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After the horrible news of yesterday’s school shootings we have been mourning the losses and feel numb. Today The Chalice newsletter of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable arrived – the church we just joined last week — and Reverend Kristen Harper included the opening stanza from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson to introduce her paragraph about mourning losses during the year. Unfortunately it is very apt today.
Threnody by Ralph Waldo Emerson
THE SOUTH-WIND brings
Life, sunshine, and desire,
And on every mount and meadow
Breathes aromatic fire;
But over the dead he has no power,
The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;
And, looking over the hills, I mourn
The darling who shall not return.
I mourn all the little darlings who shall not return because their lives were cut short. I will look for them in the hills and valleys, when walking through a meadow I will remember and mourn. I will see them in the sunrise and sunset and along the beaches we walk on old Cape Cod. I will cherish my children and the children I meet in my travels all the more. I will be patient with them all and with my self. I will look for them as I look for Walt Whitman who wrote in Leaves of Grass:
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you.
I hope the sweet martyred babies will wait for us until we have the wisdom to see them again.
People (John Hanson Mitchell for one) have walked to Walden. Today we walked around Walden, as millions of others have done. The spirit of Henry David Thoreau was palpable as always. Because of his life and his writings this insignificant pond is one of the world’s famous bodies of water. Amazing! He wrote:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
To live deliberately means to be aware of one’s life each minute, every day I think. Are you? Am I? Probably not but its an idea worth remembering and striving for. Henry started the movement to save the planet when it was not obvious that it was in danger — “In wildness is preservation of the world.” What a concept — one we need more than ever now.
Here is some of what we saw today:
We are retired — both of us. we live in a beautiful house in a wonderful town — Westford Massachusetts. Our plan is to sell out house and move to Cape Cod. Its a plan we’ve had for a few years now. The thing is though — our house isn’t selling. In the past we’ve sold three houses together. They all sold right away. The last one sold nine years ago two weeks before it was to go on the market. Some folks saw it almost by mistake and made a better than full price offer twenty minutes later. So as prepared as we were for a tough market — we weren’t prepared. We take excellent care of our houses. The one we have now in not an exception — its is in much better shape than when we bought it. The infrastructure is in top shape, it is esthetically beautiful and very comfortable. It is larger than it looks at 2156 square feet, cozy yet spacious. Yet it is currently listed at the same price it was nine years ago — $419,900.
Right now my wife and I are in a kind of limbo — waiting for someone to buy our house. The real estate market is log jammed with people wanting to move on and buy a new home but unable to do so because they can’t sell the one they own. This market is stagnated to the point of near non-existence. At least that’s how it feels to us.
Our house is priced at almost exactly the mid point for houses in our town. In other words its not a cheap super buy and its not excitingly, over the top luxurious. Its a well kept, comfortable home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms on a treed builder’s acre. But it doesn’t draw many potential buyers nor is it the subject of criticism. In other words there is little to do except wait.
We work at maintaining the house and did repaint our kitchen and family room recently on the advice of new brokers. Our most recent project has been to clean up the damage to trees due to the October storm.
We withdrew from all of our activities in town, resigning from the town and church committees we belonged to. I resigned from the art gallery I helped create. So we wait. Organize and get rid of stuff and wait. We can’t afford to just move, leaving the house to be sold in our absence. So we wait. We look at listings on Cape Cod where we want to live, visit there once in a while and we wait.
Meanwhile the occupy Wall Street movement has taken hold and many of the non-rich or less rich also grow impatient. Dreams deferred dry up like raisins in the sun. The economic crisis was created by the greed and arrogance of the investment banking world. The lawyers and professional investors who have milked the working public for decades have finally gone too far. When we were kept happy with an acceptable share of the spoils the system seemed to work. But behind the gloss of daily economic life there always were the bankers and investment pros buying IPO stock at 10 cents and selling it at 10 dollars. Securitizing near worthless mortgages and then betting that they would fail while at the same time selling the securities to the great unwashed masses. I’ve spoken to some of these ‘gentlemen’ and heard them speak of how stupid the public is, how easy a mark we all are.
Now we in the middle are afraid to act. Housing prices have rarely been more attractive. Interest rates have never been lower. Yet the market doesn’t move. Not in the price range of our house. The less expensive and more expensive homes do seem to sell at a faster rate. We are still waiting. Of course its “only” been 6 months but with so little traffic coming through our house we are likely to wait a while longer.
Once we do have a buyer I wonder if we will have the courage (or the capital for that matter) to buy. We may stay out of the real estate market for the rest of our lives becoming renters. Will that put us in a lower class? I doubt it — I think we will have plenty of company.
Hey I wanted to share a really cool photo I took yesterday. We went cycling on the Nashua River Rail Trail about 10 days after the storm that hit New England in October. For a while I had a camera around my neck. I usually like to be stationary when I make photos but thought — why not try my skill at shooting on the fly? So I set my camera for a fast shutter speed and started shooting as I rode. One result is above. I like it! — You?
Much of the trail was as above but crews had done much work to clean things up — yet the trail was still closed. Obviously a little yellow tape will not stop the dedicated cyclist — all of it was down and quite a few riders were there. Riding on a trail like this was like being on an obstacle course — a little extra mindfulness and you are home free.
The photo above was made with my iPhone — I had more trouble controlling it than my Panasonic LX5 — maybe because I take far more photos with the LX5? Dunno — but I do know that the iPhone one captures the motion and chaos — so in some ways it superior. But I like my self portrait on the fly best!
Better late than never!
This harbinger of Spring usually arrives in late winter. The photo above was taken near Snake Meadow Brook in Westford Massachusetts just the other day — April 2nd. Its a nice Skunk Cabbage one — they do make nice photos when they are sprouts!
I’ve been going through old magazines — Aperture, Doubletake, Leica Fotografie, and Provincetown Arts. I need to get rid of all but a few in a collection that spans over 20 years. Some of these magazines I hadn’t read until now others are more dog eared. But almost all are in great shape because I tend not to read but to skim them.
This morning I came across a time capsule of a gem of a magazine — Provincetown Arts 1990. This is an annual magazine founded and edited by Christopher Busa — he is still at it today according to the new web site. http://provincetownarts.org/beta/
One of my photographic heros is on the cover, Joel Meyerowitz. Joel is still very active and his career and work just seem to continue to grow. The interview and photos in the magazine are magic. The issue is not as slick as the more recent ones. The paper is more pulpy and I must admit I like it. It has more heft. More weight. Mostly in black and white, making the color page pop & surprise.
Joel looks so happy on the cover. Now he seems more intense — might just be the moment, pose or photographer, of course. Then again it might be that he has matured — see his advice at the end of this post — maybe he took it. I met Joel a little later than 1990 at the DNA gallery in Provncetown. He was showing some work there and we bought a very large piece that he had scanned from street work he did in the 1970’s then processed it in Photoshop — this was around 1995 — and tiled it printing the tiles to create and print something like 3 feet by 4 feet. He told me he had taken the time to master Photoshop — ahead of 90% of the photography world I believe.
The entire issue of Provincetown Arts is like a time capsule. Its great to read articles by John Grillo and Tony Vevers and to see ads for shows of their work back then. They are still active and John is in his later 80’s now I believe. We always go to see his work at the Cove Gallery in Wellfleet when we are on the Cape. Once we move there (we are planning to do that this year now that we are both retired) we will be able to go to openings at times when we are not on ‘vacation.’
See what I mean. Its nice and pulpy.
The back cover is an ad for the Cherry Stone Gallery. It closed except by appointment a few years ago. Sall Nerber was the owner and what a great person she is. Her gallery had local artists showing for the first time as well as – well – Robert Motherwell. In the 2006 issue of the magazine there is a tribute to Sally and the Cherry Stone and I think it was the next year that it closed.
Finally here is a quote from the interview with Joel. His advice is good:
After he says that taking a photo is easy —
‘you press a button’ — Joel is asked if that’s what he teaches his students. His answer:
“I tell them that if they learn to pay attention carefully enough and to be mindful of their own instincts, they might reveal something necessary to their own growth, and to their understanding if what the world’s signals are, for the world is full of signs. Photography is a demanding and difficult form, yet worthy and profound. It takes the endurance of a tough personality to stick with it. It takes time to see the evolution of one’s work. That is done through the discipline of doing it over long periods of time and believing that the work will teach you something about the medium., about yourself, and about life.”
Joel has lived up to his own words for the last 20 years and for at least 20 before that. He is a modern master and we are lucky to have still working hard and paying attention. And I am very glad to not have thrown this magazine out. Its a keeper!
Aurora and I ventured into Boston on last Sunday to see and hear Bob Dylan at the Wang center. The show was very enjoyable and the band was perfect. Bob’s raspy voice was sometimes too far gone but on other numbers it was clear and I imagine easy to understand. I say imagine because the band with its ramped up bass was often overpowering. Brilliant — but too damn loud!! (Ok so I’m an old guy.)
Bob wasn’t kidding back in the sixties when he described himself as a song and dance man. (When asked ‘do you consider yourself a poet?’ he answered — ‘no, more of a song and dance man’) He was like a low keyed minstrel on Sunday with arm gestures and foot kicks included. The lighting kept changing and so did the colors on the stage — very often they had a nice south western tone.
Listen to this bootlegged uTube entry. I love the intro’s combination of honesty and hero worship.
Sounds pretty good and the bass that was so over powering in person is almost non-existent. (A little more would be better, actually.)
After Boston, Bob moved right on to NY where Dion opened for him. Here’s the New York Post review:
Sounds like another great show. We wonder why the man keeps going. He told Sixty Minutes a few years ago that he had made a pact with God — needed to stay on the road to fulfill it. I take him at his word — no irony there. He channels the life force as much as anyone who has ever been a pop culture icon and as much as many prophets. As Langston Hughes told us years ago — “Listen!”
(We enjoyed walking around the city before and after the concert. It was a warm night for November and just perfect for a city walk. Here’s a photo I took — I’m getting my street photography mojo working again — I think this is my favorite way of photography.)