back to Minnesota from Georgia in July.

In scratchy, adolescent handwriting, he wrote:



Dear Amelia,

I am having a good time here. I have met a lot of girls here and I have
had 6 dates since I got here. I’ve got another one tomorrow night and
Saturday. We are coming home Sunday. We have an air conditioner
here and it is cool.

Love,

Jack



I called Mom after I got back to Minnesota and asked her if she minded if I posted Jack’s card. She lost her brother in 1954, two years after he sent the postcard, only days before I was born. It was the year he graduated from high school. He had been ill with mono but wanted to go and celebrate with his friends anyway. They went swimming at Clarks Hill. He drowned on what is reported to have been a second swim across the lake. His body, still recovering and weak from the mono, must have given out mid-swim.

Mom said she didn’t have any qualms about me sharing the postcard. “No, I don’t mind if you post it,” she said. “We’re open about things like that.” Then, in one last thought, she sounded a little sad. “What did it say?” she asked.

I told her he wrote about what any teenage boy would write about: girls. But what struck me the most was seeing his handwriting; it was over 50 years old. And that he took the time to write, to send Mom a few lines letting her know he was thinking of her.



Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



When we were on St. Simons Island, I looked high and low for postcards to send to friends. I finally found a rack in the corner of a novelty store along the main drag near the lighthouse. It was the same place Liz and I got our soft cotton Georgia T-shirts. But then, there were no stamp machines that sold postcard stamps. And we never made it to the spot on the island where the  post office was located. So I waited until I was back in Augusta to mail them.

Postcards are becoming a thing of the past. But I have one writing friend who sent postcards every week as part of her practice last year. And another who sends herself postcards when she goes out on the road to write. She says she has many insights while traveling, jots them down on a postcard, and mails them to herself. After returning home, it centers her to read them – a gift to her creative self.



I am running into handwritten letters at every turn. Boxes turned up in storage with letters from my mother and grandmother. And I’m midway through the letters of Flannery O’Connor; you wouldn’t believe how much I am learning about this great Southern writer (and the South) from reading her letters. Should I begin writing letters again?

I am getting closer. Last Saturday, Liz went to three garage sales; at one she bought me an antique Royal portable typewriter. I started using it that day. At the same sale (it was run by an artist/photographer; she took me back with her later), we bought some vintage vinyl for a quarter a piece, and three great literature books for 50 cents each. One of them was Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It is full of her letters.

Later that day at the studio, I started thumbing through Frida’s biography; sticking out of the middle section, was a faded postcard sent from Colombia. The front of the postcard has a photograph of a Cuna woman in traditional garb. A small 2 was circled at the top; it was the second of a series of three. The title, URABA (ANTIOQUIA) COLOMBIA — India Cuna, was in block print. The handwriting was loopy cursive, written in Spanish. A studio mate read it to me. She recognized the sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup.



I think the postcard is like a letter haiku. Think of everything you’ve learned in brief intervals of 17-syllable haiku from our regulars on haiku (one-a-day). The postcard from my uncle spoke to me; half a century later I gained a glimpse of who he was. I got a postcard from ybonesy that arrived right after I came home from Georgia. Maybe she’ll send me one from Vietnam (smile).

I’m considering a postcard/letter writing practice in the coming months. I want to use the vintage Royal. When is the last time you received a handwritten letter or postcard? If you have insights into the art or practice of postcard and letter writing, please share them with us. All is never as it seems. And life letters only add to the mystery.



Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 25th, 2008

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My Whites, laundry on the line on my rooftop terraces, downtown Granada, Spain, photo © 1987-2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The first time I got on a plane I was 17. Mom said to dress up for the occasion; she normally wore a skirt and heels for plane rides, and she sometimes took a Valium right before the flight. I wore jeans and clogs and acted like I’d been flying all my life.

The travel bug bit me on that trip. I was like the kid whose parents never let her eat candy. Awake for the first time to its pleasures, I couldn’t get my fill. I vowed I would become a world traveler.


At 26 I moved to Granada with $6,000 cash and two suitcases. I trusted everyone and made friends easily. Within weeks I was heading out with Teresa and Alicia to see the country. I became fond of saying, “I’m taking a vacation from my vacation.”

Within a year I’d been all over Spain and Portugal, plus France, Germany, and Denmark. And nary a picture to show for it. I had Dad’s old Kodak yet I brought home exactly seven photos—all grainy and dark. I do, however, have four filled notebooks. And a handful of postcards I never sent.



Yesterday we walked to El Torcal, an eerie rock mountain, and we got a ride down with a busload of little boys. They were singing songs and clapping.



           



When it comes to traveling abroad, I have a mental block about cameras. For as long as I can remember, I believed that a photograph could never do justice to reality. Cameras proved a poor attempt to capture something that defied ownership—the experience itself.

I also saw cameras, like maps, as the domain of tourists. (I have spent hours wandering lost in foreign cities, unable to ask for directions and too proud to consult a map.) In Spain I was ashamed of the loud, nasally, jogging-suit-wearing Americans who stood in front of cathedrals, snapping shot after shot, and then bothering passersby to take that final picture that contained the entire family.

I was a traveler. A world citizen, not a visitor.

And so my arrogance accompanied me to every place I visited (and every experience had) since. Standing amidst throngs of Vietnamese peering up at a Virgin Mary as tall as a building to see if we could tell whether it was rain or tears running down her cheeks. At the train station in Delhi, searching my purse to find change for an old woman with an open trachea cavity. Walking at dawn through an entryway that opened onto gardens and pools, the white marble of the Taj Mahal shimmering like an oasis.

I’ve been to Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Costa Rica, Mexico, and China several times each. Singapore, Ireland, Israel, South Africa. Most of the photos I have from those trips (if I have any) were taken by friends or co-workers. There I am, the only white person in a pub in Soweto. (I even took my camera to South Africa, pulled it out during a safari then put it away whenever people were around.)

I missed my opportunity to capture the phenomenon of “the Jeepni”—those long, open-air Jeep-buses—that dominate the streets of Manila, even though they captured me.



Only 7am yet it seems as though the city has been alive for hours. Everything is coated with a gray dust that goes from black at street level up to the color of light gray in the sky. Signs: U Want 2 B Rich? and Fish-Head Pet Store & Tire Repair. A man is cooking roadside and another bathing himself. People adorn their Jeepni’s: Gemini, Godspeed, Lady Rowena, The Born Winner, Something Special, Jesus the Provider, Jesus the Savior, Jesus Love, Holy Jesus. Jesus has a corner on Jeepni names.

Poverty looks the same in all the places I go. Too narrow roads lined with shacks selling snacks, fruits, peanuts, corn. Children and animals too close to the cars and buses and motorbikes that go careening through the streets. All things for sale, recycled, old mufflers, tires, plants. The Jeepnis choke out black smoke as they wind their way through the streets. Cheaper than buses, but to ride them you have to hold a handkerchief over your nose.


It’s been more than two years since I’ve traveled abroad. I’ve enjoyed the time off. I went to too many places. I hardly remember most of what I saw. It’s been good to stay home as my girls have gotten older.

But finally, it’s time to start up again. In less than two weeks, I’ll take a trip to Vietnam. It’s part of an assignment that will probably take me there at least one more time, maybe more, in the coming six months. I have zero photos from my prior two visits. This time I intend to whip out my camera, whether people notice or not.

I know what’s changed. It’s this blog and the opportunity to publish my photos and write about my trips. (I fear I’ve exchanged one form of arrogance for another.) But no matter the motivation, I aim to make up for lost time.

How about you? Do you do photos or do you just do?

 

 
 

 



(The top six photos were all taken by me in 1987-88 while living in Spain. I scanned them for use in this post. The four images at the bottom of the post are postcards I purchased that same period in Spain.)

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