Monday, November 26, 2007

Though I was just an hour away, that distance was still enough of one, a distance, for me to feel some perspective, to step back and think about the way that I have been living my life in New York, how I would like to be, and the space between those two. I rode the train there in the final hours of daylight, watching the sky slowly change colors over the meadows of New Jersey, over the stretches of decaying industrial infrastructure, over older towns like Newark and Elizabeth. I got a lot of reading done on this train ride, but one of the things I read, one that stands out in my mind and that colored not only this train ride but the trip that followed, was a piece by John Updike about snapshot photography in the stunningly excellent year-end fiction issue of The New Yorker.

This Updike piece looking at the history of snapshots, of how they became "visual trophies," obviously borrows a lot, forthrightly so, from Susan Sontag's On Photography, but it's a book I haven't read in a while, and so all those connections between the desire to capture images and the fear of death were all brought to the surface of my imagination as I looked out on a gorgeous sky and wanted to somehow document it, wanted to have a record that this moment did exist, this moment of overwhelming beauty, but it was the knowledge that this was a sky that would soon be lost, that soon it would be totally dark, that led to the simaltaneous feeling of joy (knowing that I was/am witness to a transitory moment of grace) and sadness (knowing that the moment is transitory, that they all are, that everything is so short-lived).

My mother picked me up from the train station and we rode to her house under a then purple sky. I ate lots of food there, most of it probably not good for me, read some, and watched several movies. During The Simpsons Movie I found myself crying midway through it, terribly upset by Marge's decision to leave Homer, terribly upset for Homer, terribly upset because human beings can do things and push away people they care about.

I had a lot my mind when I sat down to write this. I am distracted though by a terrible discovery.

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