I went through some pictures earlier today, copying everything from my latest SD card onto a laptop. Suddenly I felt better about life, like I was seeing all the good shit in a series of experiences I’d been too troubled of mind to really absorb in the moment. Camping with friends and family in Kansas. Hiking a stumbled-upon trail north of Estes. Candlelight and aspen leaves at sundown. Unfocused altered-state clickery. The faces of the people I love. Elsewhere on the internet I looked and there were these little frame-slices of the similar experiences of half a dozen of my friends and coworkers and valued halfway-knowns.
Photography-as-was sometimes seems to have dissolved into the permanent self-surveillance of everybody-has-a-phone, but then so what? The way I haphazardly practice it is itself a product of digital cameras with lots of storage and long battery life, which must have been the really dominant thing for well under a decade. The one I carried all month, a Canon S95, is somewhere near the high end of design and function for a category of pocket camera which is likely to vanish from the collective narrative of technology some time within the next 15 minutes or so.
I don’t think there’s anything much intrinsically wrong with the computer in your pocket supplanting dedicated cameras for most use, but I find myself a little adrift in the ubiquity of that whole thing. My phone is a piece of shit (everybody’s phone is a piece of shit), and the pictures are mostly bad and too many by all the measures I ever learned even though I’ve been that asshole with a camera everywhere for half my life by now.
…but so what? I like pictures. I like them even though they lie (even when photographers are trying to be honest), and even though there are too many of them, and even though they tempt us constantly to make up stories and score imaginary points in a strange and trivial game when we should be experiencing something directly. I need all the help I can get, seeing things, in a life far too short and disordered to see anything clearly at all almost ever, and somehow it still seems like pictures do that.
Last night we sat down at the patio of the bar across the street to watch the eclipsed moon drift all blood-red in and out of clouds. I was ready to buy a beer as table rent, but no one asked, and I have already paid enough table rent at the bar across the street for any two lifetimes, so I didn’t bother to ask.
By the time we left, the moon was high enough again to watch from the bricks in front of my own door. It was visible, then it wasn’t. We stepped outside and back in and outside again. I unscrewed the neighbors' porchlight for a better view. In the darker darkness, the Milky Way suddenly seemed as clear as it ever does out on the plains and away from the cities.
I remembered standing in the chill outside my house and looking at the full moon through my grandmother’s half-broken binoculars, the sudden shock of a flock of geese passing precisely in front of the disc as I watched.
Tonight a shooting star in the northeast quadrant of the sky. The rare kind so long lived as to describe an entire sequence, where usually they’re the merest instant of sense-data. White-gold and green cutting to just above the rocks and trees of the horizon line.
There’s seldom a camera waiting for these things, except by sheerest happenstance.
i carry on so much conversation
with the avatars i carry around in my head
of all the people i know
the friends i have made
and the enemies, few as they are
i take so many imaginary stands,
apply so much brittle casuistry,
answer so many imagined
arguments and stratagems
so many unposed questions
so many imagined condemnations
in borrowed voices
that i often forget i am moving through the world
as a kind of cipher, a quiet near-nullity
whose contact with the stream
of events and understandings
is largely written in little more
than purchased six packs,
passed bowls, tips on restaurant tables,
the occasional occupied seat
on some airplane out of denver
and yet i wake from dreams, or turn the final
pages of novels, and i am often possessed
of the strange conviction
that something has happened to me
that i have reached some understanding which
ought to be shared, beyond the bounded
vortex of my own mind
with all of you
the moment usually passes, these days
and i thank what gods may be for that
i am always and forever a fool
but maybe i am not such a fool as i used to be.
Back in Colorado, one festival and ~1400 miles later, a week has predictably lowered temperatures into the range of encroaching Fall. Where I live, the tourist traffic has slackened and the coffeeshop is emptier.
My tent didn’t leak, or at least not much. It also didn’t rain too much.
Putting the Dutch oven in the fire was so effective that we only used the gas stove once or twice. I don’t have a lot of great advice about doing this, but it seems to be the ideal cooking vessel for a long-burning wood fire. I kept one stew going from about 8am to 7 or 8pm, regulating temperature by occasionally moving it outside of the metal fire ring if things were a little too hot. I haven’t yet tried to bake in it, but it seems like it’d work just fine. Highly recommended.
It’s a little over a week before we drive to Kansas. I’ve talked to Minnesota Dave, and David M., and made sure Shawn is going to be there. h is likely coming, with some complications about a wedding in Minnesota. Toni is making solar power supplies for twinkly string lights. CarolAnn and Ben got a sun shelter.
Today I bought a 2-burner Coleman gas stove, one of the ones that take the little green canisters. I have this Dutch oven I got for Christmas, and between the two things I think we can cook pretty good for a week.
I was thinking about a new tent, but I’m going to bet this one will hold out the rest of the season.
It’s late as I write this. Approaching midnight. The weather has, these last few days, been cooler and less searingly bright. We begin to talk about the end of the summer in hopeful voices. As ever, we are ready for the change. The sky was so blue today, the clouds extremely white.
I went to Los Angeles earlier this year. It was beautiful there. I thought that it would probably drive me crazy, eventually, it being the same kind of beautiful for so many days in a row.
In LA, I couldn’t stop thinking about Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury and whatshisname with the textbook evil science fiction self-help cult.
A couple of weeks ago, killing time on the internet, I noticed that the second volume of that Heinlein biography had been published. I ordered a paper copy. I’m a little ways in: The writer and his second wife are living in Colorado Springs. He’s well known in the field, both as an innovator in his own right and as a successful popularizer of genre tropes and mores.
one, reading history
two, living long enough
to see the cold outline
curving through time
i suppose that i still
commend to you the former;
done widely enough it may encourage,
beyond the shallow enumeration of facts,
humility and epistemological caution
at least in some measure
the latter, perhaps it accumulates
as a kind of toxin in the system of any
organism with a long-term memory